Victoria (British Columbia)

Butchart Gardens

Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia, Canada located near the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

It's a medium-sized city with approximately 350,000 in Greater Victoria, including the Saanich Peninsula. Nicknamed the Garden City for the Butchart Gardens and the abundant green space within the city, it also lies within the world's most northern Mediterranean climate at a latitude of 48.5° North.

Understand

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 7 9 11 13 16 18 20 21 19 14 9 7
Nightly lows (°C) 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 11 8 5 3
Precipitation (mm) 94 72 47 29 26 21 14 20 27 51 99 109

See the Victoria 7 day forecast at Environment Canada

Get in

By boat

The main way to get to Vancouver Island and Victoria is via, BC Ferries (+1-888-223-3779) which operates a ferry from Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver) to Swartz Bay, a half hour drive north of Victoria. As of April 2014, one way fares are $53.25 per regular sized passenger vehicle (not including the driver), and $16.25 per driver or adult passenger (12 years and over). Children between the ages of 5 and 11 are $8.15. Children under the age of 5 are free.

Payment can be made by cash or credit card, and debit cards can be used at an automatic ticket terminal for foot passengers, but not on the ferry or at the vehicle toll booths. Service runs on the odd hours between 7AM and 9PM during the winter (with extra sailings at busier times) and every hour during the summer. The ferry ride is 1 hour and 35 minutes. Reservations are not required but recommended during peak travel times, including weekends throughout the summer months. There is a $15 charge for reservations made 7 days in advance; $17.50 if less than 7 days. Vehicles without a reservation sometimes have to show up a few hours before they can actually board (there can be multiple sailing waits during peak travel times), so make sure that you check their website to see what the wait is, and make sure that you allow plenty of time to catch your sailing; as the ferry's capacity is usually limited by the amount of space on the car decks, foot passengers can usually get on if they show up 15-20 minutes before their sailing.

Map of Greater Victoria

Foot passengers can easily take public transit from Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal to Victoria:

As space on the buses is often oversubscribed, it is highly recommended to disembark from the ferry on the lower car deck instead of using the overhead walkways. Passengers who leave this way will reach the bus stops ahead of the crowd.

Other ways to get to Victoria by boat:

The Black Ball Ferry Line's M/V Coho and Victoria Clipper IV in Victoria's Inner Harbour

By recreational boat

Private Boats at Victoria

Victoria is a popular destination for boaters from the U.S.A. as well as the Vancouver area. The trip is a long one; the leg across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca from Puget Sound is over 50km. Because of frequent gales and small craft warnings, the boating trips may be rough, and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has a "no one turned away policy".

By car

While Victoria is on an island, it is accessible from the rest of the island by roads and from the mainland by taking one of the car ferries described in By boat. Victoria is connected to Nanaimo and other northern points by the Trans-Canada Hwy 1. BC-4 connects Victoria to Sooke and Port Renfrew. BC-17 connects Sidney (and Vancouver via BC ferries) to Victoria. You can also bring your car on the Black Ball ferries to Port Angeles, WA and the Washington state ferries from Sidney to the San Juan Islands and Anacortes, WA.

By cruise ship

Each year, from April through October, over 200 large cruise ships dock at the Ogden Point cruise ship terminal, with berths for three cruise ships and about 2.5km southwest of the downtown inner harbor, and disembark more than one-third million visitors to the greater Victoria area. Ogden Point is a transit port for cruise ships, typically coming from or going to San Francisco or Seattle, i.e., no cruise ship is home ported at Victoria.

To get to downtown Victoria from Ogden Point, cruise ship visitors have many options: take a pleasant 30-minutes walk through the James Bay residential area (Dallas St. along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then north on Menzies St.), hop on ($2.25) the public bus #30 or #31 that runs along Dallas St., use the Ogden Point Bus and Marine Cruise shuttles at the terminal, or hail a taxi/limo lined up at the pier.

