In general, British Columbia is full of gorgeous sights and wildlife. And a lot of it can be found on Vancouver’s island. After having lived there for many years now, I can honestly say that Victoria has a delightful blend of everything you need: from the abundance of restaurants to all the fitness groups going on, people can definitely find something to do. If you are visiting Vancouver, I suggest you pop by and visit Victoria. It shouldn’t take more than a weekend and I promise you won’t regret it.
How to get there:
- Ferry: You can take a ferry from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in Vancouver. It takes a hour and a half to cross the water to Victoria. The ride on the way there is GORGEOUS (especially during the spring/summer). It’s a huge ferry so there is a cafeteria and buffet, but when you are done eating, you can take a stroll on the deck outside and take pictures of the many islands between Vancouver’s island and the mainland (aka the rest of Canada). You will then arrive at Swartz Bay Terminal where you can take a bus (#70/72) or cab downtown.
- Seaplanes: Pricier but definitely faster than the ferry. They leave from downtown Vancouver and land downtown Victoria and only takes ~30 mins. It’s a tiny plane as it can only accommodate about 10 people but it is an amazing flight above the islands and a great view of the ocean.
What to do and see:
Like I mentioned above, there are tons of things you can do in Victoria, but I am going to start with things you can accomplish once you get downtown.
First and foremost, a favourite of mine: Fan Tan Alley. The narrowest street in Canada, it’s a small alley in the middle of Chinatown. It has yoga stores, Chinese items, a vinyl store. It was originally a gambling district and the store which sells Chinese items actually kept pieces of that time. Therefore, if you go into the store, one corner has been kept as the bookie’s office for example. It was so realistic, I got a scare from the mannequin the first time I saw it. Definitely worth a look.
If you are interested in more details about how Victoria came to be, head over to the BC Museum in the harbour. It’s a really nice museum which also includes an IMAX theatre. The museum is easy to do in an afternoon and my personal recommendation is the interactive walk through Victoria’s past. It starts inside a replica of Captain George Vancouver’s H.M.S. Discovery. Visitors then step off the boat to go through the construction of the Fort Victoria and discover the lives of the settlers. The path you walk on is even made of wood at the beginning and turn into cobblestones as Victoria expand through the ages and become the city is now is. There is of course a whole section on the Gold Rush before you arrive to a more 20th century Victoria.
(This photo is from of the Royal BC Museum website )
The museum also has a natural history gallery featuring existing and extinct wildlife and forests of BC. A nice preview of what BC has to offer in terms of sights. It will make you want to take the car and explore outside the city or even head out to Cathedral Grove (with trees going up to 250ft in height!).
And not to forget Victoria’s aboriginal past. A whole gallery is dedicated to the First Nations stories and culture present here in BC.