Walking is an easy, free, and fun way to explore the entire downtown area. Make your way from hotel to museum to shops; stop for coffee; stroll along the harborside; grab a pint and some fish-n-chips – take it in!
Buses run by BC Transit, (automated information line), form the mainstay of Victoria’s public transit network. Regular fares are a flat $2.50. Children aged 5 and under are free. Bus tickets can be purchased in books of ten, and give a slight discount (buy 9 get 1 free). Day passes are also available; they cost $5 flat for everyone and adults with a pass can have up to 4 children 12 and under ride with them for free. Transfers may be requested once you have paid your fare. They are good for 90 minutes of travel. Victoria, along with Kelowna, Toronto and Ottawa, is one of only a few cities in North America which use double decker buses in their city transit systems.
Rental Cars are available for those who need them. There are seven different car rental locations in Victoria, and their prices can be compared at places such as VroomVroomVroom.ca. All major companies such as Avis, Hertz, Budget, and Enterprise, are available.
Biking Victoria is one of the most bike-friendly cities in Canada, which may have something to do with the very mild winters. There are many places to rent bikes. One rental place that comes to mind is, CycleTreks (http://www.cycletreks.com), they are located at 1000 Warf St. right by the water. Another location is CycleBCRentals, located at 747 Douglas St. behind the Empress Hotel & in the summer at 950 Wharf St (1-866-380-2453). Bike rentals start at $6 and they also hire scooters and motorbikes here.
Pedicabs Take a guided tour of Victoria with an expert pedicab tour guide. The Victoria Pedicab Company offers city tours, garden tours, and customized tours.
- Beacon Hill Park, bounded by Dallas Rd on the south, and Douglas St. on the west. The south end is on the waterfront, with walking path and a view of the Olympic Mountains across the strait.Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, which features a goat petting area, is located within Beacon Hill Park.
- Butchart Gardens, 800 Benvenuto Ave. in Brentwood Bay (at the westernmost point of Keating X Rd, 866-652-4422. A large garden planted in what was formerly a limestone quarry. Quite remarkable. During the summer they have fireworks set to music and during winter evenings, the gardens are lit up and include displays illustrating the twelve days of Christmas. You can reach Butchart Gardens from Vancouver and Victoria on several bus tours and also by public transit from Victoria or the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.
- British Columbia Aviation Museum, 1910 Norseman Road in Sidney on the north edge of the Victoria International Airport,+1 250655-3300. Open 10AM-4PM (May 1- Sept 30) and 11AM-3PM (Oct 1 – Apr 30). Admission $8 Adults, $6 Seniors and $4 Children 12-18.
- Chinatown, Fisgard St. between Store St. and Government St. The street is decorated with Chinese ornaments including The Gates of Harmonious Interest. There are some great Chinese restaurants, Chinese fruit and vegetable stores, bubble tea and coffee shops and Canada’s smallest ‘road’, Fan Tan Alley!
- Emily Carr House, 207 Government Street,+1 250 383-5843. Fee $5, students $3.50, families $15. Emily Carr is one of Canada’s greatest and most loved artists. Her house is within walking distance of the Inner Harbour and Beacon Hill Park.
- Inner HarbourIn the summertime the Inner Harbour is full of artists, buskers and other entertainers. The music performers are not permitted to stay in one place for very long, so the entertainment is constantly changing. It still may seem too long with some of the Bagpipers. Many find it fascinating to watch the float planes taking off and landing also. In the springtime, the inner harbour is filled up with many beautiful flowers.
- Legislative Buildings, at the Inner Harbour,+1 250 387-3046. At night it is lit up with 13,000 lights. Free public tours are excellent.
- Miniature World,649 Humboldt St. (at the back of the Empress Hotel), +1 250 385-9731. An extensive display of miniature landscapes, cities etc., some rather bizarre or at comically mismatched scales. Includes the world’s smallest working saw mill at a scale of 1:12.
- Royal British Columbia Museum,675 Bellville St. (between the Legislature and the Empress hotel, near the Inner Harbour), ☎ +1 250 356-7226. Daily 9AM–5PM. This tell’s BC story, especially from 1850 to 1920. It has amazing exhibits, and is easily worth half a day. There are three permanent galleries: Modern History, story of the European settlement; First Peoples, pre-contact and post-contact; and Natural History, mainly oceans, large animals, and climate. All are explained with phenomenal immersive exhibits. This is one of two museums in Canada holding the ‘Royal’ designation.$15 adults, discounts for students and seniors, prices vary for special exhibitions.
- IMAX Theatre,675 Bellville St. (part of the Royal BC Museum), +1 250 953-4629. A variety of shows on the IMAX screen. $9.75 adult admission, $7.50 for seniors, students and youth, $5 for children. Tickets are not included with regular museum admission but discounted combo tickets are available.
- Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum,1050 Joan Crescent (in the Rockland area), +1 250 592-5323. This castle was built in 1890 by a wealthy and powerful Scottish family who at that time owned a quarter of Vancouver Island. Great architecture. About 25 minutes’ walk from the downtown core, or else take buses 11 or 14 up Fort St.
- Victoria Bug Zoo,631 Courtney Street, +1 250 384-2847. Open daily except Christmas and New Years, 10AM-6PM (extended summer hours). Fee $8 (several discounts). Looking at bugs while on holidays doesn’t sound like it’d be appealing, but this is a fantastic little place filled with very knowledgeable and friendly guides, and where else would you get the chance to hold so many crazy creatures?
- Abkhazi Gardens, 1964 Fairfield Road,+1 250 598-8096. Love affairs make great stories, and this one resulted in a great garden. Prince and Princess Abkhazi along with designer John Wade came together and created a garden that took over 40 years to come together on a beautiful property overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains.
- Harbour toursSmall harbour ferries (about six passengers) provide transport around and a view of the Selkirk Waterway and Inner Harbour.
- Galloping Goose Trail. A few places rent bikes and this is a great afternoon or day trip. The trail runs on a decommissioned rail bed from downtown to Sooke.
- Whale WatchingFor those who are a bit more adventurous there are 8 Whale Watching companies which operate from the Downtown/Inner Harbour. You can book them all at the Tourist Information centre Tourism Victoria. They have it either same price or discounted. The companies offer up to three hour trips and have a good success rate year round at finding one of the three resident pods of Orcas and in the summer transient Orcas, Humpbacks and Grey. Prices range from $79 – $119 per person ($79 discounted at Visitor Centre).
- Nature!The surrounding Victoria area is also an amazing place to explore if you’re more inclined towards natural spots. From the Inner Harbour you can walk in either direction along the water to the very popular local Dallas Road, or you can cross “The Blue Bridge” and end up on the Westsong Walkway into Esquimalt. Both have beautiful views of the Inner Harbour and even Port Angeles across the water. If you’re feeling more energetic check out some of the attractive parks in Victoria’s neighbouring towns including Oak Bay, Saanich, Langford, Sooke and Sidney.
- Wine tastingThere are five wineries within a 45-minute drive of Victoria, on the Saanich Peninsula, including some estate wineries. These wineries have a wide range of wines including those made from their own grapes, grapes grown elsewhere and fruit wines. Crush Wine Tours, +1 250 888-5748, offers a three-hour tour visiting three of the wineries, guided by a friendly and well informed guide.