A ferry ride—and a world—away from busy Vancouver, British Columbia’s capital city of Victoria can feel like a time warp. This is where locals gather for high tea, stroll blooming rose gardens, and take to the sea to spot whales and bald eagles cruising over the whitecaps. Here’s how to make the most of one day in Victoria.
Some of Victoria’s most elegant architecture is packed into the area around the harbor, making it easy to check out the highlights in a morning of exploring. Cars are impractical in the compact center, so ride a bike, set out on a walking tour, or step aboard a horse-drawn carriage for the full royal treatment. Victoria cafes are packed with old-world charm, and after you’ve seen the sights, be sure to snag a sidewalk table for a steaming cup of tea.
Now that you’ve covered local history, spend an afternoon in the natural world. Choose between two of Victoria’s most beloved experiences: Board a boat for a whale-watching tour or head to Butchart Gardens’ endless rows of colorful flowers. With just half a day in Butchart Gardens, plan your time carefully to see the areas that interest you most; you need multiple days to see the entire grounds. When choosing a whale-watching tour, check the weather and choose accordingly. Options range from stable, big-boat cruises with enclosed and heated cabins to outings in open speedboats that offer a more exciting (and saltier) experience.
Evening light transforms the coast, so head to the water to catch sunset in Victoria. Simply find a perch at a seaside cafe, or bundle up for a sunset cruise or evening whale-watching tour. If you’re returning to Vancouver, one way back is by seaplane. An evening flight from Victoria to Vancouver gives you the chance to see the island from the air, spot marine wildlife in the water below you, and see Vancouver’s glittering skyline before you touch back down.