With its close proximity to Seattle, Canada is always an easy weekend getaway for a quick trip. My friends live on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, so I decided to go up for a weekend to visit. It’s been many years since I last visited the city of Victoria, the main port of entry to the island. It’s often called the “garden city” due to the beautiful, well-manicured landscapes of the city. They’re also home to the famous Butchart Gardens.
Victoria was once was the capitol of the province of British Columbia in the 1800s. There’s still a high school in use from the late 1800s, which is the oldest one still standing in the northwest part of North America. Canada’s oldest Chinatown is also located in Victoria, which was bigger than I expected.
While not the capitol of B.C. anymore, the Parliament building still stands and is in session. I loved the architecture of the building, and the sprawling lawn that surrounds it is a great spot to grab coffee and people watch. Totem poles line the area, reminding the city of the time when the First Nations ruled the island.
How to Get There
There are several ways to get to Victoria, but the easiest is on the Victoria Clipper which leaves daily from Seattle. It’s around $130 per person roundtrip, with the price varying depending if it’s low or high season (ie. spring and summer). The Clipper is passenger-only, so if you want to bring your car with you, your best bet is to take the Black Ball ferries from Port Angeles, Washington. If you can afford it, you can also take a seaplane from Seattle with Kenmore Air for a very scenic ride.
This historic trestle is about an hour north of Victoria, so if you didn’t bring your car, rent one for the day from where you get off the clipper. Once you park, you’ll walk about half a mile through the woods through the trestle. You can walk on it and down below on the trail.
It was built in 1920 to allow the railroad to cross the river and head south on the island. After running out of money to maintain it, the trestle was abandoned from 1980 to 2011 and walking on it was prohibited. After realizing it was ridiculous to leave it rotting, it was finally restored after over 30 years.
Victoria Bug Zoo
This place is a little gross and not for those who don’t like bugs, but is a unique way to pass time. They host over 40 different species of bugs, including Canada’s largest ant colony. I’ve never been to a zoo that only had bugs before, so I felt obligated to go in. It won’t take up more than an hour of your time, if that.
Located right by the bug zoo is the museum full of all items miniature. Another strange way to pass time, this tiny museum reminded me of the movie Zoolander (“Is this a school for ants??” Anyone?). They have over 85 dioramas and miniature sets of any scene you can imagine. Again, it won’t take up much time. If you really like the museum, you can buy a season pass (although I can’t honestly imagine wanting to come here that much).
Flying Otter Grill
Before getting back on the Clipper, we stopped by this restaurant on the Inner Harbour. Even though it was February, we were able to sit outside and enjoy the view due to the outdoor heating. Watching the seaplanes take off as the sun set was the perfect way to end the trip. We had a few pints of local beer and huge pieces of fish and chips.
Although I wasn’t there for very long, there’s a lot to do if you’re up for a weekend. You can book a whale-watching tour, go on a food tour of the city, or see Emily Carr’s house. High tea at the Fairmont Empress hotel is a popular choice as well. It’s often sold-out, so make sure to book that in advance if you really want to go. The nightlife is said to be good with a variety of bars and clubs downtown.
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