Victoria. History. Two words that go hand in hand when thinking about British Columbia’s capital city. The grand turquoise dome-topped Parliament Buildings hold court over one end of the Inner Harbour. Vibrant hand-carved native totem poles tower above popular Thunderbird Park. But the host of buildings and landmarks filling Victoria’s downtown core are far from the city’s only attraction.

There’s the peaceful sea. An entire island encircled by glistening deep blue waters. There’s no shortage of world-class local cuisine and places to cuddle up with a cozy cup of delicious tea. Nestled into the city’s surrounding neighborhoods are a host of charming historic homes built by the city’s founding families. The best part? All of this can be found in the quaint James Bay neighborhood directly across from Victoria Clipper’s terminal. Ready to start exploring?

Day 1

10:45 a.m. – Pendray Inn Check-in

Upon arriving on the Clipper in Victoria, a short two-minute stroll across the street lands you at the Pendray Inn’s historic 1890 building. An iconic fixture in the city’s Inner Harbour, the property is surrounded by manicured rose gardens (some of the original plants are said to still grow on the grounds), world-renowned topiary gardens, scenic ponds and cobblestone pathways.

Kick back and relax inside the quaint Pendray Inn. Credit: Pendray Inn
Kick back and relax inside the quaint Pendray Inn. Credit: Pendray Inn

Once the home of White Swan soap factory owner William Joseph Pendray and his family, checking into this magnificent Queen Anne-style mansion is the equivalent of immersing yourself in a bygone era. Immediately upon arrival, details become the focal point. Flames flicker inside an elegant, old-fashioned fireplace. The sun casts tiny rainbows of light across a wooden staircase as it shines through a beautiful stained glass window boasting the Pendray family monogram.

Wander up the Pendray Inn staircase to catch sigh of stunning stained glass window. Credit: Scott Meis
Wander up the Pendray Inn staircase to catch sight of stunning stained glass window. Credit: Scott Meis

Upstairs, the Old-World charm thread continues. Each of nine unique guest rooms has its own personality and color scheme. Simply put, the ambiance of the property feels worlds apart from the urban hustle and bustle. Book this hotel with Clipper, learn more.

11:30 a.m. – Afternoon Tea at Pendray Tea House

Drop your bags off at the front desk and pop into the adjoining Pendray Tea House. Do as the Victorians did and sit down for the quintessential tradition of afternoon tea. With its rich wood accents and antique furnishings (including an old-school Victrola complete with vinyl records), the space is absolutely incredible.

Beautiful crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Hand-painted frescos grace the ceilings of the parlor and the dining room. Stained glass in stunning designs and colors fill the windows (they were shipped all the way from Venice in molasses so they wouldn’t break). Emma Warren, Pendray Inn Sales & Event Coordinator, states “You just don’t see things like this in homes anymore.” Yet, somehow the tea house manages to maintain a down-to-earth and comfortable vibe, inviting you to appreciate the slower pace of times past.

Don't miss the stunning chandeliers hanging from the tea house ceiling. Credit: Scott Meis
Don’t miss the stunning chandeliers hanging from the tea house ceiling. Credit: Scott Meis

One glance at the tea menu filled with a diverse array of TWG teas available for your sipping pleasure and it’s no surprise that an estimated 16,825 pots are served each year. The tea house is the only spot on Vancouver Island where you can get TWG Tea’s blends imported from Singapore.

If you have a tough time choosing one tea to satisfy your curiosity, have everyone in your party order a different pot to share. We recommend TWG Tea’s renowned signature 1837 Black Tea, a classic blend of black tea with notes of fruits and flowers or the Crème Caramel Tea, a blend of sweet spices that is almost like a dessert itself. When your brew is ready to serve, Utu says, “One of our traditions in serving tea is to pour the liquid in a clockwise motion. It’s supposed to mean you’re welcome here.”

Elegant and highly refined, TWG Tea's blend of green tea and refreshing, ripe southern fruits infuses into a fragrant cup Photo: Scott Meis
Elegant and highly refined, TWG Tea’s blend of green tea and refreshing, ripe southern fruits infuses into a fragrant cup Photo: Scott Meis

And let’s not forget about the treats. Spoon up a bowl of creamy, roasted butternut squash soup, a new addition to the tea houses’ seasonal menu. Utu adds, “The new winter menu focuses on establishing a fusion of complementary flavors to induce an exquisite seasonal flair. Our delicately handcrafted swans are certainly our favorite dessert on the afternoon tea menu!”

