Boasting luxury hotels decked out in opulent decor, award-winning restaurants featuring delectable cuisine that appeals to every taste, amazing shopping and easily accessible opportunities for sightseeing and recreation, Victoria is quickly bridging a new connection with younger travelers.

Only a short and scenic ride away from Seattle through the Salish Sea, Victoria is the perfect destination for a less-stress weekend filled with a little retail and spa therapy. Grab your gal pals and use this guide to plan a weekend trip to Victoria, whether for a bachelorette party, mom and daughter time or even if you just need a 48 hour escape.

Stay

Sparkling waters span out in front of the Pacific-Rim inspired Inn at Laurel Point.
Sparkling waters span out in front of the Pacific-Rim inspired Inn at Laurel Point.

Perched on the edge of the Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the luxurious Inn at Laurel Point offers a serene escape from everyday life. Airy rooms give you space to breathe, while glass walls welcome in the sun’s warm rays. Relax and enjoy a soak in your marble-ensconced bathroom or simply enjoy the spectacular harbor views from your private patio.

Once you pull yourself away from your room, go for a swim in the glass-encased indoor pool or lounge on the nearby sundeck in the hotel’s Japanese gardens. Furthermore, the award-winning AURA Waterfront Restaurant + Patio is nothing to sneeze at. Fresh local fish, produce and herbs are served up daily along with vintage wines and stellar beers sourced locally from the neighborhood.

Featuring turn of the century architecture, The Empress is the cornerstone of Victoria's Inner Harbour.
Featuring turn of the century architecture, The Empress is the cornerstone of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

The elegant, ivy-covered Fairmont Empress is another favorite hotel of ours. A renowned local landmark, the grand and historic hotel has hosted celebrities, royalty and guests from around the world and sits steps away from Victoria’s city center along with a slew of cultural attractions.

The hotel’s newly redecorated rooms use a warm, rich color palette of brown, taupe, gray and cream to create a classic look with a modern touch inspired by Vancouver Island’s gardens and sea. Combined with a restaurant featuring delightful local cuisine and carefully curated libations, an elegant tea room and a well-appointed 8,000 square foot spa, and you may have a hard time finding a reason to venture off the property grounds.

Taste

With a focus on simplifying healthy eating, you find Nourish's menu is packed with dishes brimming with seasonal ingredients and flavors. Credit: Scott Meis
With a focus on simplifying healthy eating, you find Nourish’s menu is packed with dishes brimming with seasonal ingredients and flavors. Credit: Scott Meis

A short two minute walk from Clipper’s Victoria terminal, the hidden culinary gem Nourish Kitchen and Café is the perfect spot to grab a late brunch once you have arrived in the city. Feast on the spiced “Sleeping Beauty” oatmeal pancakes, topped with a sweet vanilla bean organic whipped cream and bee pollen sprinkles or the flavorful “Benny in the Moment,” a healthy, nontraditional take on Victoria’s favorite brunch item, eggs Benedict. A little insider hint, don’t skip the house made water kefir, refreshing and packed with probiotics, it’s quickly becoming one of our go-to drinks.

Classic French country-style fare meets seasonal, local ingredients to result in sumptuous dishes well worth the wait at the popular bistro Brasserie L’ecole. The restaurant is famed for their mussels and frites…shellfish fans, this is a must-try. If you feel like spending the night on the town, head to the unique, unassuming gastro-speakeasy Little Jumbo for a late night cocktail. The bar’s extensive, 15-page drink menu is carefully crafted and the skilled mixologists will be more than happy to whip up specialty drinks for you.

Tasty treats piled high at afternoon tea. Photo Courtesy of the Fairmont Empress
Tasty treats piled high at afternoon tea. Photo Courtesy of the Fairmont Empress

And of course, a visit to Victoria is not complete without giving yourself the royal treatment and experiencing the famous the Fairmont Empress’ Afternoon Tea. More luxurious than presumptuous, the rich, vintage furnishings and delicate William Edwards china filling the Tea Lobby creates a cozy retreat where you can cuddle up with a warm cuppa.

Sip on the Empress’ special blend of full-bodied floral black tea while you snack on a three-tiered plate of dainty tea sandwiches and decadent desserts ranging from savory salmon pinwheels to sweet chocolate délice. In addition, the fresh-from-the-oven scones slathered with sweet strawberry preserves and thick Jersey cream are sure to make your mouth water.

