Victoria Tourist Attractions
Victoria, provincial capital of British Columbia since 1871, lies at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the largest island on the Pacific coast of North America.
Only the narrow Juan de Fuca Strait separates it from the USA's Olympic Peninsula with its often snow-covered peaks. Sheltered in the lee of mountains and influenced by the warm North Pacific current the city enjoys the mildest climate in the whole of Canada. Even in January the temperature averages 5°C (41°F) (August 17°C (63°F)) as a result of which Victoria's parks and gardens are festooned with foliage and flowers throughout the year. In comparison with Vancouver (the province's commercial capital on the nearby mainland) Victoria is quiet, skyscraper-free and largely administrative and residential. To these charms is added a downtown area around the snug Inner Harbour which retains its Victorian buildings and atmosphere. Well-tended parks, flower baskets hanging from bright blue lamp standards, red double-decker buses and a leisurely rhythm to life, all help to foster the impression of a typically English colonial town. In the Empress Hotel people still gather for afternoon tea at five. Victoria today is more British than the UK and has been a favorite destination for American tourists since the early part of this century.HistoryVictoria was founded in 1843 as a Hudson's Bay Company fort. Faced by the impending loss of its Oregon territories to the USA, the Company abandoned its western headquarters at the mouth of the Columbia River and moved to Vancouver Island, christening the new trading post Victoria in honor of the British Queen. Six years later the island became a British Crown Colony. When in 1858 there was a gold strike in the Cariboo Mountains, being the southernmost harbor on the west coast of Canada Victoria and its 800 inhabitants experienced turbulent times. More than 20,000 gold hunters and adventurers flocked to the province from California (among them a great many Chinese, and for a time Victoria had the largest Chinatown north of San Francisco). Overnight the little port became the base and supply depot for the prospectors. A town of tents sprang up around the harbor, the surrounding forest was cleared and a frantic building boom got under way. In next to no time new arrivals from America made up the vast majority of its residents and the sleepy pioneer settlement had become a typical gold-rush town with all the trappings of saloons, bars and dives. Even so Victoria's founding Governor James Douglas managed to maintain some semblance of law and order and in less than ten years the gold fever had subsided. In 1866 Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia were united into a single Crown Colony with Victoria as its capital, joining the Canadian Confederation five years later in 1871. With the arrival in Vancouver in 1887 of the trans-continental railroad Victoria gradually yielded economic supremacy to its mainland rival while itself remaining the seat of provincial government. Even as long ago as the turn of the century Victoria's peaceful ambience and mild maritime climate attracted more and more visitors, and the south-east coast of Vancouver Island quickly found favor among wealthy Canadians for holiday, second or retirement homes.
For a visit to one of the area's premier attractions follow Highway 17A north for 22 km / 14 mi to the magical Butchart Gardens at Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula. Here in 1904 Jenny Butchart, wife of a wealthy quarry owner, started to lay out a fragrant garden in abandoned limestone workings. Flourishing, not least because of the mild climate, the gardens have since been developed into a 20 ha (50-acre) horticultural tour de force without rival in Canada. The Italian garden, rose garden, Japanese garden and sunken garden are among the loveliest. Open spaces among the pools, fountains and the many exotic plants are used for artistic and musical performances.Fireworks every Saturday evening in high summer.
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Near Fort Street, stands the celebrated Gallery of Greater Victoria occupying a most beautiful Victorian building. In addition to contemporary western Canadian art, there is an impressive display of Indian artifacts and archaeological finds of art-historical interest. The gallery also possesses what must certainly be one of the best collections of Far-Eastern art anywhere in the world. Among its treasures is the only Shinto shrine outside Japan.
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Sun: 12pm-5pm; Thu: 10am-9pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: Remembrance Day / 1918 Armistice Day (Nov 11), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in CAD: Adult $13.00, Students $11.00, Senior $11.00, Child 6-17 $2.50, Child 5 & under FREE
Useful tips: Admission is by donation on Mondays.
Emily Carr Gallery
This gallery features the work of Victoria's most famous daughter, the outstanding and internationally renowned artist Emily Carr (1871-1945). Canadian landscapes and the life of the north-west coast Indians provide the dominant themes. An instructive and well put together audio-visual program documents the artist's life and work.
Victoria's Inner Harbour is the city's main tourist hot spot with many of the major attractions located around this tranquil waterfront area.
Immediately north of the Empress Court are the principal thoroughfares of Victoria Old Town - Wharf Street, Government Street and Douglas Street running north-south, Johnson Street, Yates Street and Fort Street crossing them. Painstakingly renovated and restored over recent years, the Old Town boasts some historic buildings and old-fashioned shops such as Roger's Chocolate and the tobacconist E.A. Morris. Bastion Square, with its pretty shops and restaurants, occupies the site of the original Fort Victoria, constructed in 1843. Market Square and the hidden away Trounce Alley, a redevelopment of old warehouses, are also charming. More old buildings between Government Street and Douglas Street house the Victorian Eaton Center, a shoppers' paradise, The Harbour Walkway, which starts at the light blue painted Johnson Street Bridge (a restored suspension bridge) and continues round the busy harbor with its colorful boats to Laurel Point and Fisherman's Wharf, makes a delightful waterfront promenade.