By bus

Bus companies travel to Victoria from Vancouver (including Vancouver International Airport), Seattle and from other points on Vancouver Island. Buses travelling to Vancouver Island use BC Ferries, so you still get to enjoy the ferry ride. Some bus companies will make announcements on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay ferry inviting foot passengers to purchase bus tickets for the ride into Victoria. This option is faster than the public transit option noted above, but also more expensive.

By plane

Victoria International Airport (IATA: YYJ) is located 30 minutes north of Victoria (off the Pat Bay Highway, on the way to the ferry terminal).

Public transit from Victoria International to the city is not that great (routes 79 and 83 go there but infrequently), but the YYJ Airport Shuttle Bus picks you up from the airport and takes you to many downtown hotels (tel 1-778-351-4995 or toll-free 1-855-351-4995, 45 minutes one-way, adults $24).

A Kenmore Air floatplane taxiing in Victoria's Inner Harbour

You can also get into Victoria quickly and easily from Vancouver by either helicopter or floatplane. Helicopters into the city operate from Vancouver Harbour or Vancouver International Airport (IATA: YVR) by Helijet with prices from $119 each way, this will take you into the center of Victoria. Floatplanes land in Victoria Inner Harbour (IATA: YWH), just meters from the Fairmont Empress Hotel and the BC Parliament buildings. Canadian floatplane operators include West Coast Air, Harbour Air and Sea to Sky Air, all of which operate from Vancouver Harbour, with prices at $99-190 each way. There is a new floatplane terminal in operation just outside the Vancouver International Airport (IATA: YVR) with a shuttle service operated by Harbour Air. Harbour Air has also introduced seasonal service from Whistler to Victoria Inner Harbour. Daily scheduled floatplane service to the Inner Harbour is also available year round from downtown Seattle's Lake Union on Kenmore Air. Fares, which include complimentary shuttle transfers to/from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA) range from $108 to $169 each way. Salt Spring Air also provides year-round service from Vancouver and YVR to Maple Bay near Duncan and to the Pat Bay Seaplane Base, just west of Victoria International Airport (YYJ).

Get around

Detail of central Victoria

Walking is an easy, free, and fun way to explore the entire downtown area. Make your way from hotel to museum to shops; stop for coffee; stroll along the harborside; grab a pint and some fish-n-chips - take it in!

BC Transit runs a network of buses throughout the Saanich Peninsula and forms the mainstay of Victoria's public transit network. Regular fares are a flat $2.50. Children aged 5 and under are free. Bus tickets can be purchased in books of ten, and give a slight discount. Day passes are also available; they cost $7.75 regularly or $5.50 for youth or seniors. Transfers may be requested once you have paid your fare. They are good for 60 minutes of travel. Victoria, along with Kelowna, Toronto and Ottawa, is one of only a few cities in North America which use double decker buses in their city transit systems.

Biking Victoria is one of the most bike-friendly cities in Canada, which may have something to do with the very mild winters. There are many places to rent bikes. One place is CycleBCRentals, located at 685 Humboldt St. (phone +1-250-380-2453 or toll-free +1-866-380-2453). Bike rentals start at $6 and they also rent scooters and motorbikes here.

Pedicabs Take a guided tour of Victoria with an expert pedicab tour guide. The Victoria Pedicab Company offers city tours, garden tours, and customized tours. (Phone +1-250-884-0121)

See

Johnson Street. Most of the buildings in the old center of Victoria date back at least a century, but have been well restored in recent years.
Peacock, Beacon Hill Children's Farm
Rotunda of the Provincial Legislature

Do

Victoria's Inner Harbour Area

Learn

There are many different schools in Victoria including ESL & Language schools, films school, art school, private colleges and so on.

The biggest school is the publicly funded University of Victoria. Located on a hill within a short walk from the ocean, UVic prides itself on its beautiful campus with tree-lined paths, large gardens, lush green grass and a large fountain.

The school is on the smaller side, with the whole campus located inside a circular road known as Ring Road. You can walk from one end of campus to the other in 15 minutes – and that is if you walk slowly. UVic is home to many international students and just completed several new residence buildings for those who wish to live on campus. Many different programs are offered, but the school is known for its Earth Science, environmental law and fine arts departments, among others. The campus community is very earth friendly – as is the city of Victoria itself – and is a good place to catch cheap theatre, free lectures and small music, art or film festivals.