Macrons, cream-filled puff pastries and more top Pendray's three-tiered platter. Credit: Scott Meis
Macrons, cream-filled puff pastries and more top Pendray’s three-tiered platter. Credit: Scott Meis

Before you know it, a sleek three-tiered platter arrives at your table. Every level is stacked with locally-produced goodies, made in-house. Even the edible flowers decorating the tiers are sourced from an herb farm on the island. Everything is matched perfectly with the tea, from the expertly coiled smoked salmon pinwheels right down to the pumpkin spice and Earl Gray-infused scones.

Afternoon tea is a white cloth experience inside the historic Pendray Teahouse. Credit: Scott Meis
Afternoon tea is a white cloth experience inside the historic Pendray Teahouse. Credit: Scott Meis

While it’s easy to get caught up in the amazing food and conversation, don’t forget to look up every so often to soak in the outstanding views. There are few more enjoyable places to sit and watch all the action in the Inner Harbour. What’s not to love? Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

1:15 p.m. – Historic James Bay Neighborhood 

Exploring Victoria’s downtown core is a must-do for first-time visitors. Yet sometimes it’s good to push beyond your familiar boundaries and discover a new location. Surrounded by water on three sides and with walkable pathways, the charming bedroom community of James Bay is an easy pick.

The scenic James Bay neighborhood is the perfect locale for an afternoon stroll. Credit: Scott Meis
The scenic James Bay neighborhood is the perfect locale for an afternoon stroll. Credit: Scott Meis

Meander down Kingston and St. Lawrence Street, where more than a half dozen historic properties line the road. Keep an eye out for the Italianate Hollybank, Edwardian Haterleigh and Queen Anne-style Spring Cottage. All of the homes boast storybook-like details, such as turrets, double chimneys, wraparound porches and spires.

Colorful heritage homes in Edwardian styles fill James Bay. Credit: Herb Neufeld
Colorful heritage homes in Edwardian styles fill James Bay. Credit: Herb Neufeld

3:00 p.m. – Dallas Road

Burn off that extra scone you ate at tea and continue your tour away from the city center. Head down Belleville Street to where the road meets the coast. Snaking around the southern end of Victoria, the spectacular Dallas Road will stop you in your tracks with wraparound expansive views.

Soak in jaw-dropping vistas from the smooth Dallas Road.
Soak in jaw-dropping vistas from the smooth Dallas Road.

Salty-fresh air hits the lungs as you pass beautiful, rugged rocky beaches. On a clear day, you can see nearly all the way to the city of Port Angeles. The smooth and peaceful trail makes for easy walking. Before you know it, you’ve made the 2-mile trek from Holland Point to the wind-swept Clover Point.  As a reward, you’ll be greeted by more incredible vistas and glimpses of daredevil hang gliders and windsurfers as they skim along, chasing their next adrenaline rush.

5:15 p.m. – Happy Hour at Breakwater Bistro

Need to give your feet a rest? Duck into the cozy, seaside Breakwater Bistro for a soul-warming cocktail. Continue taking in unbeatable views or even catch sight of a whale or seal as it cruises past. Head down to the Bistros’ brand new tasting room, where the brews are local and the cocktails are first-rate.

Sip on the Pistol Pete, which offers a chance to sample Victoria Distillers’ popular, color-changing Empress 1908 Gin (yes, it is named after the elegant hotel and transforms into a vivid purple hue when mixed with tonic or citrus).

Steps from Ogden Point, the Breakwater Bistro serves up excellent eats and fantastic views. Credit: Scott Meis
Steps from Ogden Point, the Breakwater Bistro serves up excellent eats and fantastic views. Credit: Scott Meis

 7:00 p.m. – Sunset at Ogden Point

Sunset is the time to be at one of the city’s man-made wonders, the Breakwater at Ogden Point. Situated off the Dallas Road, the seawall juts one-half mile (800 meters) into the sea, keeping the harbor’s waters calm. Amble out to the end of the walkway and be prepared to fall into a staring contest with Mother Nature.

This time of day, the sun’s rays fill the horizon with rosy golden hues. Waves lap against the walls of the Breakwater in a soothing, rhythmic pattern. Sweeping views of the Olympics abound, forming a jagged blue ridge towering above the waters. One can only wonder whether there is a better spot in the world to soak in an amazing sunset.

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

(Inside tip: Don’t miss the brightly-painted “Unity Wall” stretching along the side of the Breakwater. It was designed to honor the traditions and history of Esquimalt and Songhees Nations who treasure Victoria’s waters. The wolf head motif on the top of the wall represents family unity between the two nations, while the other images of the mural depict the region’s wildlife, land and history.)

8:25 p.m. – Dinner at Il Covo

Housed in a former church and specializing in traditional Italian cuisine, the family-owned and operated Il Covo Trattoria serves up a one-two Italian punch. One step inside the rustic space and you feel like you’ve walked off the street into a warm, Old-World trattoria. Almost everything on the menu is made in-house or from the area and are inspired by family recipes and dishes from all regions of Italy.

