This article was published on October 23rd, 2016
Planning you next vacation and wanting to experience some old world appeal with the new world twist? Maybe you just feel like heading somewhere a little closer to home or exploring your own backyard. It’s time to venture to one of the most varied, diverse and easy to explore cities in Canada. Victoria, B.C.!
Victoria is a stunning blend of old world charm merged with new world experiences. A beautiful Vancouver Island destination, it offers a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life without having to undertake lengthy travels to get there. With so much to do and see including heritage architecture, colourful gardens, afternoon tea, kayaking, fishing, hiking, cycling, golf, farm and wine tours, microbreweries, a cutting edge cocktail culture, world class dining, arts and culture and so much more it is impossible to get bored here.
Boasting one of the mildest climates in the country, it is green all year round here and the stunning contrast of this green old growth rainforest against the wild beauty of the Pacific Ocean makes for an astonishing backdrop. Whether you want an action filled weekend, a romantic getaway, a peaceful retreat, or a culture filled holiday, you will not struggle to find what you are looking for. So grab your partner, friends, or go solo, to one of the most versatile vacation spots in Canada.
Water and marine based activities are, of course, based mainly based out of the coveted inner harbour, a picturesque part of Victoria, which is well worth visiting at both dusk and dawn, for a beautiful ambience and stunning scenery. The Victoria Harbour Ferry pickle boats, run by retired sea captains, are an amazing way to experience the harbour, including Fisherman’s Wharf; the captains will tell you amazing stories and facts about the history of the buildings, landmarks and sites along the inner-harbour.
For those looking to maintain their summer bodies or just keep up their fitness, kayaking is a great way to combine a little personal time, a lot of site seeing and a great workout. Kelp Reef Adventures, at Fisherman’s Wharf offer great tours around the inner harbour and up the gorge. Their three hour tour with an experienced guide will ensure you have all the information and safety training to be able to relax and enjoy your experience as you learn all about the landmarks, history and unique ecosystem from the super well informed and experienced guides. Best part of it? Their jet launch system for getting in and out of your kayak means you don’t even get wet. Just show up in your normal clothing and you are ready for a fantastic and memorable scenic adventure.
Of course if you are heading to Victoria, you really cannot miss whale watching, as it is one of the best spots in the world to see wild Orcas. Seeing Orcas makes for a totally unforgettable experience which is bound to be one of the highlights of your trip. The best way to see them is with the three hour sunset tour with Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours.
You will be taken out by experienced and specialised guides who will take you to the best spots to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitats before being immersed in the stunning sunset over the ocean. It is truly one of the most stunning ways to experience a sunset and will make for a memory that you won’t forget.
Once you have had your fill of marine adventure, and looking for spectacular land activity, head over to the Royal BC Museum, a staple of any visit to Victoria this is a fascinating and incredibly well presented museum that takes you through the history of British Columbia. With sections dedicated to natural history, the First Nations and the 20th century this museum has something to satisfy any museum or history fan. At the moment the museum is hosting the exhibition Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age which will be open until December 31st and really is something you should add to your itinerary, its a fascinating and incredibly well put together exhibition that is bound to peak the interest of even the most avid museum critic.
For those clear, beautiful days when you just want to be outside, head over to the Butchart Gardens. Founded in 1904 these evolved from an effort to beautify a worked out quarry on the 130-acre estate of Mr and Mrs Butchart, who were pioneers in the manufacturing of portland cement in Canada. Today, the gardens comprise a spectacular 55-acre display gardens and are a National Historic site of Canada.
The gardens are a must see for all visitors. It is easy to spend a day admiring the kaleidoscope of colours, and to take a 45-minute tour through the waters of the surrounding area. Their restaurant offers phenomenal food, which proudly incorporates locally sourced ingredients in an atmospheric and elegant setting. It reaffirms the attitude of the entire estate: if it’s not perfect, they don’t do it. Butchart Garden’s is all about world-class quality and with 50 full time gardeners, 200 year round staff and up to and additional 250 seasonal staff, the service and experience is truly unbeatable.
For those drink aficionados among you, there are two unique experiences you simply cannot miss. Firstly, Victoria Distillers. Now operating two stills, this is a place any gin enthusiast must visit. Located in Sidney, just 35 minutes from Victoria, they produce their own Victoria Gin, which is handmade in small batches and makes for a stunning and complex flavour which will appeal to many palates. For those bourbon fans among you, try their bourbon barrel aged gin, a gin which is aged in whiskey barrels to create a flavour palate that makes this suitable to challenge any single malt in the classic cocktails. Try it in an old fashioned for a new twist on a timeless drink. For those among you who prefer cider to spirits, or looking to experience craft ciders, you cannot miss a trip over to Sea Ciderhouse. 15 years old, it is a family run craft cider company and the first organic certified cidery in North America. They honour and respect the traditional and classic European methods whilst giving the production their own West Coast flare. This combined with their concern for local invasive species makes for stunning ciders in an unpretentious environment. There is no better way to relax away an afternoon then sitting on their patio enjoying a charcuterie board while tasting a sample of 12 distinct and delicious ciders.
When it comes to accommodations, there is one outstanding choice, for the finest in modern day luxury combined with a rich history and a testament to the past; the Fairmont Empress. Located on the on the inner harbour, the Fairmont Empress is the premier accommodation in the area. Currently undergoing a multi-million dollar transformation, the property will continue with the historic past of the building, while providing all the modern luxuries and amenities that any visitor could possibly need. The Fairmont Empress is perfect for a stress free, relaxing and indulgent break.
It’s easy to get too as well! BC Ferries sails throughout the day from early morning until late evening and operate 36 vessels along 47 points of call on the BC coast. They provide for a truly memorable arrival as you see the beautiful west coast scenery and gulf islands emerge from the horizon, and if you are lucky you may run into one of the three local orca pods. Be sure to make a reservation, specially on busy long weekends; it will also guarantees you priority boarding which makes for an easier trip all around.
Do you need more help planning your trip? Visit Tourism Victoria for all the information and advice you will need to make for one of the most memorable vacations. And yasss kween, Victoria prides itself on welcoming LGBT travellers year round.