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The Pariliament Buildings in Victoria, BC

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One Day in Victoria, BC: Itinerary & Where to Go in 24 Hours

Spending a day in Victoria, BC, and don’t know what to do? If you only have 24 hours to spend in Victoria and need an itinerary of things to do, we’re here to help!

From its historical buildings and scenic ocean views to the expansive selection of tourist activities and great restaurants, there’s more than enough to do in the beautiful city of Victoria. With so much to see and do in one day, knowing where to start for your Victoria day trip can be a challenge.

Victoria is one of those places that has so much to offer that you can’t fit it all in one day. We’ve been living here for years and still haven’t seen and done everything!

Even so, you’ll be able to see some of the best tourist attractions that Victoria has to offer if you know where to go and what to do. So, what should first-time visitors do when they have limited time in this incredible city?

If you’re looking to make the most of your time in Victoria, British Columbia, here’s a suggested itinerary for spending one day in the city. This comprehensive itinerary covers things to do, see, and eat in Victoria – all in the span of one day. You won’t be bored for a minute with this 24-hour Victoria travel guide!

One Day Itinerary for Victoria, BC

One of the best, most beautiful gardens in Victoria is the Butchart Gardens

There is a lot to see in Victoria and doing it all in one day isn’t always the easiest option. But, this Victoria travel guide will give you an itinerary and the basics on what to do so that you can make the most of your 24 hours.

Our day trip itinerary for Victoria covers the best things to see and do, must-see attractions, places to eat, and where to stay around this beautiful city. We also discuss how to get around Victoria, as well as other travel tips and advice.

This itinerary assumes you’re starting in the morning and have the entire day free. You may have to modify the itinerary if you don’t have a full 24-hours in Victoria. Also, you may need to modify the itinerary depending on your travel style. If you like to take your time sightseeing, you may need to drop an activity or two!

At the end of the article, we’ve also provided a list of alternative things to do and see around Victoria if you don’t like the activities listed in the itinerary. We tried to provide a variety of options so there’s something for everyone.

Now, on to the suggested itinerary for how to spend your time in Victoria!

Eat Breakfast at a Local Cafe

Pancakes and eggs benny from Jam Cafe

Start your day off right with a hearty breakfast at one of Victoria’s many cafes. You don’t want to be exploring the city hungry!

Victoria has many amazing cafes that are worth checking out. Some of the best breakfast food we’ve ever eaten has been at these Victoria restaurants.

One of the most popular spots in the city for all-day breakfast food is the Blue Fox Cafe . This funky restaurant serves some of the best brunch food in Victoria, from stacks of fluffy pancakes to ten different kinds of eggs benny. There’s usually a line of waiting patrons out the door, so get there early!

Jam Cafe is a breakfast experience that’s worth the wait as well. This all-day breakfast cafe is popular for a reason – you won’t be disappointed with the food here! Choose from egg bennies, veggie bowls, waffles, french toast, pancakes, and more. One of their best dishes is the Charlie Bowl – you should definitely give it a try!

If you want lots of breakfast choices, head over to John’s Place Restaurant on Pandora Avenue. They have a massive menu with all kinds of different breakfast food options, including Belgian waffles, delicious customizable omelettes, and so much more.

For vegans or vegetarians, check out the Fern Cafe and Bakery . It’s a bit outside of downtown Victoria, but they are 100% vegan with plenty of delicious brunch foods and baked goods to try. And, if you need a gluten-friendly spot, try Nourish Kitchen & Cafe near the Inner Harbour.

Tour the Butchart Gardens

The sunken gardens at the Butchart Gardens

Once you’re fueled up and ready to go, it’s time to explore some of Victoria’s top attractions. The first stop is the world-renowned Butchart Gardens near Brentwood Bay. These famous gardens are one of the highlights of Victoria and definitely a must-see spot in southern Vancouver Island.

If you don’t have a vehicle, a Butchart Gardens tour is the best way to get to this must-see attraction. The tour shuttles you from downtown Victoria straight to the gardens and brings you back later in the day. The fee includes entry to the gardens and round-trip bus transportation.

Once you’re there, you can explore the different gardens and admire all of the beautiful flowers and plants. Our favorite spot in this botanical oasis is the Sunken Garden, followed by the incredible Ross Fountain. There are also Rose, Italian, Mediterranean, and Japanese Gardens to explore.

Expect the Butchart Gardens tour to take about 3 to 5 hours, depending on your pace. You don’t want to rush through because there are lots of things to see!

The amount of time you should budget for this activity will also vary depending on whether you’re driving or taking the Butchart Gardens tour bus . The gardens will take up more time in your day if you’re taking the bus. However, the Butchart Gardens is one of the must-see destinations around Victoria and it’s worth the effort to get there!

Eat Lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

When you return to downtown Victoria, you’ll probably be ready for lunch. If you haven’t eaten already, it’s time to head to the colorful Fisherman’s Wharf for a bite to eat. Or, save some time by grabbing food at Butchart Gardens from The Blue Poppy Restaurant , The Dining Room , or their coffee shop.

From downtown Victoria, you can walk or drive to Fisherman’s Wharf. But, if you want to get the most out of your Victoria experience, we recommend taking one of the Victoria Harbour Ferries to the wharf.

These charming water taxis cruise all around the harbor waters. The small ferries link tourist destinations like the Fairmont Empress, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Old Town.

Jump on one of the harbour ferries near the Empress and enjoy scenic views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour from a unique perspective. The water taxis are pretty cheap so they’re a great way to get around and sight-see!

Fisherman’s Wharf is only a 15-minute walk from downtown Victoria. If you don’t feel like walking, you can drive, cab, or bus. Alternatively, you could use a hop-on hop-off tour bus to get around between tourist destinations.

Harbour ferry at Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria, BC

Once you’re at Fisherman’s Wharf, you have plenty of food kiosk options to choose from. These kiosks aren’t really sit-down restaurants, although there is outdoor seating available.

Barb’s Fish and Chips is a world-famous restaurant serving some of the best fish & chips in Victoria (and probably all of Canada). We definitely recommend giving them a try.

Or, try some of the local fresh seafood at The Fish Store , like salmon, mussels, oysters, and Dungeness crab. You won’t get much fresher seafood than this!

Fisherman’s Wharf is a marine tourist destination that’s worth a visit, but we wouldn’t budget too much time at this spot. In our opinion, Fisherman’s Wharf is only really worth a visit to grab a bite to eat, see the colorful houseboats, or join an eco-tour. Most of the houseboat areas are private access only so be respectful to the homeowners!

Walk along the Breakwater

The lighthouse at the end of the Ogden Point Breakwater, Victoria

After lunch, head to the Ogden Point Breakwater for some of the best views of Victoria’s harbor area. Not too far from Fisherman’s Wharf, this short, easy walk is a great way to get some incredible ocean views!

One of the stops on the hop-on-hop-off sightseeing buses in Victoria, the breakwater is a popular tourist destination in James Bay. This 762-meter long walkway takes you far out into the water from Dallas Road. For this reason, we recommend only visiting the Breakwater on calm days, unless you’re ready to be splashed by waves!

Look for seals and river otters swimming beside the Breakwater as you walk. Massive cruise ships dock near the Breakwater at the cruise ship terminal. Floatplanes take off near the end of the walkway and you can also watch boats zooming around the waters. And, if you’re really lucky, you might spot some whales!

The Ogden Point Breakwater is the perfect place for a stroll to help you digest lunch. If you need a pick-me-up, grab a coffee for your walk at the Breakwater Bistro & Bar at the start of the pathway.

Beacon Hill Park

Hummingbird in the flowers at Beacon Hill Park

A visit to Victoria isn’t complete without wandering through Beacon Hill Park. This beautiful, 200-acre parkland treasure is located just outside of downtown and is one of the best parks in Victoria.

Beacon Hill Park is brimming with stunning flowers, serene ponds, unique wildlife, and fun events. Best of all, it costs nothing to visit this park!

There are many pathways that wind their way through the gorgeous parkland. You could walk around the park for hours!

Don’t feel like walking? Take a horse-drawn carriage tour of Beacon Hill Park instead! These carriage tours are an excellent way to see the beautiful park. It’s also a lot of fun getting towed around by the horses.

At the top of Beacon Hill, enjoy views of brilliant purple camas flower meadows in the spring. Check out the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole near Dallas Road, then wander through the parkland finding fountains, animals, and abundant flowers.

The beautiful Goodacre Lake is full of ducks and turtles sunning themselves on logs. Search for the nearby Moss Lady , hidden among the trees. Admire the stunning, colorful flowers near Chestnut Row. And for children, there’s even a petting zoo!

In summer, there are weekend events at the Cameron Bandshell in the park. Sit and enjoy free concerts, from jazz to folk music.

After exploring Beacon Hill Park, head back downtown to enjoy Victoria’s core. Depending on what time it is, you can spend some time exploring downtown Victoria or head for dinner.

Check out Thunderbird Park

From Beacon Hill Park, head north along Douglas Street. You’ll pass by the Royal BC Museum on your way. This museum is home to over 200,000 artifacts and specimens, making it one of the largest museums in Canada.

Outside of the Royal BC Museum, you’ll find Thunderbird Park, featuring a collection of impressive totem poles. A walk through Thunderbird Park only takes a few minutes but it is definitely worth stopping for!

Take some time to admire the striking carvings and longhouse of the west coast First Nations peoples. Many of these poles are replicas carved by master carver Mungo Martin, with the originals stored inside the museum.

Victoria is located on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen people, known today as the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations. These Coast Salish people have an intimate, long-lasting relationship with the land of southern Vancouver Island.

View the BC Parliament Buildings

The front fountain at the BC Parliament Buildings

Next, head towards the Inner Harbour to get a good look at the BC Parliament Buildings, home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. With 5-acres of waterfront land and historic buildings constructed in 1893, the Parliament Buildings are an impressive sight.

There are self-guided or public tours of the Parliament Buildings if you’re interested. But, you probably won’t have time for one on a day trip.

Instead, enjoy the building’s Romanesque architecture, manicured waterfront grounds, beautiful water fountains, Premier’s rose garden, and statues of founding BC figures.

On the top of the central dome of the Parliament Buildings, you’ll spot Captain George Vancouver, known for exploring the Pacific coast of North America. Both Vancouver and Vancouver Island take their name from this British Royal Navy officer.

Other notable monuments include the Cenotaph memorial to the unknown soldier, Queen Victoria’s statue, the Speaker’s chair, and the Knowledge Totem Pole.

A walk through the BC Parliament grounds won’t take too long. Even if you don’t want to explore the property, it’s worth taking a look at the impressive buildings.

Walk the Harbour Causeway and Government Street

The Inner Harbour Causeway in Victoria, BC.

For amazing views of the harbour, cross the street to the Inner Harbour Causeway. This is the pathway that runs alongside the ocean beside Belleville and Government Streets. You can access the causeway via the stairs or ramp near the Bateman Gallery.

Here, you’ll get excellent views of the ocean, marina, and harbour traffic. The causeway is a great place to sit and watch the boats cruise by.

The Inner Harbour Causeway features a “Welcome to Victoria” sign made out of flowers. There are also food kiosks, local vendors, and a lemonade stand.

At the north end of the causeway, you’ll have an excellent spot to watch floatplanes take off from the Victoria Harbour Airport. If you’re interested in experiencing a seaplane flight, book one of the scenic floatplane tours of Victoria that will depart from this marine airport!

If you have time, you can also explore Government Street, the main shopping street in Victoria. This popular road is perfect for browsing unique stores and picking up souvenirs. You’ll find everything from bookstores to art galleries to clothing stores.

Dinner in Downtown Victoria

By now, you’re probably getting hungry again so it’s time for dinner!

Downtown Victoria has plenty of amazing restaurants to choose from. Some of the best foods we’ve tasted in BC have come from restaurants in Victoria. There’s a variety of cuisines and restaurants that fit any dietary needs.

One of our favorite places to eat in downtown Victoria is Finn’s Seafood Restaurant . This is one of the best restaurants in Victoria, in our opinion. This brick restaurant sits right beside the water, offering incredible ocean views from the outdoor patios.

Red Fish Blue Fish is a casual seafood restaurant located on the waterfront. The dockside restaurant is known for its tacos, fish and chips, and fish sandwiches. Order your food to go and eat it at one of the bars overlooking the harbour.

Pagliacci’s is a local favorite for Italian food and isn’t too far from Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The eatery has a great selection of pasta dishes, as well as delicious seafood and grilled meats. It’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy a hearty meal after a busy day of sightseeing.

Lastly, if you want something quick to eat, try ordering something from Tacofino . We think that Tacofino is the best taco restaurant in Victoria. Usually, we order their fish or steak tacos.

The last activity of the day will be whale-watching by boat. If you get seasick easily, you may prefer to eat dinner afterward. Also, try to pick a restaurant that’s near the harbour because it’ll make it easier to get to your wildlife viewing tour.

Sunset Whale Watching Tour

Pod of orcas swimming near Vancouver Island

One of our favorite things to do in Victoria is a sunset whale-watching tour . Explore Victoria’s coastline on a luxurious catamaran while searching for whales and enjoying the gorgeous colors of the setting sun. With opportunities to spot orcas, humpback whales, grey whales, and so much more, you won’t be disappointed on these wildlife viewing tours!

The sunset whale watching tour departs from Wharf Street in downtown Victoria and lasts three to four hours. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see whales – they have a 95% success rate! If you don’t spot whales, they’ll send you on a second tour, free of charge.

Perfect for photographers, this wildlife viewing adventure leads to some excellent photo opportunities. There is spectacular lighting for whale photos, no matter what species you see. Also, the beautiful sunset colors look incredible over the islands and serene ocean water.

Overall, this sunset experience is unforgettable and the perfect way to wrap up a day of exploring!

Keep the Night Going?

When you get back from the sunset whale watching tour, you’ll have the choice to head back to the hotel or keep the night going. If you choose the latter option, there are a few things you can do to enjoy Victoria’s nightlife.

  • Head to a local pub – Fancy a drink to end the night? There are plenty of pubs and bars that are local favorites near Victoria’s Inner Harbor that you can head to for a nightcap. Try the Bard & Banker with its Scottish style and historic charm. Or, Whistle Buoy Brewing Company is another popular watering hole in downtown Victoria.
  • Catch a show – Victoria has plenty of late-night shows. You just have to find them! The Friends of Dorothy Lounge often offers late-night drag shows, karaoke, and other events. The Mint regularly hosts evening variety shows and comedy nights. And, the Irish Times Pub usually has live music in the evenings.
  • Stargazing at Cattle Point – One of the most peaceful ways to end a day of exploring in Victoria is to go stargazing. Cattle Point in Uplands Park is a dark sky preserve with incredible starry views over the ocean. Sit outside under the stars or in the warmth of your car, enjoying the beautiful night sky.

Other Things to Do in Victoria in 24 Hours

Looking for something else to do in Victoria other than the activities listed on the one day itinerary? Here are some ideas for other things to do during your day trip to Victoria.

Scenic Floatplane Tour

Harbour air seaplane docked in Victoria's Inner Harbour

A breathtaking way to experience all that Victoria has to offer is with a scenic floatplane tour . If you’ve never flown in a seaplane before, it’s a great time to try it!

Harbour Air seaplane tours depart from the Victoria Harbour Airport in the Inner Harbour. You’ll spot the floatplanes all docked at the marina, looking out of place among the boats.

The scenic seaplane tours are spectacular and unforgettable. You take off from the ocean, speeding along the water until the plane picks up enough speed to take flight. Then, soar over the beautiful city, enjoying views of Victoria and southern Vancouver Island.

Guided Food and History Tour

A great way to see and taste all that Victoria has to offer is with a guided food and history tour . You won’t miss any attractions with a local guide showing you around!

This awesome culinary tour takes you to must-see attractions around downtown Victoria. It’s a great way to see some of Victoria’s hidden gems.

On this guided walking tour, you’ll see the impressive Parliament Buildings, walk along the Inner Harbour Causeway, and visit Trounce Alley. You’ll also visit Chinatown to see the famous Fan Tan Alley and the Harmonious Gates of Interest. There are also stops in Bastion and Market Squares, as well as the Victoria Public Market.

