Stroll the famous Inner Harbour and visit the Victoria Marine Adventure Centre where you can access a wide variety of marine adventure services. Float plane charters as well as regular scheduled flights depart from the same area. Stroll along Wharf Street into Old Town Victoria .
The Maritime Museum of British Columbia is housed in the historic 1889 Provincial Law Courts building situated in Bastion Square. A great family attraction complete with pirates, shipwrecks, treasure maps and three floors of nautical exhibits.This is where the province's Chief Justice Matthew Ballie Begbie, "The Hanging Judge," once handed down his sentences in the paneled courtroom. As you enter the galleries your eye will catch the lacy ornamental grill work of the caged elevator. Considered the oldest operating elevator in the country - it remains a must see on your visit. Beautiful woodwork decorates the public spaces including California redwood, walnut, cedar and oak. The vaulted ceilings and elegant cornices provide an appropriate setting for the visitor's journey back through history.
Board an authentic Double-Decker bus for a tour of the city or a trip to the Butchart Gardens. In the same general area is the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. The observatory also includes a new 7000 square foot interpretive centre called the Centre of the Universe. Victoria Butterfly Gardens is located nearby and is always a hit with children and adults alike.
Victoria's mild climate makes outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and golf a year round activity. The game of cricket has been played here since 1858, and today over 90 teams are active in the area. A stroll down to the cricket field at Beacon Hill Park will introduce you to the finer points of the game. There are many parks in the city with Beacon Hill Park being the most popular. With over 184 acres, Beacon Hill not only provides splendid views of the ocean, but also one may visit the Petting Zoo, a popular place to take the kids. Close by is the duck pond with its assortment of resident waterfowl .
Descend into a world beneath the surface of the Inner Harbour at the Undersea Gardens. See the live diving shows in the undersea theatre.
Close by is the historical St. Ann's Academy. St. Ann's was established in 1858 , and the building as we see it today was constructed in three sections, between 1871 and 1913. The Sisters operated a school, Convent and Novitiate within its walls. The grounds went through several phases, serving meditative, recreational and practical needs over the years. The Academy closed its doors in 1973, but the history and development continues, with restorations and its current uses.
Abkhazi Garden is an exquisite heritage garden which was created in the late 1940's by Prince and Princess Nicholas Abkhazi. It has been owned by The Land Conservancy of BC since February 2000 when it was purchased as part of a community effort to save the site from a housing development. The garden, gift shop and tea room is open to the public. Guided group tours can also be arranged in advance.
Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria's legendary landmark, is only a 20-30 minute walk from Victoria's Inner Harbour with interesting antique shops and services along the way. Bus service to Joan Crescent, a two minute walk from the Castle is available from downtown.
Round off your day downtown with a magical tour of James Bay, downtown Victoria, or Beacon Hill Park in a horse drawn carriage from Victoria Carriage Tours .
Hatley Park National Historic Site - On the ocean, amidst the forest, by the castle, in the gardens, Hatley Park National Historic Site is one of the most beautiful and diverse properties in Canada. Located 25 minutes west of downtown Victoria, this 565-acre site features more than 15 kilometres of walking trails through a rare ecosystem that includes old growth forest, Gary Oak meadows, and a wildlife sanctuary. At the heart of this Edwardian estate are exquisite Japanese, Italian and Rose Gardens, a museum, and Hatley Castle, built by renowned architect Samuel Maclure for former Premier, Lieutenant Governor and coal baron James Dunsmuir.
Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia and consists of the municipalities of Oak Bay, Saanich, View Royal and Esquimalt with an overall population of 326,000. Passenger and vehicle ferries sailing between Victoria, Seattle, Bellingham and Port Angeles dock in Victoria's Inner Harbour as well as many float planes and visiting boaters. Moorage can be found near the Canada Customs wharf. Also located in the Inner Harbour is the Tourism InfoCentre where hundreds of brochures, maps, etc. can be found as well as regularly scheduled whale watching or fishing charters, harbour cruises and nature safaris. See our adventure page.
Visit the Legislative Buildings and be sure to see the buildings at night when they are outlined by thousands of tiny lights. Many specialty shops, can be found along Government Street, Antique Row on Fort Street and several interesting and unusual shops in Victoria's Chinatown along Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada. Market Square features over 40 different shops and restaurants on two levels around an inner courtyard.
Visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and other galleries displaying the works of local and internationally renowned artists. Government House on Rockland Avenue, east of downtown, is closed to the public; however, you may tour the gardens which have been maintained for over a hundred years. Also of interest are the many elegant mansions along Rockland Avenue, built in the 1880's and 1890's. Craigdarroch Castle, the 39-room mansion built by B.C.'s first millionaire, is open to the public for tours.
