The salty seaboard, lively harbour, and array of hiking and biking routes and trails etched along the shoreline, and surrounding mountainous region makes Victoria the ultimate Canadian island-getaway destination for families, outdoor lovers, and anyone and everyone. In this ultimate guide for planning a trip to Victoria, you’ll learn all about British Columbia’s capital city: how to get there, what to do, and the necessary information before you kickstart your exciting adventure.
Table of contents
Take a moment to think of England, Holland, and tropical island getaways. Got it? Okay, now blend these three images together and add a sprinkle of Canadian vibes. What do you get? Victoria. You’ll find a glimpse of Holland via the avid road cyclists twisting through the English-styled architecture. And when you head to the harbour or walk along the sea-scented shoreline, the laid-back, chilled-out island atmosphere will remind you of a tropical island. But gusts of cold air will highlight that you’re still in Canada (and the occasional “eh”).
Outside of the architecture, gardens, and cultural influences and nods, you’ll find an array of activities suitable for all types of adventurers, personalities, and age groups. Opt to go on hiking, biking, kayaking, paddleboarding adventures, and top off your outdoor experiences with a cold craft beer at one of the many trendy restaurants peppering downtown.
If you’re looking to immerse in nature totally, you can easily go on day trips to the surrounding parks: Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, East Sooke Park, Goldstream Provincial Park, Mount Work Regional Park, and more. But keep in mind that nature cloaks the city, so even when you’re away from these parks, you’ll still experience the soothing calmness that often accompanies being outdoors—with a quaint, welcoming city twist. Victoria has around 70 parks!
Ready to plan your trip to Victoria? Continue reading for tips on how to get there, what to do, where to eat and stay!
How to get to Victoria
Victoria sits along the southern side of Vancouver Island, but it’s still relatively easy to access the city despite its island location. If you’re driving, you’ll have to hop on a ferry, but the ocean views will keep you entertained as you travel across the Pacific Ocean. It’s super windy on the deck, but makes for some good photos. Or you can fly into Victoria International Airport, which sits around 25 minutes outside of the city.
Flying to Victoria
If you’re flying to Victoria, it’s best to book a flight that takes you right to Victoria International Airport. Hopping off a plane in Vancouver will force you to either rent a car and travel by ferry to the island or purchase a walk-on ticket for the boat ride over.
There are a few options to take once you reach the airport:
- Walk 1.2mi towards East Saanich at McTavish, where you’ll take the Line 72 bus. This bus costs $3 and takes around 35 minutes to reach Douglas at Hillside in Victoria. You can also walk 1.3mi towards McTavish Exchange Bay G, where you can hop on Line 70, 71, or 72 bus for $3. It will take around 35 minutes to reach Douglas at Finlayson in Victoria.
- You can also drive or take a taxi. The 16.2mi drive can take around 25 minutes.
You can also take a floatplane from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour.
Ferry to Victoria
Whether you’re driving, walking, cycling, motorbiking, or taking public transport, you’ll need to take a ferry to get to Victoria.
One option is—depending on where you are coming from—to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay and get off in Nanaimo, another island town. It takes around 1.5 hours to drive from Nanaimo to Victoria. You can also take the IslandLink Bus or the Vancouver Island Connector. It’ll take you two hours to reach Victoria via public transport.
If you’re leaving from Vancouver, you can ferry from Tsawwassen. This trip takes around 1.5 hours. Feel free to check out the schedule on BC Ferries!
Are you coming from Seattle? No problem. Take the ferry from Port Angeles.
Public transport to Victoria
You can also hop on a bus for your ferry trip from Vancouver to Victoria. You can use the BC Ferries Connector to get from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria, and back!
Best time to visit Victoria
Warm weather seekers will enjoy the temperatures between June and September. However, tourist avoiders who don’t mind a temperature drop will likely tolerate the weather in May and October. The trails will be less crowded during these months as well!
While snow cloaks most of Canada during the winter, Victoria instead receives buckets and buckets of rain, so you probably won’t enjoy visiting between November and March, unless you really love rain.
How to get around Victoria
From cars to public transportation to walking to cycling to horse carriage rides, Victoria makes it easy for you to choose a mode of transportation that suits you or your desired activities. But if you were to choose anything, just know that the city boasts of excellent cycling opportunities as well, and it’s incredibly walkable.
