Victoria Off the Beaten Path
By AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome | May 18, 2023
Whether you’re in town for an extended vacation, a long weekend or just an afternoon, there are plenty of things to do in Victoria, British Columbia, to keep you busy. The city’s glorious weather, especially in summer, can mean heavy crowds at many popular tourist hotspots, but read on to discover a few of the best places to avoid the crowds and go off the beaten path.
Beacon Hill Park
Douglas St. & Dallas St.
If you’re searching for solitude, plan a visit to Beacon Hill Park, a massive green space complete with tranquil ponds, shaded walking paths, towering Douglas firs, well-manicured gardens, a children’s petting farm and a stone bridge that looks straight out of a fairy tale. As you wander the grounds you’ll be joined by ducks, Canada geese and even a few roaming peacocks. Bring along a park map (available on the city’s website) so you don’t miss any of the hidden gems—the Sundial Garden and the “Moss Lady” sculpture behind the Cameron Pavilion are two highlights worth a look.
Come See Victoria Walking Tours
Departs from 812 Wharf St.
Get to know Victoria’s history as well as its off-the-beaten-path spots on a guided walking tour with Come See Victoria Walking Tours. A knowledgeable local guide will take you around the downtown area on foot, relating stories and interesting facts along the way. The History & Architecture walk includes stops at the Inner Harbour, Government Street, Commercial Street, Chinatown and Fan Tan Alley. Guided pub walks, evening tours and private tours can accommodate most travel schedules.
1 Dallas Rd.
Fishing boats, colorful floating houses, and a handful of food kiosks draw visitors and locals alike to Fisherman’s Wharf, a popular place to visit on a sunny day. At the wharf you can wander the docks, take photos of the cute floating houses, snack on fish ‘n’ chips, look for seals and book excursions for whale watching or kayaking trips. We recommend taking the scenic route to get there—either by water taxi (via the Victoria Harbour Ferry) or on foot (a waterfront path connects the wharf with downtown and the cruise ship terminal in the Breakwater District).
Hatley Park National Historic Site
2005 Sooke Rd.
A 20- to 30-minute drive west takes you to Hatley Castle, a 40-room Edwardian mansion built in 1908 that is open to the public by guided tour. Today the castle and surrounding gardens are part of Hatley Park National Historic Site, on the grounds of Royal Road University, but in the early 1900s it served as the retirement home for former British Columbia premier and lieutenant governor James Dunsmuir and his family. If the castle looks familiar, it may be because it has appeared in such movies and TV shows as “Deadpool,” “Smallville” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.”
649 Humboldt St.
Kids and the young at heart will appreciate a visit to Miniature World, one of the best things to do in Victoria on a rainy day. Tucked into the north side of The Fairmont Empress hotel, the circa 1971 attraction features more than 85 displays of miniature scenes depicting fairy-tale castles, the streets of London, the Great Canadian Railway, historic battles, King Arthur’s Camelot and more. Working model trains, tiny twinkling lights and miniature moving parts add to the charm.
Nourish Kitchen and Cafe
225 Quebec St.
Meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans and travelers following a dairy-free or gluten-free diet will all find something delicious to eat at Nourish Kitchen and Cafe, an 1888 historic home turned restaurant in the Inner Harbour. Breakfast and lunch options showcase organic, unprocessed ingredients like farm fresh eggs, kale, beets, heirloom squash and house-made bone broth. Guests are welcome to sit in the full-service dining room or order from a grab-and-go café; a casual seating area upstairs has free Wi-Fi and cozy seating nooks.
Oak Bay Village
Oak Bay Avenue (between Yale and Monterey Streets)
If you’re up for a scenic drive, head southeast on Dallas Road and follow the waterfront route as it curves through residential communities and past seaside vistas on the way to Oak Bay, a quiet community with a charming, British-inspired main street. Spend an hour or two browsing the shops, boutiques, cafes and art galleries that line Oak Bay Avenue, then settle in for a bite at or a pint at Penny Farthing English Pub, two popular local restaurants.
Shops hawking the typical souvenir sweatshirts and Canadian maple syrup line Government Street, but you’ll find a greater concentration of independent stores and boutiques along Lower Johnson Street, or “LoJo,” between Broad and Wharf streets. Pop into a few shops—most are housed in colorful Victorian-era buildings—then cut through Market Square to reach neighboring Chinatown, where you’ll want to take a stroll down Fan Tan Alley. Said to be Canada’s narrowest street, the tiny alley has a few cute shops to browse.
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