Solo Traveller’s Guide to Victoria, BC, Canada

Travel / Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
Reading Time: 11 minutes

This year I graduated from my Master’s degree, and though I completed most of my degree online, I technically attended was Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. So when my graduation came around this June, I jumped at the chance to take a little vacation to Victoria, BC.

This wasn’t my first time travelling to Victoria, I attended a two-week residency during which I travelled there and stayed at the dorm. And during the weekend, I took the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver. It was a great time in a beautiful city.

If you’re looking for a quaint, laid-back, oceanside city to explore, I would highly recommend checking out Victoria! I thought I’d share a bit about my experience with you in this little Victoria, BC travel blog:

Things to do in Victoria

There are a ton of awesome things to do in Victoria, but I had a limited amount of time in the city, and had grad-related activities to attend, so I had to pick-and-choose what to check out.

I’m a traveller that looks for history and knowledge above all, so the top items on my list are almost always historic destinations and museums. And Victoria has plenty of these!

Hatley Castle's Italian Garden, Victoria, BC, Canada
Behind me is Hatley Castle and the castle’s Italian Garden

Hatley Castle

Victoria is home to not one castle, but two, and I got a chance to check both out while I was in the city this visit.

Hatley Castle is a familiar venue to me as it’s located on the Royal Roads University campus so I’d been there a few times before. In fact, during my residency I spent a few days in the castle gardens just hanging out, and attended classes in the ballroom inside the castle walls.

You might recognize this historic castle from a few major Hollywood blockbuster films including X-Men and Deadpool. Yes, those movies! I’ve even been in Professor X’s office.

Unless you’re a student of the campus, you’ll need to attend a guided tour to take a look inside the castle. But they’re pretty reasonably priced at under $20 CAD, and it’s my understanding that the proceeds help with the upkeep so definitely do!

If you head to Hatley Castle, Victoria, make sure you check out the castle gardens. They have beautiful gardens including Italian, Japanese, Croquet, and Rose gardens—I highly recommend spending some time in the Japanese garden.

The HMS Discover In the BC Modern History Exhibit of the Royal BC Museum
The HMS Discover In the BC Modern History Exhibit of the Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum

If you want Victoria, BC things to do, the Royal BC Museum is at the top of my personal list. I am a HUGE museum fan, I’ll basically go to any museum and easily end up spending hours on end exploring whatever.

I particularly love the Royal BC exhibits, they currently have four amazing exhibits:

  • Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises This is an exhibit on Maya culture.
  • Our Living Language An immersive First Nations exhibit that tackles language and artifacts.
  • Natural History Gallery A look at weather and climate, landscape and animals (they have a woolly mammoth… just sayin’).
  • Modern History Gallery A look at BC’s founding history. This was my favourite exhibit because of its construction.

I have a million and one things to say about the museum, but in the interest of time and letting you explore it yourself, I’ll talk briefly about the Modern History Gallery, which is where you can see, and go in, the HMS Discover that’s in my crappy photo.

You can explore a ship, an old town street (including watching a Charlie Chaplin film in an old theatre and wander through a hotel), and a mine, along with seeing some cool clothing and toy artifacts.

I would highly recommend visiting, and share that the Royal BC admissions price is less than $30, and WELL worth it.

Inside Craigdarroch Castle
The library in Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle (pronounced “Craig-Derrek”) was an amazing experience for me. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge history lover and I didn’t have a chance my first visit to check this historical building out.

I opted for an audio tour, which only added $5 onto my ticket price for a total of around $20 CAD. I found the audio tour to be a great addition, especially since at the time they weren’t offering guided tours unless you were in a tour group—they also mentioned at the desk that the audio tour was more in-depth.

The castle is amazing because you go up one side of the house which is the normal family living space, then down the back side of the house which was the servant’s entrance. Those two areas were not connected save for at the third floor. At the very top of the castle is a tower viewing room with a 270-degree view of Victoria.

I even checked out the book shop and got myself a copy of Victoria’s Most Haunted by Ian Gibbs, which I obviously called a graduation gift from me to me.

Free things to do in Victoria, BC

Sunset Walk by the Harbour: The Inner Harbour in Victoria is beautiful, and I would highly recommend taking a sunset walk. There are benches along there that you can take a seat on and actually watch the sun go down—beautiful!

The harbour isn’t restricted to sunset activities though, one of the best things to do in Victoria, BC at night is to take a walk down there. The provincial legislature is all lit up in pretty lights at night, it’s a sight you won’t want to miss.

Street Shows: While your walking by the harbour, you might be lucky enough to come across a street show. They typically take place on the warf directly in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel. While these shows are free, I highly recommend dropping a tip in the performer’s hat on the way out—everyone’s gotta eat!

