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Victoria

Victoria is a City on the southern end of Vancouver Island. To get there you could fly or take the BC Ferry from Tsawwassen, which is about 45 minutes south of Vancouver. The ferry that also takes cars and RV vehicles takes about 1 ½ hours to cross over to Swatz Bay in Victoria. It is best to book the Ferry well in advance, particularly if you intend to take your vehicle with you. Reservations: call 1 888 724 5223 in BC or 1 604 444 2890 if outside of BC.

You can also get to Victoria by Floatplane from Vancouver or from Seattle in Washington State (USA). The Victoria Clipper also takes passengers from Seattle to Victoria too, and there is the M V Coho vehicle ferry that takes passengers from Port Angeles to Victoria, or the Helijet that flies between Vancouver and Victoria landing at Ogden Point, next to the Cruise Terminal on Victoria Harbour.

Victoria with a population of around 80,000 is very much a place to just wander and see gardens and historic homes and enjoy the ambience of the city with its English style double decker Hop on-Hop off tourist buses (See www.sightseeingvictoria.com ), horse drawn carriage rides and the closeness to the harbour with all its boats and ferries.

The City was (and still is) home to Songhee, Saamich and Sooke First Nations people when Captain James Cook first landed here in 1778. In 1843 James Douglas, a Company man established a Hudson Bay Trading Post here, the settlement he established taking on the local name, Camosack. The name was changed to Victoria in 1852, in honour of Queen Victoria at the time of the Gold Rushes, when thousands of gold diggers arrived in the Port hoping to find gold in the Fraser River area on the mainland.

Victoria became a City in 1862, a colonial Capital in 1866 and the Capital of British Columbia in 1871, when Canada was formed.

When you first arrive in the City, the most noticeable feature of the city is the Harbour with the marinas and City spread out around it. It is beautiful harbour, and standing out next to it is the imposing façade of the Empress Hotel, which at night is lit up too. It is one of the grand hotels run by the Fairmont Hotels group – see www.fairmont.com/empress-victoria and even if you do not stay here, it is worth enjoying an English Afternoon tea at the hotel.

While people do come to Victoria for the day from Vancouver or Seattle, it is worth staying longer to really get a feel for the city and what it offers.

These are some of the places to see in Victoria -

  • Victoria Harbour – the harbour is the centrepiece of the city with its marinas, Cruise Terminal, floatplanes and city around it. It also has some of the cutest Ferryboats that you will find anywhere in the world that run to different points of James Bay and the Harbour and they also have tours to see places of interest around the Harbour, including to the Gorge area. See www.victoriaharbourferry.com
  • Victoria Visitor Info Centre – is located at 812 Wharf Street under the Clock Tower next to the Harbour, with Hop on-Hop Off red double decker buses close by to take you to see different points of interest in the historic city and surrounds. Here on Wharf Street and Government Street you are in the historic city centre and it is easy to walk around and get a feel for this part of the City.
  • British Columbia Parliament – is located at 501 Bellevue Street. This historic building has lots to see and you can visit on Free public tours See www.leg.bc.ca
  • Royal BC Museum - is located at 675 Belleville Street and has lots of interesting cultural items from British Columbia's history. Also here is Helmcken House, the oldest house in BC built in 1852, the IMAX Theatre and St Ann's Schoolhouse built in 1858 (835 Humboldt St). Also here is Thunderbird Park where you can see a large number of Totem Poles and Mungo Martin House (475 Belleville Street) a traditional First Nations house. Also on the hour you will hear the Carillon Bells ring out from the Netherlands Carillon Tower (corner of Belleville and Government Streets).
  • Maritime Museum of BC – 634 Humboldt Street. See www.mmbc.bc.ca BC has a rich maritime history so a visit to the museum will give you a good understanding of the people, boats and way of life involved.
  • Miniature World – 649 Humboldt Street. See www.miniatureworld.com Enter a new world to see 85 Dioramas – where amazing doll's houses, railways, circus, space, knights and old London Town come to life.
  • Bastion Square – 1701 Douglas Street is a Marketplace in the summer, roughly April to October so a good place to see arts, crafts and entertainment when it is on. See www.bastionsquare.ca

