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Visiting Victoria Canada? These are the best things to do!

Updated: May 12

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Victoria, British Columbia Canada, the capital city of British Columbia, is an enchanting cruise port in the Pacific Northwest that boasts majestic views and exciting activities for exploring travelers. The city, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, attracts visitors from all over the world, particularly cruise visitors. Victoria's picturesque scenery, charming architecture, and bustling culinary scene make it a standout destination for vacation and travel enthusiasts. Whether you're seeking adventure or looking for a relaxing shore excursion, Victoria, British Columbia Canada, is a must-visit destination. Most commonly known as a port stop on an Alaska Cruise, it is one that should not be skipped. If you are traveling Princess Cruise Line, you usually will have a stop in the port of Victoria.

Parliament Buildings
Parliament Buildings

This blog will help you decide what are the best things to do in Victoria Canada. If you are here on a cruise ship and just have a few hours for shore excursions, or if you are planning an extended stay in Victoria for lots of exploring in this capital city of British Columbia, this will be your go to list. Even some info on how to get to Victoria from Seattle or Vancouver. For either cruise ship season or flying into the city. This stop is most common for the summer months, its mild climate in the summer can be quite chilly in the winter. With the lights at night and the ocean right next door, this is truly a beautiful city.

More on Victoria and History.

Victoria Harbor
Victoria harbor

Victoria is actually south of the city of Vancouver and close to the US border, the Haro Strait is actually all that separates this island area from the United States. Vancouver is also close to the border, just northeast of Victoria. The Olympic Mountains of North America in the Pacific Northwest helps to give this area its wonderful views and scenic nature sights.

As for distance from Seattle Washington, it can vary on how much you want to spend to get there, but regardless a ferry will have to be involved. A 3-hour ferry ride from Seattle can cost anywhere between $120 to $240. The cheapest way is to drive to Port Angeles in Washington and take a ferry from there, but that could take you up to 6 hours, depending on if you drive a car, ride a train or take a bus. But it is more cost effective and as cheap as $42 for the ferry ride from Port Angeles to Victoria.

Distance from Vancouver is much better at under 4 hours for bus/ferry. If taking a ferry from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and land at Swartz Bay, it will be around 2 hours, and will cost more than $50.

With its location, just across the border, and not far away from Vancouver, it is great to know that there is an international Airport located there. Victoria International Airport has arrivals and departures with 11 carriers including Air Canada, Alaska Air and WestJet, plus many more.

Nestled on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria, Canada, is more than just a scenic city. It's a canvas painted with the broad strokes of history, dotted with vibrant splashes of modern adventure. This post is a love letter to Victoria, a city that stands as a testament to Canada's rich heritage and an invitation to those who seek to immerse themselves in the beauty of the past while eagerly reaching for the thrills of the present.

Inner Harbor

Our story begins with the First Nations, the original inhabitants of the land, whose rich culture and history are woven into the fabric of Victoria's identity. Coast Salish First Nations were in the area long before the European and Spanish discovery. In the late 1700’s James Cook visited the area and Spanish explorer Juan Perez did too, 4 years before Cook. A settlement called Esquimalt Harbour was the first Spanish settlement where Victoria is located today. Fast forward to 1843, and the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company's trading post, Fort Victoria, marked the birth of the city as we know it. Named after Queen Victoria, this little trading post blossomed into the vibrant capital of British Columbia. This was all thanks to James Douglas. Did you know that the most popular item imported back from China was opium at this point in time. Opium was banned in 1908.

Imagine strolling through the streets of early Victoria, where the air buzzed with the spirit of exploration and the promise of new beginnings. This was a place where adventurers, traders, and dreamers converged, each leaving their mark on the city’s evolving story. And eventually gold miners. As news spread that gold was found in the Yukon territory, the port of Victoria was very busy for traders and miners heading north. This also caused a population boom in the area. After the boom there was an epidemic of smallpox which devastated the native community. 2/3rds of the native population died due to this epidemic. After that the area became the home of the Royal Navy and the area continued to grow.

Victoria's architectural marvels are like gateways to different eras. The majestic British Columbia Parliament Buildings, with their sparkling lights, speak of a city that's proud of its roots. The Empress Hotel, standing regal since 1908, whispers tales of opulent gatherings and royal visits, inviting you to step back into an era of refined elegance.

But Victoria's charm doesn't rest solely on its past. The city is alive with the energy of the present, from the bustling Inner Harbour, where modern yachts nestle alongside classic sailboats, to the vibrant streets of downtown, filled with art, music, and culinary delights that reflect the city's diverse culture.