Along the way, you’ll get to taste multiple different local foods, while learning about the history of the city. Make sure you’re hungry before you go on this tour!

Fan Tan Alley

Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest one in Canada and also the second oldest in all of North America! The neighborhood features brilliant red and gold colors, unique architecture, and an ornate archway marking the entrance.

Here, you’ll also find the hidden gem of Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada. Within the alley, there are a bunch of hidden shops that are fun to browse. This small alley is easy to walk by, so don’t miss it on your adventures!

Government House Gardens

The Government House Gardens are one of the best gardens in Victoria but they aren’t as well known as the famous Butchart Gardens. Even so, these gardens are breathtakingly beautiful.

Overflowing with plant life, the Government House gardens feature a variety of unique gardens and plants. The best part is that entry into the gardens is free!

Head to the Beach

Gonzales Beach, one of the many beautiful beaches in Victoria, BC

The beaches in Victoria are some of the best in Canada. So, if it’s a nice day, you should head to the beach to get some sun and enjoy the sand!

Many of the beaches in Victoria are rocky and rugged. However, there are a few excellent sandy beaches that are perfect for laying out your beach towel and sunbathing. Willows Beach and Gonzales Beach are two of Victoria’s best sandy beaches .

Unfortunately, the water around Vancouver Island is pretty chilly. While you can brave the cold, most people find the temperature too cold for much more than wading.

Tour Craigdarroch Castle

This Victorian-era castle is a must-see for history buffs. Located not too far from downtown Victoria, Craigdarroch Castle is a magnificent Victorian-era mansion and national historic site.

The extravagant castle was built for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish-Canadian coal baron, to reflect his wealth and importance. He is recognized as a National Historic Person and his family plays an important role in British Columbia’s history.

Craigdarroch Castle is open for tours from Thursday through Sunday. The tour takes about an hour. You’ll learn all about the castle’s history as well as get to see some of the beautiful rooms and views.

Want to see Craigdarroch Castle but don’t feel like touring it? Try this Castle Bike Tour which takes you from the Inner Harbour to Craigdarroch Castle, with a stop at Beacon Hill Park and the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole.

Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress

After a busy day of sightseeing, relax with afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress . This iconic hotel is located right on Victoria’s Inner Harbour and is known for its afternoon tea service.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy some delicious afternoon tea while taking in the views of Victoria’s harbour. The afternoon tea service includes sandwiches, scones, and pastries served with housemade jam and honey. You’ll be served your choice of premium loose-leaf tea, presented in royal china.

Where to Stay in Victoria

The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC

Staying overnight in the city? You’ll want the perfect place to stay for your one-day getaway in Victoria.

There are lots of great places to stay in Victoria, depending on your budget and preferences. Check out these articles for some recommendations:

  • Top Oceanfront Vacation Homes in Victoria
  • Best Oceanfront Hotels in Victoria
  • Best Romantic Getaways in Victoria
  • Most Unique and Unusual Hotels in Victoria

Here are some of the top hotels in Victoria to help you find the best place to stay.

Luxury Hotels

  • The Fairmont Empress is a luxurious, elegant hotel located right in the heart of downtown Victoria. From this hotel, it’s easy to access all of the best attractions. With an oceanfront location, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the water. Plus, as a national historic site, this hotel is pretty much a tourist attraction on its own.
  • The Inn at Laurel Point is another excellent luxury hotel with a convenient location. This waterfront hotel is beside the Victoria harbor and offers stunning ocean and downtown views. There are also oceanfront patios and beautiful gardens!

Mid-Range Hotels

  • Strathcona Hotel is a mid-range priced hotel located downtown. It has comfortable, modern rooms. Also, the hotel has plenty of fun things to do, including billiards, darts, and a rooftop sand volleyball court!
  • Helm’s Inn is right beside Beacon Hill Park and close to the Inner Harbour. It’s easy to walk from this hotel to downtown attractions. Suites at this hotel have a kitchenette, making it a great choice if you don’t plan on dining out.

Budget-Friendly Hotels

  • Ocean Island Inn is a great choice if you don’t mind hostel-style accommodations. This hostel is centrally located and perfect for travelers looking for budget-friendly rooms. Pick from a variety of room types, from private rooms to dorms.
  • Hotel Zed Victoria is a good choice if you need affordable accommodations but don’t want a shared dorm room. This colorful hotel has private, spacious rooms at a low affordable price. They pride themselves on providing a fun, funky atmosphere with plenty of unique amenities.

Getting around Victoria

A bicycle on Pandora Avenue in Victoria

Cars – You don’t need a vehicle to get around downtown Victoria, but it’s handy if you plan on exploring more of the city. If you’re looking to rent a vehicle for your trip, we recommend booking through . This site allows you to compare prices between companies to find the most inexpensive rental vehicle for your trip.

Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tours – These double-decker buses take you around Victoria to all the must-see destinations. They pass by the Breakwater, Beacon Hill Park, Craigdarroch Castle, Oak Bay Marina, and more. On nice days, you’ll get the best views from the top of the bus!

Bikes – Victoria is a very bike-friendly city. There are plenty of bike lanes and trails, like the Galloping Goose and Lochside Regional Trails. If you don’t have your own bike, there are lots of rental shops with hourly or daily rates. You can even rent e-bicycles if you don’t want to pedal!

Top Travel Tips & Resources for Victoria, BC

  • Travel Insurance – If you’re travelling internationally, travel insurance is a must for any trip. Being covered by insurance is especially important when you’re going to an adventure-filled place like British Columbia. If you injure yourself while adventuring, you want to have insurance! We recommend using SafetyWing for international travel insurance. They are affordable and have great policies for travellers, digital nomads, and remote workers. Also, SafetyWing provides COVID-19 coverage, which many other insurance companies don’t cover.
  • Car Rental – We find the best deal on vehicle rental prices using . They compare the prices for different car rental companies so you can find the best deals out there!
  • Accommodations – We prefer booking all of our hotels, hostels, and other accommodations through because they have a flexible cancellation policy. Also, there are lots of different options on their platform, from hotels to vacation homes. Alternatively, Expedia and are good for booking accommodations. For vacation home rentals, VRBO is an excellent choice (they have lower fees than Airbnb, many of the same properties, and are more ethical).
  • Flights – You’ll find many good flight deals on Skyscanner or Google Flights. You can book flights through these websites and they’ll help you find the best prices and flight times. If you fly at less popular times (e.g. mid-week or red-eye flights), you can also save some money.
  • Tours – Get the most out of your vacation by taking a guided tour! This is a great way to see the city, adventure to exciting new locations, and learn about the local culture. Viator or GetYourGuide are great options for booking tours.

Related posts:

  • 36 Best Things to Do in Victoria, BC
  • Ultimate 2-Day Itinerary for a Seattle to Victoria Trip
  • 12 Best Oceanfront Hotels in Victoria, BC
  • 8 Beautiful Gardens around Victoria, BC
  • 7 Best Romantic Getaways in Victoria, BC
  • 15 Top Oceanfront Vacation Homes in Victoria

victoria 1 day trip

Hey, I'm Nicole! I've travelled all over the world but my favorite place is British Columbia. I've lived in Victoria, BC since 2019 and spend most of my free time travelling around BC. My goal is to explore as much of this beautiful province as possible. Along the way I'll be sharing travel tips with you!

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One Day In Victoria, BC – A Perfect Day Trip Itinerary

Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria, BC , is a city surrounded by stunning natural beauty. With its mild climate, historic buildings, and seaside charm, it’s no wonder that Victoria is a popular day trip from Vancouver.

If you only have one day to spend in this beautiful city, don’t worry – there’s plenty to see and do in Victoria to make the most of your time. In this itinerary, I’ll take you through the highlights of Victoria, from the iconic Fairmont Empress to the eclectic shops of LoJo.

I love Victoria, it has a perfect mix of history, outdoor spaces, a vibrant art scene and incredible food! I visit Vancouver Island often, usually stopping in Victoria, and every time I discover something new and exciting.

Whether you are on a cruise stopover, driving the Pacific Marine Circle Route, or a bigger Vancouver Island road trip , Victoria is a great city to spend a day exploring. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this perfect itinerary for one day in Victoria, BC.

Heading To Victoria Soon? Check Out These Helpful Resources!

Find the perfect place to stay in Victoria with . Through you can choose from a range of hotels to suit your needs.

I recommend booking tours and activities in Victoria online in advance with Viator . They offer a best price guarantee and flexibility with bookings.

Explore Victoria by car by booking with Discover Cars . Renting a car is the best way to see Victoria as you can go wherever you want!

One Day In Victoria Itinerary

Breakfast/brunch in victoria.

The first thing you should do when you arrive in Victoria is brunch! Victoria is famous for it’s vast array of brunch options, and honestly they do not disappoint!

My personal recommendation is Blue Fox Café – there is a TON of hype over this place, but it definitely lives up to it (and then some!) It’s rare a place that’s so hyped exceeds my expectations, but they Blue Fox truly did.

You will most likely be greeted by a line of people already waiting, so I recommend to get here as early as possible. If you do manage to get a table, you should try their Honey Macadamia Nut Latte (pure heaven!) Their eggs benny selection, and french toast menu are both to die for.

My other recommendations for brunch in Victoria is the Jam Café and Floyd’s Diner.

Eggs benny at the Blue Fox Cafe in Victoria BC

Explore The Inner Harbour

After breakfast, take a stroll through the picturesque Inner Harbour. The Inner Harbour is one of my favourite places to visit in Victoria. The architecture will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

This bustling area is home to some of Victoria’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Parliament Buildings and the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Make sure to stop by the Visitor Centre to pick up a map and get some insider tips on must-visit spots in the city.

Parliament Buildings

As you continue your walk around the Inner Harbour, make sure to stop at the Parliament Buildings. These impressive buildings are a must-visit for their stunning architecture and rich history.

These grand structures aren’t just a feast for the eyes with their intricate architecture; they’re also packed with history.

The free tours offered here are a fantastic way to spend an hour or so. You’ll get to peek inside the legislative chambers, learn some cool facts about British Columbia’s politics, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be snapping pics of those gorgeous stained glass windows like there’s no tomorrow.

Don’t pass up on this — it’s not every day you get to explore a place this grand for free.

Rachael sitting on a wall at the Parliament buildings in Victoria, BC.

Fairmont Empress

If you thought the Parliament Buildings were something, wait until you see the Fairmont Empress. This grand hotel, standing majestically by the waterfront, is pretty much a postcard picture come to life.

It’s been around since 1908, so you can bet it’s seen its fair share of history. Pop into the lobby to catch a glimpse of its elegant interior or, if you’re feeling fancy, treat yourself to their world-famous afternoon tea.

The tea experience here is something you won’t forget—think delicate pastries and sandwiches served in a setting that’ll make you feel like royalty. Even if tea’s not your thing, just walking by and seeing this iconic building is a must when you’re in Victoria.

The Empress is by far one of my favourite places in Victoria, it’s so hard not to stop by and photograph it! I have stayed at the Empress and it is everything you would imagine it to be, luxurious and elegant – if you’re considering a stay here check out my comprehensive guide to the Empress Hotel for more info.

Rachael standing in front of the Fairmont Empress - it's definitely worth checking out this grand hotel during your one day in Victoria, BC.

Thunderbird Park

After soaking in the historical and architectural wonders of downtown Victoria, make your next stop Thunderbird Park. This unique park, located next to the Royal BC Museum, is an open-air showcase of totem poles and First Nations monuments that tell the story of Canada’s indigenous cultures.

Thunderbird Park is a spot where you can really feel the rich history and cultural significance of the indigenous peoples of Canada’s Pacific Northwest. Plus, it’s completely free to wander around, making it perfect if visiting on a budget, and one of the best free things to do in Victoria.

Make sure to visit the Mungo Martin House, located within the enchanting grounds of Thunderbird Park. This traditionally constructed Kwakwaka’wakw big house was named after the renowned Chief Mungo Martin, a pivotal figure in the revival of Northwest Coast First Nations art and culture during the mid-20th century.

The house serves as a living tribute to Mungo Martin’s legacy, showcasing his extraordinary work along with that of other First Nations artists.

Inside you’ll find a vibrant murals and intricate carvings that adorn the walls, each telling a story of the Kwakwaka’wakw people’s connection to the land, their traditions, and their ancestors.

Photo of a totem pole in front of a traditional first nations long house at Thunderbird Park in Victoria, BC.

Royal BC Museum

Next stop is the Royal BC Museum , and honestly, this place is an absolute must-visit. Imagine walking through a door and stepping straight into the heart of British Columbia’s history – that’s the Royal BC Museum for you.

The museum has got everything from realistic dioramas that bring BC’s wildlife to life (we’re talking about lifelike scenes that’ll have you doing double takes) to exhibits that transport you back to the 19th-century streets of Victoria. Plus, their First Peoples gallery is incredibly insightful, giving you a close look at the rich culture and history of the Indigenous peoples of BC.

The museum is always bringing in something new and fascinating. Check their website before you go. They often have cool events and exhibitions that you won’t want to miss.

Photo of a wooly mammoth diorama at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

Go Shopping On Government Street

No trip to Victoria would be complete without a bit of shopping, and Government Street is the place to hit for that. This bustling street is lined with shops that range from souvenirs to high-end boutiques.

One of the coolest spots has to be Munro’s Books . This place is a book lover’s dream, with its stunning architecture and shelves upon shelves of books. Plus, it’s been around since 1963, making it a true Victoria classic.

For something uniquely Canadian, swing by The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for some mouth-watering treats. And if you’re into quirky and eclectic finds, you can’t miss Market Square just off Government Street. It’s a little nook full of indie stores that sell everything from vintage clothes to handmade jewellery.

China Town in Victoria, BC is a burst of colour, flavours, and history smack in the middle of the city. It’s actually the oldest Chinatown in Canada, so you can bet it’s packed with some pretty cool stories.

Walking down Fisgard Street, the main strip, you’ll be hit by the aroma of delicious food coming from every direction. Dim sum, perfect for sharing (or not, I won’t judge), Peking duck that’s just crispy enough, and bubble tea shops scattered generously throughout.

Chinatown in Victoria isn’t just a place to eat (though, seriously, the food is a big part of it). It’s a vibrant piece of the city, with bright red and gold accents that make for perfect photo ops.

Fan Tan Alley

Walking into Fan Tan Alley is like squeezing into a little slice of history. Seriously, this alley is so narrow, you might have to turn sideways if you come across someone going the other way. But, trust me, it’s worth the shuffle. Fan Tan Alley holds the title of the narrowest street in Canada, and it’s jam-packed with character.

Loaded with unique shops and tiny boutiques, this alley is the place to find things you didn’t know you needed, from trendy fashion and vinyl records to artisan chocolates and hand-crafted jewelry. The vibe here is super casual and a bit eclectic, making it a cool spot to explore without any rush.

And while you’re meandering through, don’t forget to look up and around. The buildings towering over you are a vivid reminder of the area’s rich history and cultural significance.

The colourful shop signs lining Fan Tan Alley in Victoria's China Town.

Lower Johnson Street

Next head to Lower Johnson Street, or as the locals like to call it, LoJo. LoJo is this eclectic mix of old and new, where historic buildings house contemporary boutiques and restaurants.

The architecture itself is a treat – think colourful facades and Victorian-era charm that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but with a modern twist.

It’s home to some of the coolest spots in Victoria. First up, Oscar & Libby’s , the go-to place for whimsical gifts and unique finds. Their collection ranges from quirky kitchen gadgets to amusing greeting cards.

Another gem is Still Life For Him & For Her . This boutique offers a carefully curated selection of clothing and accessories from both local and international designers.

And if you’re a fan of all things sweet and delectable, Kid Sister Ice Cream is a must. This little ice cream shop serves up some of the most delicious, handcrafted frozen treats you’ve ever tasted.

But LoJo isn’t just for the shopaholics. This street is also packed with cool cafes and restaurants where you can just sit back, relax, and soak in the atmosphere.

Lower Johnson Street is super pedestrian-friendly, making it a breeze to wander and explore. It’s one of those places where you can easily spend a whole afternoon without even realizing it!

