Charming, outdoorsy, and full of activities.
Charm, easy-living and seaside views are some of the things Victoria, British Columbia is known for. At just 85,000 people, it seems busier than it should be, I’m guessing because of its tourist qualities bringing in and entertaining more than just the locals.
I was recently presented with an opportunity to visit my friend who was staying there for a week and decided to take myself on a quick mom-break and planned to do very little. I ended up finding quite a few fun things to do, but still definitely on the relaxing side of things – which is exactly what my body and brain needed. We were there during Spring Break and it was clear that it’s a pretty popular area for family vacations. Victoria has a lot of family-friendly activities to do from outdoor sports like kayaking, hiking and mountain biking to a bunch of quirky museums. I would definitely take kids along as it seems it’d be pretty easy to entertain with all the options.
There is a large ferry that goes from mainland BC (Tsawassan) to Victoria which is clean, boasts a bunch of nice areas for sitting and has a good selection of food, but it docks outside of downtown so I’d recommend renting a car on the Vancouver side. Because of the outdoor sports you’ll likely want to get into, it’s also just generally a good idea to have a car while on the island.
Back to my mom-break. I checked in to the historic Fairmont Empress which is an impressive building for sure. Specifically, I found the service there to be just so-so but it suited my needs and had all the comforts that Fairmont’s have like nice rooms and bedding and in-room dining. There were a bunch of little things that were “off” but I’ll save that for a comment card rather than go through it on this blog.
A couple of places we found downtown thaht I would definitely go back to were: Fol Epi – an organic bread and pastry spot and La Taqueria – a fun taco restaurant. Fol Epi has a Europe meets West Coast vibe, with a good selection of tables and chairs for a casual coffee and pastry, and a separate area for more sit-down service for a proper lunch. Like Fol Epi, La Taqueria has a super inviting space, and in addition to DELICIOUS tacos, its playlist was really good. The beef tongue tacos were ESPECIALLY delicious. If I were to go back, I’d order at least three of them.
Another good place for eating in between activities that I didn’t hit up this time is Noodlebox which is a chain of restaurants with basically a modern take on Singaporean food and their meals are really wholesome, spicy (if you want it), and tasty.
In keeping with the food theme, the renowned High Tea at the Fairmont Empress, met and actually exceeded my expectations. The tea itself was lovely but what made the experience stand out was the super fresh, super tasty food, and the grand room it’s set in. It is truly an impressive and stunning room and there is live piano, which is a nice touch in addition to all the other details.
My friend and I really embraced the whole “relaxing” thing and before sitting down for high tea we drove out to Butchart Gardens which is about 20 minutes drive from downtown. Not everything was in full bloom yet but it was still SO beautiful and enchanting. It was fun picturing how people lived and spent their time a hundred years ago (the garden has been around for a really long time) and walking through the gardens kind of felt like walking back in time. There are a bunch of different themes from the “Sunken Garden” (my favourite) to a Japanese garden and of course, a rose garden. The carousel was also the prettiest carousel I’ve ever seen with a variety of a bunch of different animals waiting to give you a ride. I recommend this outing to truly any kind of demographic (except for MAYBE teenagers, haha).
Lastly, any of the activities in and around the famous Victoria Harbour is a good bet. It’s a really charming area so it’s time well spent no matter what you decide to do whether it’s hop on one of their tiny boats, or just sit along the perimeter, people watching.