Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Broad appeal, especially all Venturesome personality types and Centric-Authentics
Did You Know … ?
- Fan Tan Alley, in Victoria’s Chinatown, is North America’s narrowest commercial street, about three feet wide.
- Victoria was called Camosack when founded in 1843.
- Alert Bay on northern Vancouver Island boasts the world’s tallest totem pole (163 feet).
- Victoria is closer to the U.S. than to mainland Canada.
- There are 9,396 lakes and more than 1,000 caves on Vancouver Island.
Of gardens and whales
Victoria is a small city in a near-perfect setting in far western Canada, a place that offers visitors a rich mix of urban niceties and outdoor activities along with some of the best climate conditions in Canada.
The setting is on the southern end of Vancouver Island, where it enjoys a relatively protected location in the shadow of high mountains (the Beaufort Range) that stretch from north to south at the center of the island. As a result, Victoria is warmer, drier and sunnier than the rest of the island and much of Canada, too. All of which explains how Victoria comes to be called City of Gardens and why those gardens can include palm trees.
Victoria offers the pleasures that vacationers value in a city, such as cultural events, museums, fine dining based on local foods and local wines — as well as, less typically, a suite of First Nations experiences unique to the area.
It also is a port city and home to the landmark Fairmont Empress Hotel. It is the capital of British Columbia, and so has the requisite number of stately government buildings. The hotel and legislative buildings grace the Inner Harbour at the city’s heart.
But Victoria rates particularly well with travelers because of the overall beauty of the port city with mountains for a backdrop, a clean uncrowded place with friendly people, a mild climate and, importantly for the more venturesome, its proximity to a wide variety of suitable settings for outdoor activities. Vancouver Island’s waters vary from inland seas to those of the Pacific; the island itself runs the gamut from rain forests to snow-capped mountains, from sandy beaches to rolling farmland.
For water lovers, choices include diving, sailing, kayaking and canoeing, plus fishing. By land, the fun ranges from hiking to hang gliding, from biking to bungee jumping. The Beaufort Range lures mountain bikers in warmer weather and skiers and snowboarders when snow is on the ground.
Finally, for travelers of all temperaments, whale watching, whether from a large boat or an open Zodiac, is a must-do.
Things to do for Venturers
- There are plentiful options for hiking, cycling and running. The Galloping Goose Trail Walk, for example, is good for biking or running. It follows an old railway line past farmland, a lake, Douglas fir forest, marshland and more.
- Go sailing around Oak Bay and among its associated gulf islands. Or, kayak in the Inner Harbour or to points considerably farther afield.
- Attend a First Nations powwow. Or, learn more about First Nations culture at the Khenipsen Artisan Centre at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre in Duncan, which is the world’s largest carving house. Watch the carving of a mask, totem or war canoe, or do some carving of your own on the Visitor’s Carving Pole.
- Travel a zipline in the Sooke Hills coastal temperate rain forest in order to see and experience the forest from the trees.
- Take cooking classes that also include a chance to meet the producers of the local foods preferred by area chefs.
- Fish for salmon. Sail from Victoria for sportfishing on charters or guided sportfishing expeditions. Anglers also may target halibut, cod and more.
Things to do for Centrics
- Listen for the ghosts at Discover the Past’s Dinner Ghosts event series in Victoria. Grisly tales over dinner are followed by a guided walking tour of infamous sites.
- Join a whale watching excursion. There are many types to choose from.
- Explore downtown Victoria on a self-guided walking tour. The old city center called Olde Towne, Fisherman’s Wharf, Beacon Hill Park and other areas of interest are all in walking distance of the Inner Harbour.
- Sample theatrical offerings at the McPherson Playhouse on Centennial Square.
- Collect totem poles, as it were. See the collection of poles in Thunderbird Park at Victoria’s Royal British Columbia Museum. See the world’s tallest from a single log at Beacon Hill Park, and see the tallest of them all (in two parts) at Alert Bay.
- Take a self-guided wine tour on Vancouver Island.
Things to do for Authentics
- Sign on for a harbor cruise. Identify top landmarks and learn more about area marine life. Victoria Harbour Ferry promotes itself as Victoria’s top tourist attraction.
- Visit Victoria’s famous gardens at almost any time of the year. There are numerous gardens to seek out, but Butchart Gardens may be the best known. That site comprises several themed gardens — Italian, Japanese, Rose and Sunken gardens, for example — and a series of period buildings housing restaurants and shops on a central piazza.
- Stay at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, and enjoy its harborside location.
- Choose a horse-drawn carriage as transportation for your sightseeing. Or choose a tour by pedicab.
- Play golf. It’s a year-round option here.
- Victoria’s better restaurants are noted for cooking with fresh, locally grown foods. Select your eateries with that in mind — and order ostrich, which is farmed locally.
For more information, consult Tourism Victoria at www.tourismvictoria.com