This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase. Read Disclosure.
Victoria, British Columbia, is a city brimming with a laid-back charm, natural beauty, and a rich cultural tapestry.
Nestled on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, this Canadian gem offers an abundance of amazing attractions to keep you entertained, no matter what type of traveler you are.
From stunning gardens and picturesque waterfronts to historic landmarks and delectable cuisine, there are plenty of things to do in Victoria.
In this guide, we share our insider travel tips and knowledge on what to do in Victoria British Columbia for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.
Let’s get stuck in!
- Is Victoria BC Worth Visiting?
- Things to do in Victoria BC
- 1. Take a Pub Tour
- 2. Visit The Waterfront Drive
- 3. Take A Ginnery/Cider House/Winery Tour
- 4. See the Salmon Spawning
- 5. Hike Mount Finlayson
- 6. Visit Thetis Lake
- 7. Surf at Jordan River
- 8. Explore The Neighborhoods in Victoria, BC
- 9. Explore the Victoria Markets and Shopping Streets
- 10. Attend a Festival in Victoria BC
- 11. Have Afternoon Tea at Butchart Gardens
- 12. Take a Whale-Watching Tour
- 13. Admire Victoria Butterfly Gardens
- 14. See the Totem Poles in Thunderbird Park
- 15. Check Out Hatley Castle
- 16. Take The Kids to Beacon Hill Children's Farm
- 17. Explore Canada's Oldest Chinatown
- 18. Visit Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse
- 19. Check Out The Royal BC Museum
- Where to Eat in Victoria, BC
- Best Time to Visit Victoria BC
- Getting To and Around Victoria BC
- Where to Stay in Victoria, BC
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Victoria, Canada
- More Western Canada Travel Tips
- Pin to Save on Pinterest
Is Victoria BC Worth Visiting?
‘A Little Piece of England’? For the newly-wed and nearly-dead? No! I hate those monikers.
Victoria is a city with lots of nooks and crannies to explore beyond the obvious tourist traps. It’s a great little piece of the ‘Pacific Northwest’; as well as the oldest city, with a more laid back stule than Vancouver and Seattle (I know, its that possible?!) but with less rain.
It’s big enough to have some great pubs and restaurants and yet small enough to easily walk around the downtown core. It is truly beautiful and, surrounded by water on three sides, is the perfect place to dip your toe into the Pacific Ocean.
Victoria is absolutely worth visiting, it’s famous for its natural beauty and accessiblility to some of the most beautiful parts of Canada, as well as having a sub-mediterranean climate and a relaxed vibe.
Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia. It is located on Vancouver Island, 107 kilometres (76 miles) southwest of Vancouver. The trip by car and ferry, or bus and ferry, takes approximately 4 hours each way from downtown Vancouver.
Things to do in Victoria BC
Now you know why Victoria is such a cool place to visit, let’s take a look at some of the top attractions so you can map out your itinerary…
1. Take a Pub Tour
Victoria has a craft beer scene, so you should 100% make sure to add a pub tour to your list of things to do there.
Start with lunch at Spinnakers, Canada’s oldest brewpub, which deserves the pole position.
A wide selection of great, house-made beer and great food coupled with one of the best views in the city seals the deal.
Insider Tip: take the passenger harbour ferry from the main dock in the harbour; a fun little ride on boats often captained by ex-Marine officers. Buy a return ticket…you’ll be coming back.
Take the ferry back and make your way to Darcy’s at the foot of Bastion Square. A pretty nondescript Irish pub, it’s the patio that you’re here for.
Sit back and tipple a pint while watching the seaplanes land in the harbour. Best done on a windy day as they appear out of nowhere over the rooftops to drop into the water at your feet.
A quick jaunt up Bastion Square lands you at the Irish Times, a favorite hang out of tourists and locals alike. Pull up a stool at the bar (my favorite place) and strike up a conversation with those around you; they may be from near or far but it’s always a great time.
Make your way back down to the water and follow Wharf Street along to the bottom of Pandora Street; here you’ll find Swan’s BrewPub.