The Bay Centre Victoria: The Bay Centre Victoria mall is technically free to walk around, but could probably turn into an expensive activity if you go a little crazy. It’s a really cool shopping mall simply because it’s hidden, unless you find the door, you wouldn’t even know it’s there! I often grab a Marble Slab on my way out ? 

Other things to do in Victoria

  • Whale Watching in Victoria
  • Miniature World
  • Butchart Gardens
  • Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
  • Take a horse and buggy tour of Victoria, BC
Days Inn Victoria on the Harbour
My crappy photo of the Days Inn on the Harbour

Where to stay in Victoria

There are a ton of great hotel choices in Victoria, but they can get a little pricey, especially if you’re planning on staying during the summer months when the tourist season is in bloom. Here are my Victoria hotel recommendations:

Days Inn Victoria on the Harbour

On my latest trip, I stayed at the Days Inn Victoria on the harbour—which does need to be specified because there is more than one Days Inn hotel in the city.

While this hotel is a tad bit dated, it was one of the cheaper ones at about $180 CAD a night—hotels in Victoria in June are pretty pricey. It’s right off the harbour, with one side opening to Belleville Street, and the other on Quebec Street. About half a block away you’ll find the provincial parliament building (which I highly recommend walking around because it’s gorgeous).

The Days Inn On the Harbour is a pretty low key hotel—amenities include a small pool and hot tub (which I sadly didn’t take the time to use), and a pretty decent restaurant on site. But there is no air conditioning which was kind of a bummer on the hot days.

All-in-all, I would stay there again, especially if I didn’t have the cash for any of the fancier hotels (one day… a girl can dream right?). I also did appreciate how helpful the staff were, and even though it was a dated hotel they had USB wall plugs which made my life way easier!

Strathcona Hotel Victoria

The Strathcona Hotel Victoria is a true no frills hotel. I stayed here during my first trip to Victoria, and while it has a cute historic feel the room was tiny (seriously it was basically a bed with barely any walking room) and an attached bathroom. There was no air conditioning, and I’m pretty sure that there wasn’t even a television.

While the location for this hotel is still in the inner harbour area, it’s a bit off the harbour and you cannot see the ocean from it (which is my personal preference). A room here will cost around $170 a night, therefore I would recommend the Days Inn On the Harbour.

All-in-all I would recommend it if you like a more historic feel in your hotel room and you can get behind a small room!

Fairmont Empress

Part of the Fairmont hotel brand, the Empress is a beautiful luxury hotel right in the heart of inner harbour Victoria. I have never personally stayed at the Fairmont Empress myself but the hotel itself is gorgeous, and any Fairmont hotel I’ve stayed at has been AMAZING.

If you have the extra cash and you really want to treat yourself, I would highly recommend checking this place out. To stay at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, you’re looking at a nightly price tag of around $400 CAD.

Hotel Grand Pacific Victoria

The Hotel Grand Pacific Victoria is another fancy hotel on the “treat yourself” pricing scale. It’s a tad bit cheaper than the Fairmont Empress, but not by much. To secure a room here you’re looking at around $330 CAD.

That said it is a BEAUTIFUL hotel, seriously beautiful. It’s about a block away from the Fairmont, but has a different angle of the harbour. In fact, it’s right next door to the Days Inn On the Harbour (where I was staying).

There are a ton of great restaurants in Victoria, BC
Photo by Javier Molina on Unsplash

Where to eat in Victoria

If you’re looking for great restaurants, Victoria, BC has a ton of choices for you. I tend to be a creature of habit, so I stick with what I know, here are my recommendations for restaurants in Victoria:

Finn’s Seafood Restaurant

Finn’s Seafood Restaurant is delicious and I would highly recommend it! And sit on the patio if the weather is nice.

Finn’s overlooks the private side of the harbour from a high view. It’s a beautiful place to enjoy a bite to eat and enjoy the view, whether you’re alone or you have company.

I typically go for a good ol’ fashioned fish and chips here, but I do tend to upgrade the “chips” to parmesan truffle fries—and I would highly recommend it.

Bellevilles Victoria

Bellevilles Victoria is the restaurant attached to the Days Inn Victoria On the Harbour, and since I was staying at the hotel I figured I would give it a chance and see how I liked it. It was a beautiful, warm night when I went so I sat on the patio which faces Belleville Street and the harbour.

I had a late night dinner at Bellevilles Victoria and ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara Con Pollo. It was delicious, but as a word of warning the dish is huge and I definitely couldn’t finish it. I also made the mistake of pairing it with a blackberry mojito… which does not mix well with bacon!