Where to stay in Victoria
Are you looking for the best spots to stay in Victoria? Take a look at these neighbourhoods: James Bay (waterfront location), Oak Bay (trendy), and downtown (hello, nightlife).
Hotels in James Bay
Enjoy the coastline views and taste the smell of fish and chips smell swirling off the nearby seafood restaurants as you meander the Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re looking for an elegant option, you may consider booking The Hotel Grand Pacific or The Oswego Hotel. Budgeters will appreciate the quaint, cozy James Bay Inn!
Hotels in Oak Bay
Lined with soaring oak trees, trendy boutiques, delis, and cafes, Oak Bay knows how to please its visitors. To top it off, the nearby Willows Beach grants kayakers and paddle boarders with a relaxing paddle. Those willing to amp up the swank will like the waterfront views at Oak Bay Beach Hotel. The Oak Bay Guest House Bed and Breakfast also offers a slice of upscale, a sprinkle of relaxation, and a lot of character.
Revel in the nightlife spanning Wharf Street and Bastion Square by night, and explore the museums, galleries, and bask in the harbour views by day. Rest your head at the ever-so classy Magnolia Hotel and Spa or start your evening of fun on the rooftop at the Strathcona Hotel—this building harks back to the gold rush era in Victoria. Or you can enjoy a budget-friendly stay at HI Hostel.
Other great options to stay in Victoria
Not into staying in a hotel? Why not consider camping? The following campgrounds may be a little outside Victoria, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wander into the city on a non-adventure day.
Consider setting up your tent at Goldstream Provincial Park. And be sure to go on the short, but fascinating Goldstream Trestle Hike while you’re here.
Or you can try the Spring Salmon Places Campground in Sooke Potholes Regional Park. Admire the fairytale-like waterfalls here! These wild campsites run on a first-come, first-serve basis only.
Looking for a beachfront spot? Look into the Island View Beach Regional Park Campground. It’s not super private, but hey, at least you’ll fall asleep to the bliss of ocean waves flirting with the shore.
Where to eat in Victoria
Victoria boasts of a smorgasbord of trendy cafes and bakeries. But since there are many options, we’ve decided to share some of the best spots for you to help alleviate the stress that often accompanies food-related decisions:
Best seafood spot: Finn’s or The Fish Store at Fisherman’s Wharf. Expect Finn’s to take seafood to the next level. You can also go for quick, tasty bites at the floating Fish Store at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Best cafe: Blue Fox Cafe. Beware! If you eat here in the morning, you won’t want to eat for the rest of the day: the portions are big. It could be an excellent breakfast or lunch spot before an adventure day.
Best bakery: La Roux Patisserie. Feel like you’re in Paris in this elegant, cozy bakery! Consider stopping by here for a tasty treat after a hiking or biking or kayaking excursion.
Best restaurant: John’s Place Restaurant. Grab a hearty breakfast or lunch at this local hotspot! Try to stop by during Happy Hour, which is between 2-5 from Monday to Friday.
Things to do in Victoria
Outdoor lovers will appreciate the natural playground in and around Victoria. Spend hours hiking, cycling, mountain biking, kayaking, or paddleboarding. Outside of active ventures, you’ll also find other remarkable options that abide by Victoria’s quirky, chilled-out vibes.
Hiking in Victoria
Expect to find a myriad of hikes surrounding Victoria. You may not associate British Columbia’s capital with hiking, thanks to its prime oceanfront location, but the mountainscapes painting the backdrop have several unique trails. While most hikes in Victoria are on the shorter side, they do not cheap out on views.
For the best hikes, locals and visitors alike tend to flock to Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, East Sooke Park, Goldstream Provincial Park, and Mount Work Regional Park. Families will enjoy the mild elevation and gentle trail along the Witty’s Lagoon with Tower Point Hike. If you’re looking for a long, challenging hike with stunning views, try out the East Sooke Coast Trail Hike. Or enjoy a picturesque blend of mountain and water views on the 10 km Jocelyn Hill from Caleb Pike Hike.
Cycling in Victoria
Victoria really is a biker’s paradise. With a network of easy to moderate loops twisting along and by the seascape, waterways, vineyards, parks, and more. Get ready for a picturesque ride, no matter which route you decide to take. One of our favourites? The Seaside Loop. This lovely 25.4mi ride takes you by harbours, parks, and cafes.