Colourful buildings in Victoria's shopping district.

Late Afternoon/Evening

After a busy day exploring the city, end your time with a bucket-list experience. Below are my two options for ending your one day in Victoria.

If you are visiting with a car, the Butchart Gardens are beautiful to walk through and an iconic part of Victoria’s identity. Alternatively you can take a whale watching tour, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most.

There are several options for whale watching tours in Victoria. Most have a shuttle service that will pick up from downtown, but I recommend this Prince of Whales tour as they have convenient pick-up from the Inner Harbour.

Visiting Butchart Gardens – Option 1

If there was one attraction that is quintessentially Victoria, it’s the Butchart Gardens. Now, you’re probably thinking gardens are gardens, but trust me, Butchart is on a whole other level.

This sprawling 55-acre site is not your average garden. Established by the Butchart family in the early 20th century, it has grown into one of Canada’s premier botanical showcases.

The gardens are meticulously maintained, featuring diverse areas such as the colourful Italian Garden, the tranquil Japanese Garden, and the breathtaking Sunken Garden.

This stunning property is not just limited to the summer season either; with each changing season bringing a new display of flowers and foliage, there’s never a bad time to visit.

If you want the full Butchart experience, take advantage of their afternoon tea service, which is served on the outdoor terrace overlooking the gardens.

There is no complimentary shuttle to the Butchart Gardens, so if you are visiting Victoria without a car you will need to take public transport. You can get there by taking the number 75 from downtown Victoria, the total travel time is just under an hour.

The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Bc.

Whale Watching In Victoria – Option 2

Victoria, BC, is one of the best spots on the West Coast for getting up close and personal with marine life. We’re talking about orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, and sometimes even minke whales making an appearance.

What makes Victoria so great for whale watching? It’s all about location. The waters around Southern Vancouver Island are smack dab in the middle of major migration routes for whales. Plus, there’s a healthy population of resident orcas living right in these waters. That means your chances of spotting whales are pretty darn good.

Most tours leave from the Inner Harbour and come in all shapes and sizes, from big boats with plenty of amenities to zodiacs that get you closer to the action (if you don’t mind getting a bit wet).

This 3-hour whale watching tour by Prince of Whales includes a photo package and a lifetime whale sighting guarantee – so if you don’t see any whales on your trip you can tour again for free (minus GST and fees) The guides are super knowledgeable, often with a background in marine biology, ready to spill all the fascinating facts about these creatures and their habitat.

And it’s not just about the whales. You’ll likely spot seals, sea lions, and a variety of seabirds along the way. You might even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle soaring over!

Photo of Orca fins off the coast of Vancouver Island. Whale watching is a bucket list activity when spending one day in Victoria.

Other Things To Do In Victoria

Victoria’s downtown area is quite condensed so it’s easy to explore within a day. But if you do want to venture further out of the city, here are some other suggestions.

  • Beacon Hill Park: An urban park in the heart of Victoria. This 200-acre park offers a serene escape with its beautifully landscaped gardens, expansive lawns, and a variety of ponds and waterways.
  • Fisherman’s Wharf: This unique spot combines a working fisherman’s dock with a vibrant tourist attraction, where colourful houseboats float alongside seafood vendors, quirky shops, and outdoor dining areas. You can take a water taxi to or from Fisherman’s Wharf from the Inner Harbour.
  • Mount Douglas: Just a short drive from downtown Victoria, this is one of the easy hikes in Victoria and one of my absolute favourite views of the city and ocean. The summit can be reached by car, or by taking one of the many hiking trails. The park’s 360-degree view from the top is unmatched.

How To Get To Victoria, BC

Victoria is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island (not to be confused with the city of Vancouver) Unless you live on Vancouver Island, you will most likely be taking a ferry to get to Victoria.

The most popular route is from Tsawwassen (Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (Victoria), which takes about 90 minutes. Once you reach Swartz Bay, you can take a bus or taxi into downtown Victoria.

You can also take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay (Nanaimo). Once you reach Departure Bay it is about a 2-hour drive south to Victoria. You can book through BC Ferries in advance for both vehicles and passenger fares.

If you’re flying into Victoria, the Victoria International Airport is located just outside of downtown and offers flights from major cities in Canada and the United States.

Harbour Air also offers multiple daily flights between downtown Vancouver and Victoria’s Inner Harbour, with a flight time of just 35 minutes. This is a great option if you want to save time or have limited travel days.

Where To Eat In Victoria

  • Red Fish Blue Fish: A popular spot for freshly caught seafood served from a converted cargo container on the Inner Harbour. Best fish and chips I have had on Vancouver Island – highly recommend!
  • Irish Times Pub: A traditional Irish pub with a cozy atmosphere, live music, and delicious food. I ate here on my most recent trip and the food is AMAZING. Try the blackberry gin smash and the truffle mushroom dip!
  • Q at the Empress: Located inside the Fairmont Empress Hotel, Q offers a fine dining experience with an emphasis on sustainable and local ingredients. The views of the Inner Harbour are pretty hard to beat.
  • Beavertails: A Canadian classic! Beavertails is a must-visit for their iconic fried pastries topped with your choice of sweet toppings.
  • Noodlebox: For a quick and tasty meal, check out Noodlebox for their selection of Asian-inspired noodles and rice dishes. Perfect for a grab-and-go lunch or dinner. There are several locations throughout the city. Try the Singapore Cashew or Spicy Peanut bowls!

Cheese and meat plate at Q at the Empress restaurant.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, a jam-packed itinerary for one day in Victoria! Of course, if you have more time, feel free to add on some of the other suggestions and make it a 2 to 3 day trip to Victoria . But if you only have one day, this itinerary will give you a taste of all the incredible things Victoria has to offer – from its stunning natural beauty to its vibrant downtown and delicious food scene.

If you are spending some time on Vancouver Island, I have a detailed Vancouver Island road trip post, or if you want to venture further, check out my guides on Jordan River and Tofino itinerary . If you are exploring more of BC, you can also check out all my guides here .

Explore More Of British Columbia

  • 3 Days in Victoria, BC
  • Easy Hikes in Victoria, BC
  • 3 Days in Tofino
  • Vancouver Island Road Trip
  • Things to do in Jordan River, BC
  • 2 Days in Vancouver
  • Easy Hikes in Vancouver

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Home » Destinations » North America » Canada » How to Spend One Day in Victoria, BC: Itinerary For First-Time Visitors

How to Spend One Day in Victoria, BC: Itinerary For First-Time Visitors

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Have One Day in Victoria, BC? Here’s What to See, Do, and Eat!

You’ve made a trip to Victoria, BC – great call! Whether you’re staying overnight or you’re on a Victoria day trip from the mainland, there’s plenty to do, eat, see, and drink to keep you busy!

A day trip to Victoria, BC is definitely not enough time to see everything the city has to offer. That said, you can cover quite a bit of ground if you plan it right. That’s where we come in!

We spent a few days in Victoria while on our Vancouver Island road trip and really loved the seaside city. We even had a local friend (a connection through Eric) tell us about top attractions and more local tips while we were exploring.

So, this guide covers exactly that: places to visit for a whole day in Victoria. From breakfast options to evening activities, this one-day itinerary covers the things that you must do in Victoria, BC if you’re short on time!

Oh, and if you are staying one night, we really liked our stay at the Oswego Hotel . It’s a very popular accommodation in a quiet area close to the harbour and downtown.

Victoria, BC Tours

Being the capital of BC, Victoria is a popular destination to explore. Luckily, there are several tour options to help you discover Victoria in different ways!

  • Extended Panoramic Seaplane Tour Over Victoria
  • 2-Hour Victoria Food and History Tour with Tastings
  • 3-Hour Guided Craft Beer Tasting Bike Tour

Table of Contents

Breakfast at Blue Fox Cafe

Address: 919 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8V 3K3

blue sign for cafe hanging beside red brick wall over city sidewalk in victoria bc.

To start your Victoria day itinerary off right, head for Blue Fox Cafe . It’s the one with the sign hanging over the sidewalk!

Located just a short walk from the centre of downtown, this place was founded back in 1991 and – let us tell you – it did not disappoint!

We arrived shortly after 8:00 am opening and there was a lineup (which we anticipated because it’s that popular). Our local friend told us to try it out. 

The staff was super nice and once inside, we scanned the barcode on the table to see the menu. They also have the menu posted outside so you can check while you’re waiting. 

Eric had a dark roast drip coffee and Lisa had a dirty chai for hot drinks. Both were great – and the coffee was free refills! 

For breakfast, Lisa had the regular Eggs Benedict which came with ham and potatoes on the side which you can swap for fruit. 

large plate of breakfast foods with water glasses on wooden table.

Eric had the Fox’s Grill – sort of like their “classic” breakfast. It came with potatoes, three eggs, two kinds of meat (sausage and bacon) toast, fried mushrooms, and fried tomatoes. It was honestly one of the best breakfasts he’s ever had on the road. 

Overall, the vibe of Blue Fox is really cool. It’s not overly trendy – but a very social, welcoming, and friendly kind of place. That said, it’s also not a greasy spoon… it’s high-quality, has huge portions, and is definitely worth the wait.

When we left, the lineup (on a weekday) was even longer so plan ahead. If it’s busy, you can also try Jam Cafe , Shine Cafe , or even Floyd’s Diner James Bay (a classic greasy spoon) or John’s Place Restaurant . These are all top options for brunch or breakfast in Victoria!

Getting Around Victoria, BC If you’re in Victoria, BC for the day, you’ll find that the city centre isn’t huge and it is very walkable with a slight hill around Downtown heading north from the Harbour. The shoreline has sidewalks and walking paths which snake you along cove after cove to see boats, floating houses, and even wildlife. Public transport on land is with buses through BCTransit . On the water, there are numerous water taxis (run by Victoria Harbour Ferry ) you can hop on to get to other parts of the city centre. Water taxis are a huge thing since the city is shaped by a number of smaller harbours, coves, and bays.

Morning Activities

Now that you’ve got breakfast in you, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to do for your morning activities. Morning in Victoria is when lots of things like tours and attractions happen so you kind of need to plan ahead to figure out which one you’re going to do.

Victoria also has a number of larger attractions which can easily fill a few hours so here are a few ideas of things you can do during your morning in Victoria: Whale Watching or The Butchart Gardens or Exploring Downtown .

Remember to choose one since you won’t have enough time in a day to do all three!

Whale Watching from Victoria, BC

Address for Orca Spirit Adventures Office: 146 Kingston St. (behind/under the Coast Victoria Hotel & Marina)

orca whales in blue ocean with small boat behind and cloudy sky above.

Without a doubt, one of the most popular things to do in Victoria, BC is to go whale watching. Moreso than on the mainland, the Salish Sea off the coast of Victoria proves to be a very popular spot for whales.

As such, there are quite a few tour companies that will take you out for a few hours to see whales, other wildlife, and the beautiful shoreline that goes with being on the West Coast.

We actually did this whale-watching tour with Orca Spirit Adventures and really liked it. We saw a few orcas and a bunch of other wildlife which made for a great half-day out on the water. Not to mention the guys were great and the weather was lovely.

We actually wrote a whole post on our whale watching experience from Victoria if you’re thinking about whale watching when you visit.

Many of the tour operators leave right from the waters off downtown Victoria so a whale watching tour can make for a perfect way to spend a few hours.

The Butchart Gardens

Address: 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8, Canada

With over 50+ acres of beautifully manicured gardens, The Butchart Gardens are among the very popular places to visit when you come to Victoria.

The Gardens have a number of themed sections which take you to different places around the world – from Japan to Italy. The Ross Fountain is always a highlight – but just walking the stunning grounds is worth the trip. It should be noted that the Gardens are not close to Downtown Victoria. They are a short 25-minute drive (or 50-minute bus) north of the city centre. 

So, you should plan to be there the whole morning if that’s the place you decide to explore! Learn more about The Butchart Gardens on their website.

Explore Downtown Victoria

victoria harbour water with boats and red brick hotel with downtown buildings above.

If you don’t want to go whale watching or explore the Butchart Gardens – or you’re visiting last minute and didn’t plan ahead – there’s still plenty to do and see in downtown Victoria. 

You can easily fill a few hours in the morning by making a few visits to some attractions and just exploring the area. There’s definitely no shortage when it comes to what to see in Victoria .

You can walk through the heart of downtown on Government Street which has lots of shopping and places to eat and drink. 

As for attractions, you can check out the Royal BC Museum , the beautiful BC Legislative Assembly building, Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown, or even hop on a scenic seaplane tour that leaves right across from the Fairmont Empress Hotel . 

You can even just find a quiet bench along the harbour and enjoy a sit while you breathe in the sea air. Nothing wrong with that!

Lunch (and Explore) at Fisherman’s Wharf

Address: 12 Erie St, Victoria, BC V8V 4X5

colourful houseboats in a line with blue water in front at fishermans wharf in victoria bc.

Whatever you get up to in the morning, you should definitely head to Fisherman’s Wharf for a little lunchtime exploration. You might have seen photos of colourful houseboats in Victoria? Well, Fisherman’s Wharf is where you see them!

The Wharf is a small part of the waterfront located a short walk east of downtown. You can walk along the waterfront path from downtown to get there.

The docks are home to a number of houseboats where residents live. It’s also a touristy spot (but still worth checking out) because there are a number of restaurants, shops, and tours that leave from there. 

The Wharf is also an active commercial hub which has vessels coming and going. However, for a visitor to Victoria, the food and the colourful houseboats are the main draw.

You access the main gangway to the docks from a small parking lot. For those with a car, you can pay for parking at the Wharf.

Once onto the docks, there are a few restaurants, craft shops, places for a drink, and kiosks for tours like kayaking and whale watching.

two pieces of crispy fish and chips in basket on table with boats and water behind.

Since this is a lunch stop, you might want to find a bite to eat. We had fish and chips at Barb’s Fish and Chips which – we were told – had some of the best fish and chips in all of Victoria. 

We shared the two-piece cod fish and chips (they also have Halibut) with fries and coleslaw and a seafood chowder which came in a bowl with buttered toast. Both were excellent.

Once you pick up your order, you get to sit at a picnic table somewhere on the docks and enjoy the sunshine and sights and sounds of the water.

large seal floating in blue harbour water.

We even had a visitor to our table – a harbour seal – which everyone went wild over. It was very cute just floating there a few feet away as if to say “hi!”. If you see a seal, please remember not to feed it!

That said, there are lots of other food options like Mexican, fish tacos, pizza, etc. There’s even an ice cream shop!

Afternoon Activities

After lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, our itinerary takes you away from the heart of the city centre to explore a little more nature and some of the beautiful coastlines that Victoria has to offer.

For the afternoon, you should get your walking shoes ready because you’re heading for Ogden Point and then to Beacon Hill Park! 

Ogden Point

Address: 211 Dallas Rd, Victoria, BC V8V 1A1

long concrete walkway with metal railing and ocean on both sides and sky above.

From Fisherman’s Wharf, you can actually continue along Dallas Road towards Ogden Point. Here, you can check out the sundial and then walk out along The Breakwater Pier where you’ll find the Breakwater lighthouse.

This is a great place to stop for photos and to get a sense of the shoreline before heading back into the city. You might even spot some cruise ships docked right beside.

Close to the Ogden Point Sundial, there is a small place called Breakwater Cafe, Bar & Bistro . We didn’t go but our local friend suggested that it’s a good place to stop if you need a break. 

Continue east along the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail enjoying the views of the sea as you go. You’ll eventually reach Holland Point Park – continue on until you get to the bottom of Beacon Hill Park.

Before you enter Beacon Hill Park be sure to snap a photo or take note of the Mile 0 Monument which is where the Trans-Canada highway officially begins. 

Beacon Hill Park

Address: 100 Cook St, Victoria, BC

pond in garden with colourful plants and green trees around and sky above.

Now it’s time to take in a little bit of nature in Beacon Hill Park . This beautiful varied park space located between the neighbourhoods of James Bay and Fairfield was really worth the visit. 

We went for a walk and there are lots of different walking paths that snake through the area.

