Victoria Attractions - Discovering the City's Harbor, Heritage, and Natural Beauty
Bobbing water taxis, soaring floatplanes, chugging passenger ferries, and colourful kayaks crisscross Victoria's busy Inner Harbour. The hub of downtown Victoria, the harbor is framed by the domed British Columbia Parliament Buildings and the Edwardian, ivy-draped Empress hotel. Learn about the Parliament Buildings' architecture and BC parliamentary procedure on free, year-round guided tours. Next door, in the Royal BC Museum, you can stroll down a recreated old-time street, gaze at a full-size woolly mammoth, and catch an IMAX movie.
Butchart Gardens and beyond
Victoria's mild climate brings an eruption of colour each spring as clusters of pink and red rhododendrons burst into bloom. A half-hour drive north of downtown, The Butchart Gardens shows off kaleidoscopic floral displays. Highlights include an enormous sunken garden laid out in a former limestone quarry and a Japanese garden dotted with ponds and maples. In summer, visitors bring picnics and blankets to enjoy outdoor concerts and fireworks displays. For greenery on a smaller scale, the Gardens at HCP (Horticulture Centre for the Pacific) features a fragrant herb garden, plus native flowers such as chocolate lilies.
- The Butchart Gardens, 800 Benvenuto Avenue, Brentwood Bay V8X 3X4; Tel: +1 866 652 4422; Website: The Butchart Gardens
- The Gardens at HCP, 505 Quayle Road, Victoria V9E 2J7; Tel: +1 250 479 6162; Website: The Gardens at HCP
Tour boats zoom over the waves, giving you the occasional soaking and the opportunity to encounter the Salish Sea's 3 pods of resident orcas. You can look out for "Granny," believed to be more than a century old, or have your camera ready for snapshots of baby whales. Along with orcas, you might spy humpbacks, minkes, or migrating gray whales cruising the waters between Alaska and Baja California. Prince of Whales runs trips on either open or partially covered high-speed boats with on-board naturalists. If you're staying in nearby Sidney, you can set sail with Sidney Whale Watching.
- Prince of Whales Whale Watching, 812 Wharf Street, Victoria V8W 1T3; Tel: +1 888 383 4884; Website: Prince of Whales Whale Watching
- Sidney Whale Watching, 105-2537 Beacon Avenue, Sidney V8L 1Y2; Tel: +1 888 656 7599; Website: Sidney Whale Watching
An ornate red-and-gold gate flanked by 2 stone lions marks the entrance to Canada's oldest Chinatown, which dates back to 1858. The main block runs along Fisgard Street between Government and Store streets and is crammed with noodle shops, towers of exotic fruits, and stores selling silk clothing. A neon sign leads you into Fan Tan Alley, a narrow passageway once home to gambling dens. For an insight into the area's history and culture, take a tour with Chinatown Walks. If you're hungry for dim sum, you can stop by Don Mee's, in business for more than 80 years.
- Discover the Past Chinatown Walks; Tel: +1 250 384 6698; Website: Discover the Past Chinatown Walks
- Don Mee Seafood Restaurant, 538 Fisgard Street, Victoria V8W 1R4; Tel: +1 250 383 1032; Website: Don Mee Seafood Restaurant
Parks and coastline
Victoria is peppered with parkland and fringed by sweeping beaches and hidden coves. A few minutes' walk from downtown, Beacon Hill Park stretches south to Dallas Road, where you can take in views of the Olympic Mountains. The Victorian-era park is home to manicured gardens and ponds alongside Douglas firs and native Garry oaks. Photo opportunities include a towering, painted First Nations story pole and the Trans-Canada Highway Mile 0 marker. If you're hankering after water action, exploring Victoria's coastline by kayak reveals copper-coloured arbutus trees, inquisitive seals, and purple sea stars. Ocean River Sports organizes tours.
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