WHERE IS THE ISLAND OF VICTORIA?
Victoria is in British Columbia, Canada. Look for the city of Vancouver up north and Seattle in the South East to make sense of where Victoria is geographically located.
HOW TO GET TO VICTORIA?
Victoria has an airport so you can take a direct flight to the island. Tickets may get expensive.
Option 2 (what we did)
Take a flight to Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada.
Then take an Uber or shuttle to the Ferry stop. Cabs are expensive especially if you are traveling during peak hours (close to $100) - The ferry terminal is about 22 miles away from the airport. The shuttle, on the other hand is really reasonable ($3-4 per ticket) and includes a bus + train ticket to get to the ferry terminal. If you are traveling with less luggage and older children, this is the way to go.
Once you are at the ferry terminal, buy your tickets and Take the BC ferry from the Tsawwassen Terminal to Swartz Bay. Tickets cost $18 per person. The ferry is huge so it is unlikely you will be sea sick. It takes about 90 minutes to get to Victoria and there are shops and bathrooms and food courts on the boat. It's quite comfortable but the ferry schedule is weather-dependent so be prepared for a few delays! The ferry ride itself is wonderful - beautiful scenery, birds, waves and wind.
Once you reach Victoria ferry terminal, have someone pick you up. At the time of writing this blog (January 2023), UBER does not exist in Victoria!
Some folks take the BC Ferries Connector which provides the journey from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria. This is a direct service to the ferry terminals without any transfers, where in addition to a ride on the coach, you also experience sailing through the spectacular Gulf Islands. Once you arrive in Victoria, there are many drop off locations to suit your travel plans.
Take a flight to Seattle in the state of Washington, USA. Take a cab to the ferry stop. The Seattle to Victoria Clipper ferry ride connects the United States with Vancouver Island. The Victoria Clipper ferry ride to Victoria takes 2 hours and 45 minutes, traveling direct between Pier 69 in downtown Seattle and the Belleville Terminal in downtown Victoria, BC’s Inner Harbor. Tickets start at $115.
Take a flight from Vancouver, Canada. Take a Harbour Air float plane to Victoria. The ride is about 25 minutes and it costs $255 at the time of writing this blog entry in January 2023. Find details here. Book early on as seating is limited.
THINGS TO DO IN VICTORIA, BC
The Victoria Tourism site has a ton of information of what to see and do in Victoria. But what if you just had a day or two? Here are the top five things I would recommend:
1. Visit the Butchart Garden
Now a national historic site, this floral display masterpiece in the Brentwood Bay area of British Columbia is a must-do on your visit to Victoria. You will find a variety of flowers in their Italian, Rose, Japanese and Mediterranean gardens. We have visited their gardens in Spring and most recently in Winter for their 12 Days of Christmas display - Just spectacular!
2. Stroll down Dallas Road, check out the Beacon Hill Park
Stroll down Dallas Road, a four-mile ocean facing walkway on the southern border of Victoria. Appreciate the bluffs, and spend some quality time at the Beacon Hill Park. The flower beds are pretty and curated, there are areas for dogs to run around, and for children to play.
3. Go window shopping in downtown Victoria!
Stroll along Government Street, Johnson Street. Look for Trounce Street for a quieter window shopping experience. Peep into the high-end yoga shop Lululemon and handmade cosmetic shop, Lush, visit the Nezza Naturals store for their bath bombs and soaps, buy your tea gifts at Murchie’s (oldest Canadian tea company since 1894) and try on a pair of the ever-popular Blundstone shoes at the Mountain Equipment Company.
4. Check out Fan Tan Alley in China Town
Often called the world’s narrowest street, Fan Tan Alley used to be a gambling district. Today, it is home to quirky shops. This lane is located between Johnson and Fisgard Street.
5. Indulge in one water-focused activity
See the city - by water! We took a 40 minute boat ride, see the video here.
Some great options -
Take a tour: The Gorge Tour is a 60-minute tour, best for adults. The Combo or Harbour Tour is a 45-minute tour, great for families
Enjoy a hot tub ride: Rent a hot tub for 1.5 hours with Hot Tub Boat -Victoria and explore the Upper Harbor and Gorge waterway. We booked this one but they canceled our experience due to bad weather. But it does look really fun!
Rent kayaks or stand up paddles. Gonzales beach - Find the guy with a truck who rents paddle, people really enjoy this beach. Willows Beach is another option but it can get windy
Looking for more things to do? Scroll down for a longer list!
VEG-FRIENDLY VICTORIA RESTAURANTS
On our week-long visit to Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, we visited a number of restaurants. Here are the five top ones I would recommend to add to your itinerary:
Everyone in town loves Pags!
Pagliacci’s is an old school Italian joint in downtown Victoria. They don’t take reservations and there is always a line to get in. Food is great, they often have live music playing and the place is small and cozy!