A short drive over the Johnson Street bridge leads to Esquimalt which features The CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum , several historic military sites and a number of scenic walking paths. Originally established as a British Naval Base in 1865, modern Esquimalt has the second largest Canadian Forces Base in the country after Halifax, Nova Scotia.
James Bay, just south of downtown is bordered by water on three sides with Beacon Hill Park on the fourth. A short walk from Government Street, the park consists of acres of gardens, paths to wander and picnic areas, lakes with swans, ducks and a petting farm for children. Visit the Beacon Hill Children's Farm for details.
From here, take a scenic drive along Dallas Road to Beach Drive, and through the Upland Estates, stopping at Cattle Point, then on to Ten Mile Point.
Oak Bay, east of downtown, has a distinctly British personality with Tudor-style homes, impeccable landscaping, parks and a shopping sector known for its fine shops and tearooms. Willows Beach and the Oak Bay Marina are popular stops.
The District of Saanich, north of downtown encompasses several residential areas and recreational parks. One of the most popular is Mount Douglas Park which offers a birds eye view of the city from its drive-to summit. Swan Lake/Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary has two distinct ecological areas, walking trails and a floating boardwalk allowing close-up looks at the lake's ecosystem. To enjoy excellent public recreation facilities, visit the Saanich Commonwealth Place which offers a variety of programs and services for all ages. The Olympic-sized pool has water slides, a wave pool, a dive tank, steam rooms and sauna.
The Saanich Bicycle Tourist Route (PDF) circumnavigates the Municipality of Saanich. Where possible, it follows the Galloping Goose Trail and the Lochside Trail; elsewhere it uses rural or residential roads. The eastern section offers spectacular ocean views; the northern section passes Elk and Prospect Lakes, both with excellent swimming and picnic facilities; to the west are rural undeveloped forested areas and farms; the southern section follows the Galloping Goose trail which overlooks the Portage Inlet. The total circle route is approximately 45 km, but cyclists preferring a shorter route may follow a smaller loop by taking any of the many other bicycle routes within Saanich. Bicycle symbols on a bright yellow background clearly mark the route direction as it passes through Saanich.
Hartland Mountain Bike Park is accessed via Hartland Road in the Saanich northwest corner. Detailed information and maps for this superb mountain bike park are available at most bike shops and also from the South Island Mountain Biking Society.
The University of Victoria is located in Saanich, also the location of the Centre Auditorium where the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra and Victoria Symphony Orchestra frequently perform as well as the Phoenix Theatres, where a full season of excellent theatre and musical productions are staged. (See our Calendar of Events for schedules)
West of Victoria along the Island Highway you'll find the West Shore Communities of View Royal, Colwood, Langford, Metchosin and Sooke. One of the best ways to explore this area is by cycling or hiking on the Galloping Goose Trail. Named after an old 1920's passenger train and built along the former rail bed, this 70 kilometre ( 43 mile) linear park stretches from the Selkirk Trestle in downtown Victoria all the way to Leechtown, an abandoned mining town north of the Village of Sooke. The trail is accessible at numerous points along the route with two sections being the most popular. The first is the short distance between Roche Cove Regional Park, off Gillespie Road in Metchosin, and Matheson Lake Regional Park; the other, a section which leads to the Sooke Potholes, a series of rock pools along the Sooke River that are perfect for swimming.
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse are National Historic sites on 44 acres of wildflower meadows, wooded glens, and stretches of beach. Fort Rodd Hill frequently hosts weekend afternoon concerts by local and visiting military bands. Visit the gardens at Hatley Park, now the location of Royal Roads University.
See the spawning salmon during the fall months at Goldstream Provincial Park, a truly spectacular sight which can be viewed from bridges and pathways along the river. Eagles make an annual stop in the park to feed on the salmon and can also be seen at this location. The biggest run of salmon is generally between late October and the end of November. A great place for the whole family any season, the Nature Hut at Goldstream features exhibits on salmon, eagles, and other area inhabitants and often offers guided hikes and nature walks. Visit Mill Hill Park for a spectacular view of Victoria and Esquimalt Harbours and Thetis Lake Regional Park, a family favourite with beaches, hiking trails and a playground area.
Metchosin is a predominantly rural area, crisscrossed by winding country roads and lovely parks such as Albert Head Lagoon Park and Devonian Regional Park. Both parks are nature sanctuaries with beaches and gentle trails. Witty's Lagoon Regional Park is a beautiful lagoon ideally suited for picnics and birdwatching. See CRD for additional info on regional parks.