From snowy peaks to turning leaves and fragrant flowers, Canada will never leave you wanting for new experiences. Victoria, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, brings sunny skies and vibrant streets by the water into the mix!
Stop by British Columbia’s capital and Western Canada’s southernmost major city for some of the warmest weather in the country! With a modest population and perfect location on the water, Victoria is the best of many worlds. This surprisingly busy city is surrounded by nature and has a nice laid back vibe, making it an ideal location for any type of trip.
Spring, summer, or fall, there are a lot of things to do in Victoria — ready to plan your trip?
Best time to go to Victoria
With warm springs, hot summers and mild falls, you’ll find things to do in Victoria whenever you go!
From March to May, the winter rains wash away to warm weather and spring sun. The peak season travellers aren’t in yet, so spring is a good choice if you want to beat the crowds.
June to August is summertime in Victoria, where the sun shines and the beaches come alive! Victoria is beautiful any time of the year, but you need to see it in the summer at least once. Open air markets, bustling crowds, local artisans, and all the festivities you could ask for. After all, summer is peak season for a reason.
Victoria still has much to offer travellers between September and November, when the summer heat slowly starts to give way to the winter rains. Whale watching season runs until October, making Victoria a great last stop to cap off a season of summer travels.
Things to do in Victoria
With a warm climate and just the right amount of rain, Victoria is a veritable garden for most of the year, so much so that it’s also known as the Garden City.
There are plenty of things to do in Victoria in the spring as the winter weather fades away. Visit the Butchart Gardens in late spring for best-of-the-best blooms. Over 100 years in the making, the Butchart Gardens boast over 900 varieties of plants. The garden has five main seasons in which you can experience different activities. During the spring and summer months, enjoy the blooms and live performances. If you’re visiting during the winter holidays, be prepared to be amazed by a garden of lights!
The beginning of spring also means the start of whale watching season. This is one of our favourite things to do in Victoria with kids. Orca, humpback, and grey whales populate the clear Pacific waters around Vancouver Island from the spring to the fall. Taking a tour with one of the many whale watching companies in the spring means being able to see the majestic beasts without the summer rush. Whales are a Victoria must-see!
After a day outdoors, try some of Victoria’s most inviting pubs. The Irish Times Pub, considered one of the best Irish pubs in North America by Irish Pubs Global, serves up Irish charm and local cheer to locals and tourists alike. Their vibrant environment and live music has awarded them Best Entertainment in North America in 2018.
Local tip: You can stop by any night of the week and catch live music, but try to catch a seat at the bar on Friday and Saturday afternoons — that’s when they have authentic traditional Celtic music bands on stage.
Summer is one of the most fun seasons to visit and enjoy the variety of things to do in Victoria.
Some of the most trendy areas in Victoria, BC, during the summer are the shops and sidewalks. Victoria’s hipster locals and trendy tourists make their way to the open air public markets. A few are open year-round but all the open-air markets kick off their peak seasons in May. All the markets feature delicious local produce and handmade goods, but head to the Ship Point Night Market for live entertainment as well! The Oaklands Sunset Market is another top choice for a performance with your produce.
Local tip: If you love shopping locally, check out Johnson Street in downtown Victoria. Known as LoJo to locals, the beautiful old street features several boutiques and also some of Victoria’s most unique architectural features — the purple sidewalk prisms! Look under your feet for glass along the sidewalk; they once functioned as basement lights for Victoria’s businesses. Have fun hunting for this historic Victoria sight.
As a city on the water, you have your pick of spots to splash in. We recommend a day at Willows Park; the children’s play area makes this a great addition to your list of things to do in Victoria with kids. In true Victoria fashion, there’s even a tea room near the beach! Leave Fido at your rental when you go — dogs aren’t allowed on the beach during the summer. (You can bring your dog on the grassy areas with a leash, though).
At the top of our list of things to see in Victoria, BC, is Hatley Castle, a national historic site open in the summer. Completed in 1908, the castle was once used a military college dorm and now belongs to the Royal Roads University. The castle is gorgeous inside and out — take a tour if you need a break from the summer sun.
Finally, if you’re looking for some more fun things to do in Victoria with kids — or just on your own — check out Adrena LINE for zip line tours across some of Southern Vancouver Island’s most breathtaking sights.
In the fall, Victoria’s weather starts to cool off, but unlike much of Canada, stays fairly warm during this season. If the skies do start to drizzle a little, check out the Royal BC Museum. The exhibits and events change regularly so locals and tourists alike will find new things every time they visit.
Local tip: the Royal BC Museum’s crown gems are the Indigenous Collections and Thunderbird Park, first opened in 1941. The Royal BC Museum has long dedicated itself to preserving some of the local indigenous art (Thunderbird Park’s original reason for existing) and has recently begun working with local tribes to repatriate and contextualize Native Canadian cultural treasures.
If the Royal BC Museum has you craving more history, Victoria’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America. Only San Francisco beats it in age! The district has been reinvigorated over the years, resulting in a vibrant mixture of historic buildings, newer shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for a fun thing to do in Victoria, try to find Dragon Alley. It’s a street so narrow that its address is 532 and a half!
No trip to Victoria is complete without a tour of Victoria’s iconic parliament buildings. In the fall, the buildings are open Monday to Friday, offering regular free tours in English (or, if you call ahead, Mandarin or French). If you miss a tour, you’re welcome to explore on your own. Be sure to check out the harbour outside for the iconic shot of Victoria and the parliament buildings.
One of our favourite unusual things to do in Victoria is dining in the Parliamentary Dining Room. The restaurant is open to the public (with a reservation), and is one of the top choices for places to eat in Victoria.
How to get to Victoria
You can’t drive to Victoria, as the water between Vancouver Island and the mainland can’t support a bridge, but you can take a boat! Multiple ferry companies serve Victoria. For travellers with a car, you can board most of the ferries on wheels and then enoy the views on the deck.
The most well-known ferry to Victoria is the BC Ferry, which runs multiple times a day, either hourly or alternating hourly. Plan ahead because the wait times during peak periods can get long. You don’t need a reservation, but it’s a smart idea to make one if you’re travelling with a car, or for busy long weekends and peak summer months.
For a ferry to Victoria from the United States, the Black Ball or the Washington State ferries are your best bet. Both depart from Washington State and run two to four times a day depending on the season. Black Ball ferries require reservations and are strongly recommended on the Washington State routes. Call the harbour for same-day reservations.
With non-stop service from cities like Toronto and Calgary, flying right to Victoria and bypassing the ferry is a good idea for anyone not travelling by car.
For travellers from Western Canada, the smaller Nanaimo Airport offers flights from Vancouver and Calgary daily throughout the year and other cities seasonally. From Nanaimo to Victoria is an hour and a half drive, so rent a car and drive south if you land here.
Local tip: Want an experience to write about? There are numerous float plane flights between downtown Vancouver and Victoria. If you’ve never landed on the water before, take a float plane tour and see the Victoria sights from the air!
Where to stay in Victoria
With all the things to do in Victoria, you need a place to crash at the end of the day that feels like home. A condo in the heart of downtown Victoria is a great choice for couples and friends on shorter trips, while a cottage on the edge of the city has all the space you need for families and longer trips.
With a wide selection of properties in Victoria, CanadaStays has the right rental for any trip — why not stay at one of our top vacation rentals in the area: