Before we head out on our epic adventure we decided to spend a few days in Victoria, BC to visit family and see some of our favourite attractions. The bustling inner harbour, quaint British charm and historical sites makes you feel like you’re farther away than a mere 90 minute ferry ride from the mainland.
Planning the Trip
Whenever we visit the island we book through BC Ferries Vacations. They provide amazing packages for accommodations and ferry transportation. The customer service agents are always so helpful, and make trip planning easy. This time we took advantage of a summer promotion which offered 50% off a whale watching tour!
Where We Stayed
We decided to spend the first couple of nights in Downtown Victoria at The Parkside Hotel & Spa. We love its proximity to downtown and the ability to walk to many the city’s popular attractions. The suites are perfect for our young family offering full kitchens, laundry and MULTIPLE BATHROOMS!!
This time we booked a Luxury One Bedroom Suite which gave us 2 decks, with the back one opening up to a private rooftop garden. It was perfect for viewing the Perseid meteor shower when the kidlets were asleep.
An all-you-can eat breakfast buffet is available in the mornings for $10 per adult and $5 per child. There was a good selection of baked goods, cold cuts, boiled eggs, fruit, cereals and yogurt to start your day The make your own waffle station was also a hit!
After our 11am sailing from Tsawwassen Ferry terminal we settled into our hotel. We met family for dinner at Ferris’ Grill and Garden Patio. Huge portions, basic kids menu and extensive raw oyster selection. The 8 of us were seated in a cramped booth right by the kitchen which made handling wiggly toddlers a bit of a challenge. Overall the food was good, but I would request a different area of the restaurant if dining with young children.
After dinner we went on horse-drawn carriage ride with Tally-Ho Tours. We went on a 45 minute ride through Beacon Hill Park and the James Bay neighbourhood. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable and Spot the horse was as sweet as can be. This was one of the highlights for the girls and they requested to take more rides throughout our trip!
The next day started bright and early with our whale watching tour with Orca Spirit Adventures. The shuttle came to pick us up from our hotel and we were taken to their office in the harbour to register and board our covered boat, The Pacific Explorer I.
After a 45 minute trek out to open water we began to see our first group of Transient Orcas! Some lucky kayakers and zodiacs got quite the show when the orcas surfaced right beside them! Being in our larger covered boat meant we needed to be further away from the pod but I got some great photos!
Suddenly on the other side of the boat someone spotted Humpbacks! These whales are harder to spot as they can dive for up to 20 minutes at a time. Tour companies do not use sonar or tracking equipment to locate the whales, instead they work together and radio in sightings. Guests are asked to keep their eyes peeled as well.
On our way back we got to check out the sea lions as they basked in the warm afternoon sun.
Our whale watching tour was so much fun and something I’ve always wanted to do. I highly recommend it to everyone who visits Victoria!
After the shuttle back to the hotel we headed out onto a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour. This was a big hit with the kids as we got to ride a bright red double decker bus around the city. This is a great way to visit many popular attractions and not worry about parking.
Our first stop was the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. My girls loved all the new baby goats! We were allowed to brush and cuddle with them.
We hopped back on the bus and visited Craigdarroch Castle, the 5-story home of the Dunsmuir family. It was an easy self-guided tour of over 30 rooms filled with Victorian era architecture and artifacts. The girls enjoyed learning about how people lived in those days, and Lily especially loved the dresses. Avery loved how the light came in through the many stained glass windows.
Keep in mind when you visit that you need to keep backpacks on your fronts to avoid knocking over anything, and you need to keep your hands off the wood panelling. Oils from our hands can damage the wood so they suggest hands at your sides and staying on the rugs and carpets.
We continued on our bus and made our way back to our last stop at the Empress Hotel. The kids had a great time and I think it’s a great way to get an overview of the city. The route covers most of the major attractions in the Greater Victoria area, and with buses arriving around every hour you get the opportunity to explore your stop and then continue on your way.
Steeped in tradition, a visit to Victoria is not complete without afternoon tea. We decided on a visit to Point Ellis House to enjoy high tea in their beautiful garden.
The Grand Tea was an assortment of savoury sandwiches, scones and sweets. The girls each got Kitty’s Cream Tea which includes a sweet and savoury scone with berry compote and Devonshire Cream. The Point Ellice Blend was my favourite while the girls and Thang all got green teas.
After their treats the girls went off to explore along the paths in the gardens while Thang and I calmly enjoyed the rest of our tea. After our meal we went on a guided tour of the house which is included in the price.
The house has been beautifully preserved and contains one of the most complete collections of Victorian and early Edwardian artifacts. When the home was sold to the Province it was sold as-is, with many of its beautiful pieces in pristine condition.
At Avery’s request we went on to visit The Victoria Bug Zoo. A wide variety of creepy crawlies are available to touch and hold. The guides are informative and she enjoyed learning interesting facts about each of the insects. The leafcutter ant colony was so mesmerizing to observe. At over 2.5 million ants, it’s Canada’s largest colony!
It’s not a big museum but it’s enough for a quick break in the day and the kids get a kick out of it.
Our final day started off with a visit to The Royal BC Museum to see the new Mammoths! Giants of the Ice Age exhibit. For the first time in Canada we were able to view Lyuba, a 40,000 year old baby wooly mammoth. Discovered in 2007, she is the most complete preserved mammoth.
The museum is well laid out and easy to navigate. The displays give you a great overview of life here in BC covering everything from natural history, settlement, indigenous people to present day. I have visited in the past before kids and with the travelling exhibits it keeps the museum fresh and appealing for return visits.
We ended the day with a lovely evening cruise with family in the harbour with A 3-Hour Sail on the authentic tall ship Thane. The ship was beautifully crafted from an abandoned hull and over 95% salvaged and repurposed materials. Completely powered by solar power, it uses less fuel in an entire season than a whale watching boat does in one trip! Talk about eco-tourism!
The weather was a bit chilly so dress accordingly but Captain Rob and Captain Banjo Pete were well equipped with extra fleece jackets and blankets for us to use. We were welcome to bring our own food and alcohol to enjoy the sunset and lovely views of the harbour.
And this concludes an amazing trip to Victoria. I am so glad we made the decision to visit and take a little break from packing and preparing for the trip. We were blessed with great weather, new experiences and wonderful company.
Special thanks to Tourism Victoria for sponsoring our attractions during our visit. As always, all opinions are my own.