Around Victoria, British Columbia, a city of sweeping gardens and bountiful flowers on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, your eyes will feast on the sights. You might even see Caddy, a legendary sea monster with a long, greenish-brown body and a camel-like head, swimming in the bay, or even a sixteen-inch footprint from a Sasquatch that roams nearby forests.
Sea creatures and mythical beasts are attracted to Victoria for the same reasons travelers from around the world are, its beauty, charm, and fragrance are enchantingly alluring. Beauty in the way this capital city cast wondrous reflections onto the Inner Harbour. Charm from its restored 19th-century architecture and enduring British traditions. And fragrance from the nearly 2 billion flowers around the city (yes they count the flowers each year, and yes that’s billions!).
The oldest city on Canada’s west coast, Victoria is a livable, loveable seaside town with narrow streets, a dizzying array of tea gardens, and streetlights that bloom on schedule. In short, it’s a city that begs to be walked, explored, photographed, and utterly enjoyed. Always in season, Victoria is the perfect foreign destination that’s just a ferry-ride away from Seattle.
Travel agents always have Victoria in mind for those seeking an international adventure without wanting to travel clear across the globe. They know that in Victoria you get it all: the provincial city set within the wild splendor of the Pacific coast with mountains highlighting every vista and the welcoming ocean teeming with pods of photogenic killer whales.
Much like the whales, everything in Victoria moves at a leisurely pace, for it’s a city that knows where it’s going and is in no rush to get there. Residents and tourists alike amble about the clean streets, enjoying waterfront views, historic structures, funky shopping stores, and first-rate museums
Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour is where most are drawn, whether to simply enjoy the seaside scenery or to take part in the myriad of marine adventures. Seaplanes, ferries, yachts, kayaks, and rowing sculls bustle across the waters, and buskers line the sidewalks during the warmer seasons. At night the Inner Harbour shimmers with the reflection of the more than 3,000 lights that illuminate the impressive Legislative Building.
Many explore this downtown area on foot, for popular attractions like Olde Towne, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Beacon Hill Park, along with the beautiful residential areas of James Bay, Fairfield, and Rockland, are all within walking distance of the Inner Harbour. However, bicycles, double-decker buses, and horse-drawn carriages are also on hand for exploring this “Garden City.”
Victorians take that “Garden City” moniker seriously, proudly tending the parks and gardens that cover more than 7,600 hectares (one hectare = 10,000 square meters). Victoria boasts the mildest climate in all of Canada, allowing gardens to bloom year-round, and the citizens take full advantage of these ideal weather conditions.
The essential ingredients to any garden are flowers, and flowers are so important to Victorians that they count them. Every February, while most Canadians are still shoveling snow, Victorians report the number of blossoms in their gardens and throughout their neighborhoods to the Chamber of Commerce. The announced results, which lately have totaled in the billions, spark a yearly celebration of the official farewell to winter and a hearty, flourishing welcome to early spring.
There are so many flowers in Victoria that the citizens get creative in using them. One popular and time-honored tradition is the hanging flower baskets that decorate thousands of lamp posts. The placement of flower baskets on lampposts every June—a trademark of the city recognized around the world —has signaled the start of summer in Victoria for more than 60 years.
Traditions are important in Victoria, where the people embrace the celebrated British tradition of afternoon tea. Tearooms around Victoria—from fancy hotels to quaint one-room establishments—allow visitors and residents alike to savor afternoon tea while enjoying the most picturesque views in the city. Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel includes fresh berries and plump scones with homemade strawberry preserves and thick cream, served with a delightful blend of China black, Ceylon, and Darjeeling teas to the sounds of Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor.
Good tea, good company, and relaxing times remain constant in Victoria. That’s why travel agents have been sending their clients here for years, especially multi-generational families with varied interests. Whether you’re looking for day trips to the scenic Gulf Islands or an adventurous overnight excursion amidst the snow-capped mountains and lush forests that traverse Vancouver Island, travel agents know how to get the best out of your vacation to Victoria.