Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, located on Vancouver Island. Victoria enjoys the mildest winters of all Canadian capitals. Victoria is a city whose British heritage and colonial past can be seen clearly in its architecture, gardens, museums, urban squares, place names, and English-style pubs. It is also home to the oldest Chinatown in Canada. Many visitors to the Vancouver area include a trip to Vancouver Island and a visit to Victoria. Last month, Trish shared her Guide to Vancouver with us. This is the guide that she created for her friends and family who planned to visit the area.
Victoria is a lovely city; the downtown core is great with the beautiful Inner Harbour, the nearby world-famous Butchart Gardens amongst many other attractions.
There are several ways to get to Victoria from Vancouver, including public transportation, coach, float plane, helicopter, and ferry. The ferry ride is beautiful.
To get to Victoria (Swartz Bay) via the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. If you are renting a car, once you know what you are going to the Island, it would make sense to get a reservation for the car on the ferry. The reservations will cost $17 more but then you are not sitting waiting in a ferry line-up with multiple sailing waits. There are frequent sailings and there are often deals for certain sailings. Check out the BC Ferries website for more detailed information. I would recommend getting the earliest ferry to Victoria to avoid commuter traffic. If you do choose to rent a car, you can turn it in Richmond on your last night and stay at one of the hotels that have a shuttle to the airport.
Another way is to do a circular route and take the ferry from North Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo for a day or two, then drive south along the Malahat Highway to stay in Victoria, coming back to Vancouver via Swartz Bay.
If you are planning to use public transportation, use TransLink's Trip Planner from Vancouver and BC Transit's Planner on the Victoria side. The other bus option is to book a coach. There are several options to choose from. Again, BC Ferries provides a website for these connections, offering several different pick-up options. Wilson's Transportation also offers connections.
The ferry docks about 30km from Victoria in Swartz Bay. You might want to take a couple of stops along the highways before arriving in Victoria. The little town of Sidney is a charming place for a stroll around, a coffee or just to poke around.
Then depending on the opening hours when you come/time of year, you can head over to the renowned Butchart Gardens where you can easily spend hours. Sometimes they have night viewings.
For a bit of fun or if you only have time for a day trip, you can also get over to Victoria via floatplane or helicopter, leaving from either Vancouver Harbour or the South Airport. The 40-minute floatplane flight from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria. Harbour Air offers frequent flights and often offers deals on its website.
Helijet offers a smooth 35 minute flight between Vancouver and Victoria waterfront and includes a really generous luggage allowance, if you do decide to stay longer on the Island.
Once in Victoria definitely stay near the Inner Harbour, where you'll be able to enjoy the stunning colonial architecture of the Parliament Buildings and the grand old Empress Hotel.
The Royal BC Museum is excellent. It is currently in the process of updating exhibits to include more pre-colonial history. Probably the best wildlife artist in the world, Robert Bateman, has his Gallery right on the waterfront, featuring huge canvasses of his works. Within a block, Whale Watching tours are offered. There are also little water taxi's that take you around the harbour. They are pricier than Vancouver, but they are fun-you can take them point to point or you can do a tour. Victoria is a very walkable city. Here are some suggested walks around the Downtown area that will give you the opportunity to walk through some beautiful parks, along the waterfront, and past some unique sites.
Don't miss the Chinatown area. This is the oldest Chinatown in Canada. It's always full of bustle, unique products, tempting smells, and fabulous food.
A little further away, but still very accessible by public transportation is National Historic Site, Craigdarroch Castle. The "Castle" is a late 19th century mansion built by coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir that has a fascinating history as everything from a family home to a military hospital.
Victoria is always a nice place to visit and is worth spending several days exploring the area, if you can fit it into your schedule. Check out Tourism Victoria's website for even more ideas.
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