Vancouver is already on many bucket lists, being the gateway for Inside Passage cruises, the legendary Rocky Mountaineer train and the Great Bear Rainforest. But a mere 90-minute ferry ride away lies the quaint harbour city of Victoria, on neighbouring Vancouver Island. Here are four experiences you just shouldn’t miss when you visit British Columbia.
Explore First Nations cultures
With wilderness hotspots, excellent dining, incredible gardens and an intriguing cultural history, Victoria is packed with attractions. In fact, the whole of Vancouver Island is rich in indigenous culture with countless sites to explore. Start with a visit to the Royal BC Museum, which has permanent exhibitions showcasing First Nations communities like the Kwakwaka’wakw, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Gitxsan, Haida and Nuu-chah-nulth peoples. The Totem Hall is jaw-dropping.
Cruise for wildlife
Vancouver Island and Salish Sea waters are teeming with marine life, and a cruise is the best way to take in the area. Each day, Prince of Whales offers multiple cruises to explore the area and see sea otters, bald eagles, Steller sea lions, elephant seals, harbour porpoises, humpbacks and killer whales. It’s an unmissable wildlife experience you’ll want to do more than once during your stay, so plan to make a day (or two!) of it.
Stay at the Empress
Sprawling like an Edwardian chateau alongside Victoria’s Inner Harbour, nothing can prepare you for the grandeur of the Fairmont Empress (think: an ivy covered facade, vast ballrooms, opulent decor, lush gardens). Since it was built i 1908, this historic hotel has been favoured by celebs and royals, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward and King George VI. The standard rooms have all the plush-luxe touches, but if you’re ready to be seriously spoilt, book into Gold Class for exclusive services and extra attention. Even if you’re staying elsewhere, it’s worth booking in for a Victorian style afternoon tea served in the historic Lobby Lounge. Fancy!
The stunning Butchart Gardens are a 22-hectare kaleidoscope of colour all year round and are within easy reach of the city. Founded by Jennie Butchart in 1909, the gardens have since been designated as a national historic site. Every year around a million visitors make the trip to explore its stunning landscapes. Don’t miss the Rose Garden, the Sunken Garden and the Italian Garden (or its gelateria).
For more info and to plan your trip, see www.HelloBC.com.au.