Other options:

Buy

Victoria is full of little shops tucked away in every nook and cranny in the centre. Souvenir shops are all around the Inner Harbour. Although people generally think Victoria is a tourist destination only, there are more than just tourist shops.

Eat

Victoria has the second-highest number of restaurants per capita of all North American cities! The waterfront tourist area is home to a wide variety of restaurants and eateries, including several English-style pubs. Try the fish and chips or shepherds pie for a taste of England in Canada. For a more eclectic Victoria experience, check out the classy restaurants that surround Chinatown, offering interesting west-coast fusion and Asian dishes.

Pubs

Swans Hotel

North American Cuisine

European Cuisine

West Coast Fusion

Other cuisine

Drink

Because Victoria’s downtown is fairly small, most of the nightlife is located within walking distance. Cabs aren’t too expensive and there isn’t too far to go to get from point A to B. Victoria's police force has an aggressive crackdown on drinking and driving, so take a cab, all you have to do is stumble to Douglas and eventually you will grab one before someone else. But if it’s a “special” night like Halloween or New Year’s Eve, expect a bit of a wait. Compared to clubs in larger cities, cover in Victoria is cheap, ranging from $3 to $10. Fridays and Saturdays: expect to pay $7 to get in the door and another $2 to check your coat. Compared to larger cities, Victoria's liquor is pretty pricey. There is a law in Victoria that requires all drinks to cost $3 at minimum for a serving of alcohol. Expect to pay at least $3 but most likely more for each drink. Beers and shots are about $5. Most bars have cash machines inside, and accept only cash as payment.

Sleep

There are a number of areas to stay in Victoria with the most popular location being downtown. Other options include Sidney, the West Shore and the Upper Harbour district.

Budget

Ocean Island Inn

Mid-range

Splurge

Fairmont Empress Hotel
Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe

Stay safe

There is a drug presence among people living on the streets and in the bars. This means that panhandling can be a problem. Panhandlers are aggressive despite laws against this behaviour. You may wish to avoid Pandora Ave between Cook and Quadra as this is where a huge majority hang out. Do not walk around parks and grassy areas in sandals or bare feet as there are many needles discarded in these areas, city workers are quick to clean them up but it is always a good idea to be careful in these areas. However there is a strong police presence on downtown streets during the summer, especially on weekends at night. This problem is generally confined to the tourist area bounded by Blanshard Street.

Because all the bars and clubs are very close together, many drunken people spill into the streets at 2AM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night and are in fact more dangerous than the street people. If you are out and about at this time (or have your downtown hotel room window open) be prepared to deal with all that drunken idiots have to offer such as public urination, shouting and rude comments.

In the unlikely event of a major earthquake, duck and cover and stay where you are during the shaking, then go outside once the shaking stops. Buildings and other structures are unlikely to collapse. Your largest threats come from breaking windows and falling objects such as ceiling tiles and bookshelves. Try to get under a table, desk, or door jamb to reduce your exposure to these threats. You are more likely to be injured if you try to run during the shaking.

Connect

The area codes for Victoria, and British Columbia as a whole, are 250 and 778. Because their areas overlap, all numbers must be dialed with the area code, including local calls.

Go next

Victoria is only a starting place to explore Vancouver Island by bus, car or bike.

Five hours by car to the west, Tofino is famous for its surfing and nature. The small town of Comox and its neighbour Courtenay are cozy and full of beautiful beaches. Head to Shawnigan Lake for a really small town and hit the lake in a canoe or the trails by foot. Nearby Hornby, Denman and Salt Spring Island each have a distinct vibe and are worth the visit just to check out something a little different. There is a lot of hiking, biking and camping. And of course, for the more city-loving folk, ferries from Victoria take you to bustling Vancouver or Seattle.

Hitchhiking is relatively common on Vancouver Island and may be useful for getting around.

Routes through Victoria

Vancouver Langford  N  S  END
Vancouver (via ) Saanich  N  S  END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 20, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.