Originally published May 16, 2017 | Updated May 15, 2019

After a loooonnng winter, our cherished PNW summer cannot come soon enough. And while Northwest natives have come to accept the fact that the sun doesn’t truly show up until well into the season, it’s those brilliant blue skies and peaks upon peaks filling the horizon that make it all worth the wait.

93 days, 15 hours and 47 minutes. That’s the duration of this summer and you better believe it’s time to make every second count. Feeling a little pressure?

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To help you make the most of this amazing time of year, we’ve created a list of 50 epic Victoria trip ideas to supercharge a season full of relaxation, exploration and new adventures. Whether you have your eye on a quick weekend getaway or a weeklong escape, grab a friend, hop aboard the Victoria Clipper ferry for a scenic 2-hour and 45-minute ride to Victoria, BC and enjoy the season of sun!

Skip the airport lines and driving by hopping aboard the Victoria Clipper ferry for a quick and easy cruise to Victoria.
Skip the airport lines and driving by hopping aboard the Victoria Clipper ferry for a quick and easy cruise to Victoria.

In This Guide:

 

See the Sights: Quintessential Victoria

1. The Butchart Gardens

No matter the season, The Butchart Gardens are sure to put on a show. Get your flower fix by heading to the world-renowned gardens in the evening for their “Night Illuminations.Gorgeous flowers combined with twinkling lights under a starlit sky? It doesn’t get any more breathtaking than this! (Inside tip: stop by on select Saturday nights to watch an impressive fireworks show light up the night sky).

Stroll among vibrant blooms in the iconic Sunken Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Stroll among vibrant blooms in the iconic Sunken Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

2. Tea at the Empress

For more than 100 years, the Empress’ elegant Lobby Lounge has been the place to visit for an authentic British tea and pastry experience. Choose from a selection of 21 of the finest loose leaf teas married with mouth-watering treats, and check this Victoria must-do off your list.

3. Royal BC Museum

Discover authentic artifacts and specimens from distant times and places displayed in the Royal BC Museum’s interactive exhibits. Slide back into the Ice Age or stand next to grizzlies in a massive forest in the Natural History Gallery or wander between the intricately carved totem poles in the First Peoples’ Gallery.

Spend a day discovering the powerful culture that rose in the tropical rainforests of Central America in the museum’s newest exhibit, “Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises,” (May 17 – Dec 31). Wander through the immersive display, learn about the 30 Mayan languages still spoken today and check out more than 280 artifacts, such as striking jade-and-gold jewelry and a nearly 10-foot-long statue of a man with jaguar attributes.

Discover gigantic artifacts in the Royal BC Museum's "Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises" exhibit. Credit: Royal BC Museum
Discover gigantic artifacts in the Royal BC Museum’s “Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises” exhibit. Credit: Royal BC Museum

4. BC Parliament Buildings

Overlooking Victoria’s majestic Inner Harbour, the Parliament Buildings are a 19th-century icon. Spend some time exploring the nearly block-long expanse of the Parliament Buildings to uncover details in the intricate architecture that you would’ve missed from the street. (Have you spotted the ram fighting the buck?) One of the finest commemorations of Canada’s independence, there is no more apt place to visit on Canada’s birthday come July 1.

Designed by Francis Rattenbury, the iconic Parliament Buildings are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Credit: Destination BC
Designed by Francis Rattenbury, the iconic Parliament Buildings are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Credit: Destination BC

5. Johnson Street

Hit up Victoria’s shopping mecca on LoJo (that’s lower Johnson Street for the uninitiated) to indulge in some serious, guilt-free shopping at the array of great boutiques and pick up some new threads. Or stage a Wes Anderson-inspired shoot outside the candy-colored storefronts in this unique part of the city.

Pop into one of the many unique boutiques that line Johnson Street. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria
Pop into one of the many unique boutiques that line Johnson Street. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

6. Abkhazi Gardens and Teahouse

Created in 1946 by Prince and Princess Abkhazi, the Abkhazi gardens are known for their majestic trees and dynamic, evolving plantings. Stay for lunch or afternoon tea in the original home, where you’ll feel like a personal guest of the Abkhazis.

7. Pickle Boat “Ballet”

When the Victoria Harbour Ferries were originally brought to Victoria in 1990, the skippers were amazed at their maneuverability. Every Sunday from May to September and all weekend in July and August, these cheerful little boats put on a fascinating display of beautifully choreographed sequences.

