7 Adventurous Things To Do In Victoria, BC
Victoria, B.C. is perched on nature’s edge, with easy access to a paddler’s paradise in the Gulf Islands of the Salish Sea and the mountain lakes of interior Vancouver Island. Victoria is a quaint city with a small town vibe, yet with all the amenities you’d expect in a provincial capital. Aside from great sea kayaking and standup paddleboarding, local attractions include camping, hiking, beachcombing and so much more. Once you arrive in Victoria you’ll only wish you had more time to stay.
Victoria is located on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island, adjacent to the beautiful Gulf Islands and within a short BC Ferry ride from the mainland in Vancouver (Tsawwassen). The city is serviced by several vehicle ferries per day arriving at Swartz Bay, north of downtown. You can also get here via ferry service from Seattle and Port Angeles, Washington. Make Victoria your home base for this itinerary of adventurous things to do.
[This article is part of our 7 Adventurous Things To Do On Vancouver Island Paddlers Will Love series. Read more about the varied attractions and stunning scenic beauty of Canada’s Pacific Coast.]
Fun Things to Do in Victoria
Tourism in Victoria is all about great sea kayaking. The city is located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, with many options for paddlers to explore, including Oak Bay and the Sidney waterfront, and near the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay. Regular BC Ferries routes service the Gulf Islands, allowing you to experience the unique near-Mediterranean climate and sandstone shorelines of places like Saltspring and Gabriola islands. If you’re looking for a local kayak trip you can easily spend a week or more tracing the Gulf Islands, camping along the way. Guided day trips and multi-day trips are available in Victoria and throughout the Gulf Islands. Check out our Ultimate Kayaking Guide to Victoria for more information.
Best Victoria Hikes
Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in Victoria. You’ll find amazing hikes along the ocean’s edge and into the mountainous interior of Vancouver Island, all within close proximity to the capital city. Here are a few favorites.
Galloping Goose Trail
This 60-km path for walking, hiking and cycling connects North Saanich and Swartz Bay to Victoria and Sooke, following parts of an old railway line. Highlights of this scenic part of Canada’s Great Trail include the Selkirk Trestle, the Todd Trestle and Thetis Lake Regional Park.
Easily accessible from the Trans-Canada Highway’s Millstream/Sooke exit, this wilderness park features a challenging hike to one of the highest points in the area. In April you’ll be surrounded by spring wildflowers on the trail as you enter mature stands of Douglas fir. From the summit of Mount Wells you’ll enjoy stunning views of Victoria and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Plan on two hours to complete the 3-km round trip.
Want to hike to a waterfall? Check out Goldstream Provincial Park, located only a half-hour drive from downtown Victoria (public transit is also available via bus route 50). The 3-km Upper Goldstream Falls trail is rated easy, following the route to a stunning waterfall. Check out Goldstream Provincial Park for great camping (and several other hiking trails).
Best Beaches in Victoria
Victoria has more than its fair share of great beaches. The city is practically surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, and you’ll find great swimming at places like Gonzales Beach, Esquimalt Lagoon and Cordova Bay. Island View Beach Regional Park, located just north of the city proper, features a great campground. Swing by to capture Victoria’s best sunset for your Instagram feed. Check out Tourism Victoria’s interactive map for more great sun and sand destinations.
Bike Rides in Victoria
Don’t forget to bring your bike! Victoria is a fantastic cycling town, with plenty of options for getting around the urban core or setting out on a longer ride. Several local companies offer bike rentals and guided tours, including The Pedaler (321 Belleville St, 778-265-7433).
Galloping Goose Trail
Cycling is a great way to explore this reclaimed railway line that connects several suburbs and passes through a scenic natural corridor of West Coast forest. You’ll love the scenic trestle crossings and appreciate the gentle grades, which make the Galloping Goose suitable for everyone.
Home to the Canadian national mountain bike team, Bear Mountain features Victoria’s best mountain biking, including beginner-friendly single-track, a flow trail for intermediate riders and challenging single-track. The area is located north of Langford and offers mountain bike rentals.
This designated recreation route connects downtown Victoria to Swartz, tracing the coastline. The 29-km path is paved and suitable for touring bicycles, with plenty of opportunities to stop for lunch at a cafe along the way.
Whale Watching Tours
Victoria is an outstanding destination for whale watching, with orca, gray, humpback and minke frequenting offshore waters. You will also see sea lions, seals and porpoises. Some of the best whale watching tours include Eagle Wing Tours (1 Dallas Rd, 250-384-8008); Prince of Whales Adventures (812 Wharf St, 250-383-4884); and Orca Spirit Adventures (950 Wharf St, 250-383-8411).
