Victoria is British Columbia's beautiful capital city. Located on the picturesque Vancouver Island it can be accessed easily via ferry from Vancouver. The city is one of Canada's tourism hotspots (attracting millions of visitors every year) and serves as a perfect springboard to explore the rest of Vancouver Island, much like our road-trip detailed here.
1. Walk along the floating streets of Fisherman's Wharf
Perhaps nowhere typifies the vibe of Victoria more than Fisherman's Wharf, a collection of brightly coloured houseboats on the southern part of Victoria's harbour. Despite what some tourists think, Fisherman's Wharf is an operational community and all of the houseboats are lived in so be sure not to be too loud or intrusive while you wander the s̶t̶r̶e̶e̶t̶s̶ docks.
Our favourite part of Fisherman's Wharf was watching the famous marine life in, around and between the houseboats. Seals occasionally pop their heads out of the water, take a quick look around a disappear again. Otters scramble around the docks preying on fish using the marina community as cover. If you are lucky you might even spot a few hummingbirds, herons and an array of waterfowl during your visit.
2. Have a picnic at British Columbia's parliament buildings
Victoria is the Capital of British Columbia and as such is home to a grande parliament building. Situated only a few hundred meters up the harbour from Fisherman's Wharf the Parliament grounds offer a great chance to enjoy a picnic while looking over at the bustling harbour. Sit for long enough and you'll be able to watch a huge seaplane land on the water!
It's also possible to take a tour of the inside of the building, which are totally free! The parliament building is open to the public Monday to friday 8:30am-4:30pm and 7 days a week during summer time. If a guided tour isn't your thing, you can instead explore the buildings on your own. Check here to book a tour and for more information.
5. Kayak in Victoria harbour
If you are lucky enough to visit Victoria in times of good weather, be sure to rent some sea kayaks (we recommend going to Ocean River Sports) and head out into the calm and relaxing harbour for an afternoon of exploring Victoria by water. Our trip began in the best possible way as when we were pushing our kayaks into the water, a few sea otters decided to come over and check us out. Their curiosity quickly dissipated however when they realised we didn't have anything that could be eaten and they disappeared between the docked boats. This seemed like it would be the highlight of the kayaking, however this notion was quickly quashed when seals also approached us several times on our tour of the harbour.
What surprised me most about kayaking around the habour was how peaceful the water was, of course it helped that we visited on a calm day, but there was little to no resistance as we paddled under the bridges into the gorgeous upper harbour.
We would both thoroughly recommend making the kayaking trip on a nice day as it gives a unique perspective of the cities parliament buildings as well as of the historic tall ships often docked there. With any luck, you will be able to witness a sea-plane landing in the harbour, which is a pretty surreal experience while bobbing up and down on the water at a safe distance.
6. Relax and smell the roses in Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park in the summer is a must see when you visit Victoria. Beautifully maintained, the park is a series of grass verges intersected by miniature canals and countless points of interest, including a petting zoo (more on that below!), tennis courts, a putting green and a few children's playgrounds. Much of our time spent in the park consisted of relaxing on the park benches with a sandwich, watching squirrels and ducks go about their business.
Beacons Hill Park serves as a perfect natural break between adventures in the city itself. Be sure to pack a lunch with you and give yourself an hour or two to enjoy the park best.
7. Make new friends with the kids at the Beacon Hill Children's Farm
Originally the reason we visited Beacon Hill Park in the first place, the Petting Zoo is a perfect stop off for anyone who appreciates time spent with animals. With a suggested donation entry fee of $4 this is a true 'budget experience'! The kids (baby goats!) at the petting zoo are very friendly and approachable and greeted us warmly, of course with the expectation of something to much on. If you are already visiting Beacon Hill Park, or you have young children to entertain, make sure to hit up the 'Beacon Hill Children's Farm'.
8. Rent a bike and take the Marine Scenic Route
Renting E-Bikes in Victoria was without a doubt the highlight of our trip to the provincial Capital. Having never been on an E-Bike before, both of us were a little apprehensive at first, especially upon realising how much heavier they were than a regular bicycle. Our friend (and guide) was fortunately at hand to ease our concerns and assure us it's easier and more fun than riding a normal bike, and how right she was! After going through the controls of the e-bikes with a representative at Ocean River Sports, we got to grips with our new machines by tentatively making a few laps of the parking lot.
The bikes we were going to be touring around the city on were 'Rayvolt Cruzers' and they certainly looked the part. As you can see below much of the frame of the bike, as well as the battery pack, had been covered with a sleek leather design. Another thing you notice immediately is that the stature of the bike resembles that of a Chopper motorcycle.
After getting familiar with the way the bikes felt, we decided to set off on our tour of the city...
9. Make sure to stop at Clover Point and Trafalgar Park
The first two things we noticed about our E-bike adventure of Victoria were 1) how extremely powerful the bikes were and 2) how bike friendly Victoria is. Originally I had assumed that an E-bike was only really going to help me peddle, with most of the work still being done by me. This was not true. The Rayvolt's were powerful and removed the need to peddle whatsoever. It was a pleasant surprise to be moving as fast and faster than cars on the roads around the city center without having to use the peddles at all. This power, might have been a cause for concern in many canadian cities, which are frankly not bike friendly whatsoever, however in Victoria it didn't feel like an issue whatsoever. As I said before, the city is easily and safely traversed on two wheels.
Using the bike lanes we quickly made our way through the downtown of Victoria and on the picturesque Marine Scenic Route. The route takes you from Beacon Hill Park all the way round the rugged southern and eastern coastline of the city. There are so many gorgeous places to stop off on the route, Clover Point (below), Trafalgar Park (also below) and Uplands Park being the most noteworthy.
It's worth mentioning that many of the paths along the route are not to be used by bikes, so the journey was made on the road, stopping off at points along the way. The road wasn't busy and it wasn't an issue at all when cars wanted to pass us, so don't feel apprehensive about this if you aren't a frequent road cyclist.
10. Hike in Goldstream Provincial Park
Goldstream Provincial Park is located only 30 minutes drive outside of Victoria. Although the park itself is vast and has many trails therein, our favorite is the Goldstream falls trail which is located at the parks southern tip, beginning at the campground. The trail is utterly breathtaking in summer, with the sun peeking through the thick old growth canopy. With only gentle inclines, the trail is the perfect opportunity to take a relaxing walk amongst the trees.
Goldstream Provincial Park provides the quintessential Vancouver Island hiking experience without having to venture too far from Victoria. Be sure to park up at the southern park entrance and get a map from the park staff.
We have also visited this park in the winter time, this time opting to go deeper and see Niagara Falls (original name huh?). Although the island tends to see less snow than much of the rest of Canada, wear appropriate footwear nonetheless as the Niagara Falls trail has steeper inclines and can be slippery. At the end of the Niagara trail you will find a beautiful trestle bridge. Although its illegal to cross it, many people were doing so when we visited.
Budget Tips for Visiting Victoria