There’s no shortage of different birds and animals as well as different ponds, bridges, fountains, and other features like statues and sculptures. We made friends with some curious ducks (we didn’t feed them) when we visited.

On the grounds, you’ll also find the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole which was a sight to see. We wandered through a big chunk of the park before ending up back at the shoreline along Dallas Road. 

There’s also a famous ice cream stop – Beacon Drive-in Restaurant – located on Douglas Street at the west edge of the park.

Once back at Dallas Road, we crossed the waterfront trail and found some steps that led down to the actual rocky beach (between Finlayson Point and Spiral Beach, for reference).

long rocky beach with driftwood and tall cliff behind with sky above.

Here, we sat for a while and just listened to the waves crashing. There’s plenty of driftwood to sit on and photograph – and since the roadway is above, it’s quite secluded and serene!

Afternoon Break (Optional): The Hot and Cold Cafe in Cook Street Village

Address: 313 Cook Street, Victoria, BC V8V 3X5

After Beacon Hill Park and a walk along Dallas Road to take in the sea air, you should head up Cook Street to Cook Street Village.

This small cluster of neighbourhood shops, eateries, bars, and grocery stores was quite welcoming and a little bit unexpected for a residential area!

outside of small cafe under tree cover with sidewalk in front.

If you need a break (and perhaps a coffee and a nibble), check out The Hot and Cold Cafe .

It’s a smaller cafe with a few wooden tables and is worth the stop. There’s a pretty good drink board as well as baked goods in a glass case.

They also offer quite a bit of food from cold salads and rice bowls to soups and sandwiches/wraps. 

scone and brownie on wooden table with two hot drinks.

We just had a drink – a flat white and a cappuccino – and then a brownie and a chocolate almond toasted scone. Both sweet items were really good!

The staff was super friendly and the place overall was a nice mix of locals and travellers.

After this optional break, you can walk back towards downtown which takes about 20 minutes walking. You actually snake along the top end of Beacon Hill Park again and pop out beside the Legislative Assembly.

Dinner at Red Fish Blue Fish

Address: 1006 Wharf St, Victoria, BC V8W 1N8

small shipping container on wooden boardwalk with red building behind on hillside.

It’s now dinner time in Victoria, and that means more seafood! But seriously, there’s a place to go for food in Victoria that you can’t miss: Red Fish Blue Fish .

Located right at Victoria Harbour across from the seaplane terminal, this restaurant in a recycled sea container will not disappoint.

You order at the window, find a place to sit along the wooden boardwalk and they call your name to grab it at the side window!

two hand rolled fish tacos and a bowl of chowder on table with harbour water and boats behind.

We had the fish tacos (one salmon and one tuna) which were pan-seared and cooked to medium with like a creamy slaw. We also ordered their seafood chowder which was a bit spicy and delicious.

Be sure to grab napkins since things can get messy. As you eat, you get to watch the boats come and go and the planes take off. 

It was pretty busy when we went with lots of locals and visitors. There were even seaplane pilots exiting their plane after a flight and heading right to Red Fish Blue Fish for their dinner!

Overall, it was definitely worth the hype – try the fish and chips which are also quite good apparently.

Keep in mind that they close at 8:00 pm – and in the off-season sometimes even earlier. So, this might end up being somewhat of an early dinner.

If seafood isn’t for you or you prefer to eat later, there are other top choices for dinner in Victoria. We were recommended II Terrazzo or Pagliacci’s for top-notch Italian, The Local for pub grub, or Tacofino for Mexican (and if you aren’t going to Tofino to visit the original Tacofino food truck).

Evening Ideas

With the day behind you and your belly fully, there are a few things you can get up to in Victoria at night if you’ve still got the steam.

Not going to lie, many of them involve drinking – but going for drinks (beer, mostly) is a popular thing to do in Victoria! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Head for Drinks at Market Square

Address: 560 Johnson St, Victoria, BC V8W 3C6

red brick warehouse buildings with metal stairs and colourful trees around.

This is a really cool red brick warehouse district that’s been converted into boutique shops, restaurants, and places for drinks. 

The Drake Eat e ry is popular, as is the patio at Whistle Buoy Brewing Company . It’s a cool atmosphere to live out the evening in the heart of the city.

You might also just choose a place right in the heart of downtown like Bard & Banker or Lido Waterfront Bar & Bistro for harbour views.

Enjoy Victoria, BC Craft Beer

Speaking of craft beer, Victoria is known for its beer and local beer is the best!

Our friend told us about a number of really great breweries dotted all over the general downtown area. Some are closer to walk to, others might require a little bit of a ride.

Many breweries are located in the north end of downtown or just across the bridge in Victoria West. Check out Phillips Brewing & Malting Beer Shop , Herald St. Brew Works , or Hoyne Brewing Company – just to name a few!

Our Tip: Looking for a little more structure? Hop on a Beer Tour with West Coast Brewery Tours or even the Pickle Pub Crawl (which uses water taxis to get around).

Related Articles

If you are travelling to Canada and heading for the Canadian West Coast, here are more helpful guides for Victoria and beyond:

  • Things to Do in Victoria + Surrounding Area
  • Where to Stay in Victoria, BC: Accommodation & Area Guide
  • How to Get From Vancouver to Victoria
  • Spending One Day in Vancouver
  • Where to Stay in Tofino: Accommodations & Areas
  • Our Guide to Visiting Tofino, BC

And there you have it – our guide on how to spend one day in Victoria, BC! We had an amazing time exploring the seaside city – and we look forward to returning to discover more of the city and Vancouver Island, in general!

As always, Happy Victoria Waddlin’, – L&E

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Victoria Tourism Guide

How to Spend One Day in Victoria BC in 2024

As a local I’m never gonna tell you to spend just one day in Victoria BC, but here I am ready to help!

In my list of what to see in Victoria in one day I hope to teach you about local lore, help you explore the nature, and maybe even see once in a lifetime wildlife.

Let’s get my one day Victoria itinerary underway.

What to See in Victoria BC in One Day

When thinking of things to do in Victoria in one day, I want to first break it down into a quick summary of the best things to do in Victoria .

Being a local, this is how I’d construct the best one day trip of Victoria – I’ll break it down even further later on in the article.

  • Explore the Inner Harbour
  • Enjoy Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel
  • Visit the Royal BC Museum
  • Take a tour of the city
  • Take a Tour of the Parliament Buildings
  • Check out Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Stroll Through Beacon Hill Park
  •  Check out Butchart Gardens (optional)
  • Have Dinner at One of Victoria’s Top Restaurants

Just make sure you know how to get from Vancouver to Victoria first!

One Day Trip in Victoria BC

wandering victoria's inner harbour, one of the top free things to do in victoria.

1. Explore the Inner Harbour

This is our crown jewel and you should get this into the itinerary right away!

Exploring the Inner Harbour in Victoria, BC is a delightful experience and here’s how I’d do it in one day:

  • Begin by strolling along the picturesque waterfront to admire the boats and seaplanes.
  • Discover the local shops and cafes to get a taste of the city’s vibrant culture.
  • Embark on a harbor ferry tour to gain a unique perspective of the area.

Coming from Vancouver? The Vancouver to Victoria seaplane landing here is probably the best way to see it!

victoria 1 day trip

2. Enjoy Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel

The best best one day trip in Victoria always includes the Empress Hotel in Victoria: a historic, luxury hotel known for its elegant architecture , afternoon tea service, and prominent location on the Inner Harbour.

  • Make a reservation at the Fairmont Empress Hotel for a delightful afternoon tea experience.
  • Indulge in a selection of teas and delectable pastries in the elegant ambiance of the hotel.
  • Take in the picturesque views while enjoying your tea.

Famous guests at the Empress Hotel include King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their 1939 royal tour of Canada.

victoria 1 day trip

3. Visit the Royal BC Museum

  • Begin your tour at the Royal BC Museum by exploring the diverse exhibits on natural and human history.
  • Discover the First Peoples Gallery , showcasing the rich culture and heritage of the indigenous people.
  • Proceed to the Modern History Galleries to delve into the stories of British Columbia’s past.
  • Conclude your visit by exploring the featured exhibitions, offering unique and immersive experiences.

Pro-tip: Be sure to check the museum’s website for any special events or temporary exhibitions during your visit.

Looking for something a bit different? Check out my post on Victoria’s best museums .

victoria 1 day trip

4. Take a Tour of Victoria

My next suggestion for what to do in Victoria BC in one day is going to be about politics – so maybe it’s best to get to the action right now!

Taking the best tours of Victoria is a great way to learn obscure and fun facts about the city , eat well, and maybe even see once in a lifetime wildlife .

Really, it’s a matter of picking your poison:

  • Victoria’s Best Whale Watching Tours : Ever seen an orca or a humpback in the wild? This is the best place in Canada to do it.
  • Victoria’s Best Bike Tours : Canada’s sunniest city is best explored by bike and the guides here are hilarious and knowledgable.
  • Victoria’s Best Food Tours : Eating the city’s best food and learning the history together? I need not say more.

a view of the exterior of the bc legislative assembly in victoria, bc.

4. Take a Tour of the Parliament Buildings

When visiting Victoria for one day, taking a tour of the Parliament Buildings is a must-do.

Here’s how I’d walk through these important BC buildings:

  • Begin with a guided tour (free on weekdays between 8:30 and 4:00) to gain insights into the history and architecture of the buildings.
  • Explore the beautiful gardens surrounding the buildings.
  • Plan your visit during a session to observe the legislature in action .
  • Don’t miss the impressive library with its ornate woodwork and rich history.

A photo of Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf

5. Check out Fisherman’s Wharf

To explore Fisherman’s Wharf , start by strolling along the colorful floating homes and unique shops .

You can enjoy fresh seafood from local vendors , and watch for seals often seen around the docks.

Take a scenic harbour ferry tour for a different perspective. Visit the art galleries and souvenir shops for unique finds – I like Studio 106 .

If you’re visiting Victoria in summer , I would also not miss trying the famous fish and chips at Barb’s Fish and Chips (open March-October)

beacon hill park in victoria, bc.

6. Stroll Through Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park is one of Victoria’s best parks : a 200-acre public park known for its scenic landscaping, walking trails, and iconic totem pole .

Here’s how I’d visit the park:

  • Begin at the main entrance on Douglas Street.
  • Take in the beautifully landscaped gardens and ponds.
  • Stop by the petting zoo and feed the friendly animals .
  • Unwind by the famous Mile “0” marker.
  • Appreciate the breathtaking views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Fun Fact: Beacon Hill Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, housing over 75 different species of birds.

This is one of the best free things to do in Victoria .

victoria 1 day trip

7. Visit Butchart Gardens (Optional)

Butchart Gardens is a group of floral display gardens in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, Canada, near Victoria on Vancouver Island.

The gardens, which cover an area of 22 hectares, attract over a million visitors each year . They have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Start by grabbing a map at the entrance. Wander through the themed gardens, like the stunning Sunken Garden and the serene Japanese Garden – they are both stunning!

victoria 1 day trip

8. Have Dinner at One of Victoria’s Top Restaurants

Victoria’s culinary scene offers diverse options, from fine dining to casual eateries, reflecting the city’s vibrant gastronomy .

Here’s my quick suggestions for Victoria in one day:

  • Research top restaurants in Victoria , such as Il Terrazzo , known for its Italian cuisine and charming courtyard.
  • Make a reservation well in advance to secure a table at sought-after establishments.
  • Not into Italian? Consider dining at Aura Waterfront Restaurant  for scenic harbor views.
  • Want some local seafood instead? Check out a spot like The Courtney Room .

Looking for a nightcap? I suggest going to any of Victoria’s best bars .

Think you need more time? Consider my Victoria weekend itinerary which adds an extra day.

Things to Do in Victoria in One Day FAQ

What are the best things to see in victoria in one day.

The best things to do in Victoria during a one-day trip are exploring the harbor, visiting Butchart Gardens, taking a whale-watching cruise, trying out the local cuisine, visiting the Royal BC Museum, strolling through Beacon Hill Park, shopping at the Inner Harbour.

Is it possible to take a day trip to Victoria, Canada from Seattle without a car?

Yes, the trip to Victoria is simple and does not require a car, making it a perfect spontaneous international day trip.

What unique experiences can visitors have in Victoria, Canada during a one-day trip?

Visitors can enjoy a delectable lunch at a cozy teahouse, take a guided tour of the city’s architectural structures, and explore the lush gardens of Butchart Gardens.

Still Need to Know to Spend One Day in Victoria BC?

With its charming atmosphere, beautiful sights, and delicious food, Victoria, BC is a must-visit destination. Although one day may not be enough to fully experience everything the city has to offer, this itinerary will give you a taste of the best of Victoria in just one day.

Related posts

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May Long Weekend in Victoria BC: Escape to Enchantment

An article on how to get from Victoria to Seattle.

How to Get From Victoria to Seattle: By Sea, Land, & Air

A view of a set of binoculars in the Inner Harbour in Victoria in August.

Victoria In August: A Summer Island Paradise

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In One Day in Victoria

Victoria lies at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, and the scenic trip by ferry or plane is just part of the adventure. Victoria is much smaller and more relaxed than Vancouver, and is a terrific walking city and an even better cycling one, so you don't really need a car unless you want to explore the outlying areas. This day is action-packed and while you can cover all this ground in 1 day, you may want to spread it out over two.

1.  Inner Harbour

The city is built around the scenic Inner Harbour, a busy working port where fishing boats, floatplanes, ferries, and whale-watching tours chug all day long. One could easily spend a day watching all the action from the walkway around the inlet, but it’s even better to hop aboard one of the cute little Victoria Harbour Ferries and check out the view from the water. That includes the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel and the magnificent BC Parliament Buildings . The ferries operate tours that travel throughout the harbor and offer a number of stops, including the one at Fisherman’s Wharf.

2.  Fisherman’s Wharf

Hop off the ferry here and wander through the gaily painted floating homes, the funky little shops, and the ecotour operators based here. Stop for fish and chips or ice cream, and check out the fresh seafood on display at the fish markets. 3.  Steamship Terminal Building

From Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s an easy stroll along the harbor back into the city. Along the way, you will pass a magnificent Beaux Arts building that old-timers will remember as once housing a spectacularly cheesy wax museum. It was originally built in 1924, designed by Victoria’s famous architect, Francis Rattenbury , who also designed the Parliament Buildings across the street, and it was, indeed, the city’s steamship terminal back in the day. Today it is home to a restaurant and the Robert Bateman Centre . Climb up to the second floor to find a gallery of the legendary wildlife painter’s works.

4.  Royal BC Museum

Keep walking past the Parliament Buildings and the buskers and souvenir stalls along the water. On your left you will see the Fairmont Hotel Empress ruling from the end of the harbor, and on your right you will see the sprawling Royal BC Museum. Outside it is the retro-looking Carillon Tower, where 62 bells musically announce each hour, and just past the museum, in Thunderbird Park, is the Mungo Martin carving shed where First Nations carvers work on a myriad of projects. Step into the museum, and you will discover an ever-changing array of shows and interactive presentations such as 2014’s much-anticipated Vikings exhibit. The permanent collections, too, are well worth a visit, especially the First Peoples Gallery, an absorbing and thought-provoking showplace of First Nations art and culture. This is truly an impressive museum experience, and it’s quite easy to spend several hours here.

5.  Tea at the Empress

Truly, there is no more iconic experience in Victoria than taking tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. This grand old dame of Victorian architecture, with its lovely rose gardens and elegant public rooms, is a must-visit no matter what, but it’s so much better to enjoy it from the plush, rose-and-cream Tea Lobby with a pot of Empress Blend tea and a tiered tray of little sandwiches and teensy baked goods. Be sure to reserve your spot well ahead of time, especially during the busy summer months.

6. Whale-Watching

Few experiences are as breathtaking as watching a sleek, black-and-white orca arc out of the waters right beside your boat. And that’s why Victoria’s whale-watching tours are among its most popular activities. They run year-round, and range from short trips in a Zodiac to full-day adventures that cross over to the Mainland. Along the way, you’re sure to see porpoises, seals, eagles, herons and ospreys, whales (including the orca, humpback, and minke), and, of course, the magnificent scenery of the Gulf Islands.

