Any vacation to British Columbia would not be complete without a visit to the province’s capital city, Victoria. Located on Vancouver Island, Victoria is a beautiful city with lots of fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. These are some of our experiences from our past trip to Victoria.
After visiting Vancouver, we drove to the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen for our hour and a half crossing over to Vancouver Island. We were very impressed by the BC Ferries service that helped make the journey a fun adventure for both the kids and the parents. Our kids were never bored with playgrounds available at the ferry terminals and play areas onboard the ferry. While the kids played, we were able to take in some of the scenic views.
While in Victoria, we stayed downtown at the Helm’s Inn, which is a great family-friendly hotel. Staying in downtown Victoria helped us take full advantage of this very walkable city. During our entire stay in Victoria, we only used our car once! Walking around downtown and exploring the different areas was great fun. We were surprised by the number of wonderful restaurants, pubs and cafes – many of them with their own happy hour specials on food and drink!
Our only caution would be tour guide books that perhaps oversell some attractions of Victoria. Heralded as the oldest Chinatown in Canada, we went on an adventure searching for Victoria’s Chinatown, only to be disappointed by how small it is compared to the one in Toronto and there wasn’t much for the kids to see or do.
After researching whale watching trips in both Vancouver and Victoria, we learned that all whale watching boats travel to the same general area to find whales. We decided on a whale watching trip from Victoria as we were able to walk from our hotel to the pier in only a few minutes. We decided to book our trip with 5 Stars Whale Watching, which is a family-run business with a focus on safety. Being savvy travelers, we found they also offered a Groupon deal, which helped us save a few bucks! (If they don’t have an active Groupon deal, keep checking back as it’s only offered sometimes.)
Our outing was quite an adventure, but sadly we didn’t see any whales. Admittedly, our trip was at the start of the whale watching season, so that didn’t help. We did have fun seeing lots of other animals out on the water and the kids loved the boat ride. While 5 Stars does guarantee whale sightings, we discovered one whale watching trip was enough for our stay in Victoria and we were happy to keep our feet on solid ground.
Beacon Hill Park
Located just behind our hotel, Beacon Hill Park is a big, beautiful park that we visited a few times during our stay. This park is so beautifully kept that it makes any stroll an enjoyable experience. There are also two really nice playgrounds for the kids as well as a petting zoo.
We highly recommend visiting the petting zoo when they open in the morning. They start each day with a running of the goats through the zoo! It was a fun experience with everyone helping make a path for the goats. After the running of the goats, visitors can enter the goat enclosure to pet and feed all the little goats. We spent at least 45 minutes in this area alone. This petting zoo asks for a small donation for entry.
BC Discovery Centre
A short drive away from Victoria is the BC Discovery Centre, which explores the province’s logging history. Their main attraction are the logging trains that go around the grounds every hour. Each train trip makes a short stop halfway where there is a children’s playground. We loved the train ride so much we took a second trip, but this time we sat just behind the conductor. The conductor gave us an excellent history lesson of the area and the Discovery Centre itself.
Savvy travelers like us will be able to find a Groupon deal on the admission price. A trip to the BC Discovery Centre is well worth the beautiful scenic drive! (Again, if they don’t have an active Groupon deal, keep checking back.)
The Fisherman’s Wharf was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel. It is a small little grouping of shops and restaurants at the waterfront wharf. We found later in the day there were no fishermen around, but it did appear you could buy the fresh catch of the day right from a few of the boats.
The highlight of the wharf for us was the buck a shuck oysters! Although the highlight for the kids were the seals/sea lions that hung out in the wharf waiting for some fish trimmings. Tourist could purchase these trimmings from one of the restaurants on the wharf.
After hearing many good things about Victoria, we were not let down by our visit. Victoria is a gorgeous city set on a beautiful bay. The city is a pleasure to walk and there are many wonderful restaurants to experience. Our only regret was not having enough time to explore all the area has to offer.
When planning activities for your visit to Victoria, take a look at the deals available on Groupon to make the most of your travel budget.
Full Disclosure: We’ve provided links on this post, which may pay us a commission. We were not paid to endorse any products or services. We are simply trying to cover our expenses for this website. Thanks to Tourism Victoria for access to some stock photos.