3 Days in Victoria, BC: A Fun Coastal Weekend Getaway

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I’ve been to a LOT of cities in the world but, to date, Victoria is still one of the prettiest, and it was one of the first few trips I’d taken when I started traveling. Victoria, British Columbia, is a beautiful coastal city – and the largest city – on Vancouver Island. Living in Portland, I did a quick roadtrip up to Victoria (~6hrs or so) with my boyfriend and good friend Michael (one of the best foodies in Portland btw!). We spent 3 days in Victoria, BC and had the best time!

That said…I haven’t been back since, and it was again – only 3 days in Victoria. Thankfully for all of you, I’ve called in an expert!

Kelena from the Travelling City Girl is a Canadian blogger in Vancouver and has been to Victoria more times that I’ve washed my hair this month. Kelena grew up in Vancouver and travels pretty extensively throughout British Columbia, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest in general, so she knows her stuff. Plus, her name starts with a K so you know she’s trustworthy.

Anyways, Kelena signed up to help give all of you some dope suggestions and insights for the best ways to spend 3 days in Victoria so you can have an incredible stay of your own.

TLDR: 3 Days in Victoria, BC

Aight aight I get it, sometimes you don’t feel like shifting through a whole blog post and you just want the bare bones right up front. I don’t take it personally, you’re probably a very busy person. Or you hate reading. Both are equally common these days.

In any case, here’s the gist.

  • Day 1 – Downtown & James Bay Neighborhood
  • Day 2 – The Butchart Gardens & Victoria Butterfly Gardens
  • Day 3 – Afternoon Tea & Whale Watching

And boom that’s your itinerary for 3 days in Victoria for first-timers. Of course, you can do any of these activities in any order you’d like and add on locations if you have extra time, but in general if it’s your first time in Victoria, this is the itinerary that will show you the best of Victoria in an easy and relaxed pacing. A fun add-on would be continuing your trip and heading out to see more of the region on a Vancouver Island road trip.

If that’s all you need from me, then thanks for reading this far and I hope you have a fantastic trip! But if you’d like to read a bit more, then I’m excited to dive deeper into these 3 days in Victoria with you. Let’s go day by day.

Day 1

Victoria’s downtown and James Bay are the two most popular neighborhoods that many people visit in Victoria, and for good reason. We recommend making this your first day so you can get a good lay of the land and find your footing for your 3 days in Victoria. While you are completely free to stroll and wander, if you’d like a bit more structure, here’s our favorites in the neighborhoods.

Downtown

Downtown Victoria has historical and modern buildings that house many local restaurants, coffee shops, and bars where you can start the day. The patio season is open during the warmer months, so you can enjoy your meal outside under the swaying flower baskets on the lamp posts.

Many of these businesses are located along Government Street, with stores where you can buy local souvenirs or nick-nacks. The popular streets in Downtown Victoria are Yates Street, Johnson Street, Pandora Avenue, Fisgaurd Street, and Bastion Square – there’s patio seating available here. If you prefer to mix your strolling with a little bit of food and information, check out doing a Victoria food and walking tour!

No 3 days in Victoria would be complete without visiting Victoria’s Chinatown, one of the most historical locations in Canada, and honestly one of my highlights in the city. While the area covers two blocks, there’s a lot of history behind the historical Chinatown. One of the most historical places is Fan Tan Alley, which connects Pandora Avenue and Fisgaurd Street. It’s known as the narrowest commercial street in North America.

In the early 1900s, it was an alley well known for illegal drug and gambling-related activity. Today, you can find local small businesses and many Chinatown walking tours that explore and explain Fan Tan Alley’s history.

The Canadian Pacific Railway wanted to accommodate its high clientele, so it built the Fairmont Empress Hotel across Inner Harbor in the 1900s. You can take pictures of the famous Canadian landmark outside on the grounds. The hotel may also be a stop on a ghost tour, as The Empress is widely known to be haunted.

James Bay Neighborhood

The James Bay neighborhood is the oldest in Victoria and has many other tourist attractions and waterfront views. The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia is where British Columbia holds the majority of provincial meetings. The parliament building hosts free walking tours. Tickets are available out in the front of the building – unless there’s a parliament meeting.

