5 Day Trips from Victoria

Although you can spend days on end exploring Victoria itself, there are plenty of nearby destinations worth checking out. So, if you’re spending more than a few days on the Island, consider using Victoria as a home base to head out on any one of these 5 great day trips you can make from the city!

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Cowichan Valley

Cowichan Valley, consisting of several towns, has plenty of surprises waiting to be discovered. Not only is Duncan home to one of the best Farmer’s Markets in the province, the area is also known for its plethora of wineries and amazing slow-food scene. This comes as no surprise considering the word Cowichan means “warm lands.” Depending on how far into the Valley you want to venture, you’ll only need to spend about 45 minutes on the road from Victoria. Visit the iconic murals in the quaint town of Chemainus and catch a show at the theatre, or head to Cowichan Lake to try out wakeboarding. There’s enough in the area to keep you busy for an entire day.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Salt Spring Island

The largest and most visited of the Southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring is only a 45-minute ferry ride away from Swartz Bay. Take the drive from Victoria to Sidney where you can enjoy a stroll on the Bevan Pier before crossing over to the artsy island. A handful of plentiful Farmer’s Markets and amazing artisan goods give those who love to shop plenty to talk about. Nature lovers need not worry though, between paddling, cycling and hiking, there are more than enough activities to keep you coming back a few days in a row. You may just want to forego your Victoria hotel for a tent or cabin and stay the weekend. For a packed day, drive to Cowichan Valley first, and take the ferry to Salt Spring from there, or vise versa.

 

Photo by: Monica

Photo by: Monica Penner

Port Renfrew

At the end of the incredibly scenic Highway 14 sits the quaint town of Port Renfrew. It’s about a two-hour drive away from Victoria. Lacking cellphone service, but with plenty of classic West Coast features to indulge in, Port Renfrew draws a huge outdoorsy crowd looking to cast of the ties of constant connection. Along the way are stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Olympic Mountain range, and nearby are the incredible Avatar Grove and Botanical Beach. So, although the drive only takes two hours if you do it in one shot, there are enough sites along the way that you could take all day. Aside from Sooke, where the main driving journey begins, you’ll see Jordan River, pass by Mystic Beach, China Beach, Sandcut Beach, Sombrio and a even few Provincial Parks to boot.

 

Photo by: Dominic Simmons

Photo by: Dominic Simmons © www.dominicsimmons.co.uk

The Kinsol Trestle Bridge

An hour’s drive outside of Victoria you can witness a major historical site. The Kinsol Trestle Bridge is located along the Cowichan Valley Trail route. Although eight other trestle bridges exist along the same trail, the Kinsol Trestle takes the cake for largest and most scenic. At 44m tall and 187m in length, it is one of the tallest freestanding timber rail trestle structures in the world. It stretches above the Koksilah River and is only a 1.2km hike from the parking lot. Even better, the trail is wheelchair accessible and is mostly flat. Originally, the trestle bridge was built as part of a line for the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway, which was later taken over by the Canadian National Railways. The Kinsol Trestle was completed in 1920 as part of the Galloping Goose rail line and ran for 59 years. After the last train crossed in 1979, the trestle was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Taken under the wing of the CRDV, rehabilitation of the bridge lasted from 1999 to 2010. When the bridge opened again in 2011, it was fully refurbished as a recreational trail. Today, it is a major highlight for tourists in the area. You can always pay the Kinsole Trestle Bridge a visit before hitting up the wineries of the Cowichan Valley.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Sidney/Sidney Spit Provinical Park

Sidney-by-the-Sea is a quaint feature on the Saanich Peninsula, about twenty minutes away from downtown Victoria. Although the town’s small size is deceptive, there is enough to do in Sidney to take up an entire day or more. If spirits are your thing, pay a visit to the distillery. Next door is an intriguing aquarium fit with touching pools and interactive exhibits, and plenty of whale watching charters depart from the harbour each day. Those in search of a bit more adventure can rent kayaks and head on over Sidney Spit Provincial Park, where numerous hiking trails await. If you’re worried about paddling there, a small passenger ferry also makes the short crossing. Once on the spit, bird watchers should take a wander to the lagoon – it’s a hotspot to spy some west coast shore birds. If you’re out on a summer Thursday, be sure to come back to town in time to visit the night market – it’s one of the best on the Island.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

BC Parliament Buildings

The Parliament Buildings are located on the banks of the Inner Harbour in British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria. As one of the dominant features of the downtown core, B.C.’s government buildings are one of Victoria’s must-see sights, teeming with history and culture. They reside on five hectares of lush property, and were constructed on the traditional territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

The buildings, designed by a young, 25-year old architect by the name of Francis Mawson Rattenbury, were constructed from 1893 to 1897, with additions done from 1912-1915. With the Parliament Buildings kicking off his career, Rattenbury went on to build the Empress Hotel, the Steamship Terminal, and Vancouver’s Art Gallery (then a court of justice). Rattenbury eventually met his demise at the hand of his wife’s lover after moving back to his home country, England.

