Victoria lies at the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Smaller than Vancouver, it’s a picturesque, charming city. Downtown Victoria is very compact and walkable, and there’s a lot more to the inner harbor area than parliament buildings.
When I visited Victoria last June, it was part of a trip to Seattle. In under three hours, you can take the Victoria Clipper from Seattle to British Columbia. It’s a scenic cruise, and not uncommon for passengers to see whales on their journey.
If you, like me, only have one day to enjoy Victoria, you’ll be happy to know it’s easy to get around the city and there are a lot of cafes, restaurants and shops to explore.
One day in Victoria, B.C.
- My ferry arrived early in the morning. As part of my reservation, I opted to book a roundtrip bus tour to the Butchart Gardens. If you’re crunched for time, don’t plan on renting a car and really want to see the gardens, I recommend this option. I got off the ferry and hopped on a bus waiting in the parking lot. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the gardens, during which time, we had a short city tour. Once we arrived at the gardens, we had two hours to explore at leisure
- Butchart Gardens are one of the most famous gardens in the world, walking through them is absolute heaven. Covering 50 acres, the breathtaking views are a sight to behold. Each garden has its own theme, I really enjoyed walking through the Japanese gardens and floral displays
- After spending a morning at the gardens, come back to the city for afternoon tea at the Empress
- The Fairmont Empress Hotel’s Victorian architecture and elegance warrants a visit even if you’re not planning on having tea. But, if you do decide to have afternoon tea- know you’re in for a treat. Loved spending the afternoon drinking the Empress special blend and munching on little sandwiches and mini pastries
- After you’ve had your fill at tea, walk around the Inner Harbor for a few hours. The city is built around the Inner Harbor, and it’s fun to watch the floatplanes, ferries and boats come and go throughout the day
- Wander up Government Street, which is a bit touristy, but also home to Roger’s Chocolates and Munro’s Books (said to be the best bookstore in Canada)
- Stroll down Johnson Street to explore a bunch of fun boutiques and restaurants near Market Square
- While you’re in the area, Victoria’s Chinatown also warrants a quick visit
- If your afternoon explorations leave you hungry, any of these places are good options:
- Willie’s Bakery & Cafe: B.C.’s oldest bakery offers an all-day breakfast and lunch menu. The banana french toast with maple cream cheese drizzle is incredible
- Victoria Public Market: Wander from stall to stall, sampling a bit of this and that from each one. The market reminded me of Chelsea Market in New York City, loved that there was something for everyone
- Bon Macaron Patisserie: Sweet and savory macarons, try the goat cheese & fig, as well as the salted caramel for a balanced taste
- Tacofino: Locals line up for the baja-style fish tacos
- Fernwood Coffee: Hand crafted, fine roast coffees make this the perfect place for an afternoon pick-me-up
- Before the sun sets, head over to Fisherman’s Wharf to wander through colorful, whimsical floating homes and quirky shops
- If you’re hungry, the fish & chips and coleslaw at Red Fish Blue Fish is delicious
Since I was only in Victoria for a day, I didn’t opt to go whale-watching (I’ve also been before on a previous trip to Seattle), but Victoria’s whale-watching tours are known for black-and-white orca sightings and famed marine wildlife.
Extra Know Before You Go Info
- Identification: Valid passport
- Currency: Canadian dollar, although USD is accepted at most places as well
- Language: English
- Wifi: Most coffee shops and restaurants in town have wifi available