Vacationing in Victoria B.C., Help please.

Please help! I am vacationing in Victoria B.C. with a group of girlfriends in October. I am in charge of arranging the air travel, rental cars, etc. We are renting a home on Lake Victoria so that’s arranged already. Most of us will be flying from S.F. or Oakland, and my question is, is it better to fly into Seattle, or elswhere in Washington, and ferry over, or fly directly into Victoria? And, if flying directly into Victoria, which airport?
Also, besides the Buchart Gardens, what are some fun things to see / do while there?
I would appreciate any advise or personal experience you have to offer.
Thanks in advance!!

There’s high tea at the Empress Hotel, there’s horse-drawn carriage tours of the city, there’s the wax museum, there’s The Royal BC Museum. And that’s just off the top of my head, from a visit 20 years ago. I loved Victoria. It is the most British of Canadian cities. Have a nice time.

Transportation: You can fly into Seattle and take the Victoria Clipper ferry directly across, which is expensive, or rent a car and drive up to Anacortes (or maybe fly into Bellingham, I’m not sure which would be closer) to take the Washington State ferries. Another option is to fly to Vancouver and take BC Ferries across. If you fly directly into Victoria, funnily enough you’ll go to Victoria International Airport. It’s fairly small and I doubt that there are many direct flights from the SF area, you’d probably be going via Seattle or Vancouver anyway. Victoria-Vanccouver is just a short hop by air (15 minutes), so even if you fly via Vancouver, it would be faster to take a flight to Victoria rather than the ferry, though the ferry ride is extremely scenic when the weather’s good, which can be touch and go, depending on what time of October you’re coming. The first half of the month (up until Canadian Thanksgiving or so) is generally pretty nice, but the second half of the month is when the rain starts.

Ginger has covered the main attractions. Another good one is Beacon Hill Park. Craigdarroch Castle is pretty neat, though I haven’t been there in years. A lot of whale watching outfits operate out of Victoria, but I’m not sure if they’ll still be running in October. For some nature, they’re a bit out of the city, but the Sooke Potholes, East Sooke Park and Goldstream Provincial Park are nice If you or your friends like shopping, there’s some really cool little stores along Johnson Street downtown. I’m sure I’ll think of more later - you know how it is, if you live somewhere, you never do the touristy stuff yourself.

I recall that the Parliament buildings were pretty impressive.

Is the ‘world’s largest model railway’ or somesuch still there?
More interesting than it sounds - loads of dioramas of historical Canadian scenes with model trains running through them all!
IIRC, it was in premises round the side of the Empress Hotel…

Since you’re mainly looking for informed opinions, let’s move this one from GQ to IMHO.

samclem GQ moderator

Having lived in Victoria and presently living on Vancouver Island, I am aware of Elk Lake, Beaver Lake, Swan Lake and Thetis Lake, but I’ve never heard of Victoria Lake. I do hope you really have a home when you get out here !

Not certain about the fare, but another option besides the ferry or (regular) plane is to take a boat plane out of Lake Union in Seattle. It’s still only about a 15-30 minute ride, but you get a much better view and most often the pilots are very friendly and talkative.

It’s called Miniature World, IIRC.

Lake Victoria is in Africa, so you really want to check your hotel reservation!

Victoria itself is a good city to walk around. Cobblestone streets, chinatown, provincial parliament all within a short stroll. Refresh yourself at one of several brewpubs --Spinnakers and Swan’s are probably the best known.

You can also jump on boats in the harbour and go whale watching, but I don’t remember if the time of year you’re going is migration season.

Victoria is on the west side of Vancouver Island, while Buchart Gardens are on the east side, so it takes about 30-45 minutes to drive there, or for a bus ride. You could bike (I did) since the trail beside the highway is very well marked.