In the summer months, the ghost of Rattenbury and other key figures of British Columbia’s past often wander the grounds—with their permission, you can stop to take a picture with them. They might even pop by on your guided tour to tell you their interesting stories.

During construction, Rattenbury and his crew used many local materials from B.C. to highlight the province’s natural resources. You’ll find the foundations and stairs of the building are made of granite from Nelson Island, and the façade of the building is made of andesite from Haddington Island. Inside, much of the wood is Douglas Fir, but there are also various imported materials scattered throughout the buildings: marble from Tennessee and Italy, and Indiana white oak, for example.

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

The purpose of the buildings is to serve as the seat of B.C.’s provincial government. It is here that important decisions are made regarding the province on matters such as health, education, transportation, and housing.

The Legislative Assembly is the room where laws are proposed, debated, and passed. During the question period, these debates can get very heated, and the public galleries that surround the upper floor of the room are open to any visitors or locals interested in getting a sense of provincial politics. The rules when viewing are very strict, however, and you cannot clap, talk, write, or take photos. Exceptions are made for journalists.

The Parliament Buildings are the perfect spot to start a tour of Victoria’s downtown area, as they are very central and relatively close to most other major sights or activities. Nearby attractions include the Royal B.C. Museum, Beacon Hill Park, the Empress Hotel, various boutiques and artisan storefronts for shopping, horse-drawn carriage tours, restaurants, whale watching, and Chinatown.

Just past the front lawn of the Parliament buildings are stairs that will take you along the lower causeway of the Inner Harbour. It is a bustling walkway that hosts vendors, musicians, buskers, food trucks, and shops. Highlights include Dave Harris, Victoria’s one-man band, playing lively blues by using various limbs at the same time.

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Staying in the area until sun sets is highly recommended. The Parliament Buildings will eventually light up with approximately 3500 energy efficient lightbulbs, highlighting the striking outline of the structure, and making for a great photo opportunity.

Incredibly, the original idea for the lightbulbs was first brought to life in 1897 when the buildings were first completed. This was a time when electricity was still a novel phenomenon. While fewer than there are today, the lightbulbs were strung in honour of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, as they were supposed to look like diamonds shining brightly in the darkness. The idea was brought back in the 1960s, and since then, the buildings have been lit every single evening at dusk.

While the summer season is Victoria’s liveliest time of the year, the Parliament Buildings are open year-round, from 8:30am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday. There are some tours offered during this time, but the buildings are also open for self-guided tours with a booklet.

As tourism season picks up in the summer, tours run from 9am-4:30pm, Monday to Friday. You can count on a tour every half an hour or so, but it varies from day to day. There is often a 5pm tour as well, but a ticket is required as the buildings are technically closed by that time. During the weekdays, the buildings are also open for self-guided tours, but out of respect for guided tours and staff, silence is encouraged. On weekends in the summer, the buildings are only open for guided tours, and visitors must stay with the tour group for the duration of the tour. Picking up a ticket from the podium near the front steps is required. All tours are free of charge, but tickets are for keeping track of numbers.

For all questions regarding tours, calling ahead to +1 (250) 387-3046 is recommended.

Contributed by Anna Dodd

Whale Watching in Victoria

Imagine zipping along the ocean in a zodiac when suddenly, the boat slows down. A couple hundred meters ahead, you watch the massive outline of a whale’s tail break the surface before dipping down into the depths of the ocean. Above, eagles are screeching and soaring and you’ve just waved goodbye to your new sea lion friends as you headed out farther into the Pacific. Whale watching and wilderness excursions are a top activity out of Victoria B.C. – below are a few key points to keep in mind while you plan your day on the ocean!

Best Time to Go:

Technically, whales can be seen at any time out of Victoria. A steady population of Transient Orcas mean they’re around all year. That being said, May – November is considered “peak season” and is when companies have a higher success rate at spotting whales. Depending on the day and season, you can also spot Gray, Minke and Humpback Whales, along with Seals, Sea Lions and Porpoises.

What to Wear:

Zipping around on the ocean can get pretty nippy, even on a hot summer’s day. Be prepared and dress in layers. Flat, close-toed shoes are the way to go when you’re working on getting your sea legs as well. Be prepared with sunscreen and sunglasses, too.

What to Bring:

Be sure to bring along a camera or video camera (with straps!) and, depending on your tour departure, some snacks and drinks for along the way. Bring along some extra layers if you tend to get cold and don’t forget the sunscreen on a sunny day.

What to Expect:

Expectations may vary depending on the time of year and company you book with, but below are some of the most common features of any Whale Watching excursion out of Victoria:

  • 3-4 hour long tours
  • Skilled Guides and Captains at driving the boat safely and locating whales.
  • Do not expect to approach closer than 100m to the whales.
  • Within 400m, the boat will slow down to less than 7knots to reduce the impact of the boat on the marine mammals.
  • Guidelines are part of the Be Whale Wise Guidelines and are to help reduce impact of the vessel on marine mammals.
  • Expect to see not only whales, but also plenty of other marine life along the way!
  • Each type of boat will provide a different kind of experience.
  • Sea sickness is a rare occurrence – if you’re worried about it, take your favorite motion sickness medication beforehand
  • Expect to share the boat with others on the tour

Good Things to Know:

Finally, before you go, there are a number of questions you may want to ask the company so that you can be full prepared for your day!

