Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, established in 1843 by James Douglas as a fort for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Victoria’s city centre, with its stately Edwardian architecture, surrounds the Inner Harbour, home to visiting yachts, ferries and floatplanes. Street entertainers play along the causeway in the summer and flower baskets hang from the lampposts. The mountains of Washington state, across the Juan de Fuca Strait, form a backdrop and, come evening, the parliament buildings are lit with 3,560 tiny lights.
Victoria embraces a relaxed West Coast lifestyle with a sophisticated urban edge; this city boasts old-world charm blended with new-world panache. As a destination, Victoria is perfect for so many reasons: the mildest year-round climate in Canada, a tantalizing fresh and local food scene, dazzling gardens, invigorating outdoor activities, intriguing history, exciting family attractions, world-class hospitality and the breathtaking natural beauty of the Pacific coast. Victoria is large enough to be genuinely cosmopolitan, yet small enough to explore easily on foot or bicycle.
Victoria’s size is one of its best features. The population of the city of Victoria is about 80,000 and Greater Victoria is approximately 345,000. Victoria’s size makes access to outdoor adventure extremely easy; here you’ll find an active city with a population that loves the outdoors.
The quality and variety of activities is one of the biggest reasons Victorians love their city. You can step outside your hotel door and within a few short steps be cycling, kayaking or whale watching right from Victoria’s Inner Harbour, or be hiking through a rainforest within a 20-minute drive. Beyond the traffic, locals love to cycle; so much so that the city has been dubbed the “Cycling Capital of Canada”. According to the city of Victoria, cycling accounts for 10 per cent of commuter travel — more than any other city in the country.
When it comes to attractions, Victoria has everything from castles and hands-on education centres to kid-friendly activities. The city’s many museums focus on a variety of subjects: art, military, maritime, agriculture, pioneer and natural history, as well as First Nations culture. Moreover, Victoria’s only natural and human history museum, the Royal B.C. Museum, is also acclaimed for its outstanding touring exhibitions.
Victoria’s sophistication is evident in the food and wine scene that has burgeoned over the last decade. Victoria and southern Vancouver Island have developed a reputation as “Canada’s Provence” for their high quality, niche food products such as artisan cheeses, seaweed, water buffalo, pastured poultry, wild mushrooms, white asparagus, salad greens, balsamic vinegar, cider, spirit distillery and fine wines. All are locally produced and harvested by a handful of farms and producers who together create a cast of culinary characters.
The city, traditionally known for its afternoon tea, is leading the way with a modern twist on the classic cocktail culture. Add to this that Victoria’s wine region, the Wine Islands, is also the fastest growing wine region in Canada. Vancouver Island’s bounty can be experienced in many of Victoria’s restaurants, but a farm and winery tour through the Cowichan Valley or Saanich Peninsula provides a wonderful introduction to the gastronomic destinations on the island.
Victoria is a city of beautiful contrasts, where the elegance of history mingles with the flair of modern life. It is a place to relax and restore your sense of balance and also a place to indulge in thrilling adventures. Every day in Victoria offers wonderful new experiences.
Editorial provided by Destination British Columbia. For more information on great getaways in British Columbia visit destinationbc.net