Vancouver Island Tours & Sightseeing
Guided bus tours are a great way to see all of what Victoria has to offer. Travel in air-conditioned comfort through some of BC’s oldest neighborhoods, including the oldest Chinatown in North America.
Get a panoramic view of the city from the top of Mt. Tolmie where the Parliament buildings and Beacon Hill Park can clearly be seen. Tours depart from downtown and range in price and duration. Some tours offer double decker busses, some of which are cabriolets.
A ride in an elegant, white horse drawn carriage provides memories to treasure forever and offers the opportunity for a leisurely look at some of Victoria’s finest scenery. Tours depart from the corner of Belleville and Menzies.
The Parliament Buildings were officially opened in 1898. They are home to our Legislative Assembly and occupy a 5 hectare block next to Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Seen in postcards around the world, the parliament buildings are illuminated every night with over 3330 light bulbs, a tradition that began to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Guided tours run daily and showcase the building’s unique design features and construction. This also allows visitors to sit in on a Question Period for a chance to see the B.C. government at work.
The Butchart Gardens are perhaps Victoria’s most well known attraction, and is a must see for anyone who needs proof that this is the city of gardens. Themed gardens such as the Japanese, Italian and the English rose garden showcase some of the world’s finest landscaping talent. Absolutely immaculate in every way, this will surely be an inspiration to anyone who has even the slightest of green thumbs. Also featured are fountains and sculptures, as well as a spectacular show and fireworks display on Saturdays during the summer season.
See Victoria from a different perspective! Fights can be booked for both day and evening. See the San Juan Islands, check out the golf courses from the air, and take in all of what Vancouver Island has to offer. Kenmore Air also offers flights to the glacier fields of the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.
Victoria offers a wide variety of gastronomical delights. You can tour a chocolate factory, cheese factory, visit a vineyard or brewery.
Established in 1885 by Charles W. Rogers, Rogers Chocolates has become world renowned for it’s high quality and fresh ingredients. Although best known for their 20 flavors of Victoria Creams, they also create decadent milk, dark and solid chocolates and truffles. Factory tours are available based on interest, and are free of charge. Visitors will be shown how chocolate is made and may even receive a free sample.
Cowichan Valley Cheese Factory
Just north of Victoria on Hwy 1 as you enter Duncan, you will find the Cowichan Valley Cheese Factory. Operating from a beautifully renovated brick church, the Cheese Factory is a great place to pick up some fresh made European style cheeses and fresh baked baguettes for a picnic in the scenic Cowichan Valley.
Partially because of the English heritage, Victoria is fortunate to have several brew pubs as well as Victoria’s own Vancouver Island Brewery. Vancouver Island Brewery are makers of several superb lagers and ales located on Government St.
One of the more popular brew pubs is Spinnakers. Spinnakers has great food as well a fine selection of brews.
A fun and economical way to see the harbour from the water, the harbour ferries are jaunty little former log jam tugs which briskly tour the waterways, stopping at pubs, Point Ellis House and Fisherman’s Wharf. Ferry stop signs line the harbour at many of the piers.
Most driving tours take a morning or afternoon. Allow about 4 hours and you will have a leisurely tour of some wonderful scenery. Allow more time if you want to do some shopping, or enjoy a relaxed lunch.
Marine Drive / Saanich Peninsula
Beginning at the breakwater at Ogden Point on Dallas Road, you will travel north along the shores of the Saanich Peninsula. Passing through Beacon Hill Park and the Victoria Golf Course will bring you to quaint Oak Bay, where you may stop to watch the seals frolicking at the Marina, or visit Oak Bay Village for afternoon tea or shopping. You might stop and enjoy the view at Clover, Gonzales, 10 Mile Point, or continue on through Cadboro and Cordova Bay. In Cordova Bay you will find Matticks Farm with Adrienne’s Tea Garden and unique shops.
For a different perspective, take in the view from Mt. Douglas or Mt. Tolmie parks, both just minutes off the route. At the end of Marine Drive you may double back to Victoria via Hwy. 17, or continue on to the unique town of Sidney.
Enjoy a fantastic view of Mt. Baker, visit the museum, cafes and marinas. Be sure not to miss Mineral World, where you can pan your own gold or gem stones. From Sidney, you may choose to travel inland, where you will find the Ocean Sciences Institute, or visit the center of the universe at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, also in this area is the world renowned Butchart Gardens. Returning to Victoria takes you through scenic countryside with farms, markets, and horseback riding.
Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island, the largest of the Gulf Islands, is noted for its many artisans, galleries and studios. Only a short drive and ferry ride away, it makes an excellent day trip outing from Victoria. Take Highway 17 (Blanshard Street) north, out of Victoria for 40 minutes to the Swartz Bay BC Ferries Terminal. The 35 minute ferry ride docks in Fulford Harbour, follow the signs for the 20 minute county road drive to the town of Ganges. Maps are complimentary at the Visitor Info Centre, and include directions to local artists studios. Visit the many cafes, unique shops and marina, or plan a day of golfing, kayaking or swimming in one of Salt Spring’s two fresh water lakes. On summer Saturday mornings, there is a local farmer’s and artist’s market.