Thank you; and [](here it is!) It seems broadly the same as it was maybe 10 years ago…

Trust me to be late to one of the few threads that I’m actually qualified to post in…

Second heartily Ms Macphisto’s travel advice; you’re unlikely to get a direct flight into Victoria (which, remember is on Vancouver Island, not the other way round! :slight_smile: ) The Clipper from Seattle is fast, BUT it can be very “bouncy,” if the weather is a bit windy (as it can sometimes by in October. The ferry trip from the Vancouver side is one of the nicest in the world (in the daylight, obviously!) Don’t get carried away, though and try to see Vancouver in the same trip; at most do a day’s shopping there downtown.

As for “Lake Victoria…” maybe someone mean “Shawnigan Lake,” or perhaps it’s a house that’s actually on one of the inlets of the ocean? There are many twisty turny arms of the ocean here that do look a lot like little lakes…

Anyway; what to do? Well, first off: do we have a mini-Dopefest? You mention you’re going to be here with a group of girlfriends, which may mean that you may not have time or inclination to explain to them why/how/what for you want to meet with some strange people who do Dope with you on the Inarweb…if not, no problem, we understand…just throwing it out there as a suggestion! IF yes…boy, could we show you the best hot ‘n’ spicy Szechuan restaurant anywhere! If you like that sort of thing, of course.

And just how long will the group have here in Victoria? Will you have a car? And what goes the group like to do together–more shopping, or outdoor stuff, or what? Will you try and explore up-Island at all, to go to the rain forest up at Tofino (that’s a good 5-hour drive one way, no stopping).

Butchart’s Gardens are pretty year-round; they vary the plants and displays so there’s always lots in bloom. Locals consider the High Tea at the Empress to be Highway Robbery (it’s now something like CDN $50 each); you frankly get a better experience (and more for your money) by going to the Bengal Lounge in the Empress for the curry buffet (about $25/person). This is the real deal, an excellent dinner, beautiful service, all in proper Raj style. And it’s not super-hot curry, either, more savoury than blistering.

If you want a real Victorian traditional tea, with the best cakes and pastries in town, go just down the street from the Empress to Murchies, a Victoria tradition since 1894. Try the Marie Antoinette cake. Trust me. Really.

Other places you have to go for gustatational treats:

  • Irish Times Pub: just a few steps farther down Government Street from Murchies. This is a beautifully restored 1890s heritage building (an granite bank), turned into a celtic pub, with hidden snugs, an upstairs gallery around the whole room, excellent food, and often live celtic music. Very, very good.

  • Bravo - Warf Street a block down towards the water from Irish Times; a lovely, quiet and sophisticated martini lounge/restaurant. $4 martinis, and what some of my women friends describe as the most “ruggedly handsome bartender in Canada.”

  • Chinatown - about 4 or 5 blocks down Government street from Irish Times and Murchies; worth a visit just for the ambience, not to mention the great little restaurants.

And if any of the group are interested in lighthouses, you could drive the 15-20 minutes west of the city and visit where I work: Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site

I vacationed in Victoria about 14 years ago–it is a lovely city.

We went to Buchart Gardens (see above post)–wonderful, my (small at that tims) kids loved it.

I enjoyed just strolling around the city, near the Empress Hotel. We went in Oct and the weather was lovely. We walked around (memory tells me there were cobblestone streets, but that may not be true); there was a busker playing the flute on one corner–it was a perfect touch–sunny, cool day with “Ode to Joy” filling the air. I do not remember alot of city noises, strangely enough(in downtown Chicago, you couldn’t hear a flute play…).

We did take the ferries to the San Juans (do not remember distance–this may not be possible)–anyway, we went Orca watching (saw nothing but great scenery).

People incredibly friendly and nice. Skipped tea (we’re cheap!) but regret not going to the Native American Museum (not sure of the name).

Doubt this helps, but I enjoyed writing it! :wink:

I was on Vancouver Island (Victoria and Nanaimo) about 3 weeks ago… it is lovely right now. Don’t miss Buchart gardens. The majoirty of the roses looked just-about-to-bloom, so it’s probably going to be overwhelming when you get there. (And there are lots of other non-rose flowers and plants, too.)