The Royal BC Museum is also to the right across Government Street from the Legislative Building. I’ve visited it many times, and it’s always an excellent place to visit if you have children and want to learn about British Columbia’s history.

You can take pictures with and of the Woolly Mammoth known as “Woolly,” a replica of the largest animal to walk on Earth. There’s one part of the museum that will always creep me out, and it’s a small section that looks like a street with shops and houses on top – if you visit the museum, you’ll understand why.

One of the most famous and high-traffic tourist locations in the James Bay neighborhood, and for good reason, is Fisherman’s Wharf. They’re known for their colorful and eclectic floating homes. It’s a great stop during your 3 days in Victoria, but remember people live in these floating homes, so make sure you’re not invading their privacy.

You can also arrange tours and grab ice cream or food at Fisherman’s Wharf. It can be crowded, especially on a sunny day, and it will be busy. 

Another location is Beacon Hill Park. There are many activities and things to see, such as the World’s Tallest Free Standing Totem Pole at 173 feet and Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, where you can meet goats, pigs, and other farm animals.

You can walk along the many pathways and stop at points of interest like the Sun Clock, The Moss Lady, Stone Bridge, and more. You may also spot the free-roaming peacocks!

Lastly, you can check out Odgen Point and the Breakwater. With beautiful waterfront views, you can walk along the breakwater to the Breakwater Lighthouse, built in 1916. This is also where you can spot all the cruise ships entering Victoria.

Day 2

North of Victoria in Brentwood Bay, there’s the Butchart Gardens. For over 100 years, this garden has seen millions of visitors. With 55 acres of land, 26 greenhouses, and bedding 900 plants, it’s no wonder many people want to see the award-winning gardens.

Not too far away from the Butchart Gardens is the tropical indoor jungle of the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. I haven’t been and Kelena hasn’t been since she was a preteen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great spot, especially since you’re already in the area. You can find hundreds of free-flying butterflies, roaming reptiles, poison dart frogs, birds, and more inside.

It’s an excellent place to take young families, or if you’re into photography, you’ll be able to get some incredible shots of the Butterfly Gardens’ residents. This will likely take a big chunk of your day, outside of eating, but the actual pace of the day will be pretty leisurely so you don’t have to worry about overexerting yourself.

If you find yourself with some time to spare, we have a few extra add-ons to your 3 days in Victoria a bit later on in the post so stay tuned!

Day 3

Victoria is worth visiting to experience afternoon tea. It’s one of the most popular places in Canada for afternoon tea, and is actually one of the reasons that compelled me to visit. The British introduced tea culture to Victoria, British Columbia, in the 1840s. I’ve been to more than a few fancy high teas in my day, including the highest high tea at At.mosphere in Dubai, and I still use my experience in Victoria as the golden standard as to whether an afternoon tea is good or not.

If you’ve never been to afternoon tea, you can expect a wide selection of tea types as well as brief (or even in-depth) descriptions of the options. You’ll also be served delicious finger foods, such as sandwiches, pastries, and desserts inside a beautiful tearoom, in the garden, or loose-leaf shops.

Here are some notable locations in Victoria that serve afternoon tea: You may need to make reservations.

  • Fairmont Empress Hotel (that’s the one I went to – Kay)
  • The Butchart Gardens
  • The Teahouse at Abkhazi Gardens
  • Pendray Inn And Tea House
  • White Heather Tea Room

After you finish your tea, or if you skipped it altogether, whale watching is another iconic activity for your 3 days in Victoria. Whale watching is unique to the West Coast. If you’re travelling to Victoria from Vancouver but wondering whether whale watching is better in Vancouver or Victoria, Victoria has more options for whale watching times.

British Columbia’s coast is along a migration path where many whales, including orcas, grey whales, humpbacks, and others, come to feed. However, depending on the time of year you travel to British Columbia will determine what types of whales you may see. Orcas are the most popular to see during the migration period.

The most popular options are half-day whale watching tours that include photo packages from your trip so you can focus on the important part – watching whales!

More Things to do in Victoria

Okay, so after you’ve covered all the basics, here are even more things to pack into your 3 days in Victoria – or for an extended trip!

