Fiery orange leaves pop out against a brilliant blue sky. Early morning fog seeps between the trees, hinting at the spooky festivities to come. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we embrace the annual, almost magical, transition to fall.

For some, it’s a fresh start. A chance to celebrate the beginning of a new season and the opportunity to wander down colorful, leaf-filled country roads. For others, it’s about gearing up for the holiday festivities to come, with trips to visit family and friends.

But sometimes we just need a place where we can relive our childhood memories of unapologetically jumping into crunchy mounds of leaves. A place where we can slow down and savor the fine details and uniqueness of the season.

The best part? All of this can be found only a short 2-hour and 45-minute ride away from Seattle on the Victoria Clipper ferry. With activities the whole family can enjoy, Victoria, B.C. is the perfect destination for a quick weekend fall escape. Ready to explore?

Day 1

10:45 a.m. – Victoria Clipper arrives from Seattle into Victoria’s Inner Harbor

11:30 a.m. – The Flying Pig

If there’s one thing you must-do in Victoria, it’s indulging in the all-important weekend brunch. In fact, we’d say it’s practically an institution. With a menu full of inspired dishes, the clean-lined Flying Pig doesn’t disappoint. Thick cut brioche French toast topped with a dollop of whipped cream and wild blueberry compote married with a refreshing rose spritz will quickly land the restaurant on your list of go-to spots for superb eats.

1:00 p.m. – The Butchart Gardens

Catch a luxury, double-decker motorcoach to The Butchart Gardens to see Mother Nature work her magic to transform all 55 acres into glowing oranges, russets, reds and golds. Crunch through dry, fallen leaves carpeting the ground and a colorful array of dahlias ranging from the size of tablespoons to dinner plates compete with the trees for your attention. Find your inner Zen at the tranquil Japanese Garden.

A rainbow of dahlias makes for the perfect Instagram shot. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
A rainbow of dahlias makes for the perfect Instagram shot. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

With glancing rays of golden sunlight combined with a grove of Japanese maples awash in a kaleidoscope of fiery colors, as well as fewer crowds, it is the perfect scenic sanctuary.

Afterward, indulge in one of the property’s coziest traditions – afternoon tea at the Dining Room Restaurant. Sip on a perfectly steeped steaming cup of tea and dig into three-tiers of hand-sized, house-made treats!

(Insider tip: In November, take advantage of the rare chance to see behind the scenes in some of 26 greenhouses and chat with staff gardeners on a guided one-hour tour.)

Chock-full of trickling streams, nothing is more peaceful than the Japanese Gardens. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Chock-full of trickling streams, nothing is more peaceful than the Japanese Gardens. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

5:45 p.m. – Hotel Grand Pacific

A mere two-minute walk along the waterfront from the Clipper Belleville terminal, the Hotel Grand Pacific is an oceanside gem and the perfect home-base for the weekend. A modern recently renovated property, the hotel boasts bright, airy rooms and unbeatable views of the Inner Harbour, Olympic Mountains and surrounding city.

Delight in stunning vistas of Victoria's Inner Harbour. Credit: Hotel Grand Pacific
Delight in stunning vistas of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Credit: Hotel Grand Pacific

Once you manage to pull yourself away from your room, go for a dip in the on-site athletic club’s heated Olympic size lap pool.

Or kick back in the sauna while little tykes splash and play in their own kid’s pool.

Looking to really relax during your stay? Sign up for a fitness class and get in touch with your inner yogi or find utter contentment by the peaceful, mirrored pond. Meanwhile, the kiddos won’t be able to resist feeding the resident ducks as well as feasting on the tasty snacks available in the pre-order fridges. Can you say house-made cookies? Book this hotel with Clipper, learn more.

Enjoy a relaxing hot tub soak and then cool off with dip in the pool. Credit: Hotel Grand Pacific
Enjoy a relaxing hot tub soak and then cool off with a dip in the pool. Credit: Hotel Grand Pacific

6:00 p.m. – Saveur

At the lively, brick-walled Saveur restaurant, award-winning Chef Robert Cassels’ diverse menu blows way past your traditional French fare. Focused on transforming local Island ingredients into playful and elegant seasonal dishes, Cassels works closely with the farmers, foragers, and fisheries of Vancouver Island to serve up a rotating selection of French-inspired preparations.

Go big ordering off the tasting menu for a five-course feast of well-executed plates paired with hand-picked local wines. You also can’t go wrong sampling the Haida Gwaii Spring Salmon or Cowichan Valley Chicken off the la carte menu. Either way, be prepared for an elevated dining experience.

