Five things to do in Victoria, British Columbia

On my recent trip to Vancouver, my friend Brandon (Carpe Points’ media partner D’Scoop) and I took a day trip to Victoria, BC and discovered some awesome stuff to do on Vancouver Island. Make sure you add these to your checklist next time you’re adventuring in the area!

Take the ferry

Victoria is about a half-hour drive from the ferry landing on the island, of which the ferry takes about an hour and a half from just outside of Vancouver. At around $80 each way for two people and a car, it’s hardly cheap – but it’s 90 minutes of beautiful scenery and relaxation, and that’s even before you dock. There are flights into Victoria International Airport, but they’re not worth it — and if you get seasick, it’s a very smooth trip (at least it was on the day we traveled). If you can’t be away from the office too long (or just want to upload your photos to Instagram), there’s even flaky wi-fi service during the entire trip.

Reserve your ferry rides both ways so you don’t have to worry about it being full. In our experience, both our ferries were very lightly loaded, but that’s not always the case: http://www.bcferries.com/

Try some Victoria-n Gin

One of the reasons we wanted to go to Victoria was to check out one of BC’s small distilleries, something you don’t see much of in the United States. Buried down what feels like a dark mountain road, Victoria Spirits is tucked down a driveway and well worth the adventure. We were told they’d be open when we were there, but found that it was closed – but took a chance and drove down the driveway to find that a cruise ship tour was going on. We joined them, and were glad we did: we got to taste their gins (my favorite), and Brandon even took a bottle home. Thanks, Phil, for the tour!

Have high tea at the Fairmont Empress

It’s somewhat touristy (okay, it’s really touristy), but it’s quite an experience. $60 gets you all the fine tea you can drink, fresh strawberries and cream, and a three-tiered tea-snack tray. A little overpriced? Maybe. But it really is a fabulous experience. They suggest you make reservations, but we had no trouble getting a seat at 2pm. More about the tea experience

Watch BC Parliament in session

Across the street from the Empress is the Parliament building of British Columbia. I’d completely forgotten that British Columbia’s provincial house was located in Victoria. Public tours take place at 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 1:30pm, 2:30pm and 3:45pm Monday to Friday from steps of the building’s main entrance. Unlike other state houses, no reservations are needed – and if you’re not inclined to go on a tour, you’re free to walk around the building. When you’re all done, go to the upper floor, through security, and watch whatever’s going on in the chambers. You won’t be allowed to speak, stand, or bring your leftovers from the Empress, but it’s fascinating.

Visit Deep Cove

On your way back to the ferry – hopefully late in the day, around 6-8pm in the summer hours – give yourself a little extra time and take a drive to Deep Cove. Not to be confused with Deep Cove, North Vancouver, the Victoria version is nothing more than a pier, a small marina…and an amazing view. In all honesty, I think I may have found my retirement home – and we discovered this all because we intentionally got lost. Here’s a map to a nearby restaurant: ignore it and just go to the public waterfront access.