Tips from "Almost Locals" on Romantic Places, Activities and Places to Stay in Victoria
Victoria, BC, Canada is just a short 90 minute ferry ride away for Maureen and I. We not only regularly send lots of friends and relatives over with 1 and 2 day itineraries written on the back of a napkin(!), we sail over ourselves several times a year.
British Columbia's capital city has to be one of the most romantic places in Canada. Incredibly clean & quaint, Victoria almost seems like a little piece of old England perched on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. With a location like that, it's a natural day trip and weekend away from Seattle or Vancouver.
Best Season for Romantic Getaways - Victoria has some of the best weather in Canada. Summers are sunny and warm. Spring can be a wonderful time in this part of Vancouver Island, with mild temperatures, fresh sea breezes and flowers blooming just about everywhere (and just for fun, every Spring they celebrate their annual "flower count" here, which is really not about actually counting flowers, but rather bragging about the long growing season of Southern Vancouver Island and rubbing it in the face of the rest of the still-thawing-out Canada!)
Fall and winter bring plenty of showers and cooler temps, but rarely any snow. We'd say the best time to visit Victoria BC would be from April to the end of September.
Here's a list that we believe offers a nice mix of tourist activities without being too "touristy":
1. Exploring Victoria's Inner Harbour - there's the Undersea Gardens, Wax Museum, Government Buildings (beautifully lit up at night), harbour cruises, art displays, street performers, restaurants, pubs and shopping.
2. Enjoy Butchart Gardens at Night - let the tour buses have their way here during the day. In the summer, arriving just after dinner allows you time to enjoy the amazing beauty in the extended daylight hours. See all the flora first under floodlights, and then with the fireworks displays on Saturday nights. Directions: 14 miles (21km) northwest of Victoria in Brentwood Bay, BC.
3. Lunch at the Sticky Wicket - Even in a very "British-esque" location like Victoria, the Sticky Wicket stands out. Great decor and atmosphere, and on a nice summer afternoon, the rooftop patio is one of Victoria's best spots for sampling a local craft beer and taking in the view. They make great burgers, but we suggest trying something like their "Bangers and Mash" to get the full experience.
4. Explore Victoria's Villages - unlike a lot of other cities, some of Victoria's "burbs" are very attractive and well worth a visit. Oak Bay & Estevan Village, James Bay and Cook St Village are all ideal for fascinating walking tours past all sorts of interesting boutiques, consignment stores, organic food retailers and antique shops.
5. Experience Afternoon Tea in Victoria - take your pick: you can splurge on the royal high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, or seek out a quaint little inn near the Inner Harbor like the James Bay Tea Room (332 Menzies St). A very "Victorian" tradition!
6. Take a Scenic Walk (or Drive) along Dallas Road - one of the best urban walks in all of Canada! The fresh ocean breeze and views across the straight to the Cascade Mountains in Washington State are incredible. If it's a stormy winter day, huge ocean waves add to the experience.
7. Head Up Mount Tolmie Park - 360 degree views of Victoria.
8. Board a Romantic Dinner Cruise - Fantasea Boat Charters Vancouver Island romantic dinner cruises on board their luxury yacht. There's calm waters, gorgeous scenery, and a full 3 course dinner with drinks. Cruises depart from the inner harbour in downtown Victoria. (1-888-721-1100)
9. Ride a Horse-drawn Carriage through Victoria's James Bay - snuggle up under a blanket as you clip-clop past the harbour, heritage homes, Beacon Hill Park and spectacular views across Juan de Fuca Straight. Tours usually depart from just beside the Parliament Buildings on Menzies St.
10. Take a Stroll Through Beacon Hill Park - feed the ducks, have a picnic, wander through the manicured gardens.
Most Romantic Restaurant in Victoria BC: We love the Blue Crab Bar & Grill in the Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel for it's scenic harbor views and excellent seafood (try the prawns & scallops). Great choice for a romantic date or special occasion. (146 Kingston Street, Victoria, BC 250-480-1999). Restaurant at the Chateau Victoria Hotel- fine dining, and views all the way to Washington State.
Art of the Cocktail - October 22 & 23, 2016 . Held throughout Victoria at various locations, with cocktail sampling, drink making competitions, recipe workshops and more.
Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food and Wine – July 14-17, 2016. Taste some great cusine prepared by the Island’s top chefs, and sample wines from B.C. www.victoriataste.com
Victoria Buskers Festival – July 15-24, 2016. One of Canada’s best street-performer cities gets even better! It’s all free, except for any tips you want to toss into the hat. www.victoriabuskers.com
Honeymoon in Vancouver? Here's an excursion to Vancouver Island that's a little more romantic than the ferry: A float plane tour to Victoria: Harbour Air packages for float plane flights from Vancouver to Victoria BC.
The rides are priced at $377 per person (2103 Rates), and it includes includes return Vancouver-Victoria seaplane flights, a coach tour to Butchart Gardens, and time for shopping and enjoying downtown Victoria.
Whale-watching tours and Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel can also be added on to the package. The floatplane flights to Victoria from Vancouver BC are very scenic, as you get a great view of both cities, the mountains, the Pacific Ocean and Gulf Islands as well.
Best Way to Get to Victoria, Canada - There are ferries to Victoria from both Vancouver (cars and passengers) and Seattle (passengers only). Most travellers arriving in Victoria however sail on BC Ferries from Vancouver. Here's a few things to know:
Location of Ferry Terminals from Vancouver to Victoria: If you're already in Vancouver, you need to get to Tsawwassen BC (38 kms south of downtown Vancouver) to board the ferry. The ferry doesn't actually sail to Victoria, but rather Swartz Bay, 32 kms north of downtown Victoria.
If you are travelling by foot, there are public transit buses on both sides which connect the downtown of each city with the ferry terminals. If you'd rather just take a shuttle bus all the way, Pacific Coach Lines has pickups and drop-offs on both sides.
Getting From Washington State to Victoria BC: Those wanting to bring a car from Washington State should take the ferry from either Anacortes, WA or Port Angeles, WA to Vancouver Island. Anacortes ferries arrive in Sidney BC (26 kms north of Victoria), while arrivals from Port Angeles dock at downtown Victoria's Inner Harbor.
You can also fly non-stop to Victoria BC from:
Airlines that fly into Victoria, BC (YYJ) include WestJet, Air Canada and Alaska/Horizon Air. The distance from Victoria to Victoria Airport is about 18 miles (29 km), and driving time is about 30 minutes.