Returning to Victoria, you may take the Fulford Harbour Ferry back to Swartz Bay, or choose the alternate ferry at Vesuvius. This crossing drops you in Crofton, a fishing village 10 minutes drive from Chemainus, famous for it’s murals by local artists. After viewing the murals and maybe a bit of shopping, take Highway #1 South to Victoria.
Sooke – Port Renfrew
From downtown Victoria, take Douglas street (Hwy #1) North to the Old Island Highway (Hwy #14). A half-hour drive will bring you to the town of Sooke, a quiet community typical of Vancouver Island.
Visit the information Centre for free local maps and details on activities such as Kayaking, fishing or hiking. Also, you may want to visit the museum, with its focus on the history of the local forestry industry.
From Sooke, continue on the Old Island Highway which now becomes West Coast Road. Some of the local beaches with easy access are French Beach or Sombrio, where you can walk the coastline and view wildlife in its natural setting. China and Mystic beaches are both also accessible, by hike-in and are recommended more-so as day trips. Maps to these areas are available at the Sooke Visitor’s Info Centre.
Further down West Coast Road is the logging town of Port Renfrew. The furthest point accessible on the West Coast Road, Port Renfrew is the gateway to the West Coast Trail for hikers, and also to Botanical Beach. If the tides are right, you can view a delicate microcosm of sea life in the tidal pools here, created by the perpetual motion of the ocean. The beach is an easy walk down a trail from the ample parking provided.
Leaving Downtown Victoria and traveling along the Gorge Road and old Island Highway brings you to Colwood where your first stop would be Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Park to view the military installation and Fisgard Lighthouse, another historic site.
Then on to Esquimalt Lagoon, a saltwater bird and wildlife sanctuary. Nearby is historic Hatley Castle with its museum and extensive gardens. Leaving Hatley Castle it would be a short drive to Metchosin Road which takes you to Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park. This park has picnic areas, restroom facilities and is wheelchair accessible.
East Sooke Park
From Downtown Victoria, take Douglas Street (Hwy #1) North to the Old Island Highway (Hwy # 14) Head East (Left) passing through the Royal Roads University Campus, and the communities of Colwood and Metchosin. Make another Left on Gillespie Road and travel along the Sooke Basin. East Sooke Park offers two access points. A left turn on East Sooke Road will take visitors to Aylard Farm. A working farm during the early 1900′s, this park offers easy trails across meadows, through the forest, or along the shoreline with impressive views of the Juan de Fuca Strait and neighboring Washington State. Here, you may also find hieroglyphics along the rocky coastline, left behind by local natives centuries ago. For a more challenging day hike, go right on East Sooke Rd. to Pike Rd. Use the access point at the parking lot to follow trails along the ocean, or through the areas where copper was once mined. The more adventurous may take the hike up Pike’s Peak, for a fantastic view of East Sooke Park and the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Located off Beach drive in Oak Bay, this popular beach is a great place to see and be seen. Although the water is cold, the beach is sandy, and a large grassy area is great for a game of football or volleyball. Concession stands are open during summer months. This is also the site of the popular Oak Bay Tea Party, which is held in late August. Parking is scarce, but busses are easily accessed.
Cadboro Bay beach is great for windsurfers and sailboaters and is a great spot to bring the kids. Gyro park play area is home to play apparatus, swings and of course caddy the resident dinosaur. With its sandy beach, warmer water and ample parking, Caddy Bay beach can be quite busy. Located at the foot of Mackenzie Rd., 15 minute drive from downtown Victoria.
Island View Beach
With beautiful views of the San Juan Islands, Island View beach is on of the less frequented beaches in the area. Great for exploring , photography and rock hounds or just sunbathing. Off Hwy 17 approx. 10 km from downtown Victoria.
Created by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago, the islands of sand and gravel were deposited, and formed the spit, the lagoon and the hook. This unique area can only be accessed by boat or by a ferry. The ferry departs from the foot of Beacon Ave at the Government pier. Activities on the Spit include hiking and walk-in camping.
Esquimalt lagoon is located near the historic site of Fort Rodd Hill in the municipality of Colwood. The lagoon offers a beautiful sandy beach with a view of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Esquimalt navy dockyards. This is one of the most popular spots for birdwatching as it is a migratory bird sanctuary. Plenty of parking is available.
Visitors will pass through west coast woodlands and marshes as the hike down to the large lagoon and sandy shoreline. A great place for bird watching, exploring or just relaxing. Secluded and peaceful, Witty’s lagoon is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Numerous water features and stunning views of the west coat islets make this marvelous west coast experience.
French Beach Provincial Park
This 59 hectare park is the former home of pioneer James French. He has such a love of the area that after he passed away, he left the land to be used as a park. Whales can be often be seen from the beach. It is also a great spot for beach combing, hiking or picnicking. Eagles, osprey and otters are also common sights. Located on Hwy. 1 between Sooke and Jordan River.
With a beautiful sandy beach this park is a great place for sand castle building. The beach is about a 20 minute hike from the parking area. Camping is allowed on the beach or in the parking lot in Recreational Vehicles. The wave action here makes China Beach a popular spot for surfing. It is also a starting point for the Juan de Fuca Trail which is a 47 km. trail extending to River Jordan.