Originally published April 3, 2017 | Updated June 13, 2018

Stop-and-go, gridlocks, jams and snarl-ups. These are all things city dwellers face daily. Not so in Victoria, BC! Between its walkable city core and relatively small footprint, traversing the city is a breeze, especially if you’re looking for an escape from the driver’s seat.

Be it by motor coach, bike, ferry, kayak, carriage or your own two feet there are plenty of options to get around without a car. Bring the whole family along for an array of kid-friendly activities ranging from a children’s farm full of furry friends to an entire museum chock-full of ancient artifacts. In Victoria, there’s something to keep everyone entertained!

1. Sip Tea Like a Local

Steps from the Clipper terminal in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the elegant Fairmont Empress is the essence of the city’s European-influenced architecture. Step inside the sophisticated and airy Lobby Lounge for an amazing afternoon tea experience, complete with a selection of the finest loose leaf tea, a slate of delicious sandwiches and pastries (there are even finger-sized bites such as PB&J sandwiches and vanilla rainbow cupcakes for the kiddos on the Prince and Princess Tea menu) and china inspired by a visit from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth themselves.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 7 minutes

Sip on some of the finest loose-leaf teas paired with a slates of delicious goodies. Photo: Lucas Anderson
Sip on some of the finest loose-leaf teas paired with a slate of delicious treats. Photo: Lucas Anderson

2. Take a Horse Carriage Ride Around Town

If there’s one mode of transportation that drums up images of Victorian days past, it’s a horse carriage ride around town. Trot along on a Tally-Ho Carriage tour and spend an afternoon exploring Old Towne or Beacon Hill Park; it’s the perfect introduction to a leisurely weekend of island living.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 7 minutes

Soak in the sights of downtown Victoria as you clop along city streets.
Soak in the sights of downtown Victoria as you clop along city streets.

3. Shop the Victoria Public Market

A quick jaunt uptown to Fisgard St. will land you at the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson. The core of Victoria’s community, the Market puts fresh seafood, a French bakery, handmade pies, farm-fresh groceries and a bounty of other goodies at your fingertips.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 21 minutes

Shop the vibrant market for an array of hand-crafted, local goods. Photo: Kusum Basavaraju
Shop the vibrant market for an array of hand-crafted, local goods. Photo: Kusum Basavaraju

4. Discover Regional Cultures and Ancient Artifacts

Brush up on your history at the Royal BC Museum with a number of exciting interactive exhibits and approximately seven million authentic artifacts and specimens. Don’t forget to swing by the museum’s new exhibit, “Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs,” to get a glimpse into the lives of everyday Egyptians when their ancient civilization flourished along the Nile. Soak up some sun and impressive views at the neighboring Thunderbird Park, which brims with soaring totem poles carved to emulate coastal Native American styles.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 7 minutes

Colossal carvings from Kwakwaka’wakw, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Gitxsan, Haida and Nuu-chah-nulth communities evoke the grandeur of 19th-century coastal villages. Photo: Royal British Columbia Museum
Colossal carvings from Kwakwaka’wakw, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Gitxsan, Haida and Nuu-chah-nulth communities evoke the grandeur of 19th-century coastal villages. Photo: Royal British Columbia Museum

5. Hop on a Bike for a Tour of Castles, Hoods and Legends

Itching for adventure? Hop behind the handlebars of a trusty bicycle for the most fun you’ll have on two wheels! Roll past historic landmarks in Chinatown and Cook Street Village, and stop to take in the scenic views along the Dallas waterfront.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 1 minute

Cruise past the stunning Craigdarroch Castle. Photo: The Pedaler Bicycle Tours
Cruise past the stunning Craigdarroch Castle. Photo: The Pedaler Bicycle Tours

6. Get Your Flower Fix at The Butchart Gardens

No visit to Victoria is complete without exploring the world-renowned Butchart Gardens. Grab a seat aboard a double-decker motor coach outside the Clipper terminal in Victoria and enjoy a narrated tour of the city’s sights en route to the iconic 55-acre grounds. Upon arrival, feast your eyes on beautiful blooms and get a taste of what it would have been like to be one of Jennie Butchart’s personally-served guests with an award-winning tea.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: Leaves directly from the Clipper terminal in Victoria

The lush grounds brim with hundreds of unique flowers and plants from all corners of the world. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
The lush grounds brim with hundreds of unique flowers and plants from all corners of the world. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

7. Sample Victoria’s Craft Brews

Increase your brew IQ and climb aboard the brew bus and sip your way around Victoria on a three-hour craft brewery tour. Taste generous amounts of craft beer at three unique breweries and soak in local brewing history as part of a fully guided, back-of-the-house tour. Still thirsty? Pack in more local flavor with a walking tour of eight must-visit breweries that are a hop, skip and jump from the Inner Harbor.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: Leaves directly from the Clipper terminal in Victoria

8. See Victoria by Kayak

Pick up a paddle and hop inside your ticket to Victoria’s waterways! Experience more of the island than what meets the eye while you cruise around the Inner Harbour or watch the sunset over the Gorge Waterway on an evening kayak tour. You may even make friends with a playful seal or harbor porpoise along the way!

