Victoria is a cosmopolitan city with a small-town atmosphere. It is the capital city of British Columbia and the seat of provincial government. The city moves at an easy pace and is extremely clean and safe. World-renowned for its charming ambience, Victoria boasts heritage buildings, colourful gardens and outdoor recreation and marine adventure at every turn.
Along with the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel, the impressive Legislative Buildings preside over Victoria's picturesque Inner Harbour. The harbour is the centre of the city and bustles with seaplanes, ferries, yachts, kayaks and rowing sculls. During the spring and summer, buskers entertain along the harbour causeway and hanging flower baskets adorn lamp posts. At night, the Inner Harbour glows with light from the 3,333 lights that illuminate the Legislative Buildings.
Despite the monumental stature of Victoria's landmarks, there are few buildings in the city over seven stories tall. Instead, ocean and mountain views complete the cityscape. A great way to explore the downtown area is on foot. Olde Towne, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Beacon Hill Park and the residential areas of James Bay, Fairfield and Rockland are all within walking distance of the Inner Harbour. Bicycles, double-decker buses and horse-drawn carriages also provide great transportation options.
Greater Victoria Area Communities:
The Greater Victoria area is made up of 11 municipalities surrounding the City of Victoria. Each community has its own unique charm and interesting aspects and offers an abundance of activities, shopping and historical character.
East of downtown, Oak Bay is most accessible by bicycle, bus or car along the scenic marine drive. Considered Victoria's most British-looking neighbourhood, Oak Bay retains its British personality with Tudor-style homes, impeccable landscaping, parks, beaches and a shopping sector full of exquisite shops and tea rooms. Children of all ages delight in seeing harbour seals in their natural habitat at the Oak Bay Marina. The whole family can enjoy sandy Willows Beach and its adjoining playground. From Cattle Point, view majestic Mount Baker or watch as sailboats race by. See the former home (now the Glenlyon Norfolk School) of architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury who designed Victoria's Legislative Buildings and The Fairmont Empress Hotel, or drive through the Uplands and marvel at the mansions that line the streets.
Just a short drive or walk from downtown, over the Johnson Street Bridge, leads to Esquimalt, home of Canada's navy on the west coast. Esquimalt boasts: a naval museum, several historic military sites, parks overlooking the water, a number of scenic walking paths and a replica of Anne Hathaway's Cottage at the Olde England Inn. First established as a British naval base in 1865, modern Esquimalt now has the second-largest Canadian Forces Base in the country, after Halifax, Nova Scotia. Whistles sound through the neighbourhood, as trains still travel the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E & N) Railway from Victoria to Courtenay.
North of downtown, the District of Saanich offers all the charms of country life in its rural expanses and all the conveniences of urban life in its residential neighbourhoods. Saanich means "place of fertile soil" in the language of the local aboriginal people and the area abounds with lush green parks including Swan Lake, Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary and Mt. Douglas Park. Hike or drive to the top of Mt. Douglas for a panoramic 360-degree view of Greater Victoria. Pathways await explorers in search of: ocean beaches, waterfront strolls, neighbourhood walks, scenic vistas and country rambles on horseback. Many countryside farms and cottages offer vegetables, fruit and flowers for sale on the honour system from roadside stands. While in Saanich, visit local attractions including: The Horticulture Centre of The Pacific, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the Centre of the Universe, Saanich Commonwealth Place and Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park (a mecca for swimming, rowing, windsurfing, fishing, walking and horseback riding).
Sidney and the Saanich Peninsula
Sidney is located at the tip of the Saanich Peninsula, five minutes from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal and Victoria International Airport and 25 minutes north of downtown. This pretty little town is known for its museums, marinas, oceanside walkways and unique shops, including several bookstores. The outlying area contains country roads that criss-cross rolling farmland, parks, forests and the tiny communities of the Saanich Peninsula. Roads lead to a number of delightful attractions, including the world-famous Butchart Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, the BC Aviation Museum, Saanich Historical Artifacts Society, Island View Beach, Sidney Spit Marine Park and the village of Brentwood Bay.
West Shore Communities
View Royal, Colwood, Langford, the Highlands and Metchosin, collectively named the West Shore Communities, together with Sooke, offer many diverse outdoor adventure opportunities as well as charming bed and breakfasts and country inns. This semi-rural area is known for picturesque marinas, breathtaking coastal scenery, artisan studios and galleries. Favourite attractions include Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic sites and Hatley Castle and Park at Royal Roads University.
West of Victoria, the Island Highway (Hwy #14), the West Coast Road and the Galloping Goose Trail wind through the West Shore Communities to Sooke. Tracing the coastline, the West Coast Road leads to lush rainforests, rocky cliffs, hiking trails and some of the most scenic beaches on Vancouver Island. En route, stop at East Sooke Regional Park, where trails range from casual strolls to full-day treks. Birdwatchers will enjoy Whiffin Spit, a natural breakwater between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Sooke Harbour. Visit the Sooke Region Museum and be sure to see the natural wonder of the Sooke Potholes. West of Sooke, the highway leads to some of the Island�s most beautiful scenery at French Beach, China Beach, Botanical Beach (famous for its tide pools) and the southern terminal of the West Coast Trail.
*Information courtesy Tourism Victoria