to See and Do in Victoria, BC
There's lots to enjoy in beautiful
The beautiful Butchart
Gardens, located just out of the city, are one of the 'must
see' attractions during your time in Victoria, BC.
three of a three part series on Victoria, BC;
part one gives you introductory
information and details of how to get to Victoria, and
part two gives
suggestions about where to stay and eat.
Whale watching? Shopping?
Strolling through beautiful gardens? Or any one of many
other activities - the chances are that you'll find plenty to
enjoy during your time in Victoria.
The information here will get
you started in your planning, and of course, there's lots more
available in the linked resources mentioned in the article too.
Get ready for a lovely break in fascinating Victoria.
What to See and Do in Victoria
There is plenty to see and do in the region, and one of the
valid activities to do is 'nothing at all' - just relaxing and
enjoying the beautiful area.
The following list represents activities that we have on our own
personal 'must do' list, and which other people have generally
found to be high quality experiences, too. Use this as a
suggested starting point for planning your own time.
Most of Victoria's main tourist type shopping can be found in
the center of the city (as opposed to the regular malls in the
suburbs). There's an excellent large mall (The Bay) and
many specialty stores of differing types on both sides of
Government Street. However, you're more likely to find
more distinctive and one-of-a-kind items if you go off the main
street and search out the smaller stores in places such as
Trounce Alley, Bastion Square and Market Square.
There is a concentration of antique shops along Fort Street, and
Canada's oldest Chinatown district at one end of Government
One of our favorite shops is
Books. This is in a very grand building and we
particularly like their bargain book tables and seem to
invariably leave with several bags full of interesting and very
One of the nice things about Victoria is that its downtown area
is compact and reasonably level, making it easy t stroll around
by yourself and see much of what there is in the heart of the
A stroll around the waterfront is always pleasant, and if you
choose to do this, consider walking further around the harbor,
past the Hotel Grand Pacific and then along the path that runs
along the side of the harbor and on to the Fisherman's Wharf
area, where you'll see idiosyncratic house boats and some food
stalls offering a range of seafood type takeaway foods, smoked
salmon, and ice cream.
Several companies offer guided sightseeing tours around Victoria
and the nearby region, ranging from one or two hour city tours
to longer half and full day tours going out of Victoria.
A couple of such touring companies are
and Big Bus.
Horse and carriage rides depart from Menzies St - the side road
between the Parliament Building and the Hotel Grand Pacific.
There are a range of tour options from as short as 15 minutes up
to almost two hours in duration, and cost a fairly pricey $40
per quarter hour of touring. At least the rate is per
carriage rather than per person!
Rides operate until about 9pm in the winter months and 11pm in
the summer months.
There are also
available as a very different way of traveling around.
These offer a range of guided tours and will collect you from
and return you back to your hotel.
tour from the vantage point of one of the quaint little
harbor ferries is interesting. They operate two tours -
one up to the Gorge Park, and the other going out towards the
sea to the West Bay Marine Village. The Gorge tour takes
just under an hour and the West Bay tour takes 45 minutes.
Victoria has several different museums that are worth a visit,
with the major one being the
Royal British Columbia Museum. This museum has three
major sections - one on the native people of the region (now
referred to as the First Nations), one on natural history, and
one on 'modern' history - ie, the 200 or so years since the
region was settled.
They also have temporary special exhibitions, with the current
featured exhibition being on the Titanic, and an Imax theatre.
The museum is open daily except for 25 Dec and 1 Jan.
Another notable museum is the
of British Columbia. With exhibits over three levels,
it provides a wide range of information and miscellany about the
maritime influences that shaped BC and Victoria.
The Maritime Museum is open daily except for 25 Dec.
If you're interested in naval matters, you might also enjoy the
Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, a fort built in the
1890s to defend the naval base at Esquimault. This site is
open daily except for 25 Dec.
And if you're in Esquimault and interested in naval matters you
should probably consider also visiting the
Naval and Military Museum on the naval base. This is
open Monday - Friday and closed weekends and holidays.
The Art Gallery of
Great Victoria houses some 17,000 works of art, making it
the largest in British Columbia, and supplements its own
collection by traveling exhibitions. It is open daily
except for 11 Nov and 25 Dec.
The distinctive Parliament Building or Legislative Buildings,
dating back to 1897, offer free tours. These last an hour
and are offered every 20 minutes, seven days a week, in summer,
and less frequently on weekdays only in winter.