Housed in an old warehouse and home to one of the best art collections in Victoria, it’s worth a visit for one of their hand drawn pints; I like the Buckerfield’s Bitter.
Try the local beer; stay away from the big brands. One of the best things about Victoria is the great beer revolution it’s been part of.
Ask what’s local and try a sampler tray: Phillips, Driftwood, Vancouver Island Brewery, Lighthouse etc. Work your way through them and you won’t be disappointed.
Tour Ideas: Drinking beer without any work!
1. 3-Hour Guided Craft Beer Tasting Bike Tour: Enjoy three tasting sessions as you ride along the car-free Selkirk Trestle. Book your spot here.
2. Victoria Craft Beer and Distillery Tour: 3.5-hour tour of the Saanich area on Vancouver Island. Tour two breweries and one distillery with a guide with extensive knowledge about the local craft beverage scene, and sample plenty of beer and spirits throughout the trip. Book your place.
2. Visit The Waterfront Drive
The waterfront drive in Victoria is stunning and the best way to do it is on a scooter.
You can rent a scooter down in Victoria’s Inner Harbor and then scoot, scoot, scoot your way along the waterfront. Simply keep the water on your right and it’s pretty hard to get lost.
You’ll meander through a number of neighborhoods; stop whenever you feel like it.
A few favorites:
- take a stroll along the Ogden Point Breakwater
- admire the gardens (and views) from Beacon Hill Park
- wander among the history in Ross Bay Cemetery
- watch for ghosts through the Royal Victoria Golf Course
- stop for coffee/lunch at Olive Olio’s in Cadboro Bay
Turn around here and make your way back along Cadboro Bay Rd and Fort Street. Just try and wipe the smile off your face.
3. Take A Ginnery/Cider House/Winery Tour
We did this tour a couple of years ago and it remains as one of my favorite days ever.
Victoria Spirits is housed in an old farm house on Old West Saanich Road. I call it a ‘ginnery‘ because that’s what they make; flavourful, herb infused gin (and because I don’t know what the real name for a ginnery is).
They offer tastings of all their products upstairs but it’s downstairs where the magic happens.
Ask if you can have a tour of the still down below – they are proud of their work and are more than happy to show off the German constructed beauty that produces the magic elixer.
My favorite (and easily packable) takeaway is the Twisted & Bitter aromatic bitters; lovely in a gin and tonic.
Also housed in an old farmhouse with fabulous views over farmland and sea, the Sea Cider Farm and Cider House is an idyllic location for an afternoon stop.
Their ciders are made from apples all pressed and fermented on site from various types of apples. In fact, it’s impossible to choose from among the many options; I suggest a tasting flight to sample them all!
Last stop is Church and State Winery.
A beautiful location in Brentwood Bay and a great place to end the afternoon. Sample a few of their in-house wines, take some pictures and then head back into town for dinner.
4. See the Salmon Spawning
Salmon return to their home rivers in the Fall in order to spawn the next generation, so if you happen to be visiting this time of year, then checking out the salmon spawning is one of the best things to do in Victoria BC in the fall.
One of the best places to see this is in Goldstream Park just north of town.
There are nature trails and an interpretive center here too. Head to the estuary to see the Bald Eagles feeding too.
5. Hike Mount Finlayson
Accessed through Goldstream Park, this hike up Mount Finlayson takes you up through the forest and onto rocky outcroppings where you’ll scramble to the top for some of the best views in the area.
Although not terribly difficult, it’s not for the faint of heart of those with a fear of heights.
You should be able to do the whole hike in two hours – remember to take water with you and maybe a snack for the top.
Once at the top the views are incredible. You get a panoramic view of Victoria and the Olympic Mountains in the distance on a clear day.
6. Visit Thetis Lake
A local swimming hole, Thetis Lake offers a small sandy beach and plenty of other hidden spots further around the lake.
The trail around the lake is great for a good, quick run (about 4 km) or a brisk walk. There are a few hills but nothing too strenuous.