Cozy up in this 100-year-old heritage home and feast on a variety of excellent eats. Credit: Il Covo
Cozy up in this 100-year-old heritage home and feast on a variety of excellent eats. Credit: Il Covo

Dine on the cannelloni stuffed with ricotta, spinach, crab and lobster or a tender slice of veal, simmered in a white wine lemon sauce and topped with sage and prosciutto. If you can’t settle on a dish, opt to go family-style and let Chef Rafael chose four courses for you and your crew to share over the course of the evening. (Inside tip: Stop by on a warm day, slip into the restaurant’s secret split-level patio and dine in this romantic garden surrounded by lush foliage.)

Sample fantastic eats crafted from northern Italian family recipes. Credit: Il Covo
Sample fantastic eats crafted from northern Italian family recipes. Credit: Il Covo

Day 2

10:45 a.m. – Breakfast at Nourish

At the airy, light-filled Nourish Kitchen and Café, owner Haley Rosenberg’s diverse menu blows way past your traditional pancakes and eggs. Focused on re-imagining natural ingredients into seasonal dishes, the restaurant aims to simplify healthy eating by serving wholesome, locally-sourced food.

Rosenberg’s simple philosophy is “Eat with People You Love.” She says, “It guides us in our day to day business here. Eating food that honors the natural rhythms of nature is a very, very powerful opportunity to connect to our environment.”

Coffee cups wait to be filled with delicious brews in this sunlit cafe. Credit: Scott Meis
Coffee cups wait to be filled with delicious brews in this sunlit cafe. Credit: Scott Meis

Everything is delicious. Try the “Benny’s Gone Nuts,” for a fresh take on the classic eggs Benedict. Combining two soft poached eggs with sweet potatoes, kale and a creamy cashew hollandaise sauce, this is a treat that is anything but ordinary. Have sweet tooth? Feast on the spiced “Sleeping Beauty” oatmeal pancakes, topped with sweet vanilla bean organic whipped cream, bee pollen sprinkles and a drizzle of Canada’s finest maple syrup.

Bright, airy rooms provide the perfect place to relax or grab a quick bite. Credit: Scott Meis
Bright, airy rooms provide the perfect place to relax or grab a quick bite. Credit: Scott Meis

1:00 p.m. – Fisherman’s Wharf

Stretch your legs and make the short jaunt to Fisherman’s Wharf. Wander the docks as they creak and bob with the tide and check out the dozens of charming houseboats. Keep an eye out for friendly harbor seals or cheerful yellow harbor ferries and snap a shot of them cruising past the multi-hued homes.

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

2:00 p.m. – Lunch at Smoke & Anchor

Affectionately dubbed the “little shack on the dock” by locals, Smoke and Anchor is hands-down the best spot on Fisherman’s Wharf to go for a quick bite. Dig into the smoked beef brisket. A delicious combination of BBQ sauce, coleslaw, pickles and lemon aioli stacked on top of tender beef flavored with smoky goodness is sure to hit the spot. Want to try something different? Pair your lunch with a generous portion of rosemary and truffle salt fries with savory garlic aioli. Yum!

2:45 p.m. – Inner Harbor stroll

To get a unique perspective on Victoria’s downtown core, walk along the granite causeway that skits the Inner Harbour. An impressive number of historical landmarks and distinctive buildings surround the outer perimeter. The iconic, elegant Fairmont Empress hotel sits across from the marina.

Drink in the picturesque views of the boats bobbing in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Credit: Scott Meis
Drink in the picturesque views of the boats bobbing in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Credit: Scott Meis

To the left, the stately Parliament Buildings dominate the other end of the Inner Harbour. Grab a seat on one of the benches along the way and soak in the majesty. Gaze out at the marina bursting with a forest of sailboat masts and check out boats, both big and small, as they glide in and out of the Inner Harbour.

4:00 p.m. – Clipper cruise to Seattle

After a fabulous weekend in Victoria, make your way back to the Clipper for the 2-hour and 45-minute cruise back to Seattle. As the boat pulls out of the harbor, take one last look at the Victoria skyline and watch the impressive rooster-tails spray out behind the boat. Don’t forget to keep an eye on those Olympics as sunset approaches, you’re front and center for the best show in the Northwest.

Catch a phenomenal sunset from the back deck of the Victoria Clipper on the cruise back to Seattle.
Catch a phenomenal sunset from the back deck of the Victoria Clipper on the cruise back to Seattle.

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Featured Photo: Brenna Ciummo