All of this talk about the royal wedding has my brain on British Columbia! If you haven’t heard of Victoria, it’s a quaint and charming city on lush Vancouver Island. Victoria is an in-demand destination for Canadians and Pacific Northwest tourists alike. If strolling through a picturesque town, dining alfresco, picnicking amongst beautiful gardens, and immersing yourself in European history sounds like fun to you, then Victoria is a perfect choice for a weekend getaway. Here are my top reasons why I love Victoria!
Easy Weekend Trip from Seattle
Victoria is a perfect for a quick getaway from the bustling business of Seattle. Leave the car at home, because everything you will want to see in and do is within walking distance. In fact, Black Ball Ferry line walk on passengers save a substantial amount on the ferry fee. We chose Black Ball Ferry Line from Port Angeles due to the lower fees for a family. The total ferry time from Port Angeles is only 90 minutes. In addition, travelers can arrive via the Victoria Clipper, or by sea plane from Seattle.
I love flowers, and there are so many flowers in Victoria. Butchart Gardens is the most popular choice for tourists, and is one of Victoria’s best attractions. In the summer months, visitors bring picnics and enjoy a fantastic firework display on the lawn. During my visit, I wanted to try something different and visited the Gardens at Hatley Castle. Like Butchart they have Japanese, Rose and Italian gardens, but on a much smaller scale.
An Illuminated Downtown
During the day, I enjoyed strolling through cobblestone streets and window shopping. The streets of Victoria are much like that of a delightful, walkable British town. However, at night the downtown area takes on a new allure. The Parliament is illuminated, bars and restaurants are bustling and the sounds of Irish music serenade through the air.
Fun at Fisherman’s Wharf
Ok, so it’s not like the wharf in Seattle or San Fran, but Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf is quaint and cute! Grab a cup of coffee, or a dish of ice cream, and enjoy the beautiful colors of the floating homes. Are you looking for an affordable meal? Options like a fish and chips dinner, or a delicious Mexican meal are available here. Ample tables line the dock as well. Fisherman’s Wharf is walkable from the Inner Harbour, or for a small fee you can take the water taxi back. You do not need a prior reservation for Victoria Harbour Ferry; just walk up to the desk and the ferry driver will take your cash or card. Let them know if you want a one-way or roundtrip. I highly recommend taking the water taxi for a fun experience on the water.
Fan Tan Alley & Bubble Tea!
Living in Seattle, Chinatown is well known for its deliciously affordable and authentic food. Victoria’s Chinatown offers the same and will not disappoint. It’s a nice and easy walk from Inner Harbour as well. A favorite Instagram spot is Fan Tan Alley, Canada’s narrowest street. Don’t forget to get some refreshing Bubble Tea at The Bubble Tea Place! China Town is also home to the modern tea room, Venus Sophia. Here you can enjoy delicious food and AFFORDABLE afternoon tea.
From historical Gin cocktails to the famous pubs of Victoria, visitors shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot to quench their thirst. I learned that Gin is a bar popular choice and has an exciting royal history behind it. Nobility like Queen Elizabeth I and II, Prince Charles and Camilla have all fancied a Gin cocktail at The Empress Hotel. The Empress hotel has their own Empress 1908 Gin that has a cool purple color change that goes in affect once poured. I also learned that Sir Winston Churchill himself relaxed in the Empress lobby lounge with a teapot filled with Gin during the prohibition. If drinking Gin isn’t your thing, several pubs are located on the corners of the city blocks. Our favorite pub was the Irish Times, which featured live music, a friendly crowd and excellent staff!
Eat Ice Cream
There’s many dessert places to choose from in Victoria. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices that are available downtown. Our favorite was Chocolate Favoris! From fondue and drinkable deserts to chocolate bars and an adorable shop, the place is nearly perfect. I can’t wait for my fondue to come in the mail. The photos says it all. Delicious!
The Beauty of the Inner Harbour
The Inner Harbour is home to beautiful boats, float planes, and the place for whale watching tours. It’s a perfect place to view Victoria’s spectacular buildings and historic architecture. You can also relax in the sun with a lemonade and join in on a festival during the summer months. During our visit, we were lucky enough to hear the sounds of local bagpipers parading the streets!
Oh my heart. I’m already planning a separate post on Hatley Castle. The castles beauty literally stole my heart. Hatley is a bit of a drive, but a great alternative option to Butchart Gardens. Hatley Castle is on the grounds of Royal Roads University and was once home to the naval academy. Now a National Historic Site, it’s a favorite spot amongst locals. The castle has three charming, beautiful, landscaped gardens. The Rose, Italian, and Japanese Gardens are all included in your entrance fee. Be sure to call ahead for opening times, and arrange to book a tour. I’ve read of many tourists not doing so ahead of time, and being disappointed to find the gardens closed when they arrived. We went during the annual Mother’s Day event, where both the castle and gardens were open. Entrance was free, and a beautiful catered lunch was available for purchase. I highly recommend going to this event if you are in the area next year. Side note for X-Men and Deadpool fans: Hatley Castle was used in these films…. this was not my reasoning to go, but my teenage son really enjoyed this aspect!
Tea Time at the Empress Hotel
Your inner royalty will definitely be in for a special treat at The Empress Hotel afternoon tea service. There’s a reason Afternoon Tea at the Empress is an iconic must-do in Victoria. Yes, the bill was a bit high; however, when I travel I’m all about making memories and sometimes you just have to say YES to experiences! The tea menu has a nice variety to choose from, and you will be given a timer to gauge the strength of your tea. A tiered platter filled with a warm scone and jam, finger sandwiches, delectable bites and deserts is also presented. Remember to make a reservation ahead of time. You can do this on Open Table, or with the concierge at the hotel desk. There’s no “bad” seat in the house, but if you would like a window seat, be sure to note this on your reservation. I forgot to do so, but we managed to get lucky!