Nevertheless, two weeks before my impending departure, I have ticked Victoria off the list. If you are wondering what to do in Victoria in a limited amount of time, keep reading. I break down exactly what we did in 24 hours and include some additional suggestions.
The ferry crossing
We got the 8am ferry from Tsawwassen in Vancouver to the Swartz Bay Terminal in Victoria. We actually arrived in time for the 7am one, but it was already full. I definitely recommend making a reservation so you are guaranteed a car space.
BC Ferries are enormous, unlike any I’ve taken in Australia. There are several decks, a retail store and food options. People told me the food wasn’t worthwhile to eat, so we grabbed a snack at Starbucks before we left. This satisfied us before we reached Victoria and treated ourselves to brunch.
The other positive thing about taking an early morning ferry is the golden hour photo opportunities. The island views are very British Columbian and pretty as you make your way to Vancouver Island. The journey takes between 1.5 and two hours.
Begin with brunch
The ferry terminal is about a 30 minute drive from Victoria, so it was definitely brunch time when we arrived. We drove past Jam Cafe, which is one of the most popular brunch spots in Vancouver. However, like its mainland counterpart, the line outside was a little crazy. We decided to wake up early the next day and beat the line.
Instead, we went to West Coast Waffles, which I had read about while doing my research. The waffles were reasonably priced at $12 and we tried both a sweet and savoury option. I did like the nutella waffle, as it was piled on and very rich. But our savoury option wasn’t the best. There was too much salsa and the eggs didn’t taste like they were freshly made. It wasn’t the best meal to start our trip, but fortunately it only got better.
Side note: After some post-research, it seems Willie’s Cafe & Bakery and Blue Fox Cafe are two other popular options. My friend also parked his car in Chinatown, which cost $10 for the day. Not bad for inner-city parking!
A walking tour of Victoria
There’s a lot to see and do within walking distance in Victoria. Follow Government Street and check out Chinatown first, which is Canada’s oldest Chinatown. It’s home to Fan Tan Alley, which is also Canada’s narrowest street.
Next head to Lower Johnson Street and its colourful buildings. The architecture in Victoria is pristine. It seems every building is historic and well-maintained. I couldn’t stop taking photos of the buildings and the colourful floral baskets hanging everywhere.
We stopped at a few shops along Government Street and took a detour through the Bay Centre. Then we made it to the Inner Harbour. This beautiful waterfront area is home to the Fairmont Empress and the BC Parliament Building, which is home to the province’s Legislative Assembly.
I have to admit that visiting here during the day wasn’t the best for photos, but we remedied that by returning at night. The buildings are architecturally beautiful. The Empress is built in an Edwardian, Châteauesque-style (yep, that’s a word). The Legislature though is Baroque revival style. I took photos of the buildings from practically every angle.
From here we continued along the waterfront and headed towards Fisherman’s Wharf. We ended up following the road around to this area, but apparently there is a waterfront path you can follow too. Fisherman’s Wharf is a collection of brightly-coloured floating homes (or house boats). But seeing as most places in Victoria are tourist attractions, it also includes different eateries (Mexican, sushi, ice cream and fish and chips included), a gift shop and tours.
We wandered around the dock and then got the small Harbour Ferry boat directly to our next stop. At $6 each, it was a little overpriced, but hey, we were in tourist central. Nevertheless, it allowed our feet a rest and I always love seeing a city from the water.
Lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish
We docked at Red Fish Blue Fish, which is perhaps the most popular fish and chips eatery in Vancouver. They operate out of a shipping container on the waterfront and you can expect a bit of a wait time for your food. It took us a little over 40 minutes to pay for and receive our food at around 2:30/3pm, but the fish and chips were most certainly worth it. I got two massive pieces of cod, as well as a healthy serving of crispy chips. My friend tried the tacos and chowder, which was his favourite. There’s seating all around the water here, but beware of the bees. They would not leave us alone, but this could be a seasonal thing.
A fun-filled or relaxing afternoon, you choose
We decided to head to our hotel and check in next. Because we only booked our trip a couple of weeks in advance, there weren’t a lot of accommodation options left. There’s only one hostel (Ocean Island Inn), which was booked, and limited Airbnbs.
So we decided on the Howard Johnson Inn, which is located just outside of the city. Our room had everything we needed, including a double bed each. I would definitely stay there again if I ever do return to Victoria. We decided on taking a break as we wanted to head back into the city for sunset and night time photos.
If you don’t want to have an afternoon rest, I suggest checking out one of Victoria’s attractions I didn’t see. This includes the award-winning Butchart Gardens, the Royal BC Museum, or the cool-looking Miniature World. There was also a neighbourhood called Cook Street Village, which looked interesting.
Night time in Victoria
We headed to the Ogden Point Breakwater to hopefully capture an amazing sunset, but unfortunately there were too many clouds. So once the sun had set, we headed back to Inner Harbour. The Parliament Building is even more stunning at night, if that’s even possible.
We wandered around and took a few photos of the buildings at night before heading to Whole Foods to pick up something small for a late dinner, which we ate while watching Easy A in our room (Emma Stone is the best). But if you’re hungry after devouring Red Fish Blue Fish, Victoria is absolutely full of cute pubs. It feels like there’s one on every corner.
Brunch take two
We decided to wake up early again, so we could get to Jam Cafe when it opened at 8am to avoid the horror lines. This was an excellent decision. I had the Charlie Bowl after hearing it’s one of the most popular dishes. It did not disappoint. My friend had the pork belly eggs benedict, which was also a hit.
A final downtown walk
After finishing brunch, we quickly went for a final walk through downtown Victoria. On the drive out of the city, we stopped at the Christ Church Cathedral and Breakwater again for some final photo opportunities.
If you have time, I highly recommend visiting Hatley Castle. The National Historic Site is located on the Royal Roads University campus and is very impressive. We wandered around its entire perimetre, taking photos from all angles once again. Its manicured gardens were full of vibrant flowers, and they were actually setting up for a wedding during our visit.
After the castle we got on the highway and headed to Nanaimo. I absolutely loved every alley, building and flower we saw in Victoria. It’s a beautiful place. I highly recommend hopping over when visiting Vancouver. Next up, I’ll discuss the places you need to stop at between Vancouver and Nanaimo.