You can’t go wrong with Rebar
Rebar Modern Food is a popular vegetarian spot, great for brunch! Great soups and salads and brunch items. Lots of vegan options as well. The food is delicious - I am still thinking of their basil vinaigrette and their seasonal peanut and roasted yam soup!
Dress up for Vista 18
Located on the 18th floor of the Chateau Victoria Hotel, Vista18 is an upscale rooftop in the heart of downtown Victoria. I saw three vegetarian options on the menu but once I got there, I realized how flexible and adjusting they were to customer food preferences and restrictions! Food was decent, and views were spectacular.
Satisfy Indian food cravings at The Mantra!
Looking for vegan and vegetarian Indian food? You will find it The Mantra. Our Canadian family swears by this restaurant and rightfully so. Many of the items are traditionally prepared and taste like home-cooking. The bread is great too.
Comfort food at Pho Vy
Pho-Vy is a no-frills Vietnamese spot for dine-in and take-out. They have a vegetarian section on their menu. We ordered the Cha Gio Chay (veggie spring rolls) and Pho Veggie (vegetarian clear soup with noodles) and they were both delicious!
Few other vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Victoria, BC that come recommended by locals!
This is a farm to table spot where veggie options include a pasta dish and pizza
Craving some Thai food? This is a busy and great restaurant - they have a vegetarian menu!
WHILE IN VICTORIA...
We are big fans of trying the local stuff - brands, alcohol, ice-creams! Try then, take them home for yourself or to gift. They make great memories.
Most of the grapes for wine are grown in a specific region called Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Here are some of the wines from that area that we tried during our trip - They were great! Request a bottle from one of these wineries during dinner?
Church and State ( has two different properties)
Summer Hill Pyramid Winery (organic wine!)
Orofino Vineyards (Simiilkameen wine)
DaSilva winery (Shop for wines but vineyard will reopen March 2023)
Burrowing Owl (premium, great wines!)
One local resident recommended the following breweries, so be sure to order a beer from one of these establishment on your visit:
Local gins, you must explore are:
Empress Gin - Has the most beautiful blue-purple color! From their website
"Handcrafted in small batch copper-pot stills, Empress 1908 Gin is made by Victoria Distillers and inspired by the legendary Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. On top of traditional botanicals, we add a signature blend of black tea served at the Empress Hotel and butterfly pea blossom, an exotic herb that balances the traditional citrus notes of gin with a warm herbal earthiness, and gives the gin its natural indigo colour."
Victoria Gin - Award-winning gin! From their website
"Balances the characteristic evergreen flavour of juniper with notes of citrus, floral and spice. An intensely flavoured spirit that is as full-bodied and as complex as a fine single-malt whisky."
"We are a small distillery with big dreams and have been on a wild ride since winning the world’s biggest gin competition."
Buy some tea!
For tea, I highly recommend Murchie's, an institution that has been around for 100 years! We bought their 'Scottish' tea blend and their tea masala for home and to gift. Plan to visit the store, sit awhile and check all the tea and accessories! Canada's oldest tea company, must do!
Silk Road Tea Store also comes well recommended by locals.
We tried a bunch of their carefully crafted confections! Also LOVE that the ice-cream comes in glass jars which you can return to get $1 off your next buy!
Look for the Native Northwest brand for souvenirs! We bought and were also gifted native art from Haidagwaii. Just beautiful stuff!
LET'S TALK COFFEE?
We tried one coffee spot called Habit Coffee - Visit either their Atrium and China Town location. Their roasting partner is BowsxArrows, we tried the Irma Pachego coffee from Guatemala, which was wonderful.
Two other coffee shops and roasters that came well recommended were Discovery Coffee (many locations, and you will also find their single-origin and coffee blends in the local grocery stores) and Caffe Fantastico on Kings Road.
When in Victoria, these two are great options for cocktails.
Try the locally crafted Empress 1908 Gin or their award-winning martinis
Great cocktails, rooftop with views and date-night ambience
MORE TIME TO KILL?
Here are some more things to do and see!
The Parliament House is often lit up, and they also offer tours.
Government House gardens is another great option when the flowers are out.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel is not only good for cocktails. They offer a fancy afternoon tea experience but be prepared to shell out $90 per person (OMG!)
In the summer, Fisherman’s Wharf is cute. Look for houseboats and floating boats - colorful, hidden treasure. This is right around the corner from the inner harbour 🙂
Song Hees Walkway is along the water. Enjoy views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympics mountains to the south. Makes for a good stroll (or a run!) to see the ferries, kayakers and float planes. There is a shorter run and longer loop as well.
Care for boozy cider? Make your way to Merridale. This is a cider and a distillery, a little drive from Victoria
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