Best things to do in Victoria Canada, my favorite things.


Exploring the Inner Harbor. a significant attraction in Victoria, BC. The harbor, surrounded by lush gardens and scenic pathways, is the home to a bustling marina. The Inner Harbor is the hub of cruise ship activities with multiple vessels docking daily during the season, which runs from April to October. Visitors can take to the water in a paddleboat or a ferry and explore the harbor's serene beauty. The harbor is also home to several attractions, such as the Royal BC Museum, the Maritime Museum of BC, and the Parliament buildings. Exploring the beautiful grounds of the parliament buildings are great, the building is massive. The best way to view this city is walking Victoria’s inner harbour area.

Picture from the cruise ship
Picture from the cruise ship

Fisherman's Wharf is a vibrant and colorful floating village that serves the local fishing community. The wharf is a fun destination for exploring with fish and chip shops, seafood restaurants, and boutique shops. A variety of marine animals, such as seals, otters, and even jellyfish, can be spotted in the clear waters surrounding the wharf. Visitors can enjoy seafood platters while taking in the breathtaking views of the harbor. Cruise ship travelers can see the wharf from the cruise ship.

While you are exploring near the wharf

Check out the floating homes of Victoria. These charming homes are located in the harbor, providing stunning views of the ocean and convenient access to all the city has to offer. Imagine waking up to the gentle rocking of the waves and enjoying your morning coffee on your private deck while watching the seagulls fly by. Exploring this area is great, but remember this is not a tourist attraction, people live here all year long so don't intrude. Just take a quick glance and be on your way. They are all so colorful and attached by boardwalks, you have to just take a look. This is not a location where tourists usually stay while on vacation. I did look into renting one once, it requires a 1 month minimum and will cost you around $3,500 for the month. A girl can dream right. lol. While you are in the area get ice cream from Jacksons, one of the best places in Victoria for ice cream.

Daliah Flower
Daliah Flower

Exploring the world-famous Butchart Gardens, one of the best attractions in Victoria, British Columbia Canada. Started in 1904, the gardens are located a short distance from the city center and reveal a colorful display of seasonal flowers and plants. The gardens sit on fifty-five acres of land and house several themed gardens such as the Sunken Garden, Italian Garden, Rose Garden, and Japanese Garden. The Butchart Gardens are a feast to the senses, and visitors can rent audio guides to learn about the history and design of the gardens. Sometimes when you are visiting you will see some amazing birds. Nothing captures the essence of Victoria's blend of history and natural beauty quite like the Butchart Gardens. A friend of mine was here and has pictures of a peacock. I just love those birds. Cruise ships offer excursions to this park.

Victoria’s largest park located near Abigail’s Hotel (a great place to lay your head at night). Wander around the beautiful flower gardens, duck ponds and wild daffodil fields. There are also wonderful oceanfront walkways. Exploring this popular destination will be magical. Check out the Totem Pole while here, it's the 4th largest in the world.

Whale Watching

Whale-watching tours are a popular activity to take part in while visiting Victoria, British Columbia Canada. The city is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, which is home to orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, and several other marine animals that are exploring the waters nearby. Whale watching tours offer memorable experiences as visitors get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures, enjoying the scenery in the backdrop. Check out these whale watching tours I like. Sunset whale watching and Whale watching on a covered boat.

Victoria's history is not just told through its landscapes and architecture but through its people and their stories. The Royal BC Museum offers a portal into the past, with exhibits that celebrate not only the region's natural and human history but also the vibrant First Nations cultures that continue to shape Victoria's identity. Learn about the Parliament life of Canada and admire the historic buildings. Also learn about totem poles in their indigenous collection, and the natural history of the area. The Parliament houses nearby are neat to see too, they were built in the late 1800’s.

Victoria's Nightlife and great food

Chinatown area
Chinatown area

While exploring Victoria, British Columbia downtown area, you will also see it boasts a vibrant nightlife scene. Lots of cruise ships use this port as an evening stop on the last day of the cruise heading back to Vancouver. So, the cruise passengers get to witness the nightlife of the heart of Victoria. Since it is so close to Vancouver you get to stay later into the night then most ports especially when visiting Alaska. The city's scenic locations such as the harbor and the downtown core become a hub of activity at night when restaurants, bars, and nightclubs come alive. The city's nightlife scene promotes local musicians and a variety of food and drink specials. As the sun sets, visitors can enjoy leisurely walks through the well-lit streets, enjoying the live music performances. Also do not worry about being out late in a city you are not familiar with. This is a really safe city. I suggest treating yourself to some amazing food while you are visiting, even if you are coming from a cruise ship where your meals are included. Victoria is a place to splurge on a meal.