Maritime Museum Of British Columbia
The former Court House (1869) in Bastion Square is now the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, displaying a host of items from the age of sail. Centerpiece of the exhibition is the "Tilikum", a large Indian canoe in which, at the beginning of the century, some fearless souls voyaged to England. Also commemorated - appropriately enough in the old Court House - is the legendary Richard Matthew Begbie whose administration of justice at the end of the 19th c. led to his being christened "the Hanging Judge".
Open to visitors to the south of the museum is the mid-19thc., Helmcken House, J.S. Helmcken, a practicing doctor, was also a leading local politician. He campaigned vigorously for the then British colony of Victoria and British Columbia to join the newly established confederation of Canada.Helmcken House was built in 1852 and is the oldest house in British Columbia still standing on its original site. Visitors come to experience the Helmcken family's way of life - Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken also founded the British Columbia Medical Association.
Adjoining the Old Town to the north is Victoria's small but nevertheless charming Chinatown. Entered through a conspicuous red gate it occupies just two blocks close to Government Street and Fishgard Street. A century ago, 8000 people lived in the Chinese quarter. In 1971 it became a designated historic district with Chinese-style elements, such as tile red street lamps and specially paved sidewalk crosswalks added.
Beacon Hill Park
Green and well-tended, Beacon Hill Park, south-east of the Royal British Columbian Museum, is a favorite recreation area close to the town center. From its highest point there are lovely views across the Juan de Fuca Strait to the snowy peaks of the Olympic Peninsula (Washington/USA). A milestone on the south-west edge of the park marks the western end of the TransCanada Highway.
Emily Carr House
A few minutes walk west of Beacon Hill Park stands the Carr family's handsome old timber house, dating from 1864. Richard Carr's wealth was acquired through his extremely profitable real estate business. His daughter Emily achieved international recognition as an artist.Today Emily Carr's house is a provincial and national historic site displaying some of her art, as well as information on her life.
Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site
The gun batteries at Fort Rodd in the Hill National Historic Park, about 13 km (8 mi.) west of Victoria, used to guard the sheltered waters of Esquimalt Harbour, once a British naval base. The guns were in service from 1895 to 1956. Today the well-preserved fortress can be visited; in summer expert guides are on hand to explain about the defense works and ordnance.
Victoria's fairy-tale mansion, Craigdarroch Castle, considered a gem of Victorian architecture, was built in the 1880s by an immigrant Scottish entrepreneur Robert Dunsmuir for his wife. Dunsmuir made his fortune when coal mining started on Vancouver Island.
Address: 1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, BC V8S3L5, Canada
Opening hours: Jun 15 to Sep 4: 9am-7pm
Sep 5 to Jun 14: 10am-4:30pm
Sep 5 to Jun 14: 10am-4:30pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26)
Entrance fee in CAD: Adult $13.75, Senior $12.75, Students $8.75, Child 6-12 $5.00, Child 5 & under FREE
Useful tips: Children aged 5 and under are admitted free.
Hatley Park National Historic Site
Hatley Park National Historic Site consists of a castle built in 1908 by former British Columbia Premier and coal baron, James Dunsmuir. The Edwardian estate is also the site of Japanese, Italian and Rose gardens.Visitors can choose to walk through the gardens or take a tour of the castle.
The elegant Rockland area extends south-east of the town center. Government House, in its beautifully kept gardens, is the official residence of Her Majesty's representative in British Columbia. The house itself is closed to the public but the gardens are a delight.
Scenic Marine Drive
The Scenic Marine Drive is a 13 km / 8 mi panoramic route along the south and south-east coast of Vancouver Island as far as Cattle Point on Oak Bay (leaving Victoria proceed along Dallas Rd., Hollywood Cres., Crescent Rd. and Beach Dr.). One superb view follows another of the bays on the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Victoria Butterfly Gardens, Brentwood Bay, Canada
The Victoria Butterfly Gardens are indoor tropical gardens designed to house over 35 species of exotic butterflies and moths. The facility contains waterfalls, trees, and flowers.
Centre of the Universe
Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, the Centre of the Universe, offers an interpretive centre open to the public. The site features a planetarium, hands on exhibits on astronomy, and a tour of the Plaskett Telescope.
Christ Church Cathedral
Victoria Bug Zoo
Enter a land of world and spiders at the Victoria Bug Zoo. The facility has a range of bugs from all over the world. The Bug Zoo is located in Victoria's Inner Harbour.
Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island is located in the Gulf Islands between Victoria and Nanaimo. The island is populated and known for its laid back lifestyle, quaint shops, artists, galleries, and beautiful scenery. There are camping areas on the island as well as inns and other accommodation options.Ferries run from Tsawwassen on the mainland (Vancouver), or from Swartz Bay (Victoria) or Crofton (Nanaimo).
Sooke is a rural town with beaches, rainforest trails and views of Washington State's Olympic Mountains. Sooke is also the starting point for the West Coast Trail.The town is about an hours drive from Vancouver.
Sooke Region Museum
The Sooke Region Museum showcases the natural environment and how it has shaped the history of the region. First Nations and pioneer artifacts, historic photographs, dioramas, clothing items and scale models are some of the highlights on display. Outdor exhibits include a Polemaker's Shack, which is a portable cabin for the polemaker and his horse. There is also a lighthouse on site dating to 1910.
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park is known for a series of naturally made "potholes" along the river. Erosion has created these rock pools that are often enjoyed by children and adults taking a swim here in the summer. The scenery here is quite spectacular with high walls rising above the river.This is a day use park only.
Map of Victoria Attractions