Craigdarroch Castle isn't really a castle, but it is the
closest thing to one you'll find on Vancouver Island, and it has
an interesting history and makes for a fascinating tour.
It was originally built in 1887- 1890 for a wealthy coal mine
owner and is over 20,000 sq ft in size over 4 1/2 stories, on a
1.75 acre lot (all that remains of its original 28 acre estate).
It is close to the center of the city and about a 45 minute
walk; alternatively buses go close by and there are tours that
take you there too.
Craigdarroch has had an interesting history and a series of
owners - the man who originally commissioned it died before its
completion, and is open daily.
Several pods of orca whales live close to Victoria, and can be
seen much of the year, although best viewing can generally be
enjoyed in the summer months. There are also migrating
grey whales that pass by primarily in March and April, but which
can be seen in some areas as early as February and as late as
Many different companies offer whale watch tours from Victoria,
with a range of boats from small zodiacs up to larger (and more
comfortable) motor cruiser launches. It is common to find
the boats equipped with hydrophones so you can hear the whales
talking to each other.
Some of the operators even offer a whale sighting guarantee, and
will refund your money if you don't see whales during the
Tours typically last three hours and sometimes considerably
is distinctive for having licensed bars on board their vessels,
being the only company that does so. Another major
operator is the
Gardens and Nature
Butchart Gardens is
the best known of the various public garden sites on Vancouver
Island, and are located about 14 miles north of Victoria.
If you don't have a car, you can choose between taking a regular
city bus or one of the tour coaches to get there.
The gardens are spread out over a 55 acre site that was a former
quarry. The quarry owner's wife started to beautify the
former quarry workings in 1904, and over time the concept has
extended and developed to the present day. The gardens
contain a wide range of plants and greenery in general, and are
spread over lovely grounds that showcase their plantings to best
effect. Careful rotation of presentations means there's
something to enjoy during every season of the year.
During the summer, Butchart Gardens have firework shows every
Saturday night (in 2007 the first show is on 30 June and the
last on 1 September) followed by a 30 minute recital on their
old Aeolian organ. The fireworks take place at dusk -
10.15pm on 30 June, and successively earlier to 8.45pm on 1
The gardens are open year-round, except for the first week in
Very close to Butchart Gardens are the
Victoria Butterfly Gardens. They have up to 50
different species of butterflies flying freely around you (and
sometimes even on you.
This attraction not only showcases butterflies but also has
tropical fish and birds and some gardens too. The Victoria
Butterfly Gardens are open from 1 March through 31 October.
Another notable public display garden is the
Abkhazi Garden, operated by The Land Conservancy.
Founded in 1946 by Prince and Princess Abkhazi (a Georgian
Prince and his English wife), there are a series of themed
plantings, including rhododendrons. It is located about 5
miles from downtown, and there is regular city bus service
The Abhkhazi Garden is open from 1 May through 30 September.
If you're wanting a bit of exercise while in Victoria - perhaps
to compensate for overeating - then you have a range of
activities to consider. Perhaps hire a bicycle and pedal
around the region some.
has lots of resources about planning a cycling itinerary, and
you can also choose between organized cycle touring or simply
hiring a bike and riding around as you wish on
Maybe you'd like to hire a kayak and paddle around?
company offers kayak rentals and kayak tours from Victoria's
Inner Harbor, and
this company will bring a kayak to you.
This company offers a wide range of outdoors and soft
Perhaps you'd prefer to hire a boat.
This site has both motor and row boats, as well as canoes
And if you'd find a guided walk around the area more your style,
company offers a range of guided walks, and
this company specializes in tours of the Empress Hotel.
For more information
Canada offers plenty of tourism resources for intending visitors
The three key websites are those of
Victoria itself, and then the tourism bodies for
Vancouver Island and
Victoria is a wonderful
place for a relaxing and indulgent weekend, or - if you prefer -
for a high energy stay of as short or long a time as you wish.
And its location - close to Vancouver and Seattle - makes it an
ideal part of a larger tour around the Puget Sound area and
Pacific Northwest region.
Read more in Parts 1 and 2
Part one of this series
gives you introductory information and
details of how to get to Victoria, and part two gives
suggestions about where to
stay and eat in Victoria.
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27 Apr 2007, last update
10 Feb 2013