Some of the best bars and restaurants are listed below:

picture of harbor from cruise ship at night
Picture of harbor from cruise ship at night
  • First on our list is the famous Little Jumbo. This cozy hideaway offers you the thrill of the clandestine with its speakeasy vibe. Step inside and let their exquisite cocktails and hearty plates warm your soul.

  • Il Terrazzo, an Italian restaurant nestled within a charming brick courtyard. Be ready to be transported to Italy with every bite, as you relish their wood-fired pizzas and sumptuous pasta dishes.

  • Next up is Clive's Classic Lounge, an intimate haunt known for its creative cocktails and warm ambiance. It's the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring the city.

  • Now, if you're craving for some authentic seafood. We're heading to Red Fish, Blue Fish. No, it's not the Dr Seuss book, this is a unique eatery housed in a converted cargo container on the pier. Their fish and chips are legendary, and their seafood tacones? Simply out of this world! I swear it must be the lemon pickled onions.

  • Finally, let's pay a visit to Foo Asian Street Food, a gem tucked away in downtown Victoria. Their mouth-watering Asian dishes, from pad Thai to coconut curry, will teleport your taste buds straight to the vibrant street markets of Asia!

  • If interested in little bites of food and afternoon tea, the greater Victoria has plenty to choose from. My top 3 picks are:

  •  Fairmont Empress- my favorite, and one of the best, located at the Inner Harbor and in a historic hotel of the same name. It does feel a little bit fancy, but if you are in the mood, go for it.

  • Pendrey Tea House- Located in the Pendrey Inn and also on the Inner Harbor, sample some of the best international and exotic teas from around the world. 

  • Butchart Gardens Tea Room- Located inside Butchart Gardens, so you have to pay the entrance fee into Butchart Gardens, but that is one of the best things to see in the city anyways. So, visit the tearoom while there. With the option of children's teas, gluten free teas, dairy sensitive teas and so much more. 

Other Great Attractions

Today, Victoria is not just a destination for history buffs; it's a playground for adventurers and explorers. Whether it's kayaking along the rugged coastline, cycling the scenic routes, or enjoying the city's burgeoning craft beer scene, Victoria offers a unique blend of past and present, tradition and innovation.

Exploring all of these can be done while in port from a cruise ship, you will have plenty of time. Victoria, British Columbia Canada has plenty of attractions for you to visit.

Hartley Castle
Hartley Castle
  • Chinatown -Visit Victoria's Chinatown. Look at the shops and eat some amazing food. Fan Tan Alley is a must see in this area. Located in between Johnson and Fisgard Streets, Fan Tan Alley is loaded with shops and restaurants. Did you know that this is the 2nd oldest Chinatown in North America, opening in 1858, just 10 years behind San Francisco.

  • Craigdarroch Castle -Built between 1887-1890 by a Scottish Immigrant who made his fortune in coal. This is a national historic site of Canada. With its beautiful architecture and stained-glass windows, it is stunning to see. Learn the history of the Dunsmuir family and the history of how this became a hospital and more in later years.

  • Emily Carr House-Birthplace and childhood home of writer Emily Carr. This house is a national historic site, and Emly Carr is a famous writer and artist. For those who do not know much about Emily Carr, she wrote many books, worked with the indigenous people of the area and was a very skilled painter. She sent time in France, but return to the city of her birth because the First Nations and the landscape were her inspiration. 

  • Abkhazi Garden - The Garden that Love Built. It is a love story that should be a movie. Read the legacy part of the website, it will make you a believer. A prince, a war, and the love of a woman who after the war found him. They were married and settled here in Victoria and built this garden.

  • Mount Douglas Park- A conservatory that is geared to protect and preserve the environment. Located in the area of Saanich, this area has year long activities, 21 KMS of trails, places for a picnic and so much more, including beach access. There is also a golf course nearby.

  • Hartley Castle -Completed being built in 1908 it later served as a dormitory for the Royal Roads Military College. This castle was known as a conservatory that housed orchids and a large banana tree back in the day. Walk the castle grounds and look at the gardens while visiting.

Buchart Gardens flowers
Buchart Garden Flowers
  • Roger Chocolates- a chocolate shop that originally opened in 1885, the best chocolates in Canada in my opinion. The Victoria Creme is an original to this store, and the building is a historic site.

  • Market Square- a great option for shopping and a short walk from the Inner Harbour only 10 minutes away.  With many shops to choose from there is something for everyone.