7. Surf at Jordan River
Head west out through Sooke and you’ll hit the true Pacific Ocean where the water reaches out toward Japan.
The surf here is some of the best there is and local surfers congregate at any hint of an off shore storm. There are burger shacks and coffee houses to warm up in as you watch the talent out on the waves.
8. Explore The Neighborhoods in Victoria, BC
One of the best ways to get to know a city is to walk around the neighborhoods. I love the look and feel of Fairfield. It’s one of the older parts of town but has plenty of redevelopment and character.
Some other cool neighborhoods to check out are:
- Cook Street Village is a favorite hangout with a couple of coffee shops, a bakery, pizza place and local pub.
- Ross Bay Cemetery houses some of Victoria’s historical figures; the moss covered gravestones and often foggy weather make it a photographers dream.
- The Moss Street Market happens every Saturday on the corner of Moss and Fairfield streets; great organic food, crafts, knick-knacks, music and a hippie vibe predominates.
9. Explore the Victoria Markets and Shopping Streets
Victoria is a great city to shop in, and has many boutiques, indie stores, and vintage thrift shops, as well as the well known high street brands.
For shopping, we recommend you visit Lower Johnston street, or LoJo as they’ve rebranded themselves, which has become quite the shopping mecca for fashionistas and those looking for something a little bit different.
Lined with independent shops (with a few larger names) it’s a great place to window shop or find a little something for yourself.
The Downtown Market is held on Government street (between Pandora and Fisgard) every Sunday from 11-5. It’s a funky, hippy-ish market with stalls filled with crafts, psychics, clothing, food carts and music. A little something for everyone; it’s a fun stroll and a great way to spend an afternoon.
The Moss Street Market is held every Saturday on the corner of Moss and Fairfield streets. It is primarily an organic food market but there are also some crafts, home-made jams, clothing, food carts and music. It’s a lovely walk from downtown to here.
Insider Tip: Stay away from lower Government Street; it truly is a tourist trap down there, the closer to the harbour the worse. By all means take a stroll but don’t do any shopping here.
10. Attend a Festival in Victoria BC
The Moss Street Paint In is one of my favorite events in the city.
The street is closed from the top of the hill down to the ocean and is lined with artists creating their masterpieces and selling their wares along the way.
You can spend hours perusing all the art, chatting with the artists and enjoying the great weather.
Insider Tip: Go later in the afternoon and stop at the Art Gallery at the top of the hill for a hot dog and beer at the Beer Garden. There is a band after dark and it’s always a good time.
Symphony Splash is held on the first weekend of August in the Inner Harbour. A barge is floated in, the crowds gather all around on shore, and the Victoria Symphony puts on a show to remember.
Swiftsure is the premier yacht race in the Pacific Northwest and attracts sailors from around the entire region. It’s worth being down near Clover Point on Dallas Rd on the morning of the start; it’s something else to see hundreds of boats in full sail as they jostle for position at the starting line.
More than just for sailors though…there is always a major party at Ships Point in the harbour. Aye Matey!
11. Have Afternoon Tea at Butchart Gardens
If you’re looking for something special to do in Victoria, then treat yourself to an afternoon tea with refined elegance and floral splendor at Butchart Gardens.
This enchanting botanical garden offers more than just stunning flora – it also boasts a delightful tradition of afternoon tea.
As you sip fragrant teas and savor delectable treats, you’ll be captivated by the gardens’ serene beauty.
Afterwards, explore the gardens, which began as a limestone quarry transformed by Jennie Butchart in the early 1900s.
Today, visitors can explore the 55-acre wonderland including the stunning Rose Garden and Japanese Garden, as well as take in vibrant floral displays, and relax amidst the serene surroundings.
12. Take a Whale-Watching Tour
For those nature lovers, a popular thing to do in Victoria is to head out onto the strait of Juan de Fuca and do a spot of whale watching.
Throughout the months of May – October, grab the opportunity to witness majestic orcas and humpback whales in their natural habitat while exploring the stunning coastal waters.
The thrill of spotting these gentle giants up close is unmatched and will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.
