Hometown Series: Victoria BC Travel Tips from Janine DeVault
Today on the blog, Janine DeVault, from Janine in the World, is sharing about her hometown, Victoria BC. Janine has spent many years living in Victoria and attended university there as well. She has tons of tips on where to stay, eat and get outdoors. If you’re planning a trip to Victoria, this is the post for you!
How long have you spent living in Victoria BC?
Cumulatively I’ve lived in Victoria for about 9 years. I moved here to attend the University of Victoria in 2006 and stayed until 2013. I moved to California and then Mexico before finding my way back to Victoria in 2020. I’ve been here ever since and currently have no inclination to move again!
If you were just going to visit Victoria, where would you stay? Would you book a cool hotel or go camping somewhere?
I would book a hotel because I think you’d get the best experience of the city that way. There are great campsites near Victoria (Goldstream Park and Island View Beach on the Saanich peninsula come to mind) but if you want to spend time in the city itself you’re best to stay somewhere central.
The Fairmont Empress, located on the inner harbor is a beautiful landmark and historical institution in Victoria. The Parkside Hotel is another centrally located option with park views from some rooms and a lush, plant-filled lobby!
What do you love most about the city?
I love that it has all the amenities of a big city but that it feels like a small town. There are so many different communities within the city and each neighborhood has a distinct personality. I’m a fan of all of them!
Another one of my favorite things is that there are parks and trails EVERYWHERE, making it really easy to soak up the beautiful natural scenery.
Do you have any favorite restaurants and/or cafes in Victoria?
Victoria is a fantastic place for anyone who likes good food. The cafe culture is very strong!
- Blue Fox Cafe, located on Fort Street downtown, is my favorite place for breakfast or brunch. They specialize in large plates of wholesome food that feels like it was home-cooked. They make their own in-house jam and it is fantastic.
- Union Pacific Coffee on Herald Street downtown has a cool atmosphere, great coffee, and yummy lunch items. It’s located in a cool heritage building and has European-style shared tables.
- Township Coffee on Tyndall Ave in Gordon Head has the very best coffee in town and also the best sausage rolls and scones. It’s out of the way in the suburbs, but it’s fantastic.
- Ferris’ Oyster Bar and Grill on Yates Street downtown is one of my favorite dinner spots. The patio is lovely in the summer and everything on the menu is excellent. Don’t skip the brownie for dessert.
What activities do you like to do outdoors there?
My favorite outdoor activity is taking scenic walks through my favorite parks and neighborhoods, but this is really only scratching the surface of all the outdoor activities Victoria has to offer. You can go kayak, sail, swim, cycle, kiteboard, hike, and more!
My favorite places to go for walks are:
- Mount Doug Park: It offers many kilometers of hiking/walking trails and you can get great views of the city and surrounding mountains (including Mount Baker) from the top of the hill.
- Dallas Road: This is a super popular oceanside walking and cycling route. You can see impressive views of the Olympic Mountains from here.
- Gonzales Beach: In the summer, this sandy beach in the Fairfield/Oak Bay area is great for picnics and even swimming!
- Island View Beach: Island View is a gorgeous sandy beach on the Saanich peninsula. There’s a walking/jogging path behind the beach if that’s preferable. Dogs are allowed off-leash here so it’s a fun place to bring your canine pal, especially on a sunny day!
Are there any museums, art galleries, or other historic sites you’d recommend visitors to check out?
There are so many!
The Royal BC Museum is an obvious one. It highlights the history of British Columbia and its people. It’s about to undergo a major refresh to better acknowledge and illustrate the important history of BC’s indigenous communities. This is obviously very important so I’m looking forward to seeing the end result.
Victoria happens to be home to the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second-oldest in all of North America. It is home to all kinds of restaurants, Chinese grocery stores, and narrow alleyways full of cool boutique shops and businesses! Fan Tan Alley is one of the main ones to visit. The gateway to Chinatown is located at Fisgard and Government Street.
Craigdarroch Castle is a popular historical site just outside downtown Victoria. It was built in the 1800s by a coal mining mogul and now serves as a museum. It’s really cool to tour the building and see the beautiful antique furniture and admire the impressive architecture. At Christmas they go all out on festive decorations inside, so it’s worth checking out if you’re here in the winter!
Hatley Castle in nearby Colwood is a National Historic Site. It’s an impressive stone castle that you might recognize as the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning from the X-Men movies! In reality, it was built in the early 1900s by the same family who built Craigdarroch Castle. You can visit to take guided walking tours of the estate and gardens.
Beyond these, there are tons of historic buildings throughout the city. The Empress Hotel and the Legislature Buildings in the inner harbor are two major ones, but a wander through neighborhoods like James Bay, Fairfield, or Oak Bay will reveal all kinds of beautiful homes to marvel at.
Do you have a favorite part of town?
Cook Street Village and Dallas Road are favorite areas of mine. Cook Street Village is located just a few blocks from Dallas Road and is full of cafes, coffee shops, antique shops, and more. It’s fun to go poke around and window shop before or after taking an oceanside wander along Dallas Road. The area is packed with pretty heritage homes and borders Beacon Hill Park, so it’s just a lovely place to be!
What do you miss the most about Victoria when you’re traveling?
Other than my friends and family, I miss how peaceful it is! I always joke that they roll up the streets at 6 pm in Victoria, but it’s somewhat true. After years of living in busy, noisy places like Mexico and Los Angeles, being in Victoria is incredibly calming. I’m never far from a park, an ocean view, or a delicious bakery.
Do you have any final travel tips for people visiting Victoria?
Give yourself at least three or four days to see all that Victoria has to offer. I think a lot of people try to squeeze Victoria into a quick weekend trip (and you can do that), but realistically you’ll want more time. I’ve only barely scratched the surface in everything I mentioned above. There’s a TON to see and do here!
Follow Janine on Her Adventures!
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