We have just had the annual May long weekend to commemorate Victoria Day here in British Colombia so we took the opportunity to take a four day weekend trip to Vancouver Island and the picturesque city of Victoria.
Victoria is really a beautiful small city with loads of character. Originally settled by the British, it has a really old world feel about it and as it is set on a harbour it is a little like Sydney. There are loads of old cobblestone streets and beautiful old pubs. Victoria is the capital of the province of British Colombia so it is where the provincial government buildings are. We did a wonderful tour of the Legislative building and learnt a little about the Canadian government which is very similar to ours in Australia.
How to Get There
There are a number of ways to get out to Vancouver Island but our mode of transport was car which with three kids always makes life easier. From our home in Vancouver we needed to get to the ferry terminal in Tssawassen which is a 45 minute drive south. We then boarded one of the BC Ferries that takes you direct to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. The trip is a 90 minute beautiful ferry ride that is for both cars and foot passengers – it really is a pretty and scenic trip through the gorgeous gulf islands. As we knew the long weekend would be busy we had pre-booked our ferry trip but on a regular day you can just rock up and get on board the next ferry out – make sure you do check the timetables though as I have head some nightmare stories about long delays! Once we arrived in Swatz Bay we were straight off the ferry and on the highway to Victoria. The drive is an easy 35 minute trip and you are in the centre of downtown Victoria.
What to do
The city of Victoria is relatively small so it is very easy to do so much on foot! We arrived around lunch time on Friday so we headed straight to Chinatown and the famous Fan Tan Alley. Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in Canada. The area is full of history and great little shops.
On day two we headed off on foot once again through the centre of downtown via Trounce Alley and Bastion Square and along the harbour foreshore, passing the Fairmont Empress Hotel for a quick visit and on to the Parliament Building. After our short 40 minute tour of this beautiful building we continued our walk around the foreshore to Fishermans wharf where we enjoyed some lunch and watch the seals entertain the crowds.
After spending time at Fishermans wharf we then caught the local ferry back around to the main part of the harbour before wandering back to our hotel.
On day 3 we borrowed the bikes that the hotel provided and had a lovely morning out cycling on the Galloping Goose Trail. This trail goes for 55km but we just took a short ride which was the perfect morning activity before heading back for lunch. In the afternoon we jumped in the car and took a visit to Craigdarrock Castle – an amazing home that was built in the 1880’s by one of the wealthiest men in Victoria.
For our final stop we took a drive to Fisgard Lighthouse which is the oldest lighthouse on the west coast of Canada. This lighthouse still guides ships daily through the Straight of Georgia between the US and Canada – one of the busiest waterways in this part of the world.
On our final morning we had a leisurely breakfast and then watched some of the annual Victoria Day Parade that was taking part in Douglas Street. After checking out of our hotel at 11am we then jumped back in the car and took a drive along the coast from the Victoria Harbour all the way to Cordova Bay. The views back to the Olympic Mountains in the state of Washington were just stunning. For our final stop we headed in to the seaside town of Sidney for a quick visit and to grab some lunch before heading to back to catch our ferry home.
Such a beautiful weekend with plenty to do but also plenty of relaxing! The weather over the weekend was the best we have had during our 4 and a half months here in Canada so this made the ferry trip home just stunning as well!
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza Hotel. We had a family suite that was the perfect size for us as it had 2 double beds plus a pull out sofa. One of the beds was in a separate room and the other beds all in the main living area that also had a kitchen. Having stayed in some tiny rooms with our family of 5 this felt spacious and comfortable. The rooms were clean and well looked after and the staff were so helpful. The hotel was located in Johnson Street in downtown. The location was great and convenient for everything we wanted to do.
Where to Eat
We had some great meals while visiting Victoria including a delicious Tapas meal on Trounce Alley at Botega. We also ate lunch with the girls at Fan Tan Cafe in Pandora Street in the heart of Chinatown – yum! Another great dinner was at The Bard and Banker on Government St. Our lunch at Fisherman’s wharf was at The Fish Store. There was also a great cafe at the start of the Galloping Goose Trail that was perfect for a refuel stop!
After dinner each evening we took a walk along the harbour. There were loads of street performers that took their jobs seriously and drew big crowds! It was great fun and not only enteraining but also the best place to watch the sunset! Magic.
So as you can see we had a fabulous 4 days on Vancouver Island. If you are planning a trip to Canada definitely add it on to your itinerary!