  • What type of boat?
  • Are there washrooms on board?
  • Are there snacks/beverages available?
  • When do the trips leave?
  • How much earlier should you arrive at the area of departure?
  • Are floater suits available/do you need to wear one?
  • Is there a hydrophone on board to listen to the whales?
  • Is there a Whale sighting guarantee?

For many, spying these humble giants in their natural environment is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is always humbling and mind blowing to see their tails disappear below the waves or hear the spray and see the mist of the whales along the horizon. Follow these guidelines and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, there’s so much to see out there!

Laurissa Cebryk

Witty’s Lagoon

Some might say Witty’s Lagoon is a pretty well kept secret just outside of Victoria on Metchosin Road. With a bit of sunshine finally gracing the as-of-late grey horizon, I was more than excited to take up the opportunity to explore.

I was taken aback at just how beautiful the area really was! Sitting Lady Falls is easily accessed and takes no more than 15 minutes along the soft, forest trail to find. The viewpoint gives you an excellent vantage point from which you can watch it tumble gracefully into the lagoon below. Branching left takes you through a network of trails to explore, while branching right snakes you along to the beach where there are convenient bathrooms and picnic tables. As I looked at the map before entering the trails, I thought, “Man, this place must be dog heaven.” Neither I, nor the plethora of dogs met along the way were disappointed. Once on the beach, every last ounce of sand and grass was fair game for the happy dogs that bounded around the area as I ate my picnic lunch in the sun.

Since my afternoon had started later than expected while waiting for the sun to come out to play, my day’s exploration had to be cut a bit short. However, with the 5km of trails promised by the map that go through various terrain and lead you to stumble upon numerous, beautiful west coast sights, it’s pretty much a guarantee I’ll be back sometime soon. I have the feeling that the glorious beach and cascading waterfall are just the tip of the iceberg this little green emerald of a park has to offer.

5 Man-Powered Water Activities to do in Victoria

Oceanside and riddled with various freshwater features as well, Victoria is a go-to destination to experience numerous activities on the water. From exhilarating adventures to a casual float and paddle, below are 5 of the multitude of water-based activities to be found in Victoria, BC.

1. Diving

Vancouver Island has been rated one of the top cold-water diving destinations in the world. Rich kelp-forests with playful otters, scores of salmon and numerous nudibranchs are just the beginning of the stunning and intriguing wildlife that live beneath the waves. As you stroll the Ogden Point Breakwater, more often than not bubbles ascend to the surface from a diver’s tank. There are plenty of dive schools in Victoria and Sidney, as well as charters that will take you out to all the hotspots. Plenty of man-made reefs are available to discover, and you can even explore plane crashes and nearby wrecks.

2. Kayaking

This adventure is pretty much a given for a coastal city. Taking a peek at Victoria from the water offers an incredibly unique vantage point. Aside from seeing the intriguing heritage buildings from afar, there are also the Gulf Islands nearby that offer plenty of paddling exploration. Kayaking can be as relaxing or energetic as you desire, and plenty of sea life lives around the harbour and islands. You’ll no doubt meet a lot of “locals” along the way in the form of seals, sea lions, marine birds, and if you’re lucky, whales at a distance.

3. SUP Boarding

The balanced art of SUP Boarding is another awesome water-based activity to give a go while visiting the city. A paddle through the Harbour is a fun way to check out the boats up close and the buildings from a distance, as well as putting your balance to the test. Once you have the hang of it, scooting around the area is a breeze. You can even do a mini booze-cruise via paddleboard, making pit stops at a couple water-accessed pubs. Alternatively, if freshwater and no audience is a bit more your style, SUP Boards are a great thing to take to the lakes to explore the shoreline.

4. Thetis Lake

Located just outside of the city in Langford, Thetis Lake is a perfect city escape. Besides the two main lakes, Upper and Lower Thetis Lake, the 834-hectare park boasts multi-purpose trails for hiking, horseback riding and biking. The lakes themselves each have a boat launch, sandy beaches to lounge on, picnic areas and change rooms. Hot summer days sometimes mean a crowded beach, but the lake itself is usually relatively empty and open for a serene float. There are also a few cliff-jumping spots that are a local favourite, although it’s important to be aware that there is no lifeguard on duty. Be sure to check out the area before jumping and try to go where you’ve seen others jump before you.

