Royal British Columbia Museum
Experience Captain Vancouver's ship, a turn-of-the-20th century town, the natural history gallery,
and the First Peoples Gallery. Outside the Museum, you will find Thunderbird Park with a
collection of ancient totem poles and the big house where woodcarving demonstrations are held.
You can also enjoy one of the many interesting films offered at National Geographic IMAX Theatre.
Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, a surgeon with the Hudson's Bay Company, later a statesman
who helped negotiate the entry of British Columbia into the Dominion of Canada as a province.
Helmcken House is the oldest house in British Columbia on its original site that is open to the
public, right beside the Royal British Columbia Museum.
Emily Carr House
The home of one of Canada's best known artists and writer. Emily Carr was born here
in 1871. She painted and wrote about her environment with great love and pride. She
travelled to deserted native villages to paint them so we would not forget what they
used to be like.
Point Ellice House
Gold Rush Magnate and Commissioner Peter O'Reilly bought Point Ellice House in
1867. The restored house and garden bring you back to those long ago days.
A Harbour Ferry can take you from the Inner Harbour to the dock at Point Ellice
House for a tour and 'afternoon tea'.
Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse
Craigflower was one of Vancouver Island's first European farming communities, established in 1853 along Victoria's Gorge Waterway.
Maritime Museum of British Columbia
The Maritime Museum of BC collection contains everything that relates to our seafaring past and present. Unfortunately, at this writing, it has no space in downtown Victoria to put the collection on display, having been displaced from its long-time location on Bastion Square. It will once again go on display in future, no doubt. There is a temporary office and small display at 634 Humboldt Street.
St. Ann's Academy
Built in 1871 by the Sisters of St. Ann who arrived here in 1858 to begin their mission of teaching and health care. It has been carefully restored and is mostly used for government offices, but the Chapel and a number of rooms attached to it have been set aside as an Interpretive Centre.
Victoria's Parliament Buildings were designed by Francis Rattenbury and finished in
1898. They are located in the Inner Harbour near the Empress Hotel which was
designed by Mr. Rattenbury. Together they form a beautiful entrance to Victoria's
harbour. Tours through the building are available for free and last about 45 minutes.
The Empress Hotel
Also located in the Inner Harbour. Walk through the elegant halls of a bygone era. It is one of the landmark buildings by which Victoria is known.
The Inner Harbour
Don't forget to walk around the Inner Harbour where you can watch many artists paint or draw portraits of tourists, buskers perform their tricks, mimes surprise you with their acts, and musicians play their songs. It is a very lively area on the waterfront with beautiful yachts and sailboats as a backdrop.
From June to September, tour the Inner Harbour with one of those fun little 12 passenger
ferries. They wind their way through the harbour and the Gorge Waterway.
You can buy a few pieces of fish at the fishmonger's stand to feed the
harbour seals, have fish and chips at Barb's or take a great whale watching tour at
Seaking Whale Tours.
Craigdarroch Castle is a beautiful historic Victorian-era mansion, built
in the 1890s by wealthy BC coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. First a home for his family, later a hospital, conservatory of music and finally it
was restored to its old glory and is now a museum.
Fisgard Lighthouse Historical Site
The first lighthouse on Canada's west coast is still in operation! Inside are two floors of exhibits dealing with shipwrecks, storms, far-flung lights and the everyday working equipment of the light keeper a century ago.
Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site
The fort was built to defend Victoria and the naval base at Esquimalt harbour. This well preserved coastal artillery site was in use from 1878 to 1956. During the summer months, the fort offers re-enactments and other historic events that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum
The museum is located at Naden on Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in the city of Victoria. The museum's focus is on four distinct military groups that have made an impact on Canada's history and left a
lasting heritage. In addition to exhibits and displays, the museum houses an
expanding archive and library.
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has a permanent collection of
15,000 art objects. Art from Asia, Europe and North America with primary emphasis placed on Canada and Japan.
Victoria Bug Zoo (for kids)
If you have a chance, crawl, fly or wriggle your way to the Bug Zoo! An amazing
world of insects and spiders.
Miniature World (for kids)
Feel like Gulliver while walking among miniature villages.