Hop on one of Victoria’s cute Harbour Ferries and zip across the Inner Harbour. Credit: Scott Meis
Hop on one of Victoria’s cute Harbour Ferries and zip across the Inner Harbour. Credit: Scott Meis

8. Miniature World

Often called “The greatest little show on earth,” Miniature World is a one-of-a-kind Victorian experience. The perfect activity for the young and young at heart, this quaint and quirky museum brings everything from historical battles to childhood fantasy lands to life in miniature.

9. Still Life

Arguably one of Victoria’s foremost fashion retailers, Still Life has both “for him” and “for her” boutiques on Johnson Street. Something of a local gem, the shop has been the city’s source for emerging style for more than three decades and features clothes curated from forward-thinking brands such as Montreal’s Ursa Minor or Denmark’s Minimum.

Discover the Past at Victoria’s Numerous Historical Sites

10. Historic Chinatown

Canada’s oldest Chinatown district has plenty to see, we suggest exploring this colorful neighborhood by foot on a historical walking tour. Duck under the immense Gate of Harmonious Interest, stroll down Fan Tan Alley, discover a maze of courtyards and pathways as well as everything from theaters to shops to one-of-a-kind restaurants. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

Explore everything from the 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

11. Craigdarroch Castle

Take a tour of this ornate Victorian castle, built by the coal baron Robert Dunsmuir between 1887 and 1890, and immediately feel transported to a bygone area. Meander through the 39 rooms chock-full of rich, Victorian-era furnishings, vintage photographs and some of the most beautiful stained glass in North America. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

12. Hatley Castle

Initially serving as a dormitory for cadets at Royal Roads Military College, the stunning Hatley Castle is now a popular filming location for movies such as X-Men and Deadpool. Want a peek inside yourself?

You’re in luck! The castle is also the administrative center of Royal Roads University and offers daily tours to explore the lavish interior and notched battlements.

13. Government House

Built in 1860, the Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Love gardening? Wander through the grounds’ 36 acres, which are divided into numerous zones according to plant life and garden style. If you need to give your feet a rest, swing by the seasonal tea house for a steaming cup of herbal tea and pastries.

14. Fort Rodd Hill and the Fisgard Lighthouse

Found at the edge of the Esquimalt Lagoon, this lighthouse was the first on Canada’s West Coast! Climb to the top floor of the building to soak in breathtaking views (on a clear day you can see all the way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca) or scamper out to the red Adirondack chairs to snap a selfie.

Discover original guns, intriguing underground magazines and camouflaged searchlight emplacements built more than 100 years ago at Fisgard Lighthouse.
Discover original guns, intriguing underground magazines and camouflaged searchlight emplacements built more than 100 years ago at Fisgard Lighthouse.

15. Royal Theatre

An opera house and concert hall designed in 1912, the theater retains its original Rococo/Renaissance Revival style décor. Soak in the eye-catching diamond design on the front entrance, then pop inside for a memorable performance.

16. Ann’s Academy

An icon from the mid-1800s, St. Ann’s is a historic treasure older than both The Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings. Take time to explore the cathedral, which boasts ornate gold-leaf detailing original oil painting and other relics of the past. You may even stumble across a resident ghost or two.

17. Emily Carr House

Discover the birthplace of Emily Carr and learn more about the painter and writer who was heavily inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. The childhood home of Victoria’s celebrated artist, the sunny yellow home boasts enormous arched front windows and pillars framing the front door. Save time to explore the home’s vibrant front yard, packed with foliage and flora, the garden’s hues echo the vivid color palettes of the artist herself.

Visit Emily Carr House for a look at how one of Canada’s most celebrated artists and authors lived. Credit: Wesley Brandon Rosenblum
Visit Emily Carr House for a look at how one of Canada’s most celebrated artists and authors lived. Credit: Wesley Brandon Rosenblum

18. Christ Church Cathedral

Looking like the work of a 14th-century Parisian architect, the Christ Church Cathedral was built in 1929. Open daily for tours, the building’s stone foundation is impressive both inside and out. (Inside tip: Walk the church’s unique, seven-circuit labyrinth on their south lawn, which is said to help spark creativity, focus the mind and leave you feeling centered.)

19. Gonzales Observatory

A weather station for 75 years, the observatory now stands as a scenic heritage building in the Gonzales Hill Regional Park. Toward sunset, make the quick walk up to the top for incredible views of Victoria, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Olympic Mountains, Sooke Hills, the Salish Sea and even the Victoria Clipper as she cruises past.