Looking for something unique to do? Sign up for a half-day or evening sailing adventure on a bona fide tall ship with 3-Hour Sail (780 Government St., 250-885-2311). Daily departures sail from the Victoria harbour throughout the summer.
No visit to Victoria is complete without a trip to renowned Butchart Gardens, one of Canada’s finest botanical showpieces full of tranquil arrangements and pleasant scents. This 55-acre garden is open year-round with trails, events and dining.
Best Victoria Restaurants
Looking for outdoorsy or paddler-friendly restaurants? Here’s a selection of the best restaurants in Victoria.
Boom and Batten
To taste the coast, make a reservation at Boom and Batten (2 Paul Kane Pl, 250-940-5850) and order from a menu that’s locally made. This downtown restaurant has a great view of the Inner Harbor.
The Beach House
There’s no better way to end a great day at Victoria’s fabulous Cordova Beach than to indulge in a great meal at The Beach House (5109 Cordova Bay Rd, 250-658-5224). Choose from a diverse, family-friendly menu at this beachfront restaurant and cafe and enjoy the laid back, casual atmosphere—with a great view of the water.
Marina Dockside Eatery
Oak Bay is a great place to paddle in Victoria and Marina Dockside Eatery (1327 Beach Dr, 250-598-3890) is one of the best restaurants for kayakers and paddleboarders to refuel after a session on the water. Enjoy “oceanfront casual” dining and rub shoulders with mariners and cyclists over a homemade lunch.
As British Columbia’s capital city, you’ll find no shortage of accommodation options in Victoria. Here are some choices tailor-made for outdoors enthusiasts and paddlers.
Camping is a perfect option for adventurous travellers, paddlers, and nature lovers. The best local camping gives you access to all the wonders of the city and the outdoors. In and around Victoria you’ll find stunning beach camping, family camping, RV camping and wild camping for kayakers and paddleboarders. Click here to Discover the Best Camping in Victoria.
Victoria Airbnbs + Cabin Rentals
A quick scan of AirBnB reveals many great waterfront cabin rental options for paddlers in the Victoria area. We’ve included three highlights below. Check out our story about the best cabin rentals on Vancouver Island for a comprehensive overview.
Studio at French Beach
This cozy Victoria cabin for couples is a real bargain, located near Sooke on a large, private property with quick access to great beaches and hiking trails. The 240-sq-ft cabin includes a full bathroom and all you need to prepare your own meals.
Lake Cowichan Cabin
This cabin rental is set on the shore of Lake Cowichan, a freshwater jewel on southern Vancouver Island, a short drive from the town of Duncan. Crystal-clear water is great for paddling and the cabin sleeps five comfortably with two bathrooms. This sun-soaked region is noted to have the warmest climate in all of Canada.
Bird’s Eye Views of the Salish Sea
This treehouse rental is located five minutes from Sooke. The stunning wooden tree cabin features a sleeping loft and plenty of deck space to enjoy the views. It’s located on the Galloping Goose Trail for hiking and biking and close to some of the area’s best beaches, with plenty of options for launching a kayak or paddleboard nearby.
Here are some of the best Victoria hotels that will appeal to the adventurous.
Spinnakers (308 Catherine St, 250-386-2739) offers eat, drink and stay packages with accommodations available in several guesthouses. Canada’s oldest brewpub makes fantastic beers and arranges stays in Victoria garden suites and a heritage house.
Oak Bay Beach Hotel
One of Victoria’s finest luxury boutique resort, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel (1175 Beach Dr, 250-498-4556) is located right on the ocean, making a great upscale hotel for paddlers. You’ll find luxurious rooms, great dining and an on-site spa. Book a room online.
Located downtown and in close proximity to the waterfront, the Turtle Hostel (1608 Quadra St, 250-381-3210) claims the title of Victoria’s cheapest accommodations. It’s also one of the most whimsical places to stay if you’re looking to save money, be comfortable and have fun. A variety of room options are available, from dorm to private.
Map of Victoria
The best map of Victoria is interactive and available online from Tourism Victoria.
Victoria boasts one of the nicest climates in Canada, with early springs (making the city a great destination to catch Canada’s first blooming flowers), moderate summer temperatures with little humidity and infrequent rainfall, and temperate winters. For local weather forecasts you can rely on Environment Canada for accurate hourly forecasts; comprehensive five-day forecasts from Windy.com; and a 14-day trend from the Weather Network.
Nature is close at hand in Victoria. | Photo courtesy of: Destination BC // Reuben Krabbe
Published at Fri, 19 Mar 2021 20:06:02 +0000