Today's post is all about treating myself to an indulgent day in Victoria, BC, enjoying an afternoon of spa treatments and a traditional Victorian-style Afternoon Tea while scratching my travel itch with a Local Getaway and Staycation. From Float Plane Adventures to Culinary Escapades in Downtown Victoria, this quick trip is filled with unique delights.
On this getaway, I wanted something extra special, so I decided to indulge myself and celebrate another trip around the sun by treating myself to a pampered day of relaxation and indulgence. This post will bring you along with me from choosing the perfect spa to experiencing Afternoon Tea.
Victoria's Wellness Scene
Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, located on Vancouver Island. Victoria is a charming and irresistible city with beautiful lush gardens, scenic waterfronts, and an amazing foodie scene creating the perfect backdrop for relaxation and rejuvenation. Victoria's wellness scene includes holistic retreats, wellness centers and day spas promoting natural, eco-friendly products and services.
Victoria BC: Spas and Afternoon Tea
Victoria has dozens of spas, from day spas to retreats making the city an ideal destination for self-care and relaxation. With so many options, making a choice can be an overwhelming process. Each spa has a unique ambiance, with a range of available treatments and price points. Over the past few years, I have sampled quite a few and these are 3 of the standout, but quite different, options to consider.
The Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Empress (633 Humboldt Street) $$$
For a truly indulgent splurge, the Willow Stream Spa inside the Fairmont Empress Hotel is your choice. This is the premier spa in the city and it will leave a sizeable dent in your budget with a 60-minute relaxation massage costing between $175 - $260. Treatments begin with a spa ritual that includes a Finnish sauna, steam room, and mineral pool, so visitors do get value for their experience. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the ritual before treatments begin. Conde Naste recognizes this spa as one of the best in North America.
Havn Saunas (920 Wharf Street) $-$$
Havn Saunas is located in a converted ship permanently docked in Victoria's Harbour that includes a hydrotherapy circuit as part of its wellness experience. A three-hour pass costs $87 which gives visitors access to outdoor hot and cold plunge pools, multiple saunas, as well as garden patios and relaxation areas. Visitors are provided with robes, towels, change areas, and shower products.
Free Spirit Botanicals Spa (330 Quebec Street) $$
The Free Spirit Botanical Spa is part of the Huntingdon Manor/Pendray Inn offering a full range of manicure/pedicure and massage services with a focus on fine, hand-crafted skincare and aroma therapy products. A basic 60-minute massage costs $125. This was my choice for this trip.
Afternoon Tea Options
A long-standing and charming Victoria tradition is Afternoon Tea, borrowed from the very British settler roots. This light meal of small sandwiches, pastries, and desserts is enjoyed with a pot of properly steeped tea served in delicate floral-decked cups reminiscent of my grandmother's "good china". Menus typically offer pages of tea choices and set services. Some establishments will also offer a High Tea Service, which is similar but is usually more substantial and later in the afternoon.
Tea at the Empress (721 Government St) $$$
Like everything else associated with the luxurious Fairmont Empress Hotel, their renowned Afternoon Tea service is pricey. Without a doubt their service is impeccable and the presentation of sandwiches, scones, and sweet treats is superb. Tea at the Empress is the ultimate indulgence. Make it an event and dress up in your best afternoon finery. There is a suggested dress code and you will be turned away if you do not meet their standards.
The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden (1964 Fairfield Rd) $$ Abkhazi Gardens are worth a visit even without their Afternoon Tea but it's a delightful setting for a more serene "country-style" service. Plan to spend time wandering the Offering both Afternoon and High Tea Services at about half the price of the Empress, it is a much more budget-friendly choice but feels just as special and pampered. They get quite busy during the warmer months (Mother's Day is their most popular day) so reservations are recommended.
Pendray Inn and Teahouse (309 Belleville St) $$
The Empress is "city", Abkhazi is "country", but the Pendray Inn and Teahouse is "at home" -- well, at home if you were a wealthy Victorian family in Victoria. With a lovely sunny tea room, the service here is more intimate and cozy at a competitive price similar to Abkhazi.