Moreover, the tours in Victoria are known for their responsible and sustainable approach, ensuring minimal disturbance to the whales’ environment.
13. Admire Victoria Butterfly Gardens
This captivating attraction in Victoria has become one of the most popular tourist sites on Vancouver Island.
Step into a vibrant tropical oasis where thousands of butterflies dance amidst lush greenery and blooming orchids.
This family-friendly attraction offers an immersive experience, with flamingos, ponds, rescued parrots, turtles, and even a macaw.
As you wander through this indoor wonderland, marvel at the stunning koi fish, goldfish, and other creatures that call these gardens home.
If you love wildlife and the natural world, then you may also want to visit the Victoria Bug Zoo if you have more time. Get your ticket to the butterfly gardens.
14. See the Totem Poles in Thunderbird Park
If you’re interested in learning about the rich Indigenous heritage of Canada, then be sure to visit the awe-inspiring Totem Poles at Thunderbird Park.
These beautiful sculptures stand as testaments to the region’s vibrant culture and history.
Established in 1941, Thunderbird Park houses a remarkable collection of eleven traditional totem poles from various First Nations communities, including the Kwakwaka’wakw people.
Each totem pole tells a unique story, depicting ancestral legends and sacred symbols.
15. Check Out Hatley Castle
This iconic National Historic Site is steeped in both history and beauty. Once a lavish residence, Hatley Castle now serves as the administrative center of Royal Roads University.
With its grand architecture and stunning oceanfront estate, the castle is the perfect setting for photography enthusiasts or those looking for somewhere relaxing to visit.
Take a stroll through the vibrant gardens, explore the peaceful forest trails, or immerse yourself in the rich history of the site.
16. Take The Kids to Beacon Hill Children’s Farm
Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, nestled within the picturesque Beacon Hill Park, is a charming farm that allows visitors to get up close and personal with a delightful array of farm animals.
From playful goats and adorable pigs to majestic llamas and colorful peacocks, this enchanting farm brings the joy of the countryside to the heart of the city.
Be sure to catch the daily goat stampedes at 10:10 am and 4:10 pm, for a truly exhilarating sight.
17. Explore Canada’s Oldest Chinatown
Nestled on Fisgard Street, this bustling community offers a kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, and traditions. Explore the eclectic array of shops, from herbal medicine stores to unique trinket shops, offering a glimpse into the rich Chinese heritage.
Sample delectable cuisine at authentic restaurants or savor dim sum delights, as well as admire the ornate architecture and visit landmarks like the Gate of Harmonious Interest and the infamous gambling den of Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Victoria and now a vibrant street with tea shops and medicinal stores.
18. Visit Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse
Transport yourself to a bygone era by visiting the captivating Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites.
Fort Rodd Hill, an artillery fortress active from 1895 to 1956, overlooks Canada’s West coast and has incredible views.
You can explore the fort’s intriguing military history, and then visit the adjacent Fisgard Lighthouse, Canada’s oldest west coast lighthouse.
Marvel at its striking architecture and panoramic ocean views.
19. Check Out The Royal BC Museum
If you love learning about natural and human history, then be sure to visit the renowned Royal BC Museum.
Established in 1886, this esteemed museum offers a fascinating journey through time.
Explore permanent collections and rotating exhibits featuring authentic artifacts, telling stories from the Ice Age to modern times, as well as learn about British Columbia’s rich heritage.
Where to Eat in Victoria, BC
When it comes to finding a place to eat, there are so many options. Some of my favourite places to eat in Victoria are budget friendly…
Pig BBQ Joint started as a little hole in the wall but now calls one of the newest buildings in Victoria home. It still serves up the best pulled pork sandwich around and you can get a local Phillips beer on tap too. Perfection.
Red Fish Blue Fish is, hands down, my absolute favorite budget eatery in Victoria. Housed in old cargo container right on the fisherman’s wharf in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, it is the epitome of fresh, sustainable, seafood.
There is often a line up but get-in-line-already it’s worth the wait! The funky, hipster staff will help you choose but, for me, there is no choice; it is the tuna tacones every-single-time.