Board With Friends

It’s a shop where you can play board games and enjoy food. It’s a fantastic spot if you want something to do during a late Friday or Saturday night.

One of the owners is a board games expert — he remembers how to play all the games by memory. His partner and co-owner has a culinary background, so she loves to cook all the food.

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle is a national historic site once home turned museum to the Dunsmuir family in the late 1800s. It features opulent designs, intricate woodwork, and stained-glass windows.

Victoria Bug Zoo

If you’re looking for an educational place for children or are into bugs and arachnids, the Victoria Bug Zoo is an excellent place to visit. You can hold some bugs or arachnids while visiting and learn about them from their highly educated staff members.

Songhees First Nation

Before Victoria was Victoria, it was and still is Indigenous land. Vancouver Island and the abundant life-giving waters of the surrounding Pacific Ocean are the Traditional Territory of the Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Kwakwakaw’akw People. If you’re not familiar with the area, it might be challenging to find more information and experiences that explore the region’s Indigenous history and culture.

For your 3 days in Victoria, taking a tour can be the best way to dip your toe into seeing a different perspective of Vancouver Island. Songhees First Nation is expanding their First Nations Cultural Tour (currently on haitus) that includes cultural walks and wildlife viewing. The tour encompasses the waters south and east of Victoria and includes island belonging to the Songhees Nation.

You can also check out more Indigenous owned businesses in Victoria like Sasquatch Trading and Cowichan Trading. Keep an eye out for totem poles as well, they are unique to coastal Nations in this area of the Americas.

Best Time To Visit Victoria

While you can visit Victoria year-round, the best times for a quick 3 days in Victoria are from March to May or September to November. These times are before the tourist season and after, so there will be fewer tourists, and the weather won’t be as hot or too rainy.

Just know that these shoulder seasons may be spottier when it comes to weather, but you can’t beat the price for a majority pleasant weather forecast!

How To Get To Victoria From Vancouver

There are a few different ways to get to Victoria from Vancouver. The most common way is by ferry (BC Ferries).

From Tsawwassen to Victoria (Swartz Bay) is the most common route to get to Victoria. It’s a beautiful 1 hour and 35 minute non-stop ferry ride. You can either walk on or take a car onto the ferries (prices will vary depending on your choice). Without a car, a one way ticket is around $15-20 USD per person, while take a ferry with a car can start at $70 USD per car, so it can be a good deal if you are traveling with multiple people.

If you’re travelling on foot, you can take the Canada Line to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, get off at Bridgeport, and take the 620 bus “Tsawwassen Ferry Express.” Once at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, a public bus will take you to Downtown Victoria (70 bus).

If you don’t want to use public transit, you can also take an Uber, taxi, or Lyft to the ferry terminal.

Another option is to fly by seaplane. While it’s the quickest route — a 30-minute flight, it’s also the most expensive way to travel to Victoria.

Victoria Tips

These are a few quick tips to help you out when traveling from Vancouver or the mainland for 3 days in Victoria.

Tip #1

I highly recommend booking your ferry tickets in advance. If you’re travelling during a holiday or rush hour, you’re not guaranteed a spot on the next ferry when you arrive at the ticket booths.

Walk-on tickets aren’t always sold out, but they can be. You can also purchase them online. You must arrive at least 30 minutes early to check-in.

Tip #2

I also recommend not leaving a car overnight or, in general, in the parking lot at the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen. It’s expensive and a small, first-come, first-served lot.

Tip #3

Dress for the weather. While Victoria has a mild temperature, it can be a little breezy since most tourist locations are near the waterfront. Also, pack for rain! It can also be chilly when it rains.

Conclusion: 3 days in Victoria

Man, this post really took me down memory lane! Victoria is such a good destination for newer travelers and/or travelers who love a slower paced vacation in a safe and clean city. Thanks again to Kelena from the Travelling City Girl for really fleshing out this itinerary post for 3 days in Victoria, it’s the perfect amount of time to dip your toes into the region.

Have you ever been to Victoria, BC? What restaurants and attractions would you recommend for 3 days in Victoria?

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