5. Sooke Potholes

Naturally carved into the bedrock of the Sooke River are the Sooke Potholes, another local favourite and bustling summer destination. Unique due to their splendid curve and stunning aqua-green colour, the drive out of the city to spend the day here is a worthy cause. Explore the sets of cascading waterfalls in the park and find a swimming hole to call your own for the afternoon. With about 5km of swimming areas that consume plenty of the pools, you should have no trouble staking claim to a slice of rock. Again, cliff-jumping is a common activity, but be wary with your selection of jump location.

Summers on the coast are calling with these water-based activities, so dive in! Getting to know the variety of activities the city has to offer, all while keeping cool is just one of the unreal advantages of spending some time in Victoria.

Top Outdoor Activities in Victoria BC

Victoria boasts temperate climates that allow for outdoor experiences nearly 365-days a year.Alongside the perfect combination of mountains, forests, oceans, lakes and beaches, it’s a safe bet that Victoria is a mecca of outdoor activities. It’s hard to not take advantage of it; the city makes it so easy. No matter your pace, skill level or interests, there’s bound to be the ideal outdoor activity waiting for you in Victoria. Check out some of the top selections below.

Kayaking or SUP Boarding

Seeing Victoria from the water gives a unique vantage point of the beautiful, heritage cityscape that makes up the downtown core. Plenty of kayak rental companies are scattered around various locations including the Inner Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf. For those seeking a bit more adventure, tours go out to the Discovery and Gulf Islands and in around Victoria’s different waterways.
If you like to test out your balance or find the idea of sitting on your butt all day a little daunting, SUP Boarding might just be the activity for you! A unique sport that has been slowly incorporated into the West Coast, it can be a challenging and extremely fun way to take to the seas. There are even companies that will deliver boards to your location.
Regardless of which suits your pace, there’s nothing more satisfying than that slight shoulder ache of a day well spent paddling around the waters of Victoria.

Photo by: Marijke Clabots

Photo by: Marijke Clabots

Whale Watching or Fishing

Victoria is quite famous for two ocean-based activities, Whale Watching and Saltwater Fishing. If you want to get out on the water with a little bit of motorized power, either is an excellent choice.
Whales can be seen nearly any time of year in Victoria. Pods of Transient Orcas hangout pretty much 365-days of the year, while Minke, Gray and Humpback Whales can also be spotted depending on the season. Aside from whales, most tours also spot Seals, Sea Lions, Porpoises and a multitude of marine birds. Cutting through the Pacific waves in search of a whale tail or two makes for an exhilarating day out on the water.
If you’d rather have something to show off at the end of the day other than photographs, try your hand at catching dinner for a day. Seafood is a major staple for this west coast capital of British Columbia, and for a good reason. Salmon is a priority, but you can often haul up Lingcod and Halibut as well.

Beaches

Landlubbers can rejoice at the option of keeping both feet on dry land while still basking in the sound of the crashing waves of the sea. Due to its coastal location, Victoria has a number of beaches. Pat on some sunscreen, grab a picnic, some towels and the umbrella, and head out for a day ocean-side. Many of the beaches have nearby parks for a shady stroll to break up the afternoon, as well as playgrounds. Some of the local favourites are Willows Beach, Cadboro Bay and Gonzales Bay.
Ps. If freshwater is more your style, check out Thetis Lake Regional Park and Elk/Beaver Lake Park – there are sandy lakeside beaches and crisp, fresh water to swim in.

Hiking

The landmass that makes up Vancouver Island is riddled with all types of different terrain. Within and just outside of Victoria itself are plenty of hills, forests and trails that allow for some superb hiking. Visit Witty’s Lagoon for easygoing paths that still payoff with a waterfall and beach reward. Inside the boundary of the city are Mount Doug and Mount Tolmie, which both give you the eagle-eye overview of the city, while surrounding you with delightful greenery and a modest incline (although you can always just drive to the top parking lot…). Goldstream Provincial Park is a convenientfavouritelocated a mere 20-minute drive North of the city. There you can explore the trestle bridge and take in the stunning Niagara Falls, or continue on your way to more heady hikes like Mt. Finlayson. There’s also GowllandTod nearby, which shows off with some stunning views of Finlayson Arm, the Gowlland Range, Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountain Range.

Scenic Strolls

For something a little slower paced than a hike, there are plenty of perfect destinations right in Victoria for a casual stroll. Choose between urban or a little more rural to set the scene and you’ll be on your way. Some of the best urban sites to explore on foot include the Inner Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf, as well as Ogden Point for a visit to the lighthouse and its extending Dallas Road Walkway. If grass and path is more your style, check out Beacon Hill Park – there are 81 hectares of space to delve into, with more than a few hidden surprises to stumble upon. If you find yourself checking out the quaint Sidney-by-the-Sea, the sculpture and historical walk along the waterfront is an easy-going and easy-on-the-eyes delight.

Biking

Those who prefer two wheels to two feet are in luck: Victoria is not only the capital city of British Columbia, but is also the biking capital of Canada. There are hundreds of kilometers of bike lanes, bike routes and bike paths that wind their way in, throughout and around the city. The most extensive and scenic are the Lochside and infamous Galloping Goose Trails, which connect the region all the way from Sidney to Sooke. The trails will take you through all types of terrain, from scenic, coastal pathways, to trestle bridges and stretches of forest. There are plenty of Mountain Biking trails, as well as a BMX Track for those who seek a bit more adrenaline. Food and brewery bike tours are also available for an immersive exploration of the city.