7.  Downtown

Your whale-watching tour will drop you back in the Inner Harbour, and from there, you can explore the city’s pretty, historic downtown on foot as you meander over to dinner. Start by wandering up Government Street , which is home to the city’s biggest collection of souvenir shops as well as Victoria’s own Roger’s Chocolates, Murchie’s Tea & Coffee, and the legendary Munro’s Books, arguably Canada’s best bookstore, which is housed in a gorgeous neoclassical building that was once a bank. When you reach Johnson Street, turn left into what’s known as LoJo , where you will find a whole collection of funky little boutiques and restaurants clustered around Market Square.

8.  Dinner at Spinnaker’s

Cross the Johnson Street Bridge into the community of West Victoria. Take the seaside path that hugs the Inner Harbour, and keep going until you reach what looks like a big, shambling old house but is actually Spinnaker’s Gastro Brewpub. Spinnaker’s is Canada’s oldest brewpub and is renowned not just for craft beers like the Northwest Ale and Hoptoria, but for a menu that celebrates the best of what’s local. The rich, creamy seafood chowder is among the best on the coast.

9.  Don’t Forget Your Nightcap!

Still going? Then head back downtown and drink in Victoria’s small but mighty cocktail scene. The best cocktails are being shaken up at Veneto Tapa Lounge , Little Jumbo , and Clive’s Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria . You can try a classic cocktail or a modern creation, or let the talented bartenders at any of these establishments create a drink just for you.

If you have another day...

After spending Day 1 exploring the city center, today you're going to venture a bit further afield. It's easy if you have a car, but there are plenty of buses and tours as well. Perhaps the best way to explore the city, though, is on two wheels—Victoria, after all, is known as the cycling capital of Canada. It's mostly flat, with scenic trails, short distances to travel, cautious drivers, and plenty of rental shops and bike tour operators.

1.  Butchart Gardens

Next to taking tea at the Empress, exploring this four-season garden—considered one of the gardening wonders of the world—is the most iconic of Victoria’s experiences. More than 100 years ago, Jennie Butchart started planting sweet peas and roses in an old limestone quarry on the Saanich Peninsula. Today the estate boasts 22 hectares (55 acres) of gardens and has been named a National Historic Site of Canada. Nearly a million people visit each year, strolling through the magnificently perfumed rose garden or the serene Japanese garden and searching for the elusive Himalayan blue poppy. The site also includes a restaurant and gift shop, and features fireworks on summer nights and lighted displays on winter ones.

2.  Saanich Peninsula

If you are visiting Butchart Gardens by bike or by car, spend a little time exploring the Saanich Peninsula where it is located. You’ll find lots of little farms, wineries, and the town of Sidney-by-the-Sea, famous for its many new and used bookstores as well as the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre .

3.  Oak Bay Village

Meander back toward the city, but instead of going directly to the center, turn off toward Oak Bay Village. Spend a little time exploring the high-end shops and boutiques along Oak Bay Road, then venture down to the shore and the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Grab a table in the cozy Snug Pub, a painstaking reproduction of the original hotel’s pub, for a pint and bite of lunch with a beautiful ocean view. 4.  Dallas Road & Beacon Hill Park

From Oak Bay, stay to the seaside route, which is easy to follow by foot, by bike, or by car. It will turn into Dallas Road, every Victorian’s favorite place to take the air, preferably with a dog by their side. You can follow the path all the way around Ogden Point and the cruise ship terminal, but a much prettier option is to turn off at Beacon Hill Park and cut across this 80-hectare (200-acre) green space. It is a beautifully manicured garden filled with trees and flowers, sports pitches, a children’s petting zoo, band shell, horse-drawn carriages, and a 39m (130-ft.) totem pole. Keep an eye out and you may see a roving peacock.

5. On the trail of Emily Carr

As you emerge from Beacon Hill Park, you will have several opportunities to pay homage to one of Canada’s greatest artists, the painter and writer Emily Carr who was born here in 1871. On one side of the park, you can visit her family home, Carr House , and take a tour with one of the passionate caretakers of her remarkable legacy. On the other side of the park, you can find a significant number of her evocative works at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria . Be sure to stop at the corner of Government and Belleville streets, where you will find a bronze statue of the “little old woman on the edge of nowhere” with her beloved dog Willie and pet monkey, Woo.

6.  Dinner at Steamship Grill

Victoria has become a city of foodies as passionate about local ingredients as the great dishes they can make with them. Many of the restaurants are small, chef-owned eateries, and it’s tough to choose just one. But if you’re looking for a fun, not terribly expensive place to dine, with a cheerful and casual vibe as well as an unbeatable setting, then that’s the Steamship Grill in the historic Steamship Terminal Building. You can’t go wrong with a crispy, beer-battered halibut burger and a glass of Vancouver Island Viogner on tap as you watch the sun set on the harbor below.

Victoria For Families: Day 1 Despite its reputation as a big retirement community, Victoria is actually filled with young families, with loads of activities to keep them busy. That’s good news for your family, too. You can easily while away the hours roaming the seaside pathways on a rented bike or picnicking on one of the many beaches. Or you can take the little ones to check out these great attractions, starting right in the city center.

Step through the doors on the north side of the Fairmont Empress Hotel and enter Miniature World, an alternative reality of meticulously produced dioramas representing everything from famous battles to literary scenes to outer space, all in teeny-tiny scale. Don’t miss the world’s largest dollhouse or the miniature train chugging across historic Canada.

Just a block away, you will discover the creepy-crawly critters of the Victoria Bug Zoo, including giant walking sticks, hairy tarantulas, and Canada’s largest ant farm. Expert “bug guides” are on hand and will even let you hold a tickly millipede as long as your arm. (Don’t worry, it’s safe!)

If you prefer critters with four legs rather than hundreds of them, head over to the Beacon Hill Park Children’s Farm just a few minutes away. This petting zoo features goats, ponies, chickens and Osmund the llama. Don’t miss the twice-daily goat stampedes. Note that the farm is only open during the summer, but the nearby playground is open year-round.

It’s time for a break, so why not pop in to the Fairmont Hotel Empress for a spot of tea? The hotel now offers a special “Prince and Princess Tea” in its ornate Tea Lobby, replete with tiny sandwiches, scones, and attentive service for their youngest guests. Be sure to book ahead.

After tea, head across the street to the Royal BC Museum. In addition to a spectacular array of permanent and temporary collections, the museum hosts family-friendly “Wonder Sundays,” sleepovers, camps, and IMAX shows. The totem poles and natural history exhibits will fill your kids with wonder, as will traveling exhibits such as the impressive Vikings collection.

A little further from the city center is Craigdarroch Castle, a 39-room turreted mansion built in the late 1800s by the wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. It is filled with lavish furnishings and is famous for its ornate stained glass and woodwork. On the way to the castle, stop in at Rogers Chocolates for one of their decadent ice cream bars.

If you wrap things up early enough, you have time to head back to the Inner Harbour for takeout fish and chips at Red Fish Blue Fish . The tacones with tempura cod are especially fun to eat, and even better while watching all the bustle of the harbor around you.

Today you’ll head out to the Saanich Peninsula, which has plenty of family-friendly attractions. But first stop by one of Victoria’s plethora of breakfast joints, like Willie’s Bakery , to make sure you’re fuelled up for a day of fun.

To make the most of this area, you’ll likely want a car, but if your kids are old enough, you can also rent bikes and cycle out there along the Galloping Goose Trail, which goes all the way out to the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay. The most famous attraction out here is the glorious Butchart Gardens, a year-round spectacle in bloom. However, your kids may prefer the wild adventure of Victoria Butterfly Gardens, just 5 minutes away. It’s an indoor tropical jungle filled with flamingoes, exotic fish, rare flowers, and, of course, butterflies.

In nearby Sidney-by-the-Sea, the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre is an aquarium that offers a unique glimpse of the creatures that live in the Salish Sea. Your kids will especially love tickling the starfish and sea urchins in the touch pools. And if you are here in late May, Saanich is also the site of the Island Children’s Festival, which features star performers like Fred Penner.

If the weather is nice, you can bring a picnic lunch and venture out onto the Sidney Spit, part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. A walk-on ferry service will take you to this sandy beach park during the summer months.

On your way back to town, swing through Oak Bay Village and stop in at Sweet Delights, a candy store simply bursting with old-timey sugary treats from around the world. Or drop in to Hillside Village and the family-owned Bolen Books, with its huge children’s books section.

Dinner should be fun, and what’s more fun than burgers? Victoria has several terrific burger joints, but one of my faves is Bin 4 Burger Lounge , which offers a “small bites” menu for kids 10 and under. The yummy chocolate torte should be an excellent way to end the day.

Note : This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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A Local’s Guide to the Perfect Victoria BC Day Trip

The Empress Hotel in Victoria BC Canada

One of the highlights of any visit to Canada is a Victoria BC day trip. Victoria is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada, and its picturesque Inner Harbour and city center are easily explored by foot in just one day. If you use your time in Victoria wisely you can explore the city’s Indigenous, British and natural history, dine on some of Canada’s most delicious cuisine and visit one of the city’s top attractions… all without feeling rushed.

I consider myself to be a Victoria local because I lived here for more than ten years. While I was living in town, I worked at several of the biggest tourist attractions in Victoria and used my industry connections to have behind-the-scenes experiences at many other attractions too. Although I’ve now moved away, I still visit my friends and family in Victoria several times per year (I’m actually in Victoria as I write this guide, in autumn 2023).

I used my local knowledge and my years of experience helping other travelers plan their trips to Victoria to write this day trip guide. I hope it helps you plan your day in Victoria, and if you have any questions about what I’ve written here please don’t hesitate to comment at the bottom – I will respond as soon as possible!

victoria 1 day trip

How to Plan a Victoria BC Day Trip

Most of the famous tourist attractions in Victoria BC are clustered around the Inner Harbour area and the downtown core.  It’s very easy to explore this area by foot in about three hours, which makes a walking tour of Victoria the perfect way to start your day trip.

After you’ve walked around and seen the highlights, you’ll probably want to stop for lunch. I’ll recommend some of my favorite restaurants later in this guide.

After lunch, you’ll have the chance to get to know one of Victoria’s three most interesting attractions in more depth. Whether you’re traveling with kids, are passionate ecotourists or want to see one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, you’ll be able to end your one day in Victoria on an unforgettable note.

Things to See on a Victoria BC Day Trip (Morning)

Your day in Victoria is going to start with a self-guided walking tour of the Inner Harbour and Victoria’s historic downtown center. My recommended route follows a circular path, so you can start and end in the Inner Harbour area. Plan to spend about two to three hours walking, depending on how many stops you make en route.

#1 – The Parliament Buildings

Parliament Buildings in Victoria BC

The home of British Columbia’s provincial government, Victoria’s parliament buildings are one of the city’s most famous landmarks.  Construction on the buildings finished in 1897, about thirty years after British Columbia joined Canada.

There are several monuments and other sights on the grounds around the Legislature. Surely the most famous is the statue of Queen Victoria, front and center, but it’s also worth spotting the cenotaph (a memorial to the Unknown Soldier) and the Sir James Douglas Obelisk, which commemorates the province’s first premier.

To the west of the parliament buildings, just across Menzies Street, you’ll also find Confederation Garden Court. Here, an outdoor fountain and waterfall are backed by the Canadian coat of arms and the shields of each Canadian province or territory.

When the parliament buildings are open visitors are welcome to take a free self-guided tour inside. They also have free guided tours available most days (exact dates and times change each week depending on political goings-on). Check the BC Legislative Assembly’s website for details.

(I cheated and used a photo I took of the parliament buildings all lit up at night… I’m secretly trying to convince you to make your day trip to Victoria into a weekend!)

#2 – The Empress Hotel

In the 1800s the Canadian Pacific Railway was building a rail network across Canada and establishing their own line of grand hotels in the major cities en route. Although the train tracks didn’t extend all the way to Victoria (for obvious reasons), the CPR couldn’t imagine their portfolio without a waterfront property in Victoria. Thus, The Empress was born.

In the years since the hotel has hosted royals (including Will, Kate and Queen Elizabeth) and celebrities (from a young Shirley Temple to John Travola and Harrison Ford). It has its own myths and legends (many believe it’s haunted by the ghost of the hotel’s architect, Francis Rattenbury) and has served as a backdrop for Hollywood feature films.

Some parts of the hotel are open to the public, including the gift shops and the hotel gardens. If you’d like to see more, you could have high tea in the hotel lounge (see below) or turn your day trip into an overnight visit .

#3 – Thunderbird Park

Thunderbird Park in Victoria BC Canada Day Trip

While Victoria tends to be known for its many British influences, it’s extremely important for both locals and visitors to remember that Vancouver Island had a rich Indigenous history and culture long before Europeans colonized the region.

Thunderbird Park is located beside the Royal British Columbia Museum, between the parliament buildings and the Empress Hotel. This outdoor green space is home to the Mungo Martin House, named after a prolific Kwakwaka’wakw artist and carver.  When this house was opened in 1953, the event was celebrated by the first legal potlatch ceremony in over sixty years (as the Canadian government prohibited Indigenous people from practicing their culture and traditions). The grounds are also home to numerous totem poles – take a look and see which animal figures you can identify.

#4 – The Inner Harbour Causeway

Victoria BC Inner Harbour Causeway

Running along the waterfront, directly underneath both the parliament buildings and the Empress Hotel, you’ll find the Inner Harbour Causeway. As the Inner Harbour ceased to be a commercial and industrial port, and shifted towards being of more tourist importance, this pretty pedestrian area was added to turn the area into a social gathering spot.

There are some plaques and small monuments on the walls that line the causeway, but really you just want to walk down here to see if you can spot any seals in the water before strolling down to…

#5 – Victoria Harbour Ferries

Ride the harbour ferry on a Victoria BC day trip

Everyone in Victoria loves our little Harbour Ferries. The two main stops are here on the causeway and just west of the Inner Harbour at Fisherman’s Wharf (a community of floating houseboats and other local businesses). Upon request, they can also stop across the harbour in Songhees (you can walk back along a beautiful waterfront path) or down the water at the famous Red Fish Blue Fish restaurant (see below).

In the warmer months, the Victoria Harbour Ferries perform a “water ballet”. Several mornings per week, all of the ferries meet in front of the Steamship Terminal and perform a choreographed show on the water.  Check their website for dates and times (typically from April to September).

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#6 – Government Street

Rogers Chocolates on Government Street in Victoria BC Canada

After exploring the Inner Harbour, you’ll want to walk north along pretty Government Street. This street is home to many of Victoria’s oldest shops, including the original locations of Rogers’ Chocolates and Murchies Tea & Coffee (more info on those below) and Munro’s Books. These three shops are beloved by both locals and tourists, and are definitely worth stopping inside as you are walking.

At the intersection of Government Street and View Street you’ll find two possible detours that might pique your interest: Trounce Alley on your right and Bastion Square on your left.

Trounce Alley is a small pedestrian street with quirky local shops and restaurants. The antique gaslights that illuminate the street at night are original, dating back 125 years.

Across the street (under the glass pyramid arch), Bastion Square lined with original 19th-century buildings, many of which are said to be haunted. Don’t worry – I promise it’s not spooky in the morning! This is where the city’s old courthouse was located, and it’s where you can now find Victoria’s Maritime Museum (closed for renovations at publication time). If you’re in Victoria in the summer, you can often find a street market here.

#7 – Chinatown

Visit Chinatown on a Victoria BC Day Trip

Follow Government Street north for a few more blocks until you reach Fisgard Street and the Gate of Harmonious Interest that marks the entrance to Victoria’s Chinatown. This is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second-oldest in all of North America (second only to San Francisco).

In Chinatown  you can find shops, restaurants and heritage sites like the Chinese Public School. A local institution, Don Mee Restaurant has been in operation for more than 80 years, and is known both for its iconic sign and its delicious dim sum. The Bubble Tea Place was the first cafe to introduce bubble tea to Victoria, and is now almost 25 years old.

