Technically an international adventure for US West coast residents, it’s easy to forget how close British Columbia really is. And with its mild climate, getting outside is a given and the assorted views won’t disappoint.
Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the heart of the city. The iconic waterfront is home to historic buildings like the Fairmont Empress and Parliament. It’s also where many whale watching boats head out to sea. There’s a long a list of critters you might come across here: harbor seals, bald eagles, sea birds like cormorants, but it’s the orca whales that tend to have the most WOW power.
It was a transient pod that had everyone’s full attention the day I was out with Prince of Whales. The crew did a great job of explaining the behaviors we were seeing and just as important to folks with cameras, warning us when they thought something noteworthy may be about to happen, like a spyhop (when whale rises upright, straight out of the water) or a tail popping into view.
No matter how nice the weather, always pack layers. It’s better to have them and not need them, than the alternative. Tours run March through November.
Victoria is also home to The Butchart Gardens. For some people the thought of visiting a garden is just as exciting as visiting a museum. I get it. But this is a garden worth giving a shot. In addition to the obvious variety of blooms, particularly in the summer season there’s an assortment of unexpected extras like fireworks, concerts, and afternoon or high tea. The Butchart Gardens has a lesser, known waterfront park entrance, and during the summer they offer boat tours of Tod Inlet and Brentwood Bay. (You can also come straight off select whale watching tours offered by Prince of Whales.) In the summer the gardens light up at night. For the holidays, there’s a Christmas light display.
If you’re a coffee drinker, maybe Victoria is the place you give tea a try?
The Fairmont Empress has been serving afternoon tea since 1908. The china pattern dates back to 1914.
Half a million cups of tea are served every year at the Fairmont Empress, so they must be doing something right. According to the hotel, during the summer months, they serve more tea than any tea room in London.
It might also have something to do with the house-made scones, fancy teeny, tiny sandwiches and desserts. But the selection of 21 loose teas is pretty tasty too.
Fun Fact: The Empress Tea China was originally presented to King George V in 1914 upon the opening of the Booth factory (a pottery manufacturer) in Stoke-on-Trent, England. The china was first used by The Empress in 1939 for the Royal visit of King George VI (sixth) and Queen Elizabeth. The pattern is now produced by William Edwards exclusively for Fairmont Empress.
Victoria is one of Canada’s more bike-friendly cities. Bike Tours Victoria BC runs a number of half-day and full day tours that are a great way to learn your way around quickly. From beautiful beaches, to parks, to spots for families like Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. Owner and chief tour guide Matt Oliver likes showing off his favorite things about his home town. He’ll even tell you where to have dinner. If you have a list of specific things you want to do, he can also put together a custom tour.
Biking is a great activity to schedule at the beginning of your trip. It really helps you get your bearings in a new place, and once you understand where things are in relation to one another, the rest of your days can run much smoother.