Prima Strada Pizzeria is another mid priced favorite. This small, local eatery has a wood fired oven that produces a chewy, thin crust pizza that needs minimal toppings to finish it off. The staff are friendly, the wine is cheap and we always leave full and happy.
Insider Tip: if the line up is too long just leave your name and tell the wait staff you’re just heading across the street for a pint at The Beagle Pub. Your table will be ready when you get back.
For something more upscale I offer up two of my favorites…
Brasserie L’Ecole is one of the best date spots in the city. Cozy and warm it hints of it’s French bistro brethren both in food and wine, offering up the best steak and frites around accompanied by fabulous French wines.
Ferris’ Upstairs is a great, intimate spot for cocktails, small plates and sharing.
Best Time to Visit Victoria BC
The best time to visit Victoria in British Colombia is Spring and Fall, because they are out of the height of tourist season but still have incredible weather.
The Summer offers the best weather, but you will find the largest crowds, which can make finding affordable accommodation a headache.
I don’t recommend visiting in the Winter, which can be dreary and wet.
Getting To and Around Victoria BC
There is an international airport in Victoria, which is serviced primarily by Air Canada and Westjet.
Victoria is on an island so, if you don’t fly, you have to take the Victoria Harbour ferry.
BC Ferries operates from Tsawwassen just outside of Vancouver. It’s a little pricey but the scenery is absolutely stunning as it makes its way through the Gulf Islands.
The Coho Ferry runs between Port Angeles in the USA to the harbour right of downtown Victoria.
The best way to get around Victoria BC is on foot. The downtown area of Victoria is quite small and even the nearby neighbourhoods are a nice walk away.
The bus system is pretty good though; you can call the Transit Info line and a real person will help you get from Point A to Point B.
Where to Stay in Victoria, BC
Finding a place to stay can be overwhelming, so to help you out, here are a few top-rated suggestions for where to stay in Victoria BC.
- Turtle Hostel is a small hostel housed in a Victorian house on the edge of downtown. This makes it convenient to everything and the prices can’t be beat! As low as $50/night for two visitors in a small private room in summer. That’s about as good as it gets around here as I wouldn’t recommend sleeping on the beach (it’s too cold and rocky, believe me).
- Ocean Island Inn is a funky hostel just off downtown. An old apartment building; it has many amenities and features not usually seen. It’s one of my favorite buildings downtown and knowing it houses travelers makes me smile. It has a lounge/cafe and is nicely decorated. This would be my pick if I didn’t live here.
- HI-Victoria’s location can’t be beat; right in the middle of the city, everything is happening right on the doorstep. And as part of the Hosteling International group you know that it has to meet certain standards.
- Swan’s (see the Pub Crawl above) is also a guesthouse, which would negate the need for a taxi at the end of an evening…just crawl upstairs to bed. It’s rather up-scale rather than budget though, but if you have the dough I would recommend it as it’s a very nice place.
- Fairmont Empress Hotel is the perfect place for those looking for somewhere special to stay on their trip to Victoria. It’s an award-winning hotel that also lands itself on the national historic site list, since it was built in 1908.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Victoria, Canada
Victoria is an enchanting and captivating destination that seamlessly blends natural beauty and cultural wonders.
Whether you want to explore the rugged wilderness, learn about the indigenous culture, or dive into the craft beer and culinary scene, there is plenty to explore and discover here.
We hope this guide helped you plan your trip to Victoria and gave you some inspiration for what to do there.
More Western Canada Travel Tips
- Best hikes in the Canadian Rockies (easy to hard)
- The most beautiful places to see in Jasper National Park
- Expert Insider Tips on What to Do in Banff, Canada
- Experience the Best of Vancouver, Canada
- What to Do in Victoria, BC, Canada (Local Tips)
- 9+ Best Things to do in Calgary, Canada (on a Short Visit)
- Best things to do in Banff National Park
Pin to Save on Pinterest
Do you have tips on what to do in Victoria? Please share your suggestions in the comments!