If you’re traveling to Victoria BC with tweens, you can build excitement for your trip by reading Julie Lawson’s White Jade Tiger before your trip. This well-known Canadian young adult novel tells the story of Jasmine, a Chinese-Canadian teenager who finds a secret passage in Chinatown that allows her to step back in time to BC’s Gold Rush era.

#8 – Fan Tan Alley

Fan Tan Alley on a Victoria BC Day Trip

On Fisgard Street, midway between Government Street and Wharf Street you’ll find Chinatown’s most famous landmark: Fan Tan Alley. Measuring only 90 centimeters (35 inches) across, this is the narrowest commercial street in North America.

A hundred years ago, Fan Tan Alley was known for its opium dens and gambling houses. As the police cracked down on those illegal activities the alley fell into disrepair, but local leaders worked to revitalize it in the 1980s and today it is one of the province’s most-visited attractions. Recently, Vancouver’s Chinese Canadian Museum opened a satellite museum here in the alley, which you can visit today by donation.

When you’re finished in Fan Tan Alley, turn towards the water and walk back in the direction of the Inner Harbour, along Wharf Street. There are three more sights to see along the way.

#9 – Market Square

Market Square Victoria BC Canada

Accessed from Wharf Street or Pandora Street, Market Square is one of Victoria’s liveliest plazas. Although many of the buildings surrounding the square date back to the 1890s, the commercial square itself was only opened in the mid-1970s. It features three levels of shops, restaurants and services, and often hosts free concerts, performances and flea markets.

If you’re looking for an eclectic souvenir, stop by The Little Shop of Strange (upper level, at the Johnson Street entrance). If you’re vegan, Green Cuisine has a great plant-based buffet and kombucha on tap!

#10 – Lower Johnson Street (LoJo)

LoJo Lower Johnson Street in Victoria BC Canada

Market Square has an exit directly onto Lower Johnson Street (known as LoJo), or you can arrive via Wharf Street. Known as the city’s premiere shopping block, the colorful facades here front independent boutiques, spas and restaurants.  Even if you’re not in a shopping mood, it’s worth checking out the meticulously-restored architecture along this block.

If you have more time, I recommend checking out these businesses on LoJo:

  • Free Spirit Botanicals – The Gardener’s Tea Tree Cream saves my skin in the winter, and now that I’ve moved inland I rely on their Mermaid Magic Salt Scrub to make my bath smell like the sea.
  • Still Life – They have two stores on LoJo: one for menswear and one for womenswear. This has long been Victoria’s been boutique for high-quality, unique fashions.
  • Hey Happy – If you need a quick caffeine hit to sustain all this sightseeing, this independent coffee shop can tell you exactly where their beans came from and where they were roasted… or they can whip you up an iced turmeric vanilla latte with homemade oat milk!

#11 – Johnson Street Bridge

The new Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria BC Canada

If you had visited Victoria ten years ago you would have seen its famous “Blue Bridge” at the end of Johnson Street. Designed by the same architect who built San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Blue Bridge was considered to be an icon of the city (if perhaps a bit unsafe…)

In 2013 the old blue bridge was replaced with the current iteration you can see above. This rolling bascule bridge can be raised to allow large boats to pass underneath, so if you see a big ship en route when you’re nearby it might be worth stopping to see the show.

Otherwise, if there are no big boats on the way, you can follow the waterfront back to the Inner Harbour area for lunch and to decide on which of the three activities below you’ll do during the afternoon of your Victoria BC day trip.  I’ve listed some restaurant recommendations towards the end of this guide.

Things to Do on a Victoria BC Day Trip (Afternoon)

Whoa!  I know that seems like a lot to do in the morning, but I promise that there’s still lots of time left in the day!  In fact, it probably took me longer to write that section than it will take you to visit all of those spots! Assuming you followed my recommended sightseeing route and stopped for lunch, it’s time to get on with your afternoon in Victoria BC.

I’m going to give you three different options for your one afternoon in Victoria. These are some of my favorite things to do in Victoria and they are exactly what I would do if I only had one day to show off this city to a first-time visitor.

  • Best for Small Children – If you’re spending one day in Victoria BC with young children, you’ll want to spend the afternoon at the Royal British Columbia Museum. This is also the top choice if it’s pouring rain!
  • Best for Adventurers – If you’re with adults, or children over the age of seven, whale-watching in Victoria BC is an absolutely unforgettable experience.
  • Best for Nature Lovers – If you are an avid gardener, or just love beautiful natural landscapes, a half-day trip to the Butchart Gardens will be the highlight of your day.

Option #1 – The Royal British Columbia Museum

The Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria BC

In Canada, the title “Royal” still has to be bestowed by the King or Queen (via their representative, the Governor General). When you see a museum or heritage site with this designation, you know that it’s of real cultural significance and is absolutely worth visiting. That’s why the Royal British Columbia Museum is one of my top three recommendations for the afternoon of your Victoria BC day trip.

Located on the Inner Harbour, between the parliament buildings and the Empress Hotel, the Royal British Columbia Museum is ideal for families visiting Victoria with small children or for anyone looking for an indoor activity in the city center.

The second floor of the museum is dedicated to BC’s natural history, and it’s where you’ll find the famous woolly mammoth (shown above). Upstairs, the third floor is undergoing renovations at publication time: the immersive walk-through Old Town is currently open, but the galleries about BC’s Indigenous people are undergoing renovation. You can also expect to find world-class temporary exhibits – on my most recent visit they were showing ancient treasures from Angor Wat.

The onsite IMAX movie theater shows both feature films and educational programs (made for IMAX screens) relating to the current exhibits.

Option #2 – Whale Watching in Victoria BC

Whale Watching in the Afternoon on a Victoria BC Day Trip

I think that one of the most special things you can do with one day in Victoria BC is to get out on a boat in the Salish Sea and see some of the Pacific Northwest’s spectacular wildlife.

There are two companies right in Victoria’s Inner Harbour that operate daily boat tours to see orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, sea lions, seals, bald eagles and other local creatures. Personally, I have always gone whale watching with Prince of Whales (their office is directly below the Tourist Information Center, across from the Empress Hotel), but I also know that Orca Spirit Adventures is a popular ecotourism company as well.

Most whale watching tours take about three hours, and you have the choice of going out on a high-speed inflatable zodiac boat (my favorite!) or a slower, more comfortable covered boat with a climate-controlled interior. I took pictures of both types of boats for you – at the top you’ve got one of Orca Spirit Adventures’ red zodiac boats (plus the all-weather flotation suit you wear to keep warm) and under that you’ve got one of Prince of Whales’ yellow covered boats. Both companies use both types of boats.

Prince of Whales 🐋

  • Zodiac Whale-Watching Tour – I’ve taken this exact tour three times and can highly recommend it. I’ve seen orcas, humpback whales, seals, sea lions and even deer (on the shore!) with Prince of Whales. They guarantee that you’ll see whales – if you don’t, you can come back on another day for free.
  • Whale Watching on a Covered Boat – The larger boat is a better option for small children, anyone who experiences motion sickness, or travelers with back injuries.

Orca Spirit Adventures 🦭

  • Whale Watching on a Covered Boat – Again, this large, comfortable boat is a good choice for anyone who would be uncomfortable with the bumps and splashes you experience on a zodiac.
  • Zodiac Whale-Watching Tour – For most of the year, Orca Spirit Adventures books their zodiac whale-watching tours under this branding. They have a 95% success rate of sighting whales on this tour during the months from April to October.

Option #3 – An Afternoon at the Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens Japanese Gardens in Fall

Lonely Planet calls The Butchart Gardens one of the “nine best botanical gardens in the world” and I completely agree. This is Victoria’s show-stopping attraction, and while it’s not in the city center it is still worth visiting on a Victoria BC day trip.

If you have your own car, it’s easy to drive to the Butchart Gardens in less than thirty minutes. However, if you need to use public transportation, the trip on Bus #75 does take a full hour in each direction.

For first-time visitors, you’ll want a minimum of two hours to walk through the 55-acre botanical gardens. Start by descending into the Sunken Gardens (located in a former limestone quarry), exit via the concert lawn, pass through the Rose Gardens and then get lost in the Japanese Gardens (my favorite, shown above in my guide to the Butchart Gardens in autumn ). As you leave you’ll pass by the Star Pond and cross the Italian Gardens, where you can sign your name along with the other one million annual visitors.

The Butchart Gardens is midway between the Swartz Bay ferry terminal and Victoria’s downtown, so if you end your day here you can drive straight back to the ferry terminal without backtracking into town.

Where to Eat on a Victoria BC Day Trip

Victoria has the most restaurants per capita of any city in Canada, with 4.6 restaurants per 1,000 residents. As a result, the restaurant scene in Victoria is competitive and if a restaurant sticks around for more than a few years, you know it’s going to be great. Here are a few of the places that I always recommend people eat when they’re visiting Victoria.

Breakfast Restaurants in Victoria BC

Whenever I’m meeting up with friends and family in Victoria I always suggest we go out for breakfast, because the city has so many amazing breakfast and brunch restaurants. You should be able to hit up any one of these for breakfast or lunch… whichever suits yours sightseeing schedule best.

  • Murchie’s Tea and Coffee – For a light, European-style breakfast, stop into Canada’s oldest tea company: Murchies. At this flagship location on Government Street, the cafe is open daily for breakfast and serves coffee, tea and homemade baked goods. Freshly-roasted coffee and loose-leaf tea from the shop next door also make great souvenirs… and don’t leave without looking at the automated antique “tea grannies”!
  • Jam Cafe – For something a lot bigger, come to Jam Cafe. Here, you’ll find plates heaped high with flavorful dishes like huevos rancheros (served with cornbread and jalapeno cream) eggs Benedict (I like the pear and Brie version) and French toast (topped with cinnamon apples sauteed in maple butter).
  • John’s Place – This classic diner has been in operation for more than 40 years, and is popular with locals who like good, homestyle breakfast dishes. They were featured on “You Gotta Eat Here!” (the Canadian version of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”).

Lunch and Dinner Restaurants in Victoria BC

  • Noodlebox – Looking for quick eats?  Canadian stir-fry chain Noodlebox was born in Victoria. You can eat in or take your noodles to go – I recommend the Spicy Peanut Noodle Box and the Singapore Cashew Curry.
  • Rebar Modern Food – My most-used cookbook comes from this Victoria staple in Bastion Square. My favorites include the Almond Burger and the Monk’s Curry. The menu is mostly vegetarian but some local fish is also served.
  • Red Fish Blue Fish – There are no vegetarian dishes here (sorry), but all of the fish on the menu at this waterfront shipping container food truck has Oceanwise certification. Try the local halibut fish and chips, or have an order of wild BC salmon tacones (taco + cone = tacone).
  • 10 Acres Bistro – Serving fresh, seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine, this is a great place to taste authentic Pacific Northwest flavors. The menu may change by the time you visit, but when I was there I loved their “healthyish” toast with romesco sauce, avocado and salsa verde.

Other Places to Eat on a Day Trip to Victoria BC

You might have to scale back the rest of your itinerary to squeeze in a meal at one of these iconic Victoria restaurants, but if you’re a foodie it will be worth it!

  • Lobby Lounge at the Empress Hotel – If you’ve got time, you can have the full royal experience with afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel.  You’ll be served an elegant assortment of savory sandwiches and sweet baked goods, along with the loose-leaf tea of your choice.
  • Rogers’ Chocolates – Canada’s oldest chocolatier can be found in their original heritage shop on Government Street, just a few steps away from Murchie’s Tea and Coffee. Take home a box of indulgent Victoria creams (I recommend the caramel, chocolate, coffee and vanilla flavors).
  • Jackson’s Ice Cream Float – Victoria doesn’t have a great ice cream scene (maybe I should move back and open a gelato shop!) but this floating ice cream parlour at Fisherman’s Wharf is a fun place to grab a cone or cup, and you might just spot a seal or two while you’re there. Access via the cute little harbour ferries from the Inner Harbour.
  • Parliamentary Dining Room – You can actually join BC politicians and public servants for an affordable lunch at the restaurant inside the parliament buildings. Daily specials are usually posted on the website one business day in advance. Reservations (contact info at the link) are highly recommended.

How to Get to Victoria BC for a One-Day Trip

Victoria BC is on an island, which means you have to plan your transportation carefully if you’re only coming for one day.

In my opinion, Harbour Air is the best way to get to Victoria for a one-day trip. Harbour Air’s seaplanes fly from Vancouver’s Harbour to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, taking off and landing right on the water! This is the most efficient way to get to and from Victoria in a single day, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to fly in a seaplane over such a beautiful landscape! Book your flight well in advance.

There are other ways to get to Victoria for the day, but they don’t give you as much time in the city. Here are some alternatives:

  • Kenmore Air – Seaplanes fly from Seattle’s Kenmore Harbour and Lake Union to Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
  • Coho Ferry – This vehicle ferry travels from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
  • Clipper Ferry – This passenger ferry arrives in Victoria’s Inner Harbour from Seattle’s Pier 69.
  • BC Ferries – BC Ferries take cars and foot passengers from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal (outside Vancouver) to Swartz Bay ferry terminal in Sidney, north of Victoria. From Swartz Bay you can drive (much faster) or use public transit (much slower) to reach Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
  • BC Ferries Connector Service – This popular coach services picks up passengers at various locations in Vancouver and drops them off in downtown Victoria. Ferry fare is included in the ticket price.

Speaking of islands, I know that it’s kind of confusing but you should try to remember that Victoria is on Vancouver Island, while the city of Vancouver is on the mainland (not an island). Victoria Island is a completely different place, in Canada’s Arctic region. 🥶

I’m currently traveling around Western Canada and writing about all of the places that I visit. Check out all of my Canada travel guides , and if you have any questions, leave a comment below!

Planning a trip to Canada?  Pin this post for later!

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victoria 1 day trip

Live the Adventure!

How to Spend One Day in Victoria, BC©Lisanne_Smeele_Victoria_Vernon_SD-42-scaled-e1659479106639.jpg

The Perfect One Day Itinerary in Victoria

Boasting world-renowned gardens, romantic Victorian architecture, and a dynamic culinary scene – all on the edge of the Pacific coastal harbour – Victoria, BC is not to be missed.

Found on the southernmost tip of lush Vancouver Island , Victoria receives nearly four times more sun than Vancouver and much more temperate winters. And while you could spend weeks exploring, we’ll help you make the most of just one glorious day in B.C.’s capital city.

Getting There

The ferry ride to Victoria’s Swartz Bay may be as enchanting as Victoria itself; eagles soar overhead and the salty ocean breeze lifts your hair as you sail through the picturesque Howe Sound.

Getting to Victoria by ferry is easy, simply take the ferry from Tsawwassen terminal (approximately 40 minutes South of Vancouver) to Victoria’s Swartz Bay. They tend to be busy, especially during peak season, so make a reservation to avoid the wait!

Stroll the Inner Harbour

Stretch your legs while getting a feel for this beautiful city by strolling the  Inner Harbour . The Inner Harbour is the beautiful centre of downtown Victoria, around which two of Victoria’s most beautiful buildings are centered – the Legislative Building and Empress Hotel. During the summer months, it is the hub for live music, shows, and art.

Hope you’re hungry!

While Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal undisputedly hold the title of Canada’s best food cities, Victoria’s vast cuisine demands attention. The Food Network accredited it the “Best Brunch in Canada”, and it is no doubt taken very seriously by Victoria locals.

Try the mouth-watering lobster benny from Nautical Nellies, or get in line and see for yourself what all the fuss is about at Blue Fox Café.

Or, to ensure you hit all the best spots while learning about Victoria’s history, try taking a food tour from  A Taste of Victoria Food Tours.

Fisherman’s Wharf

A short walk from the inner harbour,  Fisherman’s Wharf  is a must-see. Instead of paved streets, meander the docks and enjoy the colourful and eclectic floating homes. At this funky marine destination, you’ll also find quirky shops by local artisans and small floating eateries serving up everything from fresh seafood to ice cream.©Lisanne_Smeele_Victoria_Vernon_SD-45.jpg

Chinatown and Fan Tan Alley

As the intricately designed Gate of Harmonious Interest rises to meet you, you’ll know you’ve made it to  Victoria’s famous Chinatown .