Camping

Camping, of course, is the ultimate outdoor adventure. Luckily, there are plenty of areas surrounding Victoria for those who seek to spend both day and night away from the commodities of home. The solitude of the forest waits at Goldstream Provincial Park Campground, where you can combine your campout with day hikes in and out of the park. Another favourite option is the Sidney Spit campground, which is accessible via a short boat ride from the Sidney-by-the-Sea harbour. From there you’ll be immersed in a coastal and forest environment within a unique, provincial park. Of course, those are only two of the closest options. Don’t be afraid to venture a little bit farther to hunt down the park and campground that appeals to you most – there are plenty to be found nearby the city.

These activities are just the tip of the iceberg. Honorable mentions include diving, visiting Victoria’s numerous gardens, canoeing in the lakes and nearly anything else outdoorsy you could imagine. After all, there’s a reason Victoria’s MEC store thrives.

Top Places to Catch Live Music in Victoria

There’s nothing like getting to know a city through its music venues and shows. Oftentimes those late nights of live music bring out a contagious vibe and side of a place you may have never experienced before. From concerts and big names to chill nights with a new local face, there are several stops to make in Victoria to experience that artsy atmosphere. Read on below to decide on the place that best suits what you’re after for your musical night on the town.

1. The Copper Owl

Consistently ranked as a top spot to catch some live tunes, the inside of the Copper Owl may just come as a surprise. Vintage is the word choice of many to describe the cozy booths, dimmed lighting and wood-paneled walls of this intimate bar. It’s agreed that the speak-easy vibe lends to the contagious and enjoyable atmosphere, which is only enhanced by the tones of live music. Both local newcomers and well-known names take the stage, as well as comedy shows, dance nights and a multitude of other events. Stop and ask a local their favourite spot for music, and it’s almost guaranteed at least a few will respond with, “The Copper Owl.”

2. Hermann’s Jazz Club

Brick interior studded with trumpets, trombones and photos of Jazz legends, a trip to Hermann’s Jazz Club is a trip back to the very day they first opened their doors. A classic Jazz Lounge rather than a restaurant, bar, or club, the small stage allows for an intimate experience of fantastic music. Do not expect to have to dress to the nines, or to even really be able to locate the front door right away. Low key and cozy is the recipe of the night with great drinks, snacks should you desire and a clear prioritization on excellent music.

3. Logan’s Pub

Like a dive bar on uppers, Logan’s Pub is the perfect place to dress down but still have a surprisingly great night. Classic pub food with a fresh, creative twist accompanies an eclectic crowd depending on the genre of the night. With plenty of space and pool table to go alongside the tasty food and drinks, the place boasts being the “alternative HQ of the Garden City.” The slogan speaks for itself and you should expect to hear not a single shred of anything Top 40’s during your visit. For those searching for a diamond in the rough, Logan’s Pub is the destination to keep in mind.

4. The Mint

The Mint Downstairs is a cozy, after-hours venue that runs until 2am. Brick walls and low ceilings laced with string lights set an intimate and comfortable mood accompanied by flickering candlelight at each cozy table. Low-key DJ’s, live local talent and even an array of comedy nights often take to the stage and never disappoint. The variety of mojitos and incredible Asian-fusion food make for the perfect evening affair. Even if you don’t go just to see the music, it certainly adds a little je-ne-sais-quoi to the atmosphere.

5. Bard and Banker

Known as one of the only places in Victoria that does live music every night, this is a typical haunt for many locals in the city. There isn’t even a cover charge. Up front the music can be pretty loud, but hey, there’s a lot of space to fill. Bard and Banker is a Scottish pub that is located in what used to be the Bank of British Columbia, which employed a bard of Scotland (surprise!). A long bar with plenty of beer taps, elegant chandeliers, fantastic drinks and a plethora of classic pub fare accompany the nightly music. Sit up front to get a good look at the stage, otherwise the upper level and various booths and corners make for an opportunity to catch up with friends while the music sets the tone in the background. Sunday’s are unplugged for a bit of a quieter, low-key musical atmosphere.

6. CANOE Brewpub

Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights mean party time at the CANOE Brewpub. The place consists of a restaurant, pub and lounge, so there are plenty of seating options depending on the way you want to experience the music. The area around the stage is small but allows for plenty of fun. Often, dancing is involved. Home-brewed beers, tasty, fresh eats amp up the musical experience. All-in-all, Canoe is a great place to crush a few pints with friends, hear some tunes and maybe even put on those dancing shoes.