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 21 minutes

See The Parliament Building light up with thousands of lights from the waters of the Inner Harbour.
See The Parliament Buildings light up with thousands of lights from the waters of the Inner Harbour.

9. Window Shop on Johnson Street

If you’re looking for the perfect place to window shop, Victoria’s best spots are located up and down historic Johnson Street. Brimming with everything from antiques to modern streetwear, traditional restaurants to Belgian waffle stands, this retail hub has got it all.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 21 minutes

10. Stroll the Ogden Point Breakwater

One of the most scenic spots in all of Victoria is right in town! Serving as an essential seawall to break incoming waves and safeguard the harbor, the Ogden Point Breakwater extends 800 glorious meters into the Salish Sea. Offering 360-degree views and one of the best sunsets around, this is the perfect spot to snap a selfie.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 30 minutes

Venture out on the breakwater for breathtaking vistas of the Harbor’s calm waters. Photo: Dannielle Siewertsen
Venture out on the breakwater for breathtaking vistas of the Harbor’s calm waters. Photo: Dannielle Siewertsen

11. Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Open your mobile GPS and you’ll see a swath of green to the south of Victoria’s core. This 75-hectare nature reserve is Beacon Hill Park, home to forest, open fields and no shortage of beach access, perfect for a waterfront sunset followed by star gazing. Wander to the Children’s Farm in the center of the grounds and let the kiddos get up close and personal with pigs, donkeys, chickens and peacocks, as well as catch a furry, bleating stampede during the “Running of the Goats” at 10 a.m. and 5:10 p.m. daily!

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 12 minutes

Boasting a variety of vibrant plants and an amazing assortment of wildlife, Beacon Hill Park is stunning any time of year. Credit: Tourism Victoria
Boasting a variety of vibrant plants and an amazing assortment of wildlife, Beacon Hill Park is stunning any time of year. Credit: Tourism Victoria

12. Tour the Waterways Aboard a Harbour Ferry

Jump in a cheerful Harbour Ferry and tour Victoria’s lively Inner Harbour by boat! Watch the comings and goings in the harbor, and enjoy excellent views of downtown sights such as the Parliament Buildings and the Fairmont Empress. (Inside Tip: Stop by every Sunday from May to September or all weekend in July and August, when these little boats put on a display of beautifully choreographed sequences and movements).

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 9 minutes

Watch boats sail in and out of the Inner Harbour from aboard a cheerful Harbour Ferry! Photo: Tourism Victoria
Watch boats sail in and out of the Inner Harbour from aboard a cheerful Harbour Ferry! Photo: Tourism Victoria

13. Explore Victoria’s Chinatown District

A piece of advice: when you have the opportunity to experience North America’s second-oldest Chinatown district, be sure to explore every inch. Filled with hidden courtyards and back alleys, Victoria’s Chinatown offers plenty to see, including the impressive Gate of Harmonious Interest.

Modeled after the entrance gateway to the famous Dunhuang Caves in northwestern China, the gate reflects the need to strive for harmonious relations between all people. As you admire this ornate structure, be sure to pick up a guide to the area’s historic landmarks and check out the Chinese Public School, Tam Kung Temple, McPherson Playhouse and more!

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 18 minutes

Explore everything from Gate of Harmonious Interest to historical buildings in Victoria's Chinatown. Photo: Kusum Basavaraju
Explore everything from the Gate of Harmonious Interest to historical buildings in Victoria’s Chinatown. Photo: Kusum Basavaraju

14. Give in to Your Sweet Tooth

Embrace your inner kid with sweet treats at Roger’s Chocolates, located front and center on Government St. as you make your way downtown from the Clipper terminal. If it’s frozen treats you’re after, there’s no shortage of them here. A trip down Fan Tan Alley will land you at Kid Sister, which offers the best darn small batch ice cream and popsicles on the island.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 10 minutes

15. Duck Down Fan Tan Alley

One of the town’s quirkier highlights, Fan Tan Alley is North America’s skinniest street, at only 35 inches wide at its narrowest point! Scurry between brick-faced buildings dotted with pint-sized shops as you navigate this whimsical and oh-so Victorian attraction.

 Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 18 minutes

You’d be remiss to visit Victoria without taking a walk through Fan Tan Alley and popping into some of the unique shops and restaurants lining the walls. Photo: Tourism Victoria
You’d be remiss to visit Victoria without taking a walk through Fan Tan Alley and popping into some of the unique shops and restaurants lining the walls. Photo: Tourism Victoria

16. Wander the Docks at Fisherman’s Wharf

Wander around the corner of the Inner Harbour to discover Fisherman’s Wharf, one of Victoria’s hidden seaside gems. Gaze at the colorful floating homes near the opening to the harbor and keep your eye out for seals playing in the water nearby.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 10 minutes

Wander through a colorful collection of floating houseboats along Fisherman’s Wharf. Credit: Erik Lawrenz
Wander through a colorful collection of floating houseboats along Fisherman’s Wharf. Credit: Erik Lawrenz

17. Walk to a Nearby Coffee Shop

If your energy is getting low, perk yourself up with a delicious, caffeinated brew from one of the numerous quality cafes scattered around downtown. Discovery Coffee roasts a deliciously deep brew, while centrally-located Habit and Hey Happy will keep wandering feet fueled all day.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 17 minutes

Discovery Coffee’s nitro cold brew and pour overs pair excellently with the cafe’s wide selection of treats. Credit: Scott Meis
Discovery Coffee’s nitro cold brew and pour overs pair excellently with the cafe’s wide selection of treats. Credit: Scott Meis

18. Visit Victoria’s Creepy Crawly Bug Zoo

Discover a microcosm of wonder at Victoria’s Bug Zoo, home to about 50 species of insects, arachnids and millipedes as well as Canada’s largest ant farm! Shatter any phobias with a safe experience that allows you to get hands-on with tarantulas and glow-in-the-dark scorpions.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 11 minutes

Get up close and personal with critters of the eight-legged kind. Photo: Tjflex2
Get up close and personal with critters of the eight-legged kind. Photo: Tjflex2

19. Walk Across the Water to Victoria West

Just a short walk across Johnson St. Bridge and you’ll find yourself in Victoria West, a quiet but dense neighborhood across the Inner Harbour. Walk along the scenic waterfront through Lime Bay Park, and be sure to stop in for a beer or two at a local favorite, Spinnakers Brewpub.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 30 minutes

Sip up on a lineup of frothy local brews. Photo: Tourism Victoria
Sip up on a lineup of frothy local brews. Photo: Tourism Victoria

20. Quaint and Quirky: Miniature World

Kitty-corner to the renowned Fairmont Empress, Miniature World offers visitors a bite-sized glimpse of Victoria’s past, present and future. Experience the Great Canadian Railway, wander the Enchanted Valley of Castles and pay a visit to Olde London Towne circa 1670.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 10 minutes

21. Discover Historic Victoria

Chock-full of historical sites, you can practically head out in any direction in Victoria and get a free walking tour of the city’s fascinating history. Helmcken House is located on the same block as the Royal BC Museum and from there, Ann’s Academy is a less than 7-minute walk around the corner. Afterward, venture 10 minutes south to the original residence of artist and writer Emily Carr.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 15 minutes

Visit Emily Carr House for a look at how one of Canada’s most celebrated artists and authors lived. Photo: Tourism Victoria
Visit Emily Carr House for a look at how one of Canada’s most celebrated artists and authors lived. Photo: Tourism Victoria

22. Wander the Galloping Goose Trail

Set out on foot or hop on a bike and follow the famously scenic 40-mile long Galloping Goose Trail starting at the Johnson Street Bridge. Cruise over to the city of Esquimalt or follow the trail further along to the Selkirk Trestle and up past Thetis Lake and on to Colwood, where the road peters out in Leechtown.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 6 minutes

Follow quiet, tree-lined paths along the Galloping Goose Trail. Photo: The Pedaler Bicycle Tours
Follow quiet, tree-lined paths along the Galloping Goose Trail. Photo: The Pedaler Bicycle Tours

23. Admire Art Without the Trip to Europe

An eclectic island community isn’t complete without an extensive art collection, right? Just east of downtown, The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria houses an impressive assortment of over 15,000 objects d’art from all over the world. (Inside tip: Swing by the first Tuesday of every month for pay-what-you-can admission.)

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 29 minutes

24. Soak Up Scenic Views Along Dallas Road

Winding along the southern end of Victoria and along the edge of the Strait of Juan De Fuca, the marvelously scenic Dallas Road provides stunning, wraparound waterfront views. Stroll all the way from Holland Point to Clover Point and keep your eyes out for kite surfers, as this is their go-to spot!

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 27 minutes

The smooth Dallas Road is the perfect Place to catch a sunset. Photo: Tourism Victoria
The smooth Dallas Road is the perfect place to catch a sunset. Photo: Tourism Victoria

25. Round Out the Day with Cocktails All Around

Finish off the day with a nightcap at Clive’s on the south end of downtown Victoria. If you’re by the water, Little Jumbo is a can’t-miss for superb hand-crafted cocktails. And on Douglas St, centrally-located Veneto rounds out the best of Victoria’s nightlife with tasty small plates and tapas.

Estimated Walking Time from Clipper Terminal: 13 minutes

Kick back and relax with a tasty cocktail. Photo: Thomas Hawk
Kick back and relax with a tasty cocktail. Photo: Thomas Hawk

There’s nothing like a refreshing jaunt up to Vancouver Island to get you out of the car and most importantly, break in those fancy new walking shoes. Whether you’re looking to get outdoors, taste new cuisines or discover island culture and communities, Victoria is the perfect place to journey wherever your feet may take you.

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Feature Photo: Lucas Anderson