Victoria British Columbia and Butchart Gardens
We had only 2 days to spend in Victoria, Canada before heading to Vancouver, BC so we wanted to ensure we hit the hot spots during our short stay. We’ve found the best way to get acclimated to a new city is to do a city tour, so we try to do that on the first day. If they have a land/water tour (duck or hippo boat tours), even better. Once you’ve done a city tour, you then know where all the hot spots are and how to get to them on your own.
We did that during our visit to Victoria, BC, here are the 9 hot spots we hit while in Victoria:
- Hippo Land/Water tour
- Butchart Gardens
- Royal BC Museum
- Parliament buildings
- Fan Tam Alley in Chinatown
- Craigdarroch Castle
- Spinnaker Pub
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Beacon Hill Park
For a slideshow of our trip, click here: http://www.webetripping.com/Gallery_USA_Canada_Victoria.asp.
Hippo Land / Water Tour
These land/water tours are always fun. Whether it be a “duck”, “hippo”, or any other creative acronym the marketing team comes up with, it is still a land/water tour and a lot of fun. I like the combination because they take you through the town and show you the sites then plunge into the water to give you a different perspective from the harbor.
We’ve done several now and found that not all land / water tours are alike. Sometimes they are party-like, with the guide playing fun theme songs as he/she cracks jokes and dresses up in costumes to match the playful banter. The one we did in Seattle was like that and it was probably the most fun.
We’ve now done two in Canada (one in Halifax and this one in Victoria). In both cases, they are a little more subdued and business-like. Neither cracked as many jokes, dressed up in costume or played fun music. But they did both give you a valuable tour of the city and you left with a good sense of how the city is laid out and where to go. Maybe our Canadian friends are little more uptight, eh?
If you are crunched for time, this one is a must-see. It is about 20 miles outside of the city so you need a car or arrange for a guided tour that will pick up/return you back to your hotel. You will probably spend a couple of hours here, more if you are really knowledgeable about plants and flowers. You can even see it at night, as they light up the gardens. We did not get a chance to do that but I wish we had.
Butchart is separated into different sets of gardens (Italian Garden, Japanese Garden, Sunken Garden, etc.). Our favorite was the Sunken Garden. It was built in an old limestone quarry and is simply stunning (first picture below). Its views show the expanse of flowers, trees and plants. I am not a big garden-kind-of-guy but I really enjoyed it.
Royal BC Museum
You can spend several hours in this museum. When we were there, they had an exhibit about the antarctic explorers that raced to be the first to claim a visit to the South Pole. Two teams headed for the South Pole, one from Britain and the other from a Norwegian team. It tells their story via an exhibit and IMAX movie.
Additionally, it has a Natural History gallery, First People (Aboriginal) gallery, and a Modern History gallery that shows what the city of Victoria looked like in the past. I especially enjoyed the First People gallery, as it had totem poles, tools made by the Aboriginals, and a lot about their history. I found their fishing techniques very interesting.
Each hour they will allow you to tour for free. It was interesting to see how they govern and learn more about how their style of government is similar yet different from ours in the USA.
Fan Tam Alley in Chinatown
Chinatown is only 2 blocks long, so it is a small section of town. It offers lots of Chinese markets and eateries. The most famous area is the Fan Tam Alley that boasts to be the narrowest street in Canada. To me, it just looks like an alley, but hey, whatever floats their boat!
Craigdarroch Castle was completed in 1890 for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. This Victorian mansion, built on a hill overlooking the City of Victoria bragged to Western Canada that this was a rich and important family.
Robert died in 1889, before the home was completed, leaving the estate to his wife Joan who lived in the Castle until her death in 1908. As you might imagine, no expense was spared in this house. You will see incredible woodwork, exquisite stained glass windows, and Victorian era Furnishings.
This is the oldest pub in Canada and offers a good variety of craft brewed ales. We actually stayed in their B&B, so we could walk to the brewery very quickly. They offered a very nice Hefeweizen that we really enjoyed. Unfortunately,I did not take any pictures of the pub.
The Wharf is a pretty small area but offers up views of the marina, floating homes, and boasts the best “fish ‘n chips’ in Victoria at Barb’s Fish and Chips.
Beacon Hill Park
This is best known for the peacocks that roam the park and the kid’s petting zoo with about any animal a kid would like to see. It also has totem poles and flows out to scenic views of the ocean. As I was taking this picture of the peacock, it kept coming closer to me. I am not sure if it wanted to attack me, wanted me to feed it, or just wanted me to her boyfriend.