Other than that, I just had a great time going around the city from place to place. It’s a charming city (one of the places I want to end up, someday). Most of the major sights (parliament, the parks, the inner harbor, the museums, high tea) have already been mentioned. You also might like wandering around Oak Bay, a little way outside of the city.

If you like that sort of thing, the Gulf islands are pretty accessible from Victoria, and Salt Spring in particular might make a good day trip.

As far as getting there - I’m coming out of Seattle, so the easiest way for me is to drive to Vancouver (Tsawwassen) and catch a car ferry over. It’s about a 4 hour trip from Seattle if everything goes more or less correctly. I actually didn’t really need my car this time - but it’s very convenient to have one, just in case. And it might be necessary depending on where your rental is. (I’ve also never heard of Lake Victoria). Flying into Vancouver might be easiest - especially from the Bay area.

Wow! Maybe I have my information wrong (I wasn’t the one making the accomodation arrangements) but heres the link to where we’re staying.
You made me laugh ~ and you also made my jaw drop just a little. I’ll definitely be checking it out! Thanks for the info.

Craigdarroch Castle is well worth a visit. It is an imposing old rock pile formerly owned by a local robber baron by the name of Dunsmuir, IIRC.

Victoria is a lovely city, just the right size and geography for walking and bicycling. Have a good time!

I lived just outside Victoria for 14 years. The city is built for tourists, so you should have absolutely no trouble finding attractions, and information on events. There are tourist kiosks and pamphlets everywhere, and Monday Magazine usually has a good section on events, or at least it did the last time I was there.

The city’s specialties are museums and gardens. I’ll second (or third, or whatever) the Royal BC Museum – I have fond memories of a reconstructed mining town there, not to mention a rather famous woolly mammoth.

Also Fort Rodd Hill is always nice – though it’s at its best if you catch it at a time when almost no one’s around (it’s one of those places made even more beautiful by solitude).

My own favourite place in the city is Market Square. Not sure how interesting it is for tourists. It’s just a group of small, nice, independent stores built into some of the city’s oldest buildings. It has a really nice atmophere, though – the sort of place it’s impossible to feel unhappy in, or that’s how I always thought of it :slight_smile:

If you go to Chinatown, local tradition (at least among the people I know) is to make a wish when passing through the Gate of Harmonious Interest, either on foot or by car. The main attraction of Chinatown, though, is Fan Tan alley, a little row of small businesses and art galleries that was consciously modelled on Montmartre in Paris when it was reconstructed in 1979 (originally, it was the gambling-and-opium district of Chinatown).

With a house like that I’d stock up on beer and never leave until the police remove me.
I was in Victoria in March and the best thing I remember doing was going to a bar (called John’s I think) that had peanuts all over the place and bras hanging from the ceiling.
The whole place seemed expensive to me though.

Such GREAT feedback!! I’m so much more excited now than I was. Thanks everyone for your suggestions and ideas. We are a mixture of outdoorsy and shoppers so it sounds like there’s something for all of us. We’ll be there for a total of 7 days ~ hopefully enough time to do it all. By the way. . . Alaska Airlines has direct flights from S.F. to Victoria International ~ I think that’s what I’m leaning towards. A few of the girls get motion sickness so I think the 4 hr. ferry ride is out!
Thanks again!!! If you think of anything else send it along.

I just thought of another good one - Roger’s Chocolates. It has, well, really good chocolate, plus the store still looks like it did 100 years ago. There’s also a good Victoria ghost tour that I believe runs every night. It’s fairly entertaining, and if nothing else you get some local history.

I like Market Square too, but I was just there on the weekend and it seems that half the stores have either closed or moved. :frowning:

Rooves, that would be Big Bad John’s, part of a huge complex of bars and clubs. Somehow, every time I go out with friends or co-workers, we wind up in that complex at the Stickey Wicket, better known as Victoria’s main cougar hangout.