My trip back home to Vancouver, BC, Canada has been a blur. It’s been two and half years since I was last in my hometown. This time, my husband and I came with our baby boy.
I knew this trip would be non-stop lunches, dinners, coffee dates and play dates, so I booked a night in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island just for my husband and I. I figured we were going to need at least a couple days to ourselves and I was more than right.
Since Victoria isn’t a huge city, I thought that we would be able to see most of it in 24 hours. Not entirely true. It turns out there is a lot to do in Victoria. If you have a car and can venture out, you’ll find even more things to do. We only had 24 hours.
Victoria, BC in 24 hours
If you only have 24 hours, here’s the ultimate guide on how to get there, what to see, where to eat and where to sleep.
Most expensive: Harbour Air Seaplanes
You can fly over to Victoria in a seaplane that departs from Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver and arrives on Wharf St. in downtown Victoria. I personally haven’t flown with them but the next time I will. Apparently, it is a fantastic experience. Tickets start from $119 CDN. The flight lasts 35 minutes.
Not as expensive: Charter bus – BC Ferries Connector
Charter bus services are available from Vancouver’s terminal at Pacific Central. They take you directly onto the ferry, then to downtown Victoria for 67 dollars. From the terminal, it will take about three hours to get to Victoria. Reservations are required.
Least expensive: Public Transportation Translink
Depending on your departure location, traveling by public transportation could take the longest and requires a few transfers.
You need to get to a skytrain station on the Canada Line and hop on the train that goes to Richmond-Brighouse. Get off at Bridgeport station and then take the 620 bus to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. If you are leaving from Vancouver, you will need to purchase a two-zone ticket, $4.10 CDN. It will take about an hour and twenty minutes to get to the ferry terminal.
At the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, buy a walk-on ticket to Swartz Bay (Victoria). One adult ticket costs about $17 CDN. The ferry ride is 90 minutes.
At Swartz Bay, hop on to the bus number 70 (express to downtown Victoria). Tickets can be bought directly on the bus but exact change is required. One ticket is $2.50. The trip takes 50 minutes to an hour.
In total, the trip will cost you less than $25 CDN but will take 4.5 to 5 hours.
Where to Sleep
There are a lot of hotels in Victoria, BC that accommodate anyone from business travelers and politicians to families with young children. Since it was just my husband and me, we found the perfect fit for us on Airbnb at Chris and Christine’s micro-loft in historic Chinatown. It was a new apartment, clean with a fully equipped kitchen and an informative and helpful guidebook to help us navigate the city. Chris and Christine’s loft is an average-priced option for couples.
If you are looking for a fancier option with a higher price tag, you might want to splurge on the famous luxury hotel, Fairmont Empress. It just completed a renovation and features a spa and nail boutique, restaurants and afternoon high tea. Rates are around $500 CDN for two adults per night.
If you are a backpacker and looking for a hostel, you may want to check out Ocean Island Inn Backpacker Suites. It is one of the more fancier hostels in Victoria charging $55 CDN for private suites and $35 CDN for dorm beds.
Where to Eat
Thanks to a great suggestion from a friend who visted Victoria often, we discovered Fishhook – a casual Indo-French inspired fish and seafood restaurant. Fishhook uses Oceanwise fish and seafood in their original and tasty dishes and serves it with some local craft beer, Hoyne Brewing Co. Out of the three dishes we tried, “The daily Khatch” was my favourite – Indian influenced seared tuna served over Indo-spiced masala and basmati.
In the evening we lined up at another restaurant my friend suggested, 10 acres. 10 acres also has sustainable and local practices as most of their ingredients come from their farm just 25 km away from downtown Victoria. There are three 10 acres locations: Kitchen, Bistro and Bar and the Commons. We dined at the bistro which had reasonable prices for the main dishes. We started with a few cocktails at the bar and then dined in the bistro. We shared a small appetizer – fried zucchini sticks. My husband had a sustainable Chuck Burger and I enjoyed pan-fried trout with green beans, zucchini and potatoes. The meal was accompanied by a few glasses of wine. We spent around $100 before tip.
After, we headed to the 10 acres Common which is just around the corner. The patio has a view of the Parliament buildings and is opposite the Empress hotel. It’s a more casual late night dining area where you can order a bite to eat, a few drinks but most importantly, oysters. After 10pm, their premium oysters were 1/2 price and I couldn’t resist.
The next day, we got up early to get some breakfast. It was suggested we check out “Hey Happy” coffee bar for some good coffee. They also have flights of coffee! We were feeling more like a hearty breakfast so we stopped at Mo:Lé – An all-day breakfast restaurant. I got “the basic” breakfast complete with two eggs, sourdough bread, and crispy bacon. My husband took things more seriously and went with the huevos rancheros. Another excellent meal.
If we had had room for lunch before returning to Vancouver, we would have tried a casual Mexican Taco restaurant like La Taqueria.
What to Do
Walk along Wharf st. and admire the sights of Victoria West and James Bay. We saw a few sea otters and even a raccoon along the docks. Entertainers and musicians can be found along Wharf St. and you can also grab some fresh fish and chips as long as you don’t mind waiting in line.
Victoria, although not the biggest city in the province, is the capital of British Columbia. There is a lot to learn regarding how the Canadian government was formed, its relationship with the British Monarchy, the rise of women in Parliament and much more. If you like politics and history, you can easily spend a couple hours in there. If you happen to be in Victoria in the fall, you might even be able to catch a debate!
It may not seem like it, but Victoria’s Chinatown was the biggest in Canada at one point. It is, in fact, the oldest Chinatown in Canada. Chinese workers were drawn to the gold rush in BC. When they had a chance, they would retreat back to Victoria to spend their hard earned cash. Chinatown is rich with stories of scandal and violence but is also a place where the Chinese came together as a community, building schools for their children, building Canada’s oldest Chinese temple and forming community support groups.
Victoria, BC seems to be a magnet for ghost stories. There are at least eleven haunted buildings in downtown Victoria. If you’re not scared of ghosts, you should go on a tour that tells of sightings of Emily Carr’s ghost at St. Ann’s Academy or the ghost of the architect who has been seen walking around the lobby of the Empress hotel.
Bastion Square Market on Sundays runs from May to September and features local artists from all over Vancouver Island.
For a more alternative market, also running from May to September, is the James Bay Community Market near the Parliament buildings.
With only 24 hours to see Victoria, BC I would definitely recommend renting a bike. You can tour for free by picking up a map at the visitor center and following the pre-marked tours. You could also check out Bike tours Victoria to find all of the must-see neighbourhoods of Victoria.
If you have a car and more than 24 hours, you should also consider seeing the Butchart Gardens. Wineries are also popping up everywhere and have already won a few awards. Check out the winery Church and State!
Victoria, BC has a lot to offer from water sports to whale watching. If you are traveling to British Columbia in the summer, make sure that Victoria is on your itinerary!