Play

Rows upon rows of grapes fill the vineyards of Cowichan Valley. Photo Courtesy of Island Time Tours
Rows upon rows of grapes fill the vineyards of Cowichan Valley. Photo Courtesy of Island Time Tours

Journey past magnificent mountains, coastal villages, towering old-growth rainforests and sprawling farmlands as you travel 40 minutes outside of Victoria to the heart of Vancouver Island’s wine country on the Cowichan Valley Wine Tour. Sip on generous samples of the region’s award-winning Pinot Gris and medium-bodied reds at three small, family-owned wineries where you will have the opportunity to enjoy a tasty snack of local artisanal cheese and chat with the winemakers.

For fresh coastal air and a little exercise, ride through Victoria on the Eat, Drink and Pedal Bicycle Tour. This rolling culinary adventure will allow you to see the city from a local’s perspective, with stops at secret hot spots to taste everything from handmade pizza to creamy ice cream.

Experience Victoria from a new height as you fly above the tree tops on a zipline adventure. Photo Courtesy of AdrenaLINE Zipline Adventure Tours
Experience Victoria from a new height as you fly above the tree tops on a zipline adventure. Photo Courtesy of AdrenaLINE Zipline Adventure Tours

If you are looking for something a little more exhilarating, zip through pristine evergreen trees high above the Sooke rainforest on the AdrenaLINE Zipline Adventure Tour. Eight zip lines ranging from 150-1,000 feet long and up to 150 feet high allow you to experience another side of the region with a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy and spectacular mountain and ocean vistas.

After a day of exploring, your gal pals can find calm at the beautiful waterfront oasis that is the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Empress. Ranked as one of Conde Nast’s Top Resort Spas in Canada, there are seemingly endless ways to pamper yourself. Indulge in one of their 85 luxurious spa treatments, which range from full-body Swedish style relaxation massages to deep-cleansing facials. Then let your stress melt away with a soak in their Hungarian Mineral pool or trip to the eucalyptus steam room and sauna.

Shop

Explore an array of shops in Victoria's vibrant Old Towne. Photo Courtesy of Deanne Gillespie at Tourism Victoria
Explore an array of shops in Victoria’s vibrant Old Towne. Photo Courtesy of Deanne Gillespie at Tourism Victoria

Of course, a little retail therapy is an essential part of any girls weekend. Known for its array of local and independent boutiques, colorful public markets full of locally produced goods and lively shopping centers, Victoria is one of our favorite places find new threads. Fashionistas should be sure to check out the trendy Johnson Street, a hotspot for locals that houses everything from vintage clothing to custom-made bags in restored heritage buildings.

If the imaginative displays gracing the windows of Little Gold do not catch your eye, the delicate handmade gold and silver baubles inside this adorable little jewelry store certainly will. Snag a trio of stackable rings or opal adorned studs that appear to be lit from within.

When it comes to clothes, we recommend scouring the racks at Suasion for the most of-the-moment duds ranging from designer denim from Citizens of Humanity to colorfully hip dresses from Line and Dot. Or, if you need a gift for your bibliophile friend, stop by the stylishly low-tech Regional Assembly of Text to craft your own custom-made button or browse through metal filing cabinets chalk full of handmade cards, books, journals and lettered goods.

Unique boutiques, art galleries and cafes line the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley.
Unique boutiques, art galleries and cafes line the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley.

Brimming with an abundance of unique shops, Victoria’s thriving and vibrant Chinatown also offers a treasure trove of trinkets. Once a noodle factory, the airy Fan Tan Home and Style has been in Victoria for more than 40 years and has become a staple for superb home décor and furniture.

Look for exotic fair trade rugs and baskets from overseas, locally crafted wood furniture, colorful plates, funky socks, cozy throws and gifts made out of recycled materials, like cans and tin. Before you leave, be sure to say “hi” to the very big black cat who guards the shop. If you need to refuel after all your shopping, take a breather at the minimalistic Silk Road Tea and sip your way from everything from green to black tea at the shop’s tasting bar before selecting the perfect blend to take home with you.

Whether you want to sample local wines or dine on incredible cuisine, Victoria offers an endless array of captivating activities. Spending a weekend in Victoria is the ultimate way to enjoy some relaxing downtime with your girls.