  • Horse Drawn Carriage Ride- is a great option for a tour of the city. Starts at the Empress Hotel and gives amazing views of the Olympic Mountain and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

  • Hiking to waterfalls, and exploring Cathedral Grove Rainforest is another option. It is a group tour for up to 8 people. As a cruise ship excursion, it might be hard, this requires 9 hours in port, and you don't want to miss your cruise ship. Check with your cruise ship they may offer a similar excursion that does not stay as long in the rainforest. If not, there is a shorter rainforest tour that I love, and it is only 3 hours. Be sure to look for bald eagles.

  • Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Park is located just outside the city and is about a 23-minute drive, depending on where you are in Victoria. This is a historic site with the Fisgard Lighthouse. Hiking, biking, stargazing and wildlife viewing are some of the best things to do. 

  • Have you ever dreamed of seeing the coastal are from a seaplane? This is an option here in Victoria, British Columbia Canada. Check out this Viator link for a seaplane tour to lead you to an awesome experience in a seaplane. The Seaplant terminal is very close by.

  • A great way to see the city and learn as you go is to do a scavenger hunt. There are several to choose from for the area, and you will see many sites along the way.

  • If interested in Totem Poles, there are plenty to look at in the area. As mentioned before, visit the B.C. Museum. Here is a list of the others located in the area.

  • Thunderbird Park, located at the B.C. Museum. Visit the Mungo Martin House also located at Thunderbird Park while in the area. This house, although it is not that old, shows authentic tribal life in the area. It also pays tribute to Mungo Martin who was a chief of the native Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, from this area. 

  • Beacon Hill Park which has the 4th largest totem pole in the world.

  • Alert Bay contains the world's largest free standing totem pole, plus on the drive into the park there are plenty of memorial totem poles at the Namgis Burial Grounds. You can't get up close and personal to them, but still a neat sight to see.


Most of you will be visiting by cruise ship, and lots of cruises make this port an afternoon visit due to its proximity to Vancouver, but your visit might prompt you to come back to Victoria, exploring for a few days. I know it did for me. Here is a list of the top places to rest your head if you have an extended stay in Victoria BC.

View from ship at sunset
View from ship at sunset
  • Abigail's Hotel is absolutely amazing. A 5-star rating and looks like something out of a fairy tale. They can help you book little trips around the city, from whale watching to any other excursion you would like.

  • Oak Bay Beach Hotel gives you amazing water views with a pool. It tends to be a little bit more expensive, but with a view like that I can see why.

  • Huntingdon Manor Hotel is a great affordable hotel that gives you everything you need, with a close walk to the harbor.

  • Marketa's Bed and Breakfast located downtown in a house built in 1912. The jetted tubs in the room are what sold me to check it out.

  • Fairmont Empress Hotel was mentioned earlier for its afternoon tea, but it is also a hotel and it opened in 1908. Actually a wonderful hotel with fantastic views of the inner harbor of Victoria.

  • Pendray Inn is also located on the inner harbor and perfect for a romantic getaway. This place was also mentioned earlier for their afternoon tea in the Heritage room.


Exploring Victoria, British Columbia Canada: This is a destination for Alaskan cruises that shouldn't be missed for travelers seeking an unforgettable vacation. Whether it's just a cruise port excursion on an extended trip, the city is an all-encompassing experience, from the beautiful scenery, bustling harbor, gardens, nightlife, and whale watching opportunities. You will stay plenty busy unless you force yourself some time to relax (like in that jetted tub I mentioned above) lol. Victoria's enchanting beauty beckons visitors from all over the world. Make sure to book your next trip to this stunning city to explore everything it has to offer and create unforgettable vacation memories.

To our history enthusiasts, travelers, Canadian heritage lovers, travel bloggers, and cruise ship visitors - Victoria awaits. This city, with its rich tapestry of history, culture, and adventure, extends an invitation to all who wish to explore its many layers. From the echoes of the past to the vibrant pulse of the present, Victoria offers a journey through time and an experience that captivates the heart.

Prepare to be enchanted by the stories etched into the cobblestone streets, to be awed by the natural beauty that surrounds this historical jewel, and to fall in love with a city that has mastered the art of preserving its past while wholeheartedly embracing the future.

Victoria, Canada, is not just a place to visit; it's a destination to experience, a chapter to add to your own story, and a treasure trove of memories waiting to be discovered. Are you ready to step into the adventure?

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Nov 25, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I became a huge fan of Roger’s chocolates after my first visit to Victoria. I am still ordering their candies 8 years later lol! Everything was magical in Victoria. I highly reccomend doing a walking tour with a local!


Nov 25, 2023

Whale watching and castles on one trip! Yes please sign me up :)

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