20. Mile “0”

Located next to Beacon Hill Park, Mile “0” of the Trans-Canada Highway marks the start of the 8,000 km (or 4,860 miles) road spanning the breadth of Canada. The longest highway in the world, it is the Canadian equivalent to America’s Route 66 with many quirky roadside attractions along its sides.

The official starting point to the longest highway in the world. Credit: Steve Vohgt
The official starting point to the longest highway in the world. Credit: Steve Vohgt

21. Trial Island Lighthouse

If you have a good eye, you might spot this iconic lighthouse off to the right as you cruise into the Inner Harbour on the Clipper. Once on land, the lighthouse is easily visible from Clover Point or Beacon Hill Park’s waterfront.

22. Point Ellice House

Fully furnished with the O’Reilly family’s original and personal belongings, this Italianate bungalow presents one of the most complete collections of Victoriana anywhere in North America. Afterward, duck outside and stroll through the property’s stunning gardens.

Known as the largest surviving natural and heritage landscape on the Gorge Waterway, the grounds are home to heirloom plantings as well as a variety of wildlife. Look up to catch sight of barred owls, eagles, and other raptors roost in the mature trees or watch along the shoreline for river otters, raccoons and the occasional mink.

Soak in the Sights with Victoria’s Popular Tours & Attractions

23. Victoria Butterfly Gardens

About 30 minutes north of Victoria, the tropical jungle that is the Victoria Butterfly Gardens & Insectarium is home to thousands of butterflies – some 70 species! Inside you’ll also find lush gardens chock-full of carnivorous plants, frogs, koi fish, tortoises, large iguanas and free-flying birds. Pop into the insectarium and check out the social behavior of a leaf cutter ant colony as they maintain their habitat.

Where else can you get this close to butterflies? Discover new species and colors in the midst of this urban jungle. Credit: Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Where else can you get this close to butterflies? Discover new species and colors in the midst of this urban jungle. Credit: Victoria Butterfly Gardens

24. Victoria Food Tour

Take a bite out of Victoria and treat yourself to the best of the city’s culinary scene on a two-hour guided walking tour. Embark on an adventure you can really sink your teeth into with samples of everything from sweet, spicy barbecue to delicate macarons that taste as though they have come straight from France. The best part? You’ll leave armed with a list of insider recommendations on hidden gems around the city!

25. Cowichan Valley Wine Country Tour

Unwind Up Island in the lush Cowichan Valley. Whether it’s a romantic date escape or a girls’ weekend getaway, a visit to the valley’s world-renowned vineyards, paired with stops at awe-inspiring viewpoints along the way, is sure to leave you feeling refreshed.

Taste some of Vancouver Island’s finest wines at sprawling vineyards. Credit: Island Time Tours
Taste some of Vancouver Island’s finest wines at sprawling vineyards. Credit: Island Time Tours

26. Victoria Bug Zoo

Experience a microcosm of wonder at Victoria’s Bug Zoo, which is home to about 50 fascinating insects, arachnids and millipedes, including Canada’s largest ant colony. Shatter your phobias and get hands-on with live walking sticks, praying mantis and glow-in-the-dark scorpions at this must-see miniature zoo.

27. Victoria Public Market at the Hudson

Constructed in 1912, the Market now features soaring concrete ceilings and is home to a coffee shop, hot yoga studio and, of course, local artisan tables and an acclaimed farmers market. Stock up on delicious eats from Salt Island Cheese, Ravenstone Farm Artisan Meats and French Oven Bakery and head over to Beacon Hill Park to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the ocean.

Feast on a variety of market-fresh berries. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria
Feast on a variety of market-fresh berries. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

28. Victoria Food Trucks

If you need a quick snack break while exploring downtown Victoria, look no further than the city’s army of delicious food trucks. From sweet and savory waffles at the WannawafelCart to grilled cheese or macaroni at Grilled to the Mac, you’ll be tempted to try them all while you’re in town!

29. Ghost Tour

Known as the most haunted city in BC, Victoria offers no shortage of spooky places to visit. Bastion Square, formerly a courthouse ruled by “the hanging judge,” Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, is one of Victoria’s most haunted spots.

Grab a Kayak, Golf Club or Bike and Get Active!