7. Gorge-ous Coffee

Throwing it back to those coffeehouse vibes is Gorge-ous Coffee, located on Gorge Road. It’s often a rare sight to see a café open later than 5 or 6pm, but Gorge-ous Coffee stays awake until 10pm every night. Why? They’re busy showcasing live, local music! Sometimes, they even do it during the day. Get that caffeine fix with a side of baked goods and local tunes. It’s a funky little shop focused on folk and blues music with enough comfy chairs and couches to go around.

8. AlixGoolden Performance Hall

An old converted church, the AlixGoolden Performance Hall is one of the larger, more epic venues Victoria has to offer. Stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings and layers of the pipe organ behind the former altar create a luminous and surreal backdrop to any performance, while somehow making the entire thing still seem rather intimate. Maybe it’s the wooden pews that keep the 800-seats in cozy quarters of each other, or just the humbling concept of attending a rocking concert in a former religious space. Its lofty stature leads to more than ideal acoustics and an ethereal atmosphere is riddled throughout the building.

9. Save-On Foods Memorial Centre

Last but not least, the Save-On Foods Memorial Centre is the go-to for any major names coming to the city. With a capacity of over 7,000 people, it’s actually the largest arena in BC outside of Vancouver. Although a full-time hockey arena, it has still held some massive concerts by night. Michael Buble, the Backstreet Boys, Leonard Cohen, Heart, Sir Elton John, LynyrdSkynard and ZZ Top are just a few of the many. The Centre is a short walk away from downtown, so it’s easy to have dinner in the city, catch the show and then head back out for an after-show drink or to keep the dancing rolling.

Jordan River

Surfing the South Island

Although Tofino is notorious for being the top surfing destination in BC, Victoria has a secret: Jordan River. The other weekend the wind was up, the sun was out and the boards were waxed so there was only one thing left to do – go surfing!

A quick 70km-or-so later, the car rolled to a stop next to a handful of others who were in on the secret. Amongst the wetsuits, flannels and dogs of the other surfers, we shielded our eyes against the sun and checked out the break. Shamefully, surfing isn’t my strong suit (yet), and so, as the boys suited up, I settled myself onto the hood of the car. Scattered up and down the shore, excited voices peaked with the waves and everywhere, people traced them with their outstretched index fingers. I walked along the shore to the edge of the point where even more people observed the surfers that split onto either side. Wave after wave presented a good enough challenge for the bobbing figures in the water. It wasn’t just surfers out there either, it seemed like very type of ambitious water-goer had come out to play: kayakers and SUP Boarders took turns delving into the swells and as I watched, people were suiting up and making their way into the break.

While basking in the sun, endless cars came and went, all with boards strapped to their roofs. Apparently though, while the sun was out, so were the locals’ teeth. Like Sombrio, the reputation that has stuck with Jordan River is that it’s a locals-only surf spot where the best waves go to the people who actually belong there. In a way, I guess you can’t blame them for wanting to keep the place to themselves – the boys were all smiles of ecstatic exhaustion as they finally cruised back in on their last waves.

Haunted Buildings in Victoria

Old buildings and ghost stories have long gone hand-in-hand and Victoria is far from an exception. Its alleyways, historical sites and old brick buildings are riddled with the footsteps of citizens and residents from long ago, some more so than others. Whether you believe the rumors or not is up to you. Here are a few of Victoria’s most haunted buildings and areas you may just want to avoid if you’re alone at night.

B.C.’s Parliament Buildings

Open in 1897, the Neo-baroque parliament buildings practically scream haunted. Considering the nature of the demise of their architect, Sir Francis Rattenbury, it comes as no surprise that he’s said to be seen wandering the corridors. He was bludgeoned to death in England by his wife’s lover and was then buried in an unmarked grave. Rumor has it, he haunts the halls of one of his greatest creations because he seeks the attention he was neglected by his anonymous resting place.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel

Another of Sir Francis Rattenbury’s designs, he has been seen pacing the halls of the elegant Fairmont Empress Hotel from time to time as well. Accompanying him are reports of a past maid who still cleans the sixth floor, and an elderly resident in her pajamas knocking on doors. When guests try to assist her to her room, she leads them down the hall and mysteriously disappears. If you don’t believe it, stay at the hotel for a night and try your luck at ghost hunting.

Haunted-Buildings-in-Victoria3

Photo By: Lylie Kiev

Craigdarroch Castle

It is only fitting that Victoria’s most notorious castle should also be haunted. Although the establishment has notconfirmed the hauntings, rumors have prevailed – and there’s more than one. The most common include staff reports of a little girl seen running around the house, a maid still cleaning, a woman’s feet going down the stairs and haunting music from an unknown source. Some tourists have even reported a man’s legs ascending a hidden staircase that ends in a bolted door.

Chateau Victoria

Shaking up the grounds of where Miss Victoria Jane Wilson and her family used to reside in a historic white mansion, the Chateau Victoria Hotel and Suites has experienced incidents of unexpected, extra guests since opening. A regular at the bar, staff has attempted to wait on a well dressed, albeit old-fashioned lady only to have her disappear in front of them. There have also been incidents reported of the elevators stopping at every single floor despite none of the buttons having been pressed. It’s said they were riding the elevator with Miss Victoria Jane herself.