7:30 p.m. – Ghostly Walks Tour  

Not afraid of the dark, are you? Grab a lantern and follow Victoria’s pre-eminent historian, John Adams (or one of his expert storytellers), on hand-picked routes past some of the city’s spookiest haunts. The ghostly walks tour wanders through original brick alleyways and courtyards surrounding Old Town, Chinatown, Bastion Square and Helmcken Alley.

Wander down Victoria’s historic alleys to get up close and personal with spooks. Credit: Discover the Past Tours
Wander down Victoria’s historic alleys to get up close and personal with spooks. Credit: Discover the Past Tours

Listen to spell-binding stories and hair-raising tales of eccentric citizens, heroic deeds, tragic accidents and paranormal events that bring Victoria’s dark past to life. Those chills up your spine? We’ll leave it up to you to decide if they’re from an errant gust of wind or the spirit of an early settler who continues to make his mark on the city. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

9:00 p.m. – Clarke & Co.

Duck into the hip, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Clarke & Co. bar for a cocktail-forward menu created with locally-distilled spirits and house-made ingredients. With an inviting 14-seat, New York-style bar and whiz mixologist Ryan Broekhuizen behind the counter, you’ll instantly feel at home in this intimate little space.

Sample a variety of delicious concoctions at the cozy Clarke and Co. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria
Sample a variety of delicious concoctions at the cozy Clarke and Co. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Be adventurous and opt for an off-menu option such as the frothy-sweet Balkan Market, a concoction of Chilean pisco and Slivovitz plum brandy. Or get a taste of Canada with the Maple Butter Smoked Old Fashioned. Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to scoop up a handful of the free, olive oil-popped popcorn. Yum!

Day 2

8:00 a.m. – Bard and Banker

Opened in 1885 as the Bank of British Columbia, the building that houses the Bard & Banker has a history as rich as a fine bourbon. While the stately spot may be best-known for serving up soul-warming, two-finger pours of whiskey, with Chef Sol Tainui at the helm, it has also become a prime spot to indulge in some breakfast classics.

Situated right in the heart of downtown, The Bard & Banker has been our go to pub for many years. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria
Situated right in the heart of downtown, The Bard & Banker has been our go-to pub for many years. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

With a $9 price tag on breakfasts before 9:00 am, it is hard to say no to oven-baked French toast topped with fresh berries and caramel sauce. Combined with a cup of locally-roasted Discovery Coffee, you’ll feel as though you have won the breakfast lottery.

9:45 a.m. – Cowichan Valley Wine Tour

Need some time to unwind? Journey into the heart of Vancouver Island on the Cowichan Valley Wine Tour. Venturing into this seemingly untouched paradise, urban storefronts quickly give way to old-growth rainforests and snow-capped mountains. It’s hard not to feel a bit of PNW nature giddiness filling your soul as the glittering waters of the Saanich Inlet cutting through the rugged terrain come into view.

Taste some of Vancouver Island’s finest wines at Blue Grouse's sprawling vineyards. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria
Taste some of Vancouver Island’s finest wines at Blue Grouse’s sprawling vineyards. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

While away the day at three award-winning vineyards, and sip your way through generous samples of Pinot Gris, Ortega and Cabernet Franc at Venturi-Schulze Vineyard, Blue Grose Estate Winery and Vineyard as well as Enrico Winery. Capped by a farm-to-table lunch and cider tasting at Merridale Cidery, there’s no better way to get into the spirit of the season.

4:45 p.m. – Fernwood Shopping & Belfry Theatre

Expand beyond your familiar boundaries and catch an 11-minute cab ride out to the artsy neighborhood of Fernwood for a quick tour of the local shopping scene. Head inside the well-designed Pigeonhole Home Store (the building itself even looks like a house!) to peruse a curated collection of antiques, glassware, rugs, books and more. Or check out the bright, airy Luna Collective. A longstanding community favorite, this is a one-stop-shop for vintage threads and handmade finds. Shopping has never been easier.

Catch a show inside the historic Belfry Theater. Credit: JMV
Catch a show inside the historic Belfry Theater. Credit: JMV

If it’s more culture you’re after, swing the by the historic Belfry Theatre. Housed in former Baptist Church built between 1887 and 1892, the property boasts a stunning steeple and Gothic architecture and is now home to the talented Belfry Theatre Company.

6:30 p.m. – Stage Wine Bar

Chic, snug and located across the street from Fernwood Square, Stage Wine Bar offers the perfect spot to debrief and refuel post-shopping-spree or show. Order up a few of the restaurant’s shareable small plates, such as crispy Pommes Frites and pillows of gnocchi, and you’ll quickly silence any rumbling tummies.

