Named after Queen Victoria and meaning victory or triumph, this beautiful city in British Columbia is most definitely aptly named. With a climate that seems like a tropical paradise by Canadian standards it is no wonder that foreign visitors and native Canadians alike blow into Victoria like Maple leaves in a wind storm.
Victoria is a destination teeming with beautifully flowered parks and wildlife, almost as if the rugged wilderness that surrounds the city is trying to reclaim itself. A simple stroll along the harbor offers the opportunity for wildlife sightings of seals, eagles, sea otters and more, and boat tours leave daily for those looking for the chance of a close up encounters with pods of orca whales.
With rugged wilderness literally in its backyard, Victoria is a fantastic base for those travelers planning on heading deeper into the beauty that is Vancouver Island. Be warned however, this is a city with such beauty and historical charm that even travelers who favor off-the-beaten-path may find it difficult to leave the city limits.
Sea planes and ferries are a feast for the eyes as street musicians please the ears. It’s impossible to escape the sweet scent of cherry trees and flowering rhododendrons as you explore Victoria’s streets, and the delicious smell of fish n’ chips along Fisherman’s Warf will leave your mouth watering for seafood unlike anything you’ve tasted before. Victoria literally pleases all the senses and leaves you begging for more time to take it all in.
Victoria’s parks are among the best in the world, and any one of these are sure to bring you peace and relaxation, or provide a haven for the athletic active type. Beacon Hill Park is by far Victoria’s most enjoyable, and while this advice goes against that of many other travel recommendations, Beacon Hill Park in our opinion rates much higher than the more famous and overly hyped Butchart Gardens.
While admittedly beautiful with extravagant and colorful flower displays, if considering a visit to Butchart Gardens, unless you’re a hardcore flower enthusiast, save yourself the long drive and expensive entrance fee ($29.30 per adult and $14.65 per child) and keep within beautiful Victoria itself.
The equally as beautiful landscaped Beacon Hill offers much more in the way of recreational facilities and authentic experiences without fighting past the hordes of elderly and international tourists who flock to Butchart, and is much more enjoyable for all members of the family with its wildlife, gardens, children’s farm, and of course its free roaming peacocks with their dazzling courtship display. Best of all it is just a few minutes walk from most locations in Victoria and is free of charge.
Fisherman’s Warf will satiate your appetite as you watch seals pop their heads up along the docks begging for your fresh fish (seafood stands sell fish specifically for feeding wild seals for $1 per fish or $5 for 6).
The British Columbia Legislature building will light up the night sky with its 3,000 plus lights. The Royal BC Museum will excite you with adventure as you take in an IMAX feature or transport yourself back in time with its incredible exhibits.
And a real afternoon treat awaits at the iconic Empress Hotel as you indulge in it’s famous Afternoon Tea.
A quintessential Victorian experience in a legendary Canadian landmark, you’ll be treated as though you are royalty, and the staff at the Empress have some experience with this having served numerous international royals over the years.
Victoria is a city that is quite a treat to come to. It is beautiful, entertaining, and relaxing. It combines historical roots but with modern conveniences; a unique blend of old world charm and new world experiences. When it comes to picking a hotel there are many options which offer very different experiences based on what you are in the mood for. Our two favorites include the modern Delta Victoria and the historic Fairmont Empress.
For a modern clean cut experience with all the extra trimmings, Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort Hotel and Spa is by far our top choice with its stunning views and impeccable service. Read our review.
The Fairmont Empress on the other hand will take you back in time and literally offers the royal treatment – guests are treated to the same experience that has drawn the attention of Kings and Queens as well as Hollywood Icons over the last hundred years. Read our review.
For further information on either of these hotels we recommend you check out our specific hotel reviews for each property. We had fabulous experiences at both.
With many options available for reaching this beautiful city, we decided to use BC Ferries from Vancouver which allowed us to spend time on the mainland while in Canada as well.
You can take the Victoria Clipper from Seattle, though be advised that this is a passenger only ferry. We highly recommend taking your vehicle and using Victoria as a gateway for exploring Vancouver Island’s wilderness, and for this you can take B.C. Ferries out of Vancouver or the Coho ferry out of Port Angeles in Washington, USA (combine a visit to Vancouver Island with your unplugged vacation in Olympic National Park).
Of course there are flight options available too, however you would really be doing yourself a disservice as the ferry ride is literally a scenic cruise in which Bald eagles fly overhead and Orca whales are frequently spotted off the side – a sight which we were fortunate to see on our voyage back.