Pendray Inn and Teahouse
On this trip, I chose the Pendray Inn and Teahouse for both my Spa Experience and Afternoon Tea Service. My budget for this quick getaway did not have room for the Empress so I was delighted that the Pendray was half the cost. It was close to my hotel meaning I wouldn't have to walk far after my spa treatment and having both services in the same place was a bonus. After being invited to view the rooms and the rest of the Inn, I will choose to stay here the next time I decide I need some pampering.
The ambiance of Pendray Inn is simply enchanting. From the first step into the lobby, visitors are greeted by elegant furnishings, intricate woodwork, delicate chandeliers, and the smell of over a hundred years of floor wax and furniture polish.
The Pendray Inn was built by William Pendray, one of the fortunate few who made their fortune in the Cariboo Gold Rush. He wisely invested in a soap factory and bought property in the Victoria area. He eventually sold his factory land to the Canadian Pacific Railway which built the Empress Hotel. The former bedrooms now guest rooms are a blend of Victorian charm and modern comfort with outstanding services and amenities.
Winter Tea Service at Pendray Tea House
The Tea Room exudes an aura of timeless elegance with dainty lace curtains adorning the windows and the gentle clinking of delicate china mingled with the soft murmur of conversation.
I was greeted warmly and enthusiastically by the server, who made each patron in the room feel like a valued friend dropping by for a visit. I was led to my table next to the window, with a picturesque garden view. The menu of tea services was placed before me, with two choices: West Coast Tea or Winter Tea. I selected the Winter Tea. Despite the extensive selection of teas, I opted for the familiar comfort of a black West Coast breakfast tea—I may not be adventurous when it comes to tea, but I know what I like.
My tea arrived promptly and while it steeped, I made a vow to return when the garden was full of blooms. As I poured my first cup of tea, the treats arrived on a three-tiered cake plate. Steve, my server, took the time to carefully explain each item, from the savoury frittata to the decadent macaron. However, upon learning of my allergy to eggs, he immediately offered to substitute the offending items—a thoughtful gesture that spoke volumes about their commitment to exceptional service. Though I declined the offer, I was touched by the genuine concern and desire to cater to individual needs.
Every bite was incredible, whether savoury or sweet. I couldn't possibly choose any one item as the best but the smoked salmon pinwheel sandwich with flying fish roe, the brilliantly light scones, and the tangy lemon tart were outstanding. As a delightful surprise, I was comped a slice of chocolate mocha cake to celebrate my special occasion—a sweet gesture that made the guest experience even more personal.
Free Spirit Botanicals Spa
After tea, I headed to the "Middle House" where Free Spirit Botanical Spa is located. I was greeted by Lucy, my therapist for the afternoon, whose warm smile instantly made me feel at ease. The spa was welcoming with its clean, peaceful environment softly scented with botanical fragrances.
My session began with an Acupressure Foot Massage, which I sorely needed for my weary feet after days of exploring the city on foot. Acupressure involves applying pressure to specific points intended to stimulate circulation, release tension, and promote overall relaxation. Though initially a bit uncomfortable as Lucy worked out the kinks, soon, the tension melted away.
Following the foot massage, it was time for my 45-minute Back, Neck & Shoulder Massage. I surrendered myself to Lucy's skilled hands as she expertly kneaded away the knots and tension that had accumulated in my muscles. As she worked, my body and mind melted into a state of utter relaxation that left me feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. Lucy sent me on my way, clutching samples of cocoa butter balm and a pot of solid perfume almost floating my way back to my room at the Oswego Hotel.
There are many reasons to include Victoria on a BC trip or getaway but spending a day savouring delicate pastries and aromatic teas followed by a skillful and relaxing massage is a great way to rejuvenate and prioritize wellness. Amid life's hustle and bustle, it's all too easy to neglect our own needs and desires. But this day of indulgence served as a powerful reminder that self-care isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity.
So here's to indulging in moments of bliss, savouring every sensation, and cherishing the gift of relaxation. Whether it's a quick getaway or a leisurely day of pampering, may we all take the time to nurture ourselves and nourish our souls.
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