30. Kayak Discovery Island

Experience Vancouver Island’s wild and rugged West Coast on an intimate and unique kayaking tour as you paddle through the Discovery Island archipelago. Enjoy a relaxing day on the water soaking in majestic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands and the Olympic Mountains as well as a picnic and a guided nature walk on the island’s driftwood-strewn shore. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

Get up close and personal with amazing wildlife, from sea lions and dolphins to orca, gray and minke whales as you paddle through the Salish Sea. Credit: Ocean River Adventures
Get up close and personal with amazing wildlife, from sea lions and dolphins to orca, gray and minke whales as you paddle through the Salish Sea. Credit: Ocean River Adventures

31. Golfing

Spend a gorgeous summer day putting your swing to the test on some of the island’s finest links! Jutting rocks, roaring rivers and panoramic mountain and ocean views provide a jaw-dropping backdrop for the rustic Bear Mountain Golf Club & Academy, located just outside of Victoria. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

32. Zip Line Adventure

Get your heart pumping as you whisk above the Sooke rainforest on an AdrenaLINE Zipline Adventure Tour. Eight ziplines ranging from 150-1,000 feet long and up to 150 feet high will give you an adrenaline rush and offer a bird’s-eye view of Vancouver Island’s stunning mountain and ocean vistas.

Fly through the treetops of Sooke’s stunning old growth rainforest. Credit: Adrenaline
Fly through the treetops of Sooke’s stunning old growth rainforest. Credit: Adrenaline

33. Paddle Boarding

See the city from the sea! Learn the basics of stand up paddle boarding in Victoria’s Inner Harbour with a three-hour introductory course. Not only will you get a chance to strengthen your bond with your friends, but you’ll also get a chance to soak in the natural beauty of British Columbia. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

34. Bicycle Tour of Castles, Hoods & Legends

Craving a little fresh air, fun and exercise? Get a look at Victoria’s iconic landmarks from behind the handlebars of a trusty bicycle on a two-hour guided tour through Chinatown, Beacon Hill and Cook Street Village. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

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

35. Beacon Hill Wind & Kite Surfing

Birds aren’t the only thing in the air on a sunny Victoria day. Head to Beacon Hill’s waterfront and watch as adrenaline junkies take to the skies. Or venture down the road to blustery road to Clover Point, where unparalleled views of the Olympic Mountains and Strait of Juan de Fuca make for one heck of a kiteboarding spot.

36. Mount Washington

Located three hours Up Island, Mount Washington is home to a beautiful mountaintop ski resort. After a day of hiking, head to the water for a seaside bicycle ride or scuba diving in Vancouver Island’s famously crystal-clear waters.

37. Dallas Road

Be one with nature and experience the scenic Dallas Road on two wheels! Pedal along the southern end of Victoria and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to soak in wraparound waterfront views. (Inside tip: Ride all the way to Clover Point to catch sight of massive waves crashing against the shore.)

The smooth Dallas Road is the perfect place to catch a sunset. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria
The smooth Dallas Road is the perfect place to catch a sunset. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Hikes, Views and Photo-Ops: Explore the Island’s Outdoor Offerings

38. Whale Watching

Depart downtown Victoria on an exciting Five Star’s whale watching tour in an enclosed, 40-person catamaran with above-deck viewing. Cruise through the waters of the Gulf Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca and soak in phenomenal views as you watch orcas, humpbacks, sea lions and bald eagles splash and play in their natural habitat. 

Orca whale watching season comes into full swing each summer around Victoria. Credit: Gary Sutton
Orca whale watching season comes into full swing each summer around Victoria. Credit: Gary Sutton

39. Thetis Lake and Matheson Lake

On a warm summer day, there’s nothing better than a refreshing dip in one of the region’s many lakes. Use Victoria as a home base, bike or bus your way local favorites such as Thetis Lake and Matheson Lake and while away the day swimming in their cool blue waters.

40. Kinsol Trestle

Also known as the Koksilah River Trestle, the Kinsol Trestle is a massive wooden railway trestle that spans the salmon-bearing Koksilah River north of Shawnigan Lake. One of the tallest-free standing rail trestles in the world, the 144-foot high structure serves up views of the region you have never seen before.

Soak in awe-inspiring views as you pedal over this wooden railway trestle crossing the Koksilah River north of Shawnigan Lake. Credit: Dale Simonson
Soak in awe-inspiring views as you pedal over this wooden railway trestle crossing the Koksilah River north of Shawnigan Lake. Credit: Dale Simonson

41. Finlayson

Enjoy the gorgeous ocean view atop the 4 km round-trip trail. Be sure to bring plenty of water and use caution, this trail can get very steep.

