If you’re ever on the west coast a must visit place is Vancouver Island. Only a few hours from Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places in Canada and it’s highly underrated. I suggest taking a weekend trip and going to explore British Columbia’s capital, it won’t disappoint. I’m going to share with you my top things to do in Victoria, BC to make the most out of your trip to the island!
Victoria, BC is such a pretty capital city, with lots to explore for a weekend or spend a few more days and take a few days trips to some amazing locations that i’ll mention down below.
How to get to Victoria?
I don’t drive and frequently travel solo so I always need to plan out my transportation in advance to make sure I’m able to make the trip work. Look at the ferry times and plan your trip accordingly. They run every 2 hours and you can book tickets online if you are taking your car on this website.
Depending on where you are living in BC this route takes about 5 hours. I took a bus to the nearest skytrain station which was Broadway-City Hall station. From there you are taking the train to Bridgeport station in the direction of YVR Airport. Exit the station and make your way down to bus platform 12 where you’ll queue to get onto an express bus to take you directly to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Once at the ferry terminal you will enter through arrivals, buy your ferry ticket, which costs $16.90. You can only buy walk on tickets the day of the sailing, not online so get to the terminal a little early, especially in the summer months.
The sailing takes about an hour and a half and once the boat goes in between the islands it’s stunning! Definitely have your camera ready and go on a clear or moody day for the best views! Once you reach the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, right outside the terminal is the spot to take the bus to downtown Victoria. Take either the 70 which is the express or 72 which is the normal bus route, this bus ride can take about an hour. Have cash on hand to pay the driver, the fare is $2.50 and bus drivers don’t have change.
If you have a car or able to rent one the travel time takes about 3.5 hours and a much easier journey with less planning. Bringing a car on the ferry costs about $110 for 2 people, one-way, the price varies depending on vehicle type, length and season. Reserving your ticket ahead of time is highly recommended in the summer since spots fill up quickly Friday – Sunday. If you drive to the terminal with no reservation in the summer then you are one a first come first serve basis for a spot and that could take hours so save yourself the hassle! Though it sounds expensive it is worth it to have a car to explore the island with.
Things to do in Victoria, BC
Visiting Chinatown is a must on your list of things to do in Victoria, BC. This is the oldest Chinatown in the world and while it’s the smallest, it’s still worth a stroll down the few streets and take a few photos. Don’t miss the chance to walk into Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in the country and a big tourist attraction. There’s a bunch of cute boutiques to get some souvenirs from your trip. If you’re looking for gemstone rings for a great price check out Whirled Arts, they have a huge selection and I bought 2 gorgeous rings from them!
This is one of the most popular streets in Victoria with some great stores, cafes and restaurants. This would be the downtown core and if you have an accommodation around here then you will surrounded by all the action. A few of my favourite shops are Nezza Naturals for eco-friendly beauty products, Hey Happy for amazing food and coffee options, The Regional Assembly of Text for great stationary items and many boutiques for both men and women.
One of my favourite things to do in Victoria, BC is walk along Dallas Road which is a coastal route that you can drive by or take a scenic walk. The waterfront trail is perfect on a clear day, park near by and start your walk around Clover Point park and walk towards Holland Point Park. The views over the cliff are amazing and along the trail there are staircases that will lead you down to coves and beaches. Once here you can walk along the beach or over rocks to reach some secluded spots. Each inlet is very unique and I suggest you explore a few throughout your walk.
I had some delicious food when I was visiting Victoria and you definitely won’t be disappointed by these spots below, a few are local recommendations!
John’s Place was right down the street from my hostel and always had a line, especially on weekends. They are famous for their eggs benny and were featured on “You Gotta Eat Here!”
Jam Cafe is an all day breakfast and lunch cafe located in Chinatown with decor that is very unique and eclectic. They have specials depending on the season and the portions are generous. If you are vegetarian I suggest the veggie breakfast bowl, one of the best things I’ve ever had!! Also the French toast and pancake options look unreal! They also have 2 locations in Vancouver that are always packed.
Habit Coffee has 2 locations in Victoria and serves delicious drinks and pastries. I tried a cascara latte for the first time and it has notes of cherry and I definitely suggest it!
Hey Happy is a very popular spot among locals on Johnston street. The aesthetic is so cute and fun. The chai latte is great but I can’t say enough amazing things about their veggie breakfast sandwich, a must try!!
Foo Asian Street Food is my favourite place to eat in Victoria, they make popular Asian dishes usually with a twist. I suggest trying a bunch of items on the menu, a few highlights are the Saag Paneer, Red Coconut Curry and the Togarashi fries. You will be dreaming about this food once you leave!
Superbaba has delicious middle eastern food at an affordable price. This is a great place for vegetarians and I suggest getting the falafel bowl, it is super filling and has so many toppings. If you can’t visit this location then they also have a storefront in Vancouver.
La Taquisa is a Mexican restaurant that is affordable option and has lots of meat, veggie and vegan choices. They always serve fresh and local ingredients!
Virtuous Pie serves delicious vegan pizza with very creative toppings in a funky setting. They have happy hour Monday – Friday from 2pm-5pm, enjoy more of the menu and cocktails!
Vintage and Thrift Shops
Vintage After Death is a really cool shop in Chinatown. They have so many unique pieces for great prices and cute little phrases on all their tags that’ll give you a laugh!
Upcycle Clothing Collective is a curated consignment shop with vintage and modern pieces.
The Patch Clothing is a big thrift store and it’s more of a hit or miss spot. They have a large selection of men and women’s clothing for great prices!
One of the most popular things to do when on the island is to go whale watching. There a handful of companies to chose from that depart from the harbor. The best time to see whales is May-October and the average tour price is $140 per person (adult) for 3-4 hours.
This is a massive 22 acre botanical garden with beautiful landscapes, themed gardens ! The summer rate for an adult is $36 and can be purchased online or at the admission gate. The gardens are outside of the city and I suggest visiting them either from the ferry to Victoria or on the way back if you have a few hours.
Only a short walk from the downtown core is Fisherman’s Wharf, imagine picturesque and colorful boat houses lining the pier. Many boat tours leave from here and there’s a few restaurants to grab food and enjoy the views.
Ideas Outside of the City
- Goldstream Provincial Park is a 20 minute drive from the city. This park has lots of trails, a few waterfalls and trestle bridge to explore.
- East Sooke Regional Park is a 40 minute drive from the city. This park has numerous trails along the coast with gorgeous views across the water to the US.
- Malahat Skywalk is a 30 minute drive from the city. It’s a new attraction that opened a few months ago and reminds me of the Vessel in NYC.
Victoria is a great starting or ending point to your Vancouver Island trip. There is so much to see on the island so be prepared for a few trips to different areas to enjoy it all. A great introduction to the island life is Victoria, it’s a city not to be missed because there are so many fun things to do!