If you live in or around the Seattle area, Victoria, B.C. is the perfect weekend trip. Not only is it closer than you think, it’s different enough you'll get that exciting, ‘I’m in another country feeling.’
Since Victoria is in Canada after all, you’ll get to try different foods and restaurants, hear the locals’ slight Canadian accent, and also fight the urge to buy bottles of maple syrup (they’re shaped like maple leaves and ridiculously adorable). Victoria also has a strong English influence, meaning you’ll see English flags and various tea services everywhere you go.
Not quite sure how to start planning your trip? I've got you covered.
This guide includes information on how to get to-and-from Victoria, what to do and eat, where to stay, and much more! Take a look and let me know in the comments if you still have questions.
Quick Jump Guide
How to get to there
Since Victoria is on an island, getting there involves going by either ‘sea’ or ‘air.’ While this may seem like an inconvenience at first, it actually makes the experience more memorable. Half the fun of my recent trip to Victoria was seeing the Puget Sound from a seaplane on the way there, and relaxing on the Victoria Clipper on the way home.
* Note, all of the methods of transportation I’ve listed can be used when heading home from Victoria as well.
The Victoria Clipper - from Seattle
Of all the different sea options, the Victoria Clipper is the one I’d recommend if you’re looking for speed and comfort. As a passenger-only ferry, it’s able to travel a lot faster than the other sea options. From the time my friend and I boarded, to the time we got off, the entire trip took less than three hours.
I also found not having to worry about a car to be really relaxing. The Victoria Clipper drops you off right in the heart of Victoria, and even provides shuttles to various hotels and tours you can book through them.
Black Ball Ferry - from Port Angeles
If bringing a car is a must for you, I recommend riding the Black Ball Ferry Line. These ferries run from Port Angeles to Victoria B.C., with the total sailing time lasting about 90 minutes.
Washington State Ferries - from Anacortes
This is by far the most lengthy and complicated option, but may be convenient for you if you’re leaving from the Anacortes area. From Anacortes, the ferry stops at various locations around the San Juan Islands before stopping in Sidney, B.C. Sidney is about a half-hour drive from Victoria though, so if you choose this option make sure to either bring your car with you, or be alright with calling a taxi.
Kenmore Air Seaplane - from Seattle
Riding one of Kenmore Air’s seaplanes is the fastest and most thrilling way to get to Victoria. Not only do you get a bird’s eye view of the landscape below, you also get to experience landing on the water. For me, this was a bucket list experience I’d always wanted to have.
Logistics wise, flying with Kenmore Air was also very convenient. They have first-come-first-served parking that’s free for the entire weekend, and the flight is only 40 minutes long.
Various Airlines - from SEATAC Airport
Airlines like Air Canada and Alaska Airlines offer flights between Seattle and Victoria. However, flying into Victoria International Airport leaves you a 30-45 minute drive away from the city center. After factoring in international customs, this method of travel could end up taking you longer than expected.
Where to stay
Whenever I’m visiting a city in the U.S. or Canada, I tend to choose Aibnbs over hotels. Mostly because they’re:
- Cheaper than hotels
- Offer a more intimate, natural setting
- Hosts often give you great, local recommendations on what to do, eat, etc.
(P.S. Get $40 off your first Airbnb by using this link to sign up!)
While incredibly expensive, the Fairmont Empress is iconic in Victoria. It’s perched right in the center of Victoria’s inner harbor, and boasts a beautiful interior. If you’re ok with splurging on accommodation, staying at the Fairmont Empress is likely to be an experience you’ll remember.
What to do
The Butchart Gardens
One of our favorite experiences from Victoria was spending time at The Butchart Gardens. What started as a limestone quarry back in 1904, is now 55-acres of intricate gardens. Here you can easily spend half-a-day exploring, taking pictures, and relaxing over afternoon tea.
Since our visit was during peak tulip season in the Spring, we got to see hundreds of different species of tulips!
Other seasonal experiences to look forward to at The Butchart Gardens:
- Fireworks, live music and boat tours - Summer
- Fall colors in the Japanese Garden - Autumn
- Historical displays and indoor garden tours - Winter
- Light displays, ice skating and carolers - Christmas
Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park is a massive, 200 acre park within walking distance of downtown Victoria. It’s currently home to the world’s largest totem pole, and also a small petting zoo.
The Fisherman’s Wharf is is area of houseboats and little shops and restaurants along Victoria’s inner harbour. Here you can snack on fish and chips, admire the colorful homes, and keep an eye out for marine life. When Yuting and I visited, we were lucky enough to see two harbor seals!
Other places you should check out if you have time:
- British Columbia Parliament Buildings
- Craigdarroch Castle
- Hatley Castle + Fort Rodd
- Miniature World
- Royal British Columbia Museum
- Victoria Bug Zoo
Where to eat
Victoria is full of great food options, however, there are two I really want to highlight simply because they blew me away:
Barb’s Fish and Chips
I thought I’d had good fish and chips before coming to Victoria, but Barb’s definitely proved me wrong. Unlike most deep-fried fish, Barb’s was super moist and flaky. I didn’t even want to put sauce on it (which is a big statement from someone who loves ketchup).
Chocolats Favoris is a soft-serve ice cream shop that dips all their cones in homemade chocolate. The best part - they have a bunch of different chocolate flavors, and let you choose which one to dip your ice cream in!
Restaurants I didn’t get to try, but heard great things about:
- Red Fish Blue Fish - Seafood
- Blue Fox Cafe - Brunch
- West Coast Waffles - Waffles
- Tacofino - Mexican
Interactivity Board Game Cafe
Unlike a standard cafe, the Interactivity Board Game Cafe is open till midnight, and owns just about every board game imaginable. For $5 each, you and your friends can play as many games as you want, for as long as you want.
While I’m not much of a bar person, I can’t deny the energy of a good Irish pub. They’re always packed to brim, and have a band playing live music. Irish Times was no different! Come here if you’re looking for a place that’s buzzing with energy and has a strong Irish vibe to it.
Bard & Banker
If you’re looking to dress up and feel fancy, Bard & Banker is your spot. This bar oozes class and the drink prices show for it. Located right across the street from Irish Times, Bard & Banker also offers live music, and tends to be equally packed with people.
General tips and things to remember
Bring your Passport
Don't forget to bring your passport! Even though Victoria is super close to Seattle, you still have to follow US-Canada border regulations. For the latest information, check out the the U.S. Department of State page on travel to Canada.
As of the time of writing this post (May 2018), there is no Uber in Victoria. On the bright side, you shouldn't need to ever call a taxi during your stay. Downtown Victoria is extremely walk-able.
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Wolves and Waterfalls was welcomed as a guest by Clipper Vacations, Kenmore Air, and The Butchart Gardens. As always, all opinions are own.