All Fun Recreation Park (for kids of all ages)
Take the kids for some fun at the mini golf course, batting cages and two go-kart tracks.
James Bay Community Market
The market offers arts, crafts, clothing, produce and home made specialties such as jams and jellies. Held at Menzies and Superior Streets during May to October every Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm.
Government Street Market
This market takes place on Sundays in the 1600 Block on Government Street between Pandora and Fisgard avenues from April to September from 11.00 to 4.30. Lots of crafts, collectables, imported clothing, food and entertainment.
Bastion Square Festival of the Arts
Many artists display and sell their juried works at this busy and popular market near the
Inner Harbour from April to October, Wednesdays to Sundays from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Moss Street Community Market
Lots of stalls with local organic produce, crafts, and clothing. Open
every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm during May to October. Located
at the corners of Fairfield and Moss Streets.
Parks and Gardens:
Beacon Hill Park and Petting Zoo
It is Victoria's favorite park. Most of the park's 200 acres are beautifully landscaped and part of it is left natural to encourage wildflowers to flourish. The petting zoo is always a hit with the children.
Government House Gardens
The gardens and grounds of Government House cover some 36 acres. The 14 acres in front of the House contain formal gardens and are open to the public for free. The garden behind the House with
Garry Oak Woodlands and The Cary Castle Mews, is only open for tours.
The garden on a 1.4-acre site is internationally famous for its
splendid collection of rhododendrons and its romantic past.
Hatley Park Gardens
James Dunsmuir built his castle on 650 acres at Hatley Park Estates
in the early 1900s. In the 1940s the castle became a dormitory and mess hall for Royal Roads Military College. Today it is used as the administrative centre of Royal Roads University. The castle and gardens are open daily for tours.
Victoria's secret garden was started in the late 1950s by 10 enthusiastic gardeners and the municipality of Saanich in order to establish an arboretum. The dream of a full-scale arboretum was abandoned in 1980. It is still a beautiful garden, especially in the spring when the remaining rhododendrons explode into bloom. The park is accessed from Quadra Avenue and Rock Street.
Capital Regional District Parks
There are more than 10,000 hectares of spectacular and easily accessible natural areas in 30 regional parks and trails on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Some of our favorite parks are mentioned below.
East Sooke Regional Park offers 50 km of trails through the West Coast wilderness. The trails rate from easy to challenging and take you to rocky bays and beaches with spectacular views of the Strait of Juna de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains.
Elk/Beaver Lake. A very popular park and lake, shared by swimmers, windsurfers, sailors, water-skiers, fishers and rowers. Some trails are designated multi-use, for hikers, cyclists and horseback riders, while others are for hiking only. The hiking trails are rated easy. There are picnic areas, playgrounds, and a fishing float with access for people with disabilities.
Thetis Lake Regional Park was established as Canada's first nature sanctuary in 1958 and is the perfect place for a family picnic, a swim on a warm day or a walk through the forest. The trails rate from
moderate to challenging and go through swamps, Garry oak ecosystems and Douglas-fir
Witty's Lagoon Regional Park is located on the ocean near Metchosin. The large lagoon is a birder's paradise at any time of the year. Hiking trails take you through woodland, past the lagoon and a marsh to a beautiful sandy beach. The trail rating is moderate. The park also offers a Nature Centre.
Sooke Potholes Regional Park is located near Sooke. The park is accessed
via Sooke River Road, 5 km north of West Coast Highway 14. The rock
pools and potholes were carved naturally into the sandstone bedrock of the Sooke River during the ice age. The water is very clean, clear and cold but
is nevertheless a very popular swimming hole for the locals.
The Galloping Goose Regional Trail used to be a railway line and is now a 55-kilometre multipurpose trail that takes you through urban, rural and wilderness scenery from Victoria to Sooke. The trail is rated easy and accessible to people with disabilities.
There are many parks in British Columbia and we will only mention a few that are located near Victoria and along the coast. For more information about parks on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the rest of British Columbia, click on 'Provincial Parks.'
