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Victoria’s Top Tourist-in-Your-Own-Town Activities

If you live in the city of Victoria, you don’t have to leave town to experience world-class tourist attractions, activities, and things to do. The city is a culture hub for artists, and there are more restaurants per capita than anywhere in the country. But that’s just the start.

If your vacation budget is looking smaller this year – or you just want to explore the city, this article will highlight some of the best activities for being a tourist in your own town.


Go Whale Watching

whale jumping out of the ocean

If you’re like many Victoria residents, there’s a good chance you’ve never been whale-watching. It’s the type of activity equated with tourism, but whale watching can be a thrill even for those born in the city. While you can get a decent look at whales from a distance aboard BC Ferries, nothing beats a dedicated whale-watching tour.

The waters around Victoria – specifically the Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits, are some of the bests in the world to spot killer whales, humpback whales, grey whales, and more. There’s also a great opportunity to spot seals, sea lions, eagles, and other life that relies on the sea.

There are several whale-watching tour companies that depart straight out of the Inner Harbour. These companies all hold a deep respect for the Salish Sea and are dedicated to being environmental stewards, preserving the ecosystems and all marine life.


Have Tea at the Empress

Empress hotel patio

Getting Tea at the Empress is another top priority for many tourists. The city of Victoria is known and loved for its old British charm, so going for the full English afternoon tea treatment is unmissable for many tourists. But it’s also a super fun (and highly Instagram-able) daytime activity for residents.

The Fairmont Empress has been serving traditional tea for over 100 years. Open for tea from 11am-2pm, the standard ‘Afternoon Tea’ package isn’t cheap, but comes with premium loose-leaf teas, finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and tempting pastries. Plus, you’ll be served on fine China gifted to the hotel by Queen Elizabeth herself.

If you plan to attend tea at the Empress, make sure you dress for it! There is a dress code, and traditional afternoon tea outfits are warmly welcomed.


Go Brewery Hopping

pouring beer in glass

If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, the city of Victoria is a must visit. Despite it’s relatively small size Victoria is home to over a dozen craft breweries, with most of them located within a couple kilometres of each other. Brewery hopping is a favourite activity of locals too – especially during the warmer months. And with many breweries expanding to offer craft spirits, patio space, small bits, and food for dogs, these local spots are becoming even more attractive.

The neighbourhood of Vic West is home to Lighthouse Brewing, Driftwood Brewing, and Spinnaker’s. When you cross the Bay Street bridge, you’re met with Moon Under Water Brewpub, then Hoyne Brewing, Ile Sauvage Brewing, and Vancouver Island Brewing. Head further south towards town, and you’ll find Phillip’s Brewing, Herald Street Brew Works, and Whistle Buoy.

But that’s just the downtown Victoria area – if you head up to the Saanich Peninsula, you’ll find Category 12 Brewing, Small Gods Brewing, and Howl Brewing. There’s really no shortage of choices for quality craft beer here in Victoria.


Tour Craigdarroch Castle

The Craigdarroch Castle is a major tourist attraction for those who come to admire the Victorian-era architecture that Victoria is full of. Craigdarroch Castle is a prime example of that architectural style and is a protected National Historic Site of Canada.

This ornate castle was built by the coal baron Robert Dunsmuir between 1887 and 1890. His sons Alexander and James took over construction when he died before the castle was completed, who then went on to construct Victoria’s second castle – Hatley. Craigdarroch has an interesting history too. It changed hands many times, being used as a military hospital, college, office, and a conservatory before being turned into a museum in 1979.

For locals, Craigdarroch Castle is a fun daytime excursion that you don’t need to leave town for. And if you’re up for it, the castle is reachable on foot. Located in the Rockland neighbourhood, Craigdarroch Castle is about a 25 minute walk from downtown Victoria – and a nice one at that, through charming downtown neighborhoods.


Visit Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens sunken gardens area

The Butchart Gardens is one of Victoria top tourist attractions and a favourite spot among locals, receiving over 1 million visitors per year. Butchart is a large 55-acre collection of floral gardens located in the neighbourhood of Brentwood Bay, which has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Butchart has organized their gardens in a variety of themes, like the Rose Garden, Sunken Garden, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, and Mediterranean Garden. When you’re done strolling the gardens, there’s also a dining room, restaurant, coffee shop, and Gelateria.

The Gardens are an excellent date spot and are very popular among families. And one of the best parts about Butchart is it’s open all year-round. While you definitely get the most out of the floral displays in the warmer months, the Gardens transform into a winter wonderland before the holiday season, complete with Christmas decorations, live performances, ice skating, caroling, and more.


Explore the Inner Harbour

view of Inner Harbour near sunset

Victoria’s Inner Harbour is one of the most iconic and beautiful parts of the city, and one of the most highly visited areas in all of Western Canada. The charming harbour is surrounded by some of the city’s most popular attractions, including the Parliament Buildings, Fairmont Empress, Royal BC Museum, and more. The highly walkable harbour is also dotted with pubs and restaurants that offer incredible views of the harbour, filled with boats, seaplanes, and ferries.

To get the most out of the Inner Harbour, try taking a harbour taxi. These fun little ferries will take you around the harbour to give you a totally different view of downtown Victoria. Ask them to drop you off at Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria’s houseboat community and a very popular destination in the summertime. Fisherman’s Wharf is full of local businesses selling fish and chips, beer, wine, ice cream and more, plus there are live performances during the warmer months.

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