Victoria is the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia. It is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island and is on Canada’s western side of the Pacific Ocean.
One of my earliest travel memories involves a visit to Victoria, British Columbia at part of a LONG road trip from Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Washington State to visit my cousins. It was my first trip out of the United States, and for a little girl from rural Arkansas, the trip was like stepping into a storybook. It was 1977. I know at that time I didn’t need a passport. It wasn’t until 2009 that US citizens were required to have a passport to travel to Canada. What I remember most was the ferry ride from Washington State to Victoria, the elegant Empress Hotel, and how green everything seemed.
Some things about Victoria have definitely changed since 1977. However, the Washington State Ferry System will still get you from Anacortes, Washington (about an hour north of Seattle) to Sidney (30 minutes north of Victoria) in about 2 hours. The Empress Hotel is still serving tea and taking guests, and in the summertime, everything is GREEN, GREEN, GREEN! Keep reading to find out what to see and do in Victoria!
Want to island hop on your way to visit Victoria? Read San Juan Islands Road Trip- Washington State & British Columbia.
What to See & Do in Victoria, British Columbia
Butchart Gardens is located 14 miles (23 km) north of Victoria and 12 miles (9 km) south of the Sidney ferry terminal and Victoria International Airport. The Sidney ferry terminal is where ferry visitors from Anacortes, Washington arrive. It makes for a convenient first stop when visiting Victoria.
The gardens were started over 100 years ago by the Butchart family and now host more than 1,000,000 visitors annually. During peak summer months, the earlier you can arrive the better. Prices varying according to season from a low of $18 to $33 in the summer. The gardens get very crowded! Don’t let the crowds or price deter you from visiting. The National Geographic has named The Butchart Gardens as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Plan to spend 2-3 hours.
British Columbia Parliament Buildings
If you like history and architecture, you’ll want to visit these gorgeous buildings. They are located close to the harbor and convenient to other Victoria attractions. You can download a self-guided tour or take a free guided tour (in English or French). Tours last about 30 minutes. Be sure to grab some lunch at the Legislative Dining Room. Come back at night to see all of the buildings beautifully lit up.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel High Tea
Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to go inside the Empress Hotel and sip tea. I remember asking my daddy if that is where a princess lived. The hotel is an icon of Victoria. Built in 1908, it has gone through many renovations. Most recently, (May 2017), the hotel completed a $60 million transformation.
We hadn’t planned on having high tea at The Empress, but when Joe heard about my life long desire to feel like a princess sipping tea at the grand old hotel, he jumped into action. He quickly made a reservation and we rushed to make our allotted time. Be forewarned, there is a dress code for high tea (we didn’t plan for this). Since we weren’t told when we made the reservation, the hostess let us poorly dressed peasants cross over to “fancy world”. I would have felt more comfortable in a dress, but sometimes you just have to make do!
High tea at the Empress is an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime (at least for us) experience. We spent little over an hour sipping and eating. High tea starts at $75 per person. A bump up to champagne tea with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut rises to $108. Yup, I bumped up to the champagne tea! Was it worth it? To someone who has wanted to be treated like royalty since first eyeing the Empress 40 years ago, yes it was! I’m sure Joe could have cared less. He earned some major brownie points with this special treat!
Victoria Inner Harbor
After you spend all your money on tea and little sandwiches, head across the street to the Inner Harbor. Walking along the harbor, you will feel like you’re in a quaint European city. It is easy (and cheap) to spend a couple of hours leisurely walking around, watching the boats and sea planes. The harbor is lined with a variety of shops and restaurants.
Have you been or want to go to Victoria, British Columbia? Please share by commenting below! Any questions? Please ask!
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