A busy summer weekend on Victoria’s inner harbour is sure to entertain. From its eccentric buskers (yes, you can meet Darth Vader playing the violin!), to its aboriginal artisans, summer concerts and evening markets on the pier, every visitor will come away with a different experience. There are restaurants, galleries, wildlife and whale watching tours, and even a wax museum if you seek something a bit quirky. Originally a fort for the Hudson’s Bay Company, British influence is apparent in Victoria’s architecture, formal gardens and tea rooms, and double decker buses. Overlooking the harbour are the majestic provincial parliament buildings, built in neo-baroque style, with grounds and fountains lit up like Christmas every night. The watchful will find dolphins, seals, and even herons on the waterfront.
A favourite hotel is the Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel & Suites. A bit on the higher end of the budget, the rooms offer full harbor views from balconies, and are fully complete apartments with bedrooms, bathrooms, lounge suites and kitchens. It is perfect for a longer stay, allowing guests the flexibility to relax, and prepare their own meals as desired. Each booking also includes continental breakfast each day in the waterfront breakfast room.
A short walk from the inner harbour brings the explorer to Craigdarroc Castle. Now a National Historic Site, this is literally a castle in the city. Open for self-guided tours, this is a family home built castle style by the Dunsmuir’s, a wealthy family in the 1890’s. The tour tells the tales of the rather eccentric lives of this privileged coal baron family from the time of Queen Victoria.
Another family history turned tourist attraction are the Butchart Gardens. World renowned, this is not a place to go during high season as you will battle the lineup of tour buses. However, the gardens feature over a million bedding plants of over 900 varieties, providing uninterrupted bloom from March through October. With features including the Italian Garden, Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and ornamental birds, it is a lovely spot to stop for lunch or afternoon tea. The gardens were originally part of Mr. Robert Pim Butchart‘s family cement quarry and plant in the early 1900’s. Over the years they were transformed into the beauty they are today, starting with the planting of rose bushes and sweet peas by Robert’s wife Jennie.
Located only 5 minutes from Butchart Gardens is a tropical rain forest with a constant temperature of 25C and 80% humidity. Jason regularly loses himself for hours in the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Here, there are exotic birds and flamingos, and over 75 species of butterflies in their natural environment that can be observed through their entire life cycle. The morpho butterflies alone warrant watching in wonder…For those inclined that way, the gift shop offers unique and authentic souvenirs that challenge the typical tourism fare.
Enjoy splendid views of Esquimalt Harbour from the Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse, only 15 minutes from Victoria. A National Historic Site, this is the oldest lighthouse on Canada’s west coast. Open for tours, the site includes interactive exhibits, and even includes gun batteries from the early 1900’s on the ramparts. If history does not engage, the site is located on several acres of parkland offering views of Juan de Fuca Strait.