I have yet to visit a part of Canada that I didn’t like. Earlier this year, I visited a friend in Seattle, Washington expecting to stick around the states for the long weekend. Instead, he took me on a day-long excursion to Victoria, British Columbia. We only stayed in Victoria for 6 hours, but I can honestly say it might be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. Victoria is a relaxed, yet vibrant city which lies at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, and has a little bit of everything – beautiful scenery, fascinating history and culture and great food and drink. We traveled from the United States via ferry and the scenic boat trip was just the beginning of our transient adventure.
Stroll around Inner Harbor. The best way to describe Inner Harbor is the beating heart of Victoria. This bustling, working port is filled with fishing boats, seaplanes, luxury yachts, ferries, and whale-watching tours that operate all day long. As we were pulling into the harbor, we watched several seaplanes depart and descend along the water. I had never seen anything like it before! You could easily spend a day watching all the action from the walkway around the inlet. The Inner Harbor is also right next to the Parliament Building and within a few minutes’ walk to most of Victoria’s main attractions. The scenic Inner Harbor is the perfect welcoming venue for this gorgeous, waterfront city.
Visit Fisherman’s Wharf. A fun way to get around the Inner Harbor is to take the Victoria Harbor Ferry. You can take the ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf, which is a colorful community of house boats, fishing vessels, food stalls and resident seals. We did not have a chance to visit Fisherman’s Wharf, but several locals said it’s a “must see” in Victoria.
Sip Tea at the Fairmont Empress. The Fairmont Empress is the Monarch of Victoria. Built in 1908, the Fairmont Empress Hotel is known for its highbrow sophistication and elaborate afternoon tea. You cannot miss the Fairmont Empress as it’s one of the first buildings you see when you get off the ferry. I couldn’t help but admire its elegance every time we passed it. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to sit down for tea, but if I ever visit Victoria again (and I plan to) this afternoon luxury will certainly be my first stop after the ferry.
Grab Lunch at Mo:Lé. If you’re looking for a delicious lunch or, if all-day breakfast is more your style, consider stopping by Mo:Lé. We were referred to this gem by strangers also on their way to visit Victoria. If you’re vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, they have a variety of great options (I have no food restrictions but the coconut curry was to die for). The atmosphere is relaxing and cozy with tasteful paintings from local artists that adorn the restaurant’s exposed brick walls. When we showed up, there was a half hour wait so the hostess took down our name and suggested we enjoy a coffee at the cafe next door. If you ever visit Victoria and need a lunch recommendation, I would highly suggest Mo:Lé.
Rent Bikes. While most landmarks and attractions are within walking distance from the Inner Harbor, there are equally stunning views of the coastline just east of the harbor. I would highly suggest renting bikes to cruise through the residential streets of Victoria – Oak Bay in particular. Oak Bay is one of Victoria’s oldest neighborhoods and holds some of the most adorable properties I’ve ever seen. We biked along Oak Bay Avenue, which brought us through Oak Bay Village, a quaint strip of Oak Bay Avenue that is lined with a number of unique, locally-owned shops. And, we got a great work out while we explored!
Go Thrift Shopping. I’ll admit I do not shop in thrift stores often, by my friend wanted a funky/vintage outfit for themed party he was attending and so, thrift shopping we went. I was surprised by how many consignment shops Victoria had in the central downtown area filled with fun, vintage clothing for both men and women. We actually spent quite a bit of time shopping while we waited for a local breakfast spot to open up. It was fun to browse the brightly colored clothing and knickknacks throughout the store.
Order Flights at Swans Brewpub. Swans is a hotel and brewpub located in Downtown Victoria where we stopped to grab a flight of beer before our journey back to Washington. Swans’ founder, Michael Williams, was a young Shepard who immigrated to Canada from England. In the 1980’s he began buying and restoring buildings – one of which was the old Buckerfield’s warehouse, which he converted into Swans Hotel & Brewpub. The name Swans comes from this transformation, much like an ugly duckling growing up to be a graceful swan. Swans has a large selection of beer brewed by the pub. The best way to sample these is to have a flight of beer, which includes four glasses filled with your choice of beer.