Bard & Banker

I stopped at the Bard & Banker on the evening of my convocation ceremony to have a bite to eat and a few drinks with my classmates. I stuck with a yam fries appy plate, and had a few sangrias.

The food and drinks were great, but I would say that I found it to be particularly pricey. The atmosphere and building are both nice, but they did have a live band the night I was there and I got the impression that it was normal around there.

Other Restaurants in Victoria, BC

Milestones Victoria: I have not had a chance to check out the Milestones in Victoria, but I have been to another one of their franchises. That said, I’m including it on my list because the location is gorgeous. It’s right on the inner harbour, and the patio overlooks where the ships dock.

Steamship Grill: Another one that I was dying to check out but didn’t have a chance to was the Steamship Grill. It too sits on the inner harbour, but on the opposite side where the ships from the United States come in.

Large multi-level ferries carry cars, trucks, and passengers hourly between Vancouver and Victoria as seen near Victoria in April 2018.
I highly recommend taking the ferry to Victoria if you have a chance

Travelling to Victoria

I am a water and boat lover, so if you have a chance to, I highly recommend arriving to Victoria via ferry. There are a number of ferry options available especially if you’re travelling from Victoria, Canada to Vancouver or the reverse, and I find them to be cheaper than a plane ticket a lot of times:

  • BC Ferries offers a number of Vancouver to Victoria ferry options (these ferries are able to accommodate vehicles)
  • Victoria Clipper will is a Victoria BC ferry that will take you to Seattle (this is a passenger-only ferry, no cars)
  • You can take a Victoria to Washington ferry via Port Angeles (this ferry is able to accommodate vehicles)

Note that if you are driving to Victoria, you will have to take a ferry because Victoria is located on Vancouver Island, and there is no bridge to the mainland.

There is also the option of traveling to Victoria, BC, via airplane. The Victoria airport is small but really nice. Any time I’ve ever boarded a plane there, I’ve been through security in under 5 minutes, I kid you not!

Best time to visit Victoria, Canada

It’s my understanding that the most popular tourist time in Victoria is in the late summer and spring months—May to September. But the weather there is mild year-round, and I previously visited in February and March.

In the summer months, the Victoria, British Columbia weather hovers around 20 degrees Celsius, and in the winter you’re looking at around 8 to 10 degrees Celsius. But a word of warning, it does rain there, and due to its proximity to the ocean means it gets a tad bit windy at times.

Upper harbour, Victoria, Canada
Photo by Sebastian Huxley on Unsplash

Getting Around Victoria

One thing that I find a lot of travellers don’t realize about visiting Victoria is that there are no rideshare companies currently operating there, though it is expected to happen later in 2019.

The Greater Victoria is also a HUGE place, while I spent most of my time in the inner harbour area, Craigdarroch Castle was a 45-minute walk from my hotel. And Hatley Castle is in the Royal Roads University Castle in Colwood, about a 30-minute taxi ride from the harbour area.

With that in mind, there are a few ways you can get around the Greater Victoria area:

  • Taxi
  • Water taxi
  • Public transit

Or you can rent yourself a car.

Tips for Travelling Alone

I’m fairly new to travelling in general, and I’ve only had the pleasure of travelling alone by myself a few times—but I absolutely love it.

If you’re taking your first trip alone, I highly recommend taking a trip to a Canadian city. Not just because I’m Canadian myself and absolutely love Canada, but more importantly, Canadian cities tend to be very safe—which is my biggest concern when travelling alone.

A few things I always do when travelling alone:

  • Travel with my cellphone at all times. Even if you don’t have cell service, most cellphones are able to hook up to a network in an emergency situation so you can call for help (in Canada the number is 9-1-1).
  • Tell someone where you’re going. While it’s not necessary to give someone a play-by-play of my trip, I do tend to call or text my mother once a day and let her know my general plans.
  • Grab a hard copy map if you don’t know the city well, you can alternatively download a map to your phone while you have wi-fi access so you can find your way around.
  • Bring a powerbank along with you because it sucks when your electronics are out of juice.
  • Double-lock your hotel room door when you’re in the room if you have the opportunity. I always use both the deadbolt and the chain lock if they’re available.
  • Don’t tell anyone you don’t know and trust that you’re travelling alone while you’re travelling alone. Just to be safe!

Travelling alone is a ton of fun. I love it simply because I get time away from everyone else to explore a new city how I want to explore it. There are not compromises to be made and my days are exactly how I plan them. Plus, having dinner at a restaurant seems to go WAY faster when you’re alone.

I absolutely cannot wait for my next solo trip!

Do you travel solo? Drop your best tips and tricks in the comments below, I would love to hear them!

Looking for more travel posts?