St. Ann’s Academy

If you’ve seen the movie, The Conjuring 2 then maybe paying St. Ann’s Academy a visit will be scratched off the list. Built in 1858 as a Roman Catholic Cathedral, the academy was converted into a convent school in 1886. On site remains the original cemetery, within which nine sisters are buried. Whether or not they stay underground is the real question. Guests have reported seeing nuns wandering the grounds, as well as the ghost of famous Canadian painter, Emily Carr.

Chinatown

You can bet the second oldest Chinatown in North America is chock full of history… and ghosts. What used to be riddled with opium dens and gambling halls, Chinatown was frequented by all sorts of characters. Fan Tan Alley, especially, gives off a seemingly intense paranormal energy. Perhaps that has something to do with the frequent sightings of the ghost of a man fleeing down Fan Tan Alley – Chung murdered his girlfriend and made his escape through the narrow street. For a reprieve, take a break under the Gate of Harmonious Interest. It is decorated with symbols dedicated to driving away the forces of evil spirits.

Bastion Square

This square is the starting point of Victoria as a city and has a reputation for being the most haunted area in the city. Bustling by day, the square tends to a different crowd as night falls. Nearly every building and the numerous alleyways that surround the square have had reports of some kind of paranormal activity. The old Supreme Court building resides on top of Victoria’s first gallows and jail, where many criminals met their demise and were buried on site. Matthew Baillie Begbie, “the hanging judge” has been seen wandering the area close to his old courthouse. He is said to also spend quite a bit of time hanging around the Maritime Museum as well.

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Photo By: Gord Handford

Market Square

Johnson Street and Market Square make for a pleasant sight these days. Its history, however, possesses a little less charm. Full of gambling dens, saloons and brothels, the area used to be the city’s infamous Red-Light District. Now, its 1800s brick buildings are brimming with the ghosts of the rough-and-tumble characters who used to frequent the area. Visit at night and there might be more than just the sound of your own footsteps echoing in the courtyard.

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Photo By: Gord McKenna

Roger’s Chocolates

A National Historical Site on Government Street, Roger’s Chocolates’ owners were so dedicated they never left, even after they died. Charles and Leah Rogers founded the shop in 1885 and together ran the store and created the chocolates that have become a successful, privately owned and operated retail brand. They reportedly used to sleep in the kitchen, which is where they have been said to still haunt. Allegedly a child’s handprint also mysteriously appeared on a window high above the door.

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Photo By: Jay Carrieres

Beacon Hill Park

Although a stunning park often flooded with hordes of people enjoying the trails, fountains and wildlife, there are darker tales and sides of Beacon Hill Park. Its twisted and extensive trails have been the site of many a duel, suicide and even murder.
The most infamous tale is that of the Screaming Doppelgänger: In the 1970s, a woman of dark complexion with long blonde hair was seen repeatedly standing on a rock in the park, right at the corner of Southgate and Douglas. Every morning for several months she stood, unmoving at the spot until eventually, people stopped seeing her. Suddenly, in 1983, a woman, this time of dark hair and light complexion, started being seen at the same location, unmoving, like the photo negative of the woman before her. She, however, appeared more phantom-like than her predecessor. On Nov. 15, 2983 a body was found in a shallow grave nearby the rock. It perfectly matched the description of the vaporous woman. Even to this day, visitors have reported seeing the dark haired woman sitting in what would appear to be meditation; until you notice her mouth is twisted open in a silent scream.

Laurissa Cebryk

Craft Beer Hotspots

Vancouver Island Brewery

It’s only fitting that Vancouver Island Brewery comes first, as it lays claim to the title of being the Island’s first craft brewery. From 6-employee/warehouse roots in Central Saanich, to a production team of over 40 in a shiny new brewery, it’s safe to say the company has grown in the last 30-or-so years. In fact, the familiar orca logo can be spotted in more than a few places all over the Island and elsewhere. They strove to create beers that reflect west coast life (“clean, fresh and natural”), which they did with flying colours. From the classic Islander Lager, to Piper’s Pale Ale, and Hermann’s Dark Lager, there are more than a few longstanding favourites. Pop by the brewery for a $10 tour and see the production first hand. Then, you can sip a sample and even keep the mug.

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Photo By: Tyson Elder – www.rocktographers.ca

Phillips Brewing and Malting Co.

Driving by the warehouse empire that is now Phillips Brewing and Malting Co. it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always that way. Many years before, a dedicated brewer took to the credit card applications and kicked off a one-man beer production in a windowless apartment. The company’s untraditional beginnings were foreshadowing for what was to come. With eye-catching labels, endless humour and unstoppable creativity, the beers and products that now pour from the brewery are far from just your classic lagers and ales. The iconic, malty Blue Buck is nearly a household necessity in many Vancouver Island fridges, and its runner-up pals aren’t far behind. Better yet, $6 is all it takes to be able to explore the legendary brewery, fit with samples and a souvenir.

