10 Things to love about Victoria, BC

by Samantha Bacchus McLeod

This is my 10 must-do activities list when I visit Victoria, BC, Canada. If you love people, travel and glorious food, and you haven’t visited Victoria, then you are missing out!

How many times have you visited a place for work and never actually visit the place? Cryptic question, I know. But think about that and you will notice how much you have missed when given these wonderful opportunities to just be in a moment and place. That is probably one of our most consistent mistakes we make. Travel is not only relegated to getting on a jet plane to visit far off places. Travel can happen right in our neighbourhood, in our city, our province. For me, travel is opening my mind, soul, heart to everything around me. I also love to listen to peoples’ stories too, as you may, or may not, like listening to mine.

Victoria, capital of British Columbia, sits on the craggy southern end of Vancouver Island. With abundant parkland, it’s known for outdoor activities, great food, good shopping, and mostly friendly people. The city’s British colonial past – colonisation – shows in its Victorian architecture, heck even in its name too but that is beside my point because I am here to up-sell the joy of travel close to home…although I would so dearly like to dissect colonisation, I must not digress.

Get settled in at Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel, A stay at Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel & Suites places you in the heart of Victoria, steps from Lower Johnson Street and Pacific Rim College. This family-friendly hotel is 0.2 mi (0.3 km) from Market Square and 0.3 mi (0.5 km) from Chinatown. The view of the hardworking Victoria Harbour is phenomenal, watch boats and planes float and fly in and out, and surprisingly although the scenery is busy, the feeling is peaceful. The sunsets are pretty damn awesome too. Oh, there is always a good sale on for suites at this hotel.

Step out for the evening and start by having a cocktail at JR Slims Victoria the food is fantastic too. The vibe is hoppy; great music, awesome service, and nice space. What I love about this place is there is a pre-pandemic feel…people at tables having chatty discussions, cocktails flowing, service that comes and goes fluidly, and music, just really good music. Our first night it was Cuban music along with the music videos, and drinks. It really got the mini vacation started, set the tone for the next few days, if you know what I mean.

Not cocktails they went too fast. This is second night Steak dins.

Dinner at Il Terrazzo. Well then, was I in for a very pleasant surprise. I love this iconic Victoria place, really do. There is an honest Italian feel to the place and this just from the entrance. Big terracotta pots overflowing with flowers, cobblestones glinting under fairy lights, and old stone buildings as the backdrop. Inside, you will be even more impressed. It is like midnight dining in some little Italian village…outdoors. Yet you are indoors. Each table seating has its own screens that looks like old windows, you are jammed up against the old stone walls, even with natural ledges (great place for the extra dishes). The food is really good, the service is amazingly good, the price point is affordable, actually surprisingly affordable for the service, food and space. I loved the iconic pasta dish, their homemade bread and olive spread is out of this world, and the impressive wine list is the most affordable restaurant wine list I have ever encountered.

Breakfast at Farmhouse Victoria is the best place to start the day, I love it for space, place, local food and the girls than run the show! Every item served is local, they are great ambassadors of locally sourced food; from the bread to the home cured bacon, to the locally roasted beans to the made in house treats. They make your orders on the go, so be prepared to wait a bit because, oh my, the few minutes wait is so worth it. Sit on the patio and enjoy the view of the water and the busy people going by, and the flower power of Local Restaurant next door. People are nice in Victoria, really and truly…but the ladies at this place take the cake award when it comes to niceness.

Tour the Royal BC Museum. One of the best in Canada for Natural History! It is absolutely amazing how much work went into the Natural History of BC – current and historical records of animals, plants, fungi, ecosystems, geology, palaeontology, climatology, and more…just mind-boggling how amazing it all was. I expected more of our Indigenous history but was exceptionally disappointed by the lack of effort that goes into other BC cultures history. That is the reason why I can only give it 4 stars, plus the Black history exhibition was extremely lacklustre. But I did learn that I would love to live the life of an Orca:-) Relax, travel, socialise, forage, blissful.

Buy your Every Child Matters tee shirts and always show your support by wearing your orange shirt any day of the week, every day even. It opens the door to global conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind.  A discussion all Canadians can tune into and create bridges with each other for reconciliation

Every Child Matters

Amble through how the 1 percent lived back in the day at Craigdarroch Castle. Rich walk through history in Victoria. If you just look at it as a visit to a castle with all it beautiful trimmings and quirks, and forget the colonial repercussions…then it is quite a lovely tourist thing to do. Beautifully preserved rooms, architecture, and dining services. Lovely view of the surrounding area. And I absolutely loved the GIFT SHOP filled with local jewellery and indigenous arts and crafts. It is a well organised tour, with clear directions and helpful staff along the way. After this tour you will get a craving so head on over to…

Tea time at Pendray Inn and Tea House. Excellent location, service, hours, tastes, tea…5 stars all the way! You can call ahead to order Gluten-free tea if you need to. The space is so very British, lovely decor, windows, old wood floors, lots and lots of verandah seating, gentle garden space. The teas and sandwiches, scones etc. are so very yummy. Home made, local products, artful and surprisingly filling. The team is very professional, very welcoming and very knowledgeable. I cannot wait to visit again.

Bookstores hunts and back alleys is where to spend the rest of your day. There are so many beautiful little shops to visit while meandering the cobblestoned alleys. And the book stores will keep you entertained for hours on end. Do visit Munro’s bookstore, which is a 50 year old business. Munro’s Books now occupies a landmark location in the heart of Victoria’s Old Town, not a back alley but just as historic.

Shop at PomPom in Victoria for the most lovely fashion pieces for women. The owners are very fashion savvy are very careful shoppers. Small orders from high fashion places, styles and clothes for the fashionistas and the smart career-girls. They will help you choose the best outfits for you and your body, they love colour and flair and style and fashion and they love to create outfits for every conceivable occasion. I keep a keen eye on their instagram profile and their websites so I can snap up anything that catches my eye…blink and it is gone.

MUST-DO things when you travel:
1. Stop the news feeds
2. Get off Social Media (save the pictures for sharing later)
3. Get to know the locals (they will save you a lot of google-time)

If you are ever in Greece, Naxos island to be specific…check out my favourite cafe at 44 Miles.

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