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The capital of British Columbia lies on picturesque Vancouver Island, and is arguably one of Canada’s prettiest cities, with the surrounding area home to spectacular mountains as well as ocean vistas. Combined with its reputation as an international hub for fantastic cuisine, art, and culture, it can be hard to know where to start your explorations, but these top things to do will get you off to a great start.museum
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Victoria, and Vancouver Island as a whole, is one of the top places in the world for whale watching. From March through October each year, thousands of whales migrate through the waters that surround the island, and during the peak of the season, outfitters like Eagle Wing Tours guarantee sightings, which means if you don’t see whales you’ll be invited back free for another try. You can choose from multiple exciting options that include the chance to witness orca whales in the wild and possibly migrating humpbacks too.
Butchart Gardens is the reason Victoria is often referred to as the “City of Gardens.” Highly acclaimed as one of the top display gardens in the world, it boasts some 700 varieties of plants that are in bloom from March to October. One of the highlights is the Rose Garden, which is at its peak during the summer months, and if you arrive earlier in the season, you can also see the extraordinary delphiniums that provide a dramatic backdrop for the blooming roses. On Saturday evenings in the summer, you’ll not only be able to view the dazzling array of flowers, but an impressive fireworks display as well.
Sample Some of the Best of Victoria's Food and Drink Scene in the Inner Harbour
Victoria is famous for its fabulous food and cocktail scene, and you can sample some of its best in the lovely Inner Harbour. On a pleasant summer evening, head to the Steamship Grill, housed within the historic Steamship Terminal Building. It offers an outdoor patio where you can delectable seafood, including fresh halibut, sockeye salmon and just-shucked oysters. Afterwards, enjoy a fun night out on the town at Clive’s Classic Lounge, or the trendy spot for drinking and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights, the Upstairs Cabaret in Bastion Square which overlooks the harbor.
The Scenic Marine Route is a nearly 180-mile route, but it can be accomplished in just a day, even when making multiple spots – and you’ll want to with all the stunning scenery along the way. It follows the Trans-Canada Highway and includes regular sets of steps that lead down to the sea as well as multiple scenic viewpoints for capturing picture-perfect shots. Some of the highlights include Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, known for a unique rock formation which formed during the last ice age, and Port Renfrew, which offers miles and miles of hiking trails, including the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail that follows the coast of the island, providing jaw-dropping views of the island-dotted waters along with the opportunity to watch for sea lions, bald eagles and whales.
The magnificent Parliament Buildings situated on the Inner Harbour are truly a sight to see, complete with gorgeous stained glass, domes and turrets. But you can do a lot more than just take a photo of the exterior of this place where the province’s elected representatives meet to debate and pass laws. Free tours are available offering the chance to learn about British Columbia’s history as well as its parliamentary process. You can even enjoy breakfast or lunch on weekdays at the “secret” politicians’ restaurant.
This city is jam-packed with museums, offering the chance to discover its past along with modern delights. One of the must-visit museums, the Royal BC Museum has frequently been ranked as the country’s top museum, focusing on the people and land of coastal British Columbia as the only natural and human history museum in the province. It houses around seven million artifacts and annually hosts spectacular feature collections focused on everything from the Vikings and Genghis Khan to Leonardo da Vinci and the RMS Titanic. The Natural History gallery displays exhibits on the rainforest and coastal ecosystems of the province from the ice age to today, and the Modern History gallery features an authentic frontier town. The Royal BC Museum also boasts the world-class First Peoples gallery, featuring totems, masks and cultural treasures.
Beacon Hill Park is favorite with locals, spread across more than 75 acres along the shores of the Juan de Fuca Strait. You’ll discover awe-inspiring vistas no matter where you are in the park, from wildflower-dotted fields to the glistening expanse of the sea. It’s also home to miniature golf, a petting zoo and a water park as well as a venue for concerts that are hosted on summer evenings. Walking through it, you’ll have the chance to spot a variety of wildlife, including peacocks, herons, otters, turtles and crays.
Set atop a hill in the Rockland neighborhood, Craigdarroch is a huge Victorian castle built for coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his family in the late 19th century. The impeccably restored four-story structure now serves as a museum which offers the chance to step into the shoes of the wealthy who lived here during the era of Queen Victoria. The castle features 39 rooms and includes luxurious furnishings, much of it original to the home, along with gorgeous stained glass and detailed woodwork.