In Victoria there are a number of homes open to the public (in summer months) –

  • Craigdarroch Castle – 1050 Joan Crescent (off Fort Street). This castle was built in 1890 in stone and it is now a museum covering four storeys in the castle See www.thecastle.ca
  • Emily Carr House – the artist/writer's home 207 Government Street. See www.emilycarr.com
  • Hatley Castle – built 1908, Hatley Park, 2005 Sooke Rd, Colwood. This castle is located in 565 Acres of parklands and gardens and is very impressive to see. See www.hatleycastle.com
  • Craig Flower Manor – built in 1853. Located at the junction of Craigflower Rd (Old Island Highway) and Admiral's Road. This is a 2 storey log house and old schoolhouse.
  • Point Ellice House – built 1861. 2616 Pleasant Street (near Bay Street Bridge). See www.pointellishouse.ca
  • Haig -Brown House - 2250 Campbell River Rd, Campbell River. See www.haig-brown.bc.ca The house is run also as a B&B during the summer, and was the home of the environmental writer, Roderick Haig-Brown.
  • Fisgard Lighthouse – 603 Fort Rodd Hill Road. The oldest lighthouse on the west coast of Canada, built in 1860 with the Fort run as a fort from 1895 to 1956. See www.pc.gc.ca

GARDENS
In and around Victoria there are many public and private gardens, but the most famous is Buchart gardens.

  • Burchart Gardens – 800 Benvenuto Avenue, Brentworth Bay, about 21 Kilometres couth from Victoria. The gardens cover some 50 acres with spectacular trees, gardens and greenery changing with the seasons. See www.buchartgardens.ca
  • HCP Gardens – (Pacific Horticultural Gardens) 505 Quayle Road, Victoria. See www.hcp.ca

Here you will find the gardens and also the biggest Bonzai collection in Canada.

  • Butterfly Gardens – 1461 Benvenuto Avenue, Victoria. See www.butterflygardens.com Here you will see lots of amazing butterflies and also parrots in the gardens.
  • Hatley Park National Historic Site – 2005 Sooke Rd at the Royal Roads University. See www.royalroads.ca Also at 2128C Sooke Rd there is a Zipline – see www.adrenalinezip.com
  • Quw'utsun Cultural Centre and Conference Centre – 200 Cowichan Way, Duncan, next to the Cowichan River. Here you can learn about the Cowichan First Nations People, with the Centre located on 6 acres of grounds. The centre is about 45 minutes from Victoria and you travel through the Goldstream Provincial Park to get there, where you might be lucky to see eagles and when you get to the Centre also enjoy a lunch with Salmon. See www.khowutzun.com Tel: 250 746 8119.

Whale Watching – there are a number of companies operating whale watching tours –

Animals, Birds and Fish

  • Shaw Ocean Discovery – 9811 Seaport Place, Port Sidney Marina – See www.oceandiscovery.ca Also in Sidney, see the Sidney Sculpture Walk – 2440 Sidney Avenue. See www.sculpturewalk.ca and the Aviation Museum – see www.bcam.net at 1910 Norseman Rd, Sidney.
  • Victoria Bug Zoo – 361 Courtney Street, Victoria – See www.victoriabugzoo.ca
  • The Raptors – 1877 Herd Rd, Duncan – See www.pnraptors.com Tel: 250 746 0372
  • Beacon Hill Farm – Beacon Hill Park, Victoria – See farm animals – www.beaconhillchildrensfarm.ca
  • Galloping Goose Trail – This is a trail that leads out of Victoria through the countryside. There are many walkways around the Harbour foreshores in Victoria, but if you are looking to do a serious longer walk, check out www.gallopinggoosetrail.com which also has maps and more information.

SHOPPING

  • Bay Centre Shopping Mall – 1150 Douglas Street – See www.thebaycentre.ca
  • Antique Row – is located in Fort Street. Lots of antiques and other shops, cafes
  • Market Square – 560 Johnson Street
  • Trouce Alley – off Government Street
  • Chinatown – look for the Gate of Harmonious Interest. Old of the oldest Chinatowns in North America. Fisgard Street
  • Capital Iron – 1900 Store Street
  • Mayfair Shopping centre – 221 -3147 Douglas Street.

Micro-Breweries and Distilleries -

Victoria clings to its British Heritage and you get a real for its history and people by coming here to see the City and what it offers.

There are many good hotels and B&B accommodation options to choose from, and certainly the gardens are world renowned.

I hope you have a great time coming here to Vancouver and Victoria.

Happy Traveling

Geoff Stuart

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