Goldstream Provincial Park is only 16 km northwest of Victoria. Lots of hiking trails, massive 600 year old trees, waterfalls, a river, flowers, birds and fish are the attraction. The hiking trails range from easy, wheelchair accessible to strenuous hikes. You can climb Mount Finlayson, or hike to the water falls. From October to December, the park is the scene of the annual salmon spawning run. The Freeman King Visitor Centre offers programs and information about the park.
French Beach Provincial Park has lots to offer. Situated on the Strait of Juan de Fuca there are hiking trails, lawns for picnics, a sand and pebble beach and a campground. During spring and fall, you can see whales passing by on their migration route. Otters, seals, and sea lions play in the waves and inhabit the rocks. Many seabirds, eagles and ospreys can be seen flying overhead.
Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on the west coast of southern Vancouver Island is divided into three areas: China Beach, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, and Botanical Beach with several beautiful beaches in between. The park offers something for everyone from playing in the sand to watching whales to a strenuous 3-day hike. It is a wilderness area and black bears and cougars may be roaming the forests and beaches nearby.At the east end of the park is the China Beach Campground and the China Beach day-use area. The
day-use area is a spectacular and ideal spot for family picnics, playing in the sand, wading and relaxing against the huge tree trunks that litter the beach. While walking along the beach enjoy the great noisy rolling breakers coming in.
The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is 47 kilometres long and is rated as a strenuous hiking and camping trail through rugged and isolated wilderness along the shoreline. The trail can be reached from four different locations at China Beach, Sombrio Beach, Parkinson Creek and Botanical Beach.
The trailhead at Sombrio Beach is located at approximately Kilometre 29 of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. It is a world-class surfing area.
Next along the coast is the Parkinson Creek Trailhead. From here you can hike east to Sombrio or west to Botanical Beach. This part of the trail is rated moderate.
At the west end of Juan de Fuca Park is Botanical Beach with its many tide pools across the flat sandstone and granite outcroppings. The best time to see the marine life in the pools is at low tide. This is a very sensitive area and visitors are asked not to take anything or touch anything in the pools or even the water. Before you go, make sure you know when a low tide is expected or else you may be disappointed. Look at the tide charts for Port Renfrew.
To download a great PDF map of the entire Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, click here.
Tours in and around Victoria, BC
Victoria is often called the 'City of Gardens'. Due to our mild climate, Victorians are able to work in their gardens almost all year round. There are many beautiful public gardens and some of the private gardens are open to visitors by appointment or at special fundraising events.
Victoria has many interesting neighbourhoods that are fun to walk through. There are even organized history tours, cemetery and ghost walks. If you prefer to organize your own walking tour you will be able to find walking tour maps at the Tourist Information Centres and some stores throughout the city.
Victoria BC is fast becoming a bike-friendly city. The city is small, easy to navigate and there are bike lanes throughout. The beautiful Galloping Goose Trail takes cyclists from downtown to Sooke. A mountain bike trail at Hartland Avenue is very popular. The Lochside Regional trail stretches from the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay to Victoria. Rental bicycles are available per hour, a day or longer. Check it out and enjoy the outdoors.
Classic Car Tours
Just for something different, you can tour the city in a classic car or vintage convertible.
If you don't have the time to walk or bike to the different sights around Victoria you will find several companies that offer guided city tours by bus. Some are in modern air-conditioned coaches and others are in old fashioned double decker buses.
Grayline, Pacific Coach, Big Bus Victoria
Horse-drawn carriage tours
See the city in a relaxed and old fashioned way with a romantic
horse-drawn carriage tour.
Tally Ho Tours, Victoria Carriage
Did you get tired shopping or walking around the city? For a fun
way of moving around, just flag down a Kabuki cab (rickshaw
type bicycle) and get a tour of the city or be dropped off at your
For a totally different look at our beautiful city, you can take a plane and see it from the air. Several companies offer plane tours over the city, the gulf islands or further up the island.
Sea Kayak, Canoe and Sailing Tours
See our island from the water and experience being in a kayak, canoe, sailboat or motor boat. Many companies offer daytrips or longer excursions around Victoria's Inner Harbour or tours through the Gulf Islands. One such company is Blackfish Tours.