Budget Friendly Victoria

AAA/Katie McPhee
By AAA Travel Editor Katie McPhee
October 09, 2018
British Columbia’s capital city dazzles with colorful gardens, stately buildings and stunning scenery. Visit during peak season (June through August), and the cost of food, attractions and lodging may stun you as well. But travelers on a budget need not worry—there are plenty of things to do in Victoria that will leave some extra spending money in your pocket. Here are a few free and/or cheap travel ideas for your next trip.
Colorful Abkhazi Garden Victoria British Columbia
flickr / CC BY SA/Paul Hamilton
Abkhazi Garden
1964 Fairfield Rd.
(778) 265-6466
Sitting down for afternoon tea is one of the most popular things to do in Victoria, but often it comes at a high price. For a more affordable alternative, visit The Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden, located in a residential area just east of downtown. You can wander the well-manicured grounds—which feature Garry oaks, Japanese maples and rhododendrons—then enjoy a spot of tea (locally sourced) as well as scones and other light bites. Afternoon tea costs $22-$48 per person, and entrance to the garden is by donation ($10 suggested).
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Canadian geese in the grass at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, British Columbia.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Beacon Hill Park
Douglas St. & Dallas St.
(250) 361-0600
If you’re traveling with kids, add Beacon Hill Park to your itinerary. The free public park has multiple playgrounds plus ponds, gardens, shaded walking paths and plenty of ducks, geese and peacocks roaming the grounds. One of the most fun things to do in the park, however, is to visit the by-donation Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, where you can hold cuddly pygmy goats and get up-close with llamas, pigs and other animals. Arrive at 10:10 a.m. or 4:10 p.m. and you’re in for a treat—the goats stampede from their barn to the petting enclosure twice daily amid a chorus of cheers (and laughs) from the crowd.
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Courtesy of Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza Hotel
Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza Hotel
642 Johnson St.
AAA Inspector Rating
(250) 388-5513
One of the best hotels in Victoria, B.C., for budget-conscious travelers is the Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza Hotel. You can’t beat the location; the hotel is just a 5- to 7-minute walk from most shops, restaurants and pubs along Government Street (the main tourist strip) and a 15-minute walk from the Inner Harbour. Perks include free Wi-Fi, complimentary bicycle rentals and AAA discounts for members.
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View of rocky coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Finlayson Point in Victoria, British Columbia.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Dallas Road Scenic Drive
Rent a car (Hertz offers discounts for AAA members) and soak up Vancouver Island’s natural beauty on a scenic drive along the coast. If you’re staying in Victoria, you can get a taste of the surrounding seascapes by traveling east on Dallas Road from Ogden Point to the community of Oak Bay. Dallas Road will turn into Crescent Road and later Beach Drive as the route follows the southeast coast past high-end neighborhoods and an oceanfront golf course. Plan to stop at a few scenic pull-offs and pocket beaches along the way; Finlayson Point, Trafalgar Park and McNeill Bay are worth a look.
View looking up at the Fisgard Lighthouse in Victoria, British Columbia.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites
603 Fort Rodd Hill Rd.
(250) 478-5849
Learn about wartime history at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites, just a short drive (20 minutes) west of Victoria. For less than $4 a person you’ll gain entry to the Parks Canada site, a former coastal artillery fort that defended Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base from 1895 to 1956. After checking out the gun batteries, secret bunkers and barracks, follow the path down to the Fisgard Lighthouse. The circa 1860 lighthouse is reputedly the oldest on Canada’s west coast and now features kid-friendly interactive exhibits and outstanding views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains.
View of the dome-capped building of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in Victoria.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
501 Belleville St.
(250) 387-3046
Before a day of sightseeing at the Inner Harbour, check the daily tour schedule at the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. (Tour times are posted near the visitor entrance at the front steps.) Guided 45-minute tours are free of charge and will give you a handy introduction to Victoria’s history and Canada’s parliamentary system of government. Return at dusk and you’ll see the building—itself a stunning example of Renaissance and Romanesque architecture—illuminated with thousands of decorative lights.
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The walking path atop the Ogden Point Breakwater in Victoria, British Columbia.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Ogden Point Breakwater
Dallas Road and Dock Street
Join the locals for a walk, a run or just a sit at the Ogden Point Breakwater. The 762-metre-long (2,500 feet) breakwater—essentially a granite and concrete wall built on a mound of rubble—extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and protects the wharves from the force of waves during winter storms. For pedestrians, it offers the perfect vantage point to observe boats, cruise ships and other water happenings. Metal handrails were installed on the breakwater for safety in recent years, but the walkway can get quite slippery when the tide is high and winds are strong, so use caution.
A yellow H20 Water Taxi and a Victoria Harbour Ferry boat in Victoria, British Columbia.
AAA/Katie McPhee
Victoria Harbour Ferry
Main ferry stop is across from The Fairmont Empress (721 Government St.)
(250) 708-0201
A cheap and scenic way to get around the Inner Harbour is via the Victoria Harbour Ferry. The fleet includes yellow H2O Taxis that transport passengers to any of 15 ferry stops on the Inner Harbour and beyond, including stops at Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. One-way tickets start at $6 ($4 for children). If you’re visiting in summer, don’t miss the ferry company’s “Water Ballet”; the free 12-minute show is presented on select summer weekends at 10:45 a.m. and involves music, choreographed boat maneuvers and cute horn toots. (The best place to watch the ballet is from the waterfront behind the Steamship Terminal.)
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