Elegant Victoria is the stately capital of British Columbia. Still steeped in its English roots, it has beautiful gardens and fine colonial architecture, lovely views over its harbour, and the benefit of a mild climate to make it perfect to visit anytime.
Day 1: Get to Know Victoria
This is a lovely city to stroll, especially beside the harbour and through the lush parks and gardens. Get to know the layout and character on a sightseeing tour passing through Chinatown, Antique Row, the residential districts Uplands and Oak Bay and the very English Rockland area. Make sure you put aside plenty of time for the world-famous Butchart Gardens, over 50 acres of floral plantings first laid out by Jennie Butchart in 1904. Put the icing on the cake by having traditional Afternoon Tea in the Butchart Home or Italian Garden. If you’re totally caught up in the whole royal fantasy by now, take a tour of the town in a horse drawn carriage or head out to Craigoarroch Castle, a Scottish baronial fantasy sitting at the highest point of the city.
Day 2: History and Culture
Victoria has splendid museums and galleries to explore. The Royal British Columbia Museum is a must, especially its excellent First Nations exhibit. Dominating the third floor, it’s packed with canoes and carvings, beadwork, tools, weapons and basketry. There are also plenty of good explanatory guide notes. Next door Thunderbird Park has totem poles and is one of Victoria’s landmark places. Head to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and see the permanent collection, including the collection of the 19th century pioneering artist and writer Emily Carr. To round off the day, take a ride through Chinatown and see the hundred-year-old shops and hear stories of the many communities that have made Victoria the place it is today.
Day 3: The Great Outdoors
Despite its elegance and refinement, Victoria has another side. This is a coastal city, with spectacular seascapes and wildlife. Take a look at the rugged landscapes and mountains from a seaplane, or fly out over the many Canadian Gulf Islands and the American San Juan Islands. If you want to get a lot closer to the birds, seals, porpoises and sea lions, venture out on a zodiac boat tour or, if you’re after the big mammals of the sea, go whale watching and hopefully see Orcas or a pod of humpback whales – April to September is your best chance to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures.