Victoria: BC’s Queen

Canada's 'City of Gardens' could well be one of North America's most underrated cities, contends Andrew Threlfall

Framed by the wild coastal beauty of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by rainforest and set against a backdrop of the Olympic Mountains, Victoria is one of Canada’s most enchanting cities.

Named after Queen Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city has found plenty of ways to pay homage to those Victorian beginnings: for example there’s the stately Craigdarroch Castle Mansion (a Scottish Baronial mansion built by a coal baron in the 1890s), a Westminster-influenced Parliament Square and even an annual three-day Highland Games and Celtic Festival, held each May.

Southern climate

Located 75 miles south of Vancouver – although somewhat confusingly on the craggy southern end of Vancouver Island -Victoria is certainly accessible: Victoria International Airport is served by more than 50 flights a day from Vancouver and Seattle, and there are also harbour-to-harbour flights from both cities by floatplane or helicopter. Plus there’s an efficient ferry system between Victoria and the mainland operated by BC Ferries. Sail between Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver, and Sidney, 30 minutes from Victoria; or between Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver, and Nanaimo. 

There is a good chance of spotting marine wildlife like whales, dolphins, and sea lions, which frequent this route, particularly in the spring and summer. Reservations are recommended for vehicles travelling on busy weekends. 

Victoria is one of those few destinations that can gleefully boast to have you out on the golf course in the morning and up on the ski slopes that same afternoon. The city is the gateway to the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, a 250-kilometre-long network of 11 scenic courses, while Mt. Washington Ski Resort, the premier winter resort on Vancouver Island, often benefits from some of BC’s deepest snow.With a temperate southern climate gardens bloom year-round in Victoria, which is why it is known as ‘The City of Gardens’.

A perfect family destination, there is a host of child-friendly attractions such as Victoria Bug Zoo, which features a collection of live tropical insects from around the world, and Miniature World, with its scaled-down displays representing historical times and fictional worlds.

Victoria gardens

But the one attraction that will feature on most people’s lists is Butchart Gardens, with its 55 acres of vivid floral displays, statues, water features and a carousel.

Art for art’s sake

For culture vultures The Royal BC Museum’s extensive galleries and interactive exhibits are home to over seven million artefacts, while the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has the most comprehensive collection of Asian art in Canada.

Surrounded by the rich farming regions of the Saanich Peninsula and Cowichan Valley, Victoria’s restaurants and cafés are blessed with an abundance of local ingredients. Seafood – particularly salmon and shellfish – is caught fresh from Pacific waters and is a mainstay of West Coast cuisine. At Ferris’s Oyster Bar and Grill, Look out for ‘Buck a Shuck Happy Hour, where you can get local oysters for $1.50 each. piece. Elsewhere, the city has oldest Canadian Chinatown outside of Toronto’s. Here Visitors can stroll historical Fan Tan Alley – the narrowest street in Canada.

With Hero Strait and the Strait of Georgia right on Victoria’s doorstep, whale-watching trips in search of killer whales (Orcas), humpbacks, grays and minke are one of the city’s main draw cards.

Book it!

The seven-night Vancouver and Victoria by Float Plane package starts from £2,119pp, including flights. Accommodation is in the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver and The Fairmont Empress in Victoria.
Canadian Sky – 01342 887865