Families will really enjoy the 6.4mi Colquitz River Trail bike ride! Pedal by the Panama Flats and end your journey at the Red Barn Market. For a more challenging excursion, give the 38.5mi, out-and-back Lochside Trail to Sidney a try. Pedal by lush farmland and quiet inlets before returning to Victoria.
Mountain bikers can find fantastic trails in Bear Mountain Resort or Mount Work Regional Park.
Water sports in Victoria
Spend relaxing mornings, afternoons, or evenings paddle boarding or kayaking around Victoria. Grab your paddles and meander around the following spots:
- Thetis Lake
- Gorge Waterway
- Esquimalt Lagoon
- Langford Lake
- Matheson Lake
- Tod Inlet
- Inner Harbour
- Gonzales Beach
- Willows Beach
- Elk Lake
- Cadboro Bay
Other can’t-miss activities in Victoria
Victoria has several quirky activities worth taking advantage of! Whether you’re looking for something chill or fascinating or nature-centric, British Columbia’s capital has you covered.
- Visit Butchart Gardens! Revel in the palette of colours and lush fields of green as you wind through this stunning garden.
- Go to Miniature World! Marvel at the miniature depictions of historical moments and fictional realms. This museum is also home to the world’s largest dollhouses and model railways.
- Check out Hatley Park National Historic Site! Let’s face it: Canada boasts of natural beauty, but it lacks architectural wonders. This castle is one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in Canada! You can also get your steps in by strolling around the gardens surrounding this monumental building.
- Shop along Lower Johnson Street! Enjoy the number of independent shops and boutiques lining this vibrant street.
- Go on a carriage tour! Bask in luxury (and relaxation) in a horse-drawn carriage. Enjoy the layers of attractions spanning Victoria.
- Walk around Fisherman’s Wharf! Check out the 33 floating houses dotting this postcard-painted harbour. Whenever you get hungry, stop by one of the seafood restaurants in this area.
- Stroll through Chinatown! Quick fact: Victoria’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America and the oldest in Canada.
- Hop on a pickle boat! Embark on a sightseeing tour via a boat shaped like a pickle.
- Relax at the beach! Want a break from all of your adventures? Spend some time relaxing at Willow Beach, but don’t expect to swim. The water is super cold; if you want warmer water, head to Thetis Lake.
- Go whale watching! Most whale watching tours in Victoria will allow you to go on another tour for free if no whales pop up on your boat ride.
Frequently asked questions about travelling in Victoria
Is Victoria expensive?
Victoria is considered to be one of the most expensive places to live in Canada. In 2019, PadMapper shared that Victoria sits in the top 5 of the most costly places to reside in the True North. But when it comes to food and drink, expect similar prices to the rest of Canada. On average, a basic dinner for two at a pub costs around $48. Do note that you can easily walk everywhere, so that should help lower transportation costs.
Is Victoria safe at night?
Yes! Most people consider Victoria to be safe when the sun lowers into the horizon. However, it’s still smart to keep your wits about you during the night.
Does it snow in Victoria?
Compared to the rest of Canada, Victoria doesn’t see much snow. And even when it does fall, it doesn’t stick to the ground for very long—the charming city averages around 26 cm of snow a year. However, there have been several snowless winters. It will get rainy, though! So bring warm clothes if you plan on coming during the colder months.
Fun facts about Victoria
Charm locals with some of these random fun facts about Victoria when you go!
- Victoria is named after Queen Victoria.
- This city receives around 608 mm of rain annually.
- Get ready to eat here! Victoria boasts of the second most restaurants per capita in North America. San Francisco holds the top spot.
- Victoria has over 70 parks!
- British Columbia’s capital is considered the Cycling Capital of Canada.
- Five species of whales float in the waters flanking Victoria.
You’re now ready to plan your trip to Victoria in British Columbia, Canada! Grab your calendar and start choosing which date to book your flight, ferry, or whatever mode of transportation you decide to use to reach this lovely city, which boasts of several activities, stunning architecture, and a lot of restaurants. Before you go, be sure to look at our adventure guides for Victoria—find specific routes tailor-made for you.