42. Breakwater at Ogden Point

A spectacular walkway jutting out about 800 meters from the shore, the colorful breakwater is our go-to spot for catching the perfect Victorian sunrise. Snap a selfie at the end, and induce major FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) from all your friends.

Venture out on the breakwater for breathtaking vistas of the Harbor’s calm waters. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
Venture out on the breakwater for breathtaking vistas of the Harbor’s calm waters. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

43. Mill Hill Regional Park

One of Victoria’s hidden gems, and located not too far out of town, there is no better spot for a day hike than Mill Hill Regional Park. Make the easy 200-meter climb to catch sight of meadows full of beautiful wildflowers as well as views of Esquimalt Harbour, downtown Victoria and the surrounding hill and mountains.

44. Beacon Hill Children’s Farm

A farm in the middle of the city awaits within beautiful Beacon Hill Park. Let the kiddos get up close and personal with pigs, donkeys, chickens and peacocks. Catch the “Running of the Goats” at 10:10 a.m. and 5:10 p.m. daily and witness a furry, bleating stampede underfoot!

Little ones can cuddle up with the friendly goats at Beacon Hill Park’s Children’s Farm. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria
Little ones can cuddle up with the friendly goats at Beacon Hill Park’s Children’s Farm. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

45. Elk & Beaver Regional Park

In the summertime, the Saanich Peninsula is hard to beat. Just North of Victoria, Elk and Beaver Lake Regional Park is the local favorite, where swimming, canoeing, kayaking and water skiing are all popular ways of cooling off. Both spots have sandy beaches, perfect for relaxing in the shade or tanning in the island sun.

46. Ross Bay Cemetery

The grounds of the popular Ross Bay Cemetery make for a beautiful walk, so be sure to have your camera ready. Keep an eye out for the graves of some of Victoria’s famous citizens (Emily Carr! Judge Begbie!).

Stroll through Ross Bay Cemetery and you may catch sight of friendly neighborhood deer. Credit: Blake Handley
Stroll through Ross Bay Cemetery and you may catch sight of friendly neighborhood deer. Credit: Blake Handley

47. Lone Tree Hill

Boasting one of the best viewpoints on the island, Lone Tree Hill offers spectacular vistas of the Malahat, the Highlands, Victoria and the distant Olympic Mountains. As an added bonus, the hilltop is an excellent spot for bird watching. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, ravens and turkey vultures riding the winds!

48. Surfing Lessons

Tofino’s reputation for great surf is known across the island, and the town caters to beginning surfers with a handful of fantastic surf schools. A drive along North Tofino’s Campbell Street should turn up more than a few options for getting you out into the swell. Hashtag, #EPIC.

Tofino's wild waves make for one of the best surfing locales on the West Coast. Credit: Michael Swan
Tofino’s wild waves make for one of the best surfing locales on the West Coast. Credit: Michael Swan

49. Westsong Walkway

Cross the Johnson Street Bridge and take the trail, just on the other side, to the beautiful Westsong Walkway to the West Bay Marina. Soak up the views from across the Inner Harbour, then take a Harbour Ferry if you don’t want to walk for your return trip.

50. Circle Tour

Want to explore beyond Victoria’s downtown core? Pick up a set of at Budget downtown and go for a scenic drive along Vancouver Island’s glorious country roads. Travel up the Malahat Highway (Hwy 1) toward Mill Bay, taking time to soak in the views along the way. Grab lunch dockside at Bridgeman’s Bistro before hopping on the Mill Bay Ferry across the Saanich Inlet.

Once you’re on the Saanich Peninsula, take Highway 17A to the Butterfly Gardens at Keating Cross Road, and work your way back to Victoria, stopping by the farms on Oldfield Road.

Take time for a stop along the serene waters of Lake Cowichan on the Marine Circle Route. Credit: Dale Simonson
Take time for a stop along the serene waters of Lake Cowichan on the Marine Circle Route. Credit: Dale Simonson

Nestled on an island overflowing with outdoor activities, unique shops, award-winning gardens and impressive historical sites, Victoria is much more than the sum of its downtown core. Whether you are looking for fresh Northwest fare or a relaxing beachside stroll, there truly an adventure for everyone in Victoria.

Do one, do them all…whatever the case may be, we always want to hear from you and see your photos, so be sure to share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #DiscoverClipper. Happy exploring!

Have a favorite spot in Victoria for a summer escape? Let us know your recommendations in the comments!

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Featured image: Destination Greater Victoria