It’s no secret that I’m a lover of all things Canadian. They have the best stuff – fresh maple syrup, hockey, and of course, Justin Trudeau! Canadians are collectively some of the nicest people I’ve met and their country is just stunning! For my husband’s (late) birthday present, I surprised him with a trip to Victoria, British Columbia. Check out my recommended 3-Day Itinerary!
Start your morning out by heading to the stunning British Columbia Parliament building. It was completed in 1897 in a Neo-Baroque/Renaissance Revival style. They’re open for free self-guided tours. Check out the Rotunda, stained-glass windows, and the Legislative Chambers! Hey, Mr. Trudeau, where you at?!
Next, walk to the Ogden Point Breakwater. There’s a great spot for brekkie right by the pier called Breakwater Cafe & Bistro. I had a delicious croissant sandwich with chipotle mayo.
After breakfast, take a walk to the end of the Ogden Point Breakwater pier. There’s a small lighthouse at the end and stunning views of the water and mountains. From here, wander through Fisherman’s Wharf on your way back towards the city center.
After all of this walking, you should be getting hungry (and thirsty). Grab a seat on the patio at Milestones Grill & Bar. It’s right on the water and has great views of the Parliament building and the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Try the Blue Buck Pale Ale!
Although I could spend hours at a patio bar, I recommend heading out to explore Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown. Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest alley in Canada. And honestly, I’m picking up some Diagon Alley vibes! It’s a really popular spot, full of little stores and the ice-cream shop, Kid Sister. Their lemon meringue flavor is insanely delicious – the perfect mix of sweet and tart. Paul had the salted caramel flavor and said it’s the best salted caramel he’s ever had!
Wander around Chinatown, which just happens to be Canada’s oldest Chinatown! There are so many fun little shops and markets in the area.
For dinner, head to Bastion Square. There are a lot of great bars in the area, but I recommend starting at Darcy’s Pub. Order a pint of Hoyne Summer Haze Honey Hefe and the Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese. Paul had Darcy’s Famous Chipotle Chicken Burger and loved it. The atmosphere here is great. The patio was lively and busy all evening and the service was great.
End your evening with a local bar crawl. Start across the square from Darcy’s Pub at The Local. Order the local shot (famous all through-out Victoria), The Shaft – a delicious mix of Kahlúa, Vodka, cream, and espresso – which will give you plenty of energy to finish out the evening. Next, head to CANOE. This bar is right along the water and has a cozy, warehouse vibe with live music. Lastly, walk a few block to Duke Saloon, a country bar with great live bands.
Head out early to get a seat at the famous Jam Cafe. This cozy spot was featured on Canada’s You Gotta Eat Here tv show. I love when I find a veggie-benny on a menu. Theirs did not disappoint; spinach, roasted tomato, mushrooms, and goat cheese. The house-made green chili sauce is amazing on eggs & hash browns. Paul had the Charlie Bowl, a mix of hash browns, eggs, ham, bacon, bread crumbs, and peas & corn. Jam is super popular, so expect a wait, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend.
You can’t do Canada without a whale watching cruise. We booked with Orca Spirit. They are really concerned about the safety of the whales and follow guidelines to keep appropriate distances from the whales. I recommend taking a Zodiac boat, which looks kind of like an industrial raft with a speed motor. These boats are great because they minimize sea-sickness (I suffer from motion sickness and was fine on the Zodiac). Zodiac boats are small, so you end up with a max of only 12 people. The tours last about 3 hours and cost around $100. We saw about a dozen Transient Killer Whales and one Humpback Whale – definitely worth it!
Grab lunch downtown at Dog Gone It . It’s the perfect casual spot to feed your appetite after whale watching. They have a vegetarian hot dog that can be substituted for any of their menu items. All of their items are named after dogs (love it!). I had the German Shepard Veggie Dog (sauerkraut, crispy onions, and mustard) and Paul had the Labrador Retriever (hot sauce, bacon, cheddar, and crispy onions). Grab a seat by the window and people watch!
Once you’ve finished lunch, rent a bike and ride to Beacon Hill Park. Beacon Hill Park is a beautiful spot for a ride, especially on a fall afternoon. The leaves were starting to change colors and the park was filled with ducks, owls, and peacocks! There are many little ponds and bridges to explore. Find the Moss Lady, sleeping under the trees in the park. Bike rentals start at $8 an hour and they have many trails for you to explore.
If you haven’t already done so, head back down to the Parliament building once the sun has set to view the Parliament lights. The entire building is outlined in white-bulb lights, no matter the time of year!
Next to the Parliament is the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Head inside and grab a night-cap. Walk around the hotel grounds, it looks like a castle!
Today we are heading out for a day trip! Grab a coffee at Bean Around the World in Chinatown.
Next, head to Butchart Gardens. The gardens are about 20 minutes from downtown Victoria. You can book a tour, take public transportation, or rent a car (that’s what we did). Butchart Gardens are a National Historic Site in Canada. Each year they receive around one million visitors! Plan to spend 2+ hours here. The Sunken Garden is my absolute favorite! It’s built in a former quarry and is stunning.
If you have a car, head towards the little town of Sooke. About 30-minutes past Sooke, you’ll find a turn-out for China Beach. Park in the lot and hike the Juan de Fuca trail. This trail is a four-day hike, but you can take an hour hike to Mystic Beach. It’s a fairly easy hike to Mystic Beach, just make sure you have decent shoes and bring layers. It was raining on and off when we were there, causing some mud and fog, The trees are so tall and covered in a funky, fuzzy green moss. When we got to Mystic Beach, it looked like we had stumbled into a scene from the Twilight movie!
Upon completion of your hike, head back to Victoria. I recommend having dinner downtown at Bard & Banker. Although it opened as the current restaurant in 2008, the building has a rich history. It began as the Bank of British Columbia in 1885. Order the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, with brie, goat cheese, and a unique twist, sourdough bread drizzled with maple syrup – yassss, Canada!
Victoria, British Columbia was a blast! Going into it, I was concerned we wouldn’t find enough things to do, as it’s much smaller than Vancouver (I LOVE Vancouver). Don’t let its smaller size surprise you, the city is lively and full of great activities! Whether you’re going for a weekend, or looking for a stop off on a Canadian trip, Victoria is a must-see!
What are your favorite places in Canada?