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Updated September 2023

As I watched a bald eagle swoop through the air, I was quickly reminded why British Columbia is so special. Welcome to British Columbia’s gem of a destination, Victoria.

Victoria, British Columbia seems to have it all — the wildlife, incredible cuisine, a warm welcome, and those landscapes you can’t get enough of. With four nights, I was ready to dive into everything that this vibrant city on Vancouver Island has to offer.

Surrounded by the Salish Sea, the culture of Victoria has a lighthearted tempo to it, you are on an island after all. Between exploring the harbor and its wonderful restaurants and history, to getting outside for sea kayaking and whale watching, the time was the perfect blend of the outdoors and city.

It’s something truly unique to Victoria — the ability to experience otherworldly landscapes and then enjoy world-class cuisine right afterward. If you’re looking for an escape with the best of both worlds, take a look at just what I loved while visiting Victoria.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels and Things to Do in Victoria:

Hotels

  1. Oak Bay Beach Hotel, for the best Oak Bay hotel
  2. The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, for the best Inner Harbour hotel

Things to Do

  1. Kayak on the Salish Sea
  2. Go Whale Watching
  3. Book a Brewery and Food Tour

For more inspiration for how to spend your time in Victoria, check out 5 Experiences Not to Miss in Victoria, British Columbia.

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Victoria, British Columbia


 Getting to Victoria & Transportation in Victoria

Getting There

With daily flights offered into Victoria, you can easily arrive at Victoria International Airport from any major airport (some flights may require a layover in Vancouver). If you’re arriving from nearby destinations, a ferry into the harbor is also an option.

Once There

Upon arrival, depending on if you plan to explore more of the island, a rental car could be considered. If you are planning on exploring Victoria itself and plan to stay near the Inner Harbor, then there is no need for a car.

You can book transportation into the city with YYJ Airport transfer and the service will bring you from the airport to most hotels in Victoria. Once in the center, most of everything is within walking distance. There are also local taxis for longer distances. (Note: Uber is not available.)


Where to Stay in Victoria

Oak Bay Beach Hotel

Located in the quiet community of Oak Bay, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel is the hotel for those looking to be right on the ocean’s edge. It is a peaceful escape from the city center and only a ten-minute drive from the center. The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle service so you can still access the city and enjoy the retreat. At the hotel, each of the rooms is well-appointed and provides a cozy space. One highlight of a stay at Oak Bay Beach Hotel is their spa. Right on the water, the spa features heated mineral pools (open late) and rooms for treatments. Book the best rates here.

The Magnolia Hotel & Spa

In the heart of the Inner Harbour, the boutique Magnolia Hotel & Spa is a charming place to stay. The rooms have fresh décor, each outfitted with amenities needed for a well-rounded stay. The hotel also has complimentary bikes to use while staying, making for a great adventure around the city (be sure to check out the personalized bike routes!). The Magnolia Hotel & Spa is footsteps from everything you’ll want to visit in Victoria and provides the perfect location for those looking to explore the downtown. Book the best rates here.

Other Hotels to Consider Booking


Where to Eat in Victoria

Vis-à-vis

In the Oak Bay Village is Vis-à-vis, a charming brasserie-style restaurant. Their menu has all of the classics you could wish for from a French restaurant — from French onion soup to moules, it’s a quaint dining experience.

Nourish Kitchen & Café

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Victoria, British Columbia

With brunch being one of the top meals in the city, Nourish is the place to go. Situated in an 1888 heritage home, their multi-level space has plenty of rooms to dine in. Their seasonal menu serves locally sourced ingredients and they even have their own garden. One of my favorite dishes was the “Sleeping Beauty Pancakes!” You can even stop in to grab a coffee to go at their coffee counter.

The Courtney Room

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Victoria, British Columbia

Inside the Magnolia Hotel & Spa, this newer, fine-dining restaurant has received recognition for its creative menu and cocktails. The Courtney Room’s fresh take on brasserie food meets British Columbia ingredients and finds dishes that are equally innovative and delicious. On the weekends, they also offer a delicious brunch that you can reserve for as well.

Q at the Empress

Inside the Fairmont Empress is Q at the Empress, an upscale restaurant that services one of the best meals in town. Their extensive menu and wine list showcase the best of British Columbia. I’d come in for a happy hour at the bar to soak in the harbor views and then enjoy dinner in the dining room afterward.

Superbaba

Superbaba is a casual restaurant in the heart of the city center. I loved their Mediterranean menu that featured everything from hummus plates to falafel bowls.

Tacofino

A favorite from Vancouver, Tacofino opened up a restaurant in Victoria. Their modern take on tacos and other classic Mexican dishes are delicious.

The Fish Store

Head to The Fish Store if you’re down in the wharf and want to get fish & chips or fresh seafood.

Grab a Coffee

There is great coffee to be found across the city. Some of my favorites were:


Things to Do in Victoria

Brewery Hop

As a key player in the microbrewery scene in Canada, Victoria has an incredible range of breweries to experience. You could spend a week there and not try them all.

You could book a brewery and food tour as well if you want something guided. This highly-rated tour also takes you to several breweries in town, covering art and the different locations.

My favorite breweries visited include:

Check out the BC Ale Trail for more locations.

Kayak on the Salish Sea

What I loved about my time in Victoria was being so close to nature. One way to experience it is on a guided Oak Bay kayaking tour that takes you out onto the sea. We got to see so much wildlife up close from bald eagles to seals all while learning about the important eco-system that supports this part of Victoria. Book the tour here.

Explore the Royal BC Museum

I loved popping into this museum for a couple of hours and exploring the natural history room. The Royal BC Museum does a great job of exploring the local ecosystems and explaining the importance of conservation.

Go Whale Watching with Eagle Wing Whale & Wildlife Watching Tours

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Victoria, British Columbia

A highlight while visiting Victoria was an opportunity to go whale watching. On my four-hour tour, we had a chance to get up close (safely) to killer whales — we even saw one breach. It’s hard to put into words just how special it is to see whales in their natural habitat and would highly recommend this tour. Booking with Eagle Wing Whales is a great choice as they are the first carbon-neutral tour company and make a strong effort towards conservation for the whales. When going out on their tour, they often will stay out a little late if it means a better experience to see the whales, so you don’t feel rushed out. Truly an incredible adventure in Victoria. Book the tour here.

Enjoy a Spa Day at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Victoria, British Columbia

If you’re looking for a relaxing spa experience, then I would book a treatment at the spa at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. With its mineral pools that overlook the sea, It’s the perfect city escape and not far from downtown. One standout treatment that I tried was the “Ocean Elements Body Ritual” which used local seaweed and other minerals to decompress and relax.

Experience Canada’s oldest Chinatown

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Victoria, British Columbia

One area of Victoria worth a visit is Chinatown and a walk-through Fan Tan Alley. Its colorful buildings and shops are so fun to explore and get a taste of local culture.

See the Butchart Gardens

Though I didn’t make it out to the gardens this trip, it is one of the top things to do in Victoria. It’s well worth a visit as these iconic gardens are stunning.

Tour the Craigdorrach Castle

Who would have thought there was a castle in the heart of Victoria? I did the self-guided tour through the well-preserved castle and enjoyed exploring the neighborhood afterward. This part of Victoria is stunning and great for an afternoon stroll.


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The Ultimate Travel Guide to Victoria, British Columbia

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

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