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Photo By: Patrick

Hoyne Brewing

Despite lacking a tasting room, snagging a taste of Hoyne is more than an attainable feat. Perhaps its safer to keep the creation of these incredible sips a secret, anyways. With extensive experience in the art of craft beer, and having worked faithfully under one of North America’s first microbrewers, Adam Hoyne was no doubt qualified for the task of creating a namesake brewery. Fairly new compared to its brewing compatriots, Hoyne Brewing is already a staple in most local bars. One beer in particular, Hoyne Dark Matter, has given Guinness a run for its money, replacing it on a few taps. A splash of beer comes with a splash of wit in the form of labels that prep you via colour scale for all the flavours and experiences you can expect. If you like good beer, definitely give Hoyne a shot.

Category 12

Brewing is a science and it’s one that Category 12 is well versed in. In fact, it’s so dedicated to the science of brewing that their tasting room is known as “the Lab.”
Putting the “micro” back into micro brewing, perhaps more than many of the others on this list, Category 12 sticks to small-batch brewing of about 30 kegs at a time. For fine-tuning and maximizing flavour and quality, this is the tactic that has proven infallible. This also means that if you like something, get at it while it’s there. Using local-only ingredients, and with those signature small batches, at least you know the beer is fresh.

Driftwood Brewing

In 2008, the keys to Unit 102-450 Hillside were handed over, and Driftwood Brewery sprang to life. Within a few months, their beer was ready to hit the taps, which it did in a big way. After taking over its neighbouring unit, and then the entire warehouse space, the company has grown and for a great reason; one sip and you’ll see why. These big bottled beers are a delight with classy labels and a number of core flavours backed by tasty seasonals. Perhaps the best known from Driftwood is the Fat Tug IPA, which will have any hop aficionado rejoicing. They don’t do brewery tours (yet), but their shop is open from Monday-Saturday to top up a growler or pick up some bottles.

Lighthouse Brewing

From day one, Lighthouse Brewing has strived to upkeep that artisanal attitude. The goal was to brew amazing craft beer every day with quality and consistency, which is just what they have done. 1998 marks the first batch of Race Rocks Ale, a steadfast part of their growing brew collection. Bottles, boxes and cans are available in a multitude of new brews, all created with the same skill and passion of that first small batch. The nautical theme is merely the cherry on top of the perfection contained inside. Although taking a peek at the bounty isn’t an option, you can always swing by the brewery to fill up a growler.

Spinnakers

Spinnakers might just be the most extensive of all the breweries in terms of brewing and serving craft beer. Not only have they crafted their own artisan beers since 1984, they have a daily cask special, as well as a rotating Guest Tap. Besides just beer, there are barrels and sours, as well as ciders and blends. Pretty well all of them can come in cans, bottles or straight from the source, and they’re paired perfectly with food inspired by the flavours of the beers. If you have a hard time making decisions, a coin toss might be in order, as the beer list is loaded with options. Their brew shop is also a great spot to visit: You may just end up taking some extras with you though, as they also make their own chocolate, as well as beer and cider created vinegars, fresh-baked artisan breads and pastries and even beer jelly. Maybe extensive is even an understatement. Oh yeah, there’s also a growler filling station.

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Photo By: Jan Zeschky

Canoe

Unfiltered and created without the use of preservatives and additives, the beers handcrafted at CANOE are more than worthy of a pit stop. Naturally carbonated, the incredibly crisp flavours of the beer reflect the quality of both the brewing and the ingredients. Partnered with a lively restaurant in a stunning location with great food, the atmosphere of CANOE is pretty much unrivaled. Every day features a different beer or special, and there are often seasonal beers on tap worth giving a go. Schedule your beer drinking to coincide with any of the almost nightly live music performances to enhance the experience.

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Photo By: Eva Rees

Swans

Swans is a pretty well-known hotspot in Victoria, but not only for their beer. The pub is located in one of the city’s iconic heritage homes and is a combination of pub, brewery, liquor store and hotel. A classy logo and straightforward style, beer is not something Swans plays around with. They’ve been producing classic, British-style ales, alongside German and Canadian beers since 1989. Don’t mess with a good thing. Sip your way through a pint or two, or maybe try out a flight and then take your favourites to go. Some options are only available at the pub or by the growler, but there’s a solid selection of bottled goodies at their liquor store, some of which aren’t available on tap.

Moon Under Water

Moon Under Water creates beers inspired by European tradition, but with a Canadian twist. Ambitious in trying out different brew methods, the selection is varied in styles and flavour. There’s definitely a consistency though, and that’s in quality and deliciousness. Six perfected recipes fit with quirky descriptions and backstories give plenty of well-balanced options to test out. They recently added a barrel-aged sour program, so those in favour of the tarter side of things can bait their breath for samples of these patience-inducing brews. Partnering with the brewery is the pub-side of things. The small batch creations sip perfectly alongside a menu of classic pub fare and tasty creative additions.