Relax with a glass of wine and tasty bites at Stage Wine Bar. Credit: Andi Whiskey
Relax with a glass of wine and tasty bites at Stage Wine Bar. Credit: Andi Whiskey

The sophisticated watering hole features a wide selection of the good stuff along with carefully curated cocktails. When it comes time to pair your pours, scan the bar’s extensive wine list, chalkboard of unique offerings or ask the friendly, expert staff to point you in the right direction.

Day 3

9:45 a.m. – Nautical Nellies

A phenomenal seafood and steak restaurant for more than 20 years, Wharf Street’s Nautical Nellies is a relative newcomer to the renowned Victoria brunch scene and one of the city’s hidden gems for serving up delicious mid-morning eats. Put Canada’s breakfast staple – Eggs Benedict – to the test and sample the decadent crab cake or lobster Benny.

Fuel up for a day of exploring with a hearty breakfast at Nautical Nellies. Credit: Constance Chen
Fuel up for a day of exploring with a hearty breakfast at Nautical Nellies. Credit: Constance Chen

Or combine both yummy crustaceans with everyone’s beloved veggie – the avocado – for the most mouth-watering avocado toast around. On top of the excellent food, fantastic ocean-front views of the Inner Harbour mixed with the hum of conversation and soft clatter of dishes from the kitchen make for a great dining experience.

10:30 a.m. – Hoods, Castles and Legends Bike Tour

There’s something about crisp air and colorful leaves drifting down from the trees like multi-colored snowflakes that calls for a bike ride. Pop over to the fully-stocked Pedaler Tours and Bike Rentals on Belleville Street to pick up some wheels. Roll through Victoria’s scenic neighborhoods, past the iconic Craigdarroch Castle and historic Chinatown.

(Insider tip: With more 39 rooms brimming with elegant Victorian-era furnishings and spooky history, popping inside the towering stone building to geek out over the castle’s impeccable stained-glass windows and spectacular city views is well worth the trip.)

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

On the way back to Victoria’s core, make a detour through the scenic Beacon Hill Park. Come fall, this 200-acre urban oasis bursts with colors reminiscent of those you’d find in a crayon box – scarlet, burnt sienna and goldenrod. It’s simply stunning. Book this tour with Clipper, learn more.

Pedal along quiet roads and soak in scenic forest views. Credit: Lucas Anderson
Pedal along quiet roads and soak in scenic forest views. Credit: Lucas Anderson

12:00 p.m. – Lobby Lounge at the Fairmont Empress

After pedaling in the cool autumn air, tuck into the elegant and inviting Fairmont Empress to warm up and refuel with afternoon tea. Be prepared to make some serious decisions when choosing among 21 of the finest loose-leaf teas and what to eat first from the three tiers of tasty treats.

Toast to a day of relaxation at the Fairmont Empress: Credit: The Fairmont Empress
Toast to a day of relaxation at the Fairmont Empress: Credit: The Fairmont Empress

1:45 p.m. – Royal BC Museum

With a new, featured exhibit each year, when it comes to history and culture, the Royal BC Museum is the ultimate authority. On the heels of last year’s record-breaking Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs, the museum’s new exhibition, Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises allows you to discover the mystery, legacy and resilience of one of the world’s greatest civilizations. But the dramatic collection of more than 300 precious jade, ceramic, gold, stone and textile artifacts isn’t the only thing that makes this Victoria institution special.

Get up close and personal with a 3D-printed replica of this massive, 10-foot long statue. Credit: The Royal BC Museum
Get up close and personal with a 3D-printed replica of this massive, 10-foot long statue. Credit: The Royal BC Museum

The museum has made a concerted effort to showcase several permanent interactive exhibits to allow junior explorers and adults to experience the region’s history first hand. Get a peek at what life was like in 1880s Victoria, dive underneath the ocean’s depths or stand next to woolly mammoths and grizzles. To top it off, you’ll also find a life-size model of the city of Victoria at the turn of the 19th century, a native plant garden, First Nations totem poles as well as an IMAX theater with the largest screen in BC.

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

4:00 p.m. – Clipper Terminal (5:00 p.m. departure)

Before you know it, it’s time to hop back on the Victoria Clipper ferry for the return voyage to Seattle. Relax in your comfy seats and catch one final spectacular view – the sun filling the sky with an orange and golden glow before it drops below the horizon.

Duck out onto the back deck of the Clipper V to catch amazing views as you cruise out of the Inner Harbour.
Duck out onto the back deck of the Clipper V to catch amazing views as you cruise out of the Inner Harbour.

Book Your Victoria Trip Now

Feature photo: The Butchart Gardens