What was once a crude collection of wood shacks built by Chinese immigrants seeking gold, it’s presence now stands as a testament to the vitality of culture and tradition brought by these immigrants nearly 150 years ago.

Today, although you may not be able to find gold, you’ll certainly find mouth-watering Asian cuisine, and a multitude of colourful shops.

Make sure you pass through  Fan Tan Alley  – at just under four feet in width it is the narrowest street in the country. Originally a hiding place for illegal opium dens, gambling, and other outlawed activies, the street is now a tourist mecca. Squeezing through the narrow street from Fisgard to Johnston street is also said to bring good luck!

Hope you’re (still) hungry

The options for delicious cuisine in Victoria are endless, and the options for fish and chips alone are abundant, but there is one place that deserves special recognition:  Red Fish Blue Fish .

Don’t be fooled by the tiny, unassuming red shack and don’t be turned away by the long queue stretching down the pier: the fish and chips are really that good.

There’s no better way to work off a lunch of fish and chips by cycling around the city. Victoria has one of the best bike lane system in Canada, and on a sunny day it is the perfect way to see as much of the city as possible in a short time.

You can easily rent bikes downtown, or take a guided biking tour with The Pedaler Cycling Tours.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

After cycling the city, you deserve to relax by sipping a cold beer on a sunny patio while listening to live music. (And if you didn’t cycle the city, hey, you still deserve it. You’re on vacation!)

In Market Square, there’s something for everyone. Beer lovers can try The Spinnakers Brewpub or a brand-new brewery called  Whistle Bouy , and coffee fiends can indulge in an afternoon cup of joe and delicious pastry from  Hey Happy.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Finally, a visit to Victoria wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the world-renowned  Butchart Gardens . A banal limestone mine turned National Historic Site, the gardens are a testament to one woman’s creative vision, hard work, and steadfast hospitality.

With over 900 plant varieties and 55 acres of garden which include a Japanese garden and a Sunken Garden, it is certainly a flower-lover’s paradise.

What are You Waiting for?

Victoria is as rich in beauty as it is in history and culture. No matter what you’re interested in, Victoria has something for everyone.

Written by Katrina Martin. Photos courtesy of ©Lisanne Smeele

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1 Day of Discovery in Victoria: Historic Gems

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May 7, 2024 · 1 min read

Victoria 1 Day Itinerary

Embark on a whirlwind adventure through Victoria with our expertly planned one-day itinerary. Begin your journey at the grand Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, where you'll spend two hours marveling at the intricate architecture of this small-town treasure. Next, stroll along the scenic Inner-Harbour Pathway for 1.5 hours, soaking in the bustling harbor atmosphere. Continue to immerse yourself in cultural richness with a visit to Victoria’s Chinatown National Historic Site, the oldest Chinatown in Canada, where you'll spend an hour exploring its vibrant streets and unique shops. Conclude your day with a trip to the majestic Craigdarroch Castle, a Victorian-era mansion that promises to transport you back in time during your one-hour visit. This itinerary is designed to showcase the best of Victoria, from its historic landmarks to its picturesque waterfront, ensuring a memorable experience in Canada's coastal jewel.


  • 1 Day in Victoria Itinerary: Day 1

Legislative Assembly of British Columbia


Kickstart your Victoria adventure at the grand Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, a beacon of history nestled in the small-town charm of the city. Spend a couple of hours wandering through the majestic halls where the province's past and present converge, located at 501 Belleville St. The architecture alone is worth the visit, with its impressive facade and intricate details that tell tales of British Columbia's governance and culture.

Attraction Info

  • 501 Belleville St., Victoria, BC V8V 2L8, Canada
  • Suggested tour duration: 2 hour
  • Open on Mon-Fri,8:30am-4:30pm

Recommended Nearby Restaurants

Bin 4 Burger Lounge

Inner-Harbour Pathway

Next, let the sea breeze guide you along the Inner-Harbour Pathway, a scenic stroll that promises picturesque views and a serene escape from the bustle of city life. Allotted 1.5 hours should be ample to soak in the harbor's ambiance and capture the essence of Victoria's maritime heritage. The pathway is a perfect spot to reflect on the city's connection to the waters that surround it, and it's conveniently located within the heart of Victoria.

  • Victoria, BC V8V 1W9, Canada
  • Suggested tour duration: 1.5-3 hour

Victoria’s Chinatown National Historic Site

Immerse yourself in the vibrant history of Victoria’s Chinatown National Historic Site, the oldest Chinatown in Canada. With an hour to explore, you can meander through the colorful streets, discover hidden alleys, and experience the unique character of this neighborhood. The rich cultural tapestry and historical significance of the area, centered around 500 Fisgard St, make it an unmissable stop on your journey through Victoria.

  • 500 Fisgard St, Victoria, BC V8W 1R4, Canada
  • Suggested tour duration: 1 hour
  • Open 24 hours

Craigdarroch Castle

Conclude your day with a visit to the enchanting Craigdarroch Castle, a testament to Victoria's opulent past. Set aside an hour to marvel at the Victorian-era elegance, with its lavish furnishings and stunning stained-glass windows. Perched at 1050 Joan Crescent, this castle not only offers a glimpse into the lives of coal barons who once lived there but also provides panoramic views of the city and the harbor, wrapping up your day with a touch of historical luxury.

  • 1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, BC V8S 3L5, Canada
  • Suggested tour duration: 1-2 hour
  • Open on Wed-Sun,10:00am-4:00pm

Where to Stay Tonight

The craigmyle, amethyst inn, top things to do in victoria-2024.

Legislative Assembly of British Columbia

* All user reviews in this article have been translated by machine.

* The information above is subject to change at any time. For the latest information, please check the websites of hotels and attractions.

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victoria 1 day trip

1-Day Victoria Itinerary

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1-day itinerary, sir selwyn selwyn-clarke market.

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victoria 1 day trip

Victoria Clock Tower

Cat cocos berth, victoria botanical gardens, copolia trail, where to eat, marie antoinette.

victoria 1 day trip

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victoria 1 day trip

What's the weather like in Victoria?

It depends on when you visit! We've compiled data from NASA on what the weather is like in Victoria for each month of the year: see the links below for more information.

  • Weather in Victoria in January
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Explore nearby places

  • Anse Etoile
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All related maps of Victoria

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Victoria throughout the year

  • Victoria in January
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The best way to day trip to Victoria BC

Last Updated on April 27, 2023

Victoria, BC is one of the most unique and picturesque towns in the Pacific Northwest. Despite its importance as the capital of British Columbia, Victoria’s location on Vancouver Island makes it a little more work to get to since you can only get there by boat or by plane! A day trip to Victoria is totally doable from Seattle or Vancouver and I’ll tell you how to do it and what to do to make the most of your day.

I’ve been going to Victoria for decades with several generations of my family and I’m glad you’ll get to see for yourself how special it is.

Victoria is the land of Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

Is a day trip to Victoria worth it?

Do i need a passport to go to victoria, does the victoria clipper have wifi, how to do a day trip to victoria from seattle, how to do a day trip to victoria from vancouver.

  • How to do a day trip to Victoria from Port Angeles, WA

What to do on your day trip to Victoria

Related : Top three things to do in a short evening port call in Victoria on an Alaska cruise

Victoria is an absolutely delightful and super walkable town and I really believe you need more than one day to visit Victoria (three days in my opinion is ideal), but if a day is all you have, you should still do it!

A day trip to Victoria is absolutely worth it if that’s what you have to work with and you make the right transportation plans and know what you want to do. I’ll show you how to make the most of your day trip to Victoria so you know you’re having the best day possible.

Yes. If you are going to Victoria from Seattle or Port Angeles.

You are crossing an international border and a passport is required. US and Canadian Citizens can also use an alternate form of ID that is acceptable for crossing the border to Canada, such as a NEXUS card or Passport Card.

If you’re doing your day trip to Victoria from Vancouver BC then you do not need a passport since you’re not crossing a border from Vancouver.

No. On some of the trip you will have a cell signal from either Victoria or Seattle, but some portions of the trip do not have service.

There is wifi available in the terminal, but not at sea.

The Victoria Clipper, a red, white and blue catarmaran in Seattle's harbor going on a day trip to Victoria BC

Even though Seattle is in a different country from Victoria, the easiest way to do a day trip to Victoria (unless you’re already on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, see below) is on the Victoria Clipper! The Victoria Clipper is a passenger only fast ferry from the Seattle waterfront to Victoria’s Inner Harbour in less than 3 hours that has operated since 1986.

The Clipper is a wonderful part of the experience, this is not just transportation! There are several class options on board, ranging from airplane style economy seats on the first floor, to more spacious seats upstairs in Vista class and Comfort Class for even more perks and the very best seats on the boat.

Seats on the upper deck of the Victoria Clipper. The seats are empty and facing each other at tables. Big windows let in the sunlight.

The 2 hour and 45 minute journey from Seattle’s waterfront to Victoria’s Inner Harbour is scenic the entire way. It’s one of the best views of Seattle you can get as you sail away, then you head along Bainbridge Island and Whidbey Island and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria on Vancouver Island. You’ll see islands and mountains the entire way and even Orca whales if you’re lucky!

The Clipper has assigned seating so you can settle in and not have to worry about having a spot. They also have some food on board as well as coffee, beer and wine.

A glass of wine, fruit, crackers and cheese on a airline style table by a window seat on the Victoria Clipper. outside are islands and mountains

If you really want to make your day trip special, and give yourself more time in Victoria, then consider booking one of the Clipper’s Sea and Sky packages. The Sea to Sky package takes you one way by boat on the Clipper and the other way by seaplane on Kenmore Air. This is a truly unique Pacific Northwest experience if you can swing the extra cost.

If you take the Victoria Clipper, you’ll end up with about 5 hours in Victoria (I’m taking away an hour to account for passing through customs). If you take the seaplane back, you can have more time.

Check the Victoria Clipper schedule and fares from Seattle to Victoria here .

a ferry between several islands on a sunny day

Doing a day trip to Victoria from Vancouver is less convenient than Seattle or Port Angeles, which is ironic since Vancouver is in Canada and the largest city in British Columbia.

You can definitely still do it. There are two options. The first option is to take the bus from Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, then the ferry to Swartz Bay and then the city bus again from Swartz Bay to downtown Victoria. I have done this multiple times so you can absolutely make it work if you’re a transit rider. Using the transit feature on Google maps works great.

If you want to avoid the hassle of transferring, you can also take the BC Connector, which costs more but there’s less for you to figure out. The BC connector gives you about 4 hours in Victoria.

Check the BC Connector schedule and fares from Vancouver to Victoria here .

If you want to do a faster and awesome (but much more expensive) day trip to Victoria from Vancouver you can also do it on a seaplane on Harbour Air .

How to do a day trip to Victoria from Port Angeles

If you’re already on the Olympic Peninsula or want to add a day in Victoria on your Olympic National Park itinerary , you can take the Coho Black Ball Ferry from downtown Port Angeles to downtown Victoria. It’s a car ferry but for a day trip you definitely want to leave your car in Port Angeles and walk on.

If you take the Coho on the earliest sailing and return on the latest sailing, you’ll have about 8 hours in Victoria (I’m subtracting an hour to account for customs when you arrive).

Keep in mind that you need to already be in Port Angeles the night before and probably also staying that night to make this a reasonable day trip. The crossing time between Port Angeles and Victoria is about 90 minutes.

The Coho has a coffee shop on board so you can get food and they also sell tours on board for when you arrive in Victoria. If you’re doing a day trip to Victoria I highly recommend booking on board

Check the Coho ferry schedule and fares from Port Angeles to Victoria here .

A colorful Orca sculpture in Victoria's inner harbor, with boats and the parliament building in the background on a sunny summer day

Now that you’ve made it to Victoria, how to make the most of a short, one day visit? I’ve got you.

I recommend that you choose one of the two options below, either plan to maximize your time enjoying Butchart Gardens or explore the town, but not both. If you pay attention to the bus schedule and get back with a little time to spare, then you might be able to squeeze in a walk around the Inner Harbour before getting back to your boat or bus.

If you have a longer day, then absolutely do both of these!

One note – I don’t recommend doing whale watching if you only have a day trip to Victoria, because you’re already spending a lot of time on boats in your day and because there are many places around the Pacific Northwest you can do whale watching.

Whale watching in Victoria is absolutely fantastic, but if you only have a few hours I would recommend spending it seeing things you won’t see anywhere else.

Another important note : there are no ride shares (Uber/Lyft) in Victoria and taxis are often in high demand. Plan to book transportation on board your ferry, take public transit or walk around town.

Option #1 – Butchart Gardens and Afternoon Tea

A field of red and white tulips

For anyone who loves flowers, Butchart Gardens is an absolutely must see. I’m pretty sure I’ve been to Butchart Gardens in every month of the year and it’s always completely stunning. If you’re there in spring or summer, of course you’ll see the maximium number of blooms of every imaginable flower from tulips to roses so that makes it even better.

Butchart Gardens is also completely magical during the holidays, if you happen to be there then.

They also have the best Afternoon Tea in Victoria in my opinion – a combination of the food, the setting and the price. If you’re going to be in the gardens I highly recommend afternoon tea here.

a selection of desserts on offer for afternoon tea in Victoria

Once you’ve spent as much time as you like exploring, head back to town on the bus and if you have time, take a walk around the Inner Harbour and at least sea the Empress Hotel and Houses of Parliament from the outside.

I highly recommend booking your trip to Butchart Gardens on board the Victoria Clipper or Coho Ferry, because this gets you a bit closer to the front of the line for customs and it also makes everything easier and more convenient on a short trip. You can take the city bus to the gardens but it takes longer and you want to maximize your time.

Option #2 – Exploring Victoria and Afternoon Tea

If you decide you would prefer to explore the town and skip going to the gardens, start off by taking a walk around the Inner Harbour to get a feel for town. The distances are short, and you’ll see some of the iconic sights of Victoria such as the Empress Hotel and the British Columbia Parliament building.

Afternoon Tea

a silver tray with a white tea pot, a piece of cheesecake and a sausage roll at Murchie's in Victoria

I recommend taking afternoon tea for lunch and you have a few options. The Empress Hotel is the iconic place for tea, so if you’re all about tradition make it the Empress. For something a bit more low key, but still a perfect tea experience, try the Pendray Tea house that’s right across from the Clipper and Coho ferry dock.

If you want a less formal experience, but some delicious food and wonderful tea, head to Murchie’s. You’ll have lots of amazing food options and it’s much less expensive. It’s not and “official” tea, so if you’re looking for a tiered tea stand with treats and sandwiches, this isn’t it, but it’s a really good alternative.

Book your tea time on board the Clipper or Coho ferry if that’s how you’re arriving (if you’re on the bus from Vancouver you’ll need to book on your own). They can make sure you get a reservation and you don’t have to spend time figuring that out when you get there.

Getting a ride around Victoria

A white horse carriage on a road in the the forest of Beacon Hill Park in Victoria is a good way to get around on a day trip to Victoria

After tea, try a Tally-Ho carriage ride around town or the Hop on Hop off bus (tickets are available for both on the Clipper too). The Harbour ferry is another unique way to explore Victoria, start at the dock in the Inner Harbour near Milestones and the Prince of Whales.

Exploring Victoria on foot or by bike

If you’re wanting to get some exercise in during your day trip to Victoria, instead of catching a ride or a tour, you can walk or bike all over the place!

One of my favorite walks around Victoria is to walk from behind the Parliament Building to Beacon Hill Park, and then down to Dallas Road, along the trail to the Ogden Point Breakwater, then to Fisherman’s Wharf (get ice cream or fish and chips here) and back to the Parliament buildings. That walk is a little over 6km (about 4 miles) and is mostly flat, with a few inclines here and there around Beacon Hill Park.

Starting a Vancouver Island road trip on Dallas Road in Victoria. There are green bushes in the foreground and the blue water of the Strait of Juan De Fuca in the background. There are distant mountains on the Olympic Peninsula across the water

If you’d rather cover more ground, rent a bike from The Pedaler, located across the street from the Victoria Clipper and Coho ferry terminal. You can rent ebikes or regular bikes for more exploring.

Shopping or Museums

If time and energy permit, make some time for window shopping (or real shopping) on Government Street. You’ll find everything from local art, to clothing to tea, to a wonderful independent bookstore (Munro’s), an incredible chocolate shop (Roger’s) and more.

Museums more your thing that shopping? Check out the wonderful Royal BC Museum between the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Building, or the Maritime Museum for boat enthusiasts.

I enjoy grabbing a drink and a snack at Milestones in the Inner Harbour because of the great view and the opportunity to watch all the boats, ferries, tours, bikes and seaplanes going in and out of Victoria.

a glass of wine on a patio next to a harbour in Victoria BC

Final thoughts

Even though there’s much more to see and do, a day trip to Victoria is totally worth it! Just make sure you plan wisely and book any tours or tea reservations on board the Victoria Clipper or Coho ferry so you can make the most of your time and not have to worry about logistics.

If you’re coming from Vancouver or you just enjoy exploring on your own, walking and biking around Victoria will give you plenty to do for your day trip.

Victoria is a special place that I’m certain you’ll want to come back to!

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8 Hours in Victoria: A Day Trip to BC's Capital

It’s a bright, sunny morning in Seattle. Rooster tails of sea spray fan up behind the Victoria Clipper V , as the sleek, high-speed catamaran smoothly skims across the water. Picking up speed to 30 knots, the vessel makes its way north across the Salish Sea. A collective sense of calm takes over as vacation mode kicks into full speed ahead.

In an era of busy work schedules, social media status updates and family obligations, nothing is more freeing than escaping the daily grind, especially when it entails a PNW adventure. And while some may scoff at the idea of planning a spontaneous international day trip , a trek to Victoria, BC is quite simple and doesn’t require a car. Great restaurants, boutique shopping, lush gardens, cozy teahouses , seaside neighborhoods and historic buildings all await after a quick cruise across the Salish Sea.

Book Now: Seattle to Victoria Day Trip

The best part? The trip up to British Columbia’s capital city is half the adventure. Go ahead and spoil yourself with Victoria Clipper V’s private comfort class cabin as you whisk across the water. Unlike a cramped flight, the vessel’s light-filled interior and wide walkways provide an irresistible sense of freedom and relaxation. The boat is yours to explore, with multiple sun decks, a fully stocked bar, a locally-sourced menu and superb ocean vistas.

11:00 am – Tea at Pendray Inn

As you glide into Victoria’s Inner Harbour, indulge in a delectable lunch with a quintessential Victoria tradition. Enjoy afternoon tea and treats just a quick two-minute stroll up the street from FRS Clipper’s Victoria terminal at the Pendray Inn’s gorgeous and historic 1890 property.

Kick back and relax inside the quaint Pendray Inn. Credit: Pendray Inn

Pop inside the cozy Pendray Teahouse, where you can enjoy an amazing lineup of locally-produced goodies such as salmon pinwheels, cucumber sandwiches, hand-made macarons and more matched perfectly with a selection of TWG tea. And don’t forget about scones. Nosh on not one, but two freshly baked treats. We’ll leave it up to you to decide which is more irresistible, the white chocolate and lavender or the Earl Gray.

Macrons, shortbread and more top Pendray's three-tiered platter. Credit: Scott Meis

While it’s easy to get caught up in the amazing food and conversation, don’t forget to look up every so often to soak in the amazing views. Original stained glass windows, hand-painted frescos on the ceilings and sailboats gliding through the Inner Harbour – what’s not to love?

The Pendray Teahouse's delicious goodies are almost too pretty to eat. Credit: Scott Meis

12:30 pm – Shopping on Johnson

Burn off your tea treats by walking along Victoria’s charming boutiques, to shop like a local. Pick up stylish threads at Still Life or swing into Legends Comics and Books to add to your ever-growing collection.

Next, head down the street to snag gorgeous stationery and unique gifts at The Papery . Cross the road to Russell Books for one last stop before leaving Fort Street and meander through 18,000 square feet stacked floor-to-ceiling with rare and unusual titles.

Peruse a selection of good reads at the popular Russell Books. Credit: Tourism Victoria

1:30 pm – Bicycle Tour of Castles, Hoods and Legends

One of the best ways to truly discover a city is to explore it from behind the handlebars of a trusty bike. Head to the small, but well-stocked Pedaler bicycle shop (the shop brims with everything from helmets and handlebar bags to tandems and electric-assist bikes ) , conveniently located next door to the Pendray Inn. Opting for the guided, 8.7 mile Castles, Hoods and Legends Tour will give you a good lay of the land while picking up some insider inspiration for other spots around town to check out.

Ride along Victoria's coastline for unbeatable ocean views. Credit: Scott Meis

On the tour, you’ll follow the flat, bicycle-friendly roads as you pedal to Chinatown’s vibrant Gate of Harmonious Interest. From there, the ride takes you to the funky, artistic community of Fernwood, before stopping by the legendary Craigdarroch Castle . Cruise past heritage houses, with additional stops at the friendly Cook Street Village and the aptly-named Moss Rock (Inside tip: Climb up to the top of the rock for 360-degree views of Clover Point Park, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and downtown Victoria).

Cruise past the stunning Craigdarroch Castle. Credit: The Pedaler Bicycle Tours

It’s easy cruising to the coast and along scenic Dallas Road, which is home to beautifully rugged beaches. On a clear day, you can see nearly every detail of the Olympic Mountains’ snow-capped peaks and even the city of Port Angeles. Miss that office cubicle yet?

Soak in jaw-dropping vistas from the smooth Dallas Road. Credit: Vadym Graifer

3:45 pm – Fisherman’s Wharf Ice Cream Stop

For a great afternoon snack, stroll around the corner of the Inner Harbour to find Fisherman’s Wharf , a hidden gem of floating seaside goodness. Wander the docks as they creak and bob with the tide checking out dozens of houseboats painted in a rainbow of colors. Be sure to keep an eye out for seals who are eager to show off a few tricks.

Wander through a colorful collection of floating houseboats along Fisherman's Wharf. Credit: Penny Pitcher

Along the way, stumble upon Victoria’s only floating ice cream store! Hands-down one of the best spots in the city for frozen treats, Jackson’s Ice Cream serves up 15 flavors, including good ol’ floats, swirly soft serve and refreshing gelato.

Say "hi" to the friendly harbor seals as you explore the docks of Fisherman's Wharf. Credit: Sinan Demirel

4:15 pm – Harbor Ferry Cruise & Drink with a View at CRAFT Beer Market

Craving a little more water time? Victoria’s cheerful little water taxis are one of the best ways to wine and dine around the Inner Harbour. Hop aboard one of the vibrant vessels and cruise back to Chinatown for happy hour on Craft Beer Market’s sun-drenched outdoor patio. Kick back with a pint of and get a taste of the region.

Hop on one of Victoria's cute Harbour Ferries and zip across the Inner Harbour. Credit: Scott Rose

5:00 pm – Dinner at Il Terrazzo

As dinnertime arrives, duck around the corner and up Johnson Street to Il Terrazzo Ristorante . Marrying fine dining with a laid-back vibe, this restaurant is a local foodie favorite with its Northern Italian cuisine with a Pacific Northwest twist. Featuring a diverse menu, brick fireplaces, a candle lit ambiance and charming patio, treat your taste buds to a trip to Italy nestled in BC’s Capital.

7:00 pm – Depart Victoria

With a full tummy and phone full of FOMO-worthy photos make your way back to the Clipper for a 2-hour and 45-minute cruise back to Seattle. Enjoy the boat’s outside upper deck for views of Clover Point and the Trial Islands cruise back across international lines. Keep an eye on those Olympics as sunset approaches, you’re front and center for the best show in the Northwest.

Duck out onto the back deck of the Clipper V to catch amazing views as you cruise out of the Inner Harbour.

Hi Lorraine,

Victoria is indeed a beautiful place! We would love to have you travel with us, either on a day trip or an overnight getaway . Please let us know if you have any questions about planning a trip.

Hi Estrella,

Thanks for reaching out, I’m so glad to hear you’d like to travel with us, Victoria is indeed a fun city to explore. You can book your trip online here: , please let me know if you have any questions. We look forward to having you onboard.

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  • Victoria Tourism
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  • 1 Day In Victoria

Victoria Itinerary 1 Day

Popular day trips to victoria.

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Sightseeing Tours and Activities for 1-Day in Victoria

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21 Best Day Trips from Victoria, BC (Local’s Guide)

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Looking for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of Victoria, BC? Look no further than the best day trips from Victoria BC, with something for every adventurer. 

With so many day trips from Victoria BC by car to choose from, it can be tough to know where to start.

Which is why we’ve highlighted our family’s favourites & the most popular attractions and hidden gems that Vancouver Island has to offer. 

Explore the charming seaside towns like Sooke, Sidney, and Cowichan Bay. Enjoy the rugged landscapes of Juan de Fuca Provincial Park and Cathedral Grove’s towering trees, or unwind in the serene Gulf Islands.

Growing up in the beautiful city of Victoria I have been lucky enough to have explored the island from top to bottom. And taken many a friend, kid and family member on day trips & longer to all my favorite spots. Which I am so excited to share with you. 

So grab your camera, and let’s go!

Table of Contents


There are so many things to do in Victoria, BC, the capital of British Columbia . Once you’ve finished visiting the “Garden City,” there’s so much more to explore

So why wait? Get ready to cross some items off your Vancouver Island Bucket List !

1. Butchart Gardens

victoria 1 day trip

  • Distance from Victoria : 22 km
  • Driving Time: 35 min

If you’re looking for a quintessential Victoria day trip, look no further than the breathtaking Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay. We’ve spent many a day wandering around as a family enjoying these stunning botanical gardens.

You can take this express shuttle to Butchart Gardens from downtown Victoria, if you don’t have a car.

Begin your visit by exploring the Sunken Garden, a former limestone quarry that has been transformed into a tranquil oasis of flowers and foliage. From there, make your way to the Rose Garden , where over 250 varieties of roses bloom in stunning colors and fragrances.

Mom and tween girl playing on a metal carousel horse outside in Butchart Gardens.

Don’t miss the Japanese Garden, which offers a serene escape. For the kids, head to the Italian Garden for some gelato , and a spin or two (or 5 which happened last time for us) on the Carousel ride.

All the best day trips from Victoria, BC. Woman arms raised at Botanical Beach. Juan de Fuca Trail ocean view.

2. Waterfalls, Cathedral Grove Rainforest, and Coombs

Hiking trail through Cathedral Grove rainforest in BC Canada

  • Distance from Victoria to Cathedral Grove : 176 km
  • Driving Time: 2 hour 30 min

Discover the breathtaking landscapes of Vancouver Island, and many of my favorite places on the island on this.

Drive up island to see Englishman River Falls, Little Qualicum Falls, and Cathedral Grove – a haven for some of the island’s tallest and most ancient trees.

Along the way, drop by the quaint country market Coombs (with Goats on the Roof) , embark on rainforest hikes leading to mesmerizing waterfalls, and seize numerous photo opportunities.

We recommend this all-day, private excursion from Victoria , so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

Don’t want a tour, you can make the drive yourself!

3. Sidney 

Blue SIdney FIsh Market & Pier on the waterfront of Sidney, BC

  • Distance from Victoria : 27 km
  • Driving Time: 40 min

Sidney, BC, is a quaint town located just a quick 30 minute drive from downtown Victoria.

One of the most popular spots to visit is Sidney Spit, a small island located just off the coast. Take a ferry over to the island and spend the day exploring the beaches and trails. Or rent a kayak and paddle around the island’s pristine waters.

Back on the mainland, wander through the town’s many shops and galleries, where you’ll find everything from handmade jewelry to local artwork.

Don’t miss the Sidney Pier, where you can watch the boats come in and out while enjoying a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants.

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Seas is on our list of the best cheap things to do in Victoria & area.

Young girl sitting beside a metal statue of a man, in front of a pier on the Si

For a dose of local history, be sure to visit the Sidney Museum, where you can learn about the town’s roots as a fishing and farming community. 

LOCAL TIP: Take the kids to our favourite Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea . A small, yet fun aquarium and learning centre. We stop in every time we’re in Sidney. It’s a perfect day trip if it’s a rainy day in Victoria .

Sidney, BC is a charming and picturesque destination that’s well worth a visit on a day trip from Victoria. 

4. Cowichan Valley

  • Distance from Victoria : 94 km
  • Driving Time: 1 hour 45 min

If you’re a wine lover visiting Victoria, BC, you’re in luck! There are a variety of wine tasting tours in Cowichan Valley from Victoria that offer visitors a chance to explore the local wine scene and sample some of the region’s best varietals.

One popular tour is this small group Cowichan Valley Wine & Food Tour,  which takes visitors on a scenic drive through the picturesque Cowichan Valley. Along the way, you’ll visit a variety of wineries and taste some of the area’s best wines.

Cowichan Valley is also known as a destination for swimming, fishing and floating in tubes down the Cowichan River on a hot summer’s day. And the Kinsesol Trestle you can hike to.

5. Victoria to Vancouver by Seaplane

Seaplane in Victoria's Harbour on a sunny day.

  • Flight: 35 min

While I highly recommend spending at least 2-3 days in Vancouver, a day trip is definitely doable.

Kick off your adventure with an exhilarating seaplane flight from downtown Victoria to Vancouver , that provides a bird’s-eye view of the picturesque Gulf Islands

Once you’ve landed, make your way to Stanley Park . This urban park is 405 acres of forest, with walking paths, an aquarium, restaurants and much more. You could spend your whole day here.

A bike or walk along the seawall is a delightful way to soak in the park’s natural beauty and enjoy panoramic views of the city, mountains, and ocean.

⭐️ This fun half day guided tour of Stanley Park, Granville Island and through Gastown & Chinatown, takes all the stress out of planning.

Next, head over to the lively Granville Island by hopping on the water taxi. On the island, delight in the bustling Public Market, breweries, art galleries, and charming shops. The toy store is always a must stop with our kids.

🏆 Take this tasty Granville Island Food Tour , a fun way to taste all the best local Vancouver products. Including Canadian cheeses, artisan chocolates, maple salmon, and more.

Finally, to cap off your day, venture to the enchanting Capilano Suspension Bridge , nestled amidst towering evergreens. Traverse the 450-foot-long bridge. While marveling at the lush forest and captivating Capilano River below.

With a day trip like this, you’re bound to create memories that will last a lifetime.

⭐️ Find family friendly hotels here: Where to stay in Victoria with kids .

6. Malahat Skywalk 

  • Distance from Victoria : 33 km

The Malahat Skywalk is fun for all ages.

Featuring a 250-meter-long elevated walkway that takes visitors through the treetops, Arbutus Trees, culminating in a spiral tower that offers 360-degree views of the area.

Plus it’s stroller & wheelchair accessible.

Kids will love the adventure of walking through the canopy and spotting wildlife along the way. Then taking the fast route down on their Spiral Slide.

For the brave, step out onto their Adventure Net suspended above the centre of the tower.

Also one of the best things to do in Victoria, BC in winter too.

7. Saltspring Island

Kayak on the rocks, Saltspring Island Canada

  • Distance from Victoria : 53 km
  • Driving & Ferry Time: 1 hour 30 min

Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Victoria for a day? Consider a Saltspring Island day trip! This picturesque island is just a short ferry ride on BC Ferries from Swartz Bay , and offers visitors an arts, food and nature escape.

The Gulf Islands are magical, and not to be missed. 

Start your day by visiting  Ruckle Provincial Park . Where you can hike along the rocky coastline and through old-growth forests. Don’t miss the tide pools, where kids can get up close with a variety of sea creatures.

Next up, sample delicious cheese at the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. Made right on the island. Kids will love meeting the goats that produce the milk used to make the cheese. Pop into their cafe in the summer for tasty pizzas, salads and their goat cheese cake.

There’s also wandering through the island’s many  art galleries, studios, and fun shops where you can find everything from pottery to paintings,  kids toys and west coast inspired gifts. 

For a dose of history, visit the  Salt Spring Island Historical Museum , where you can learn about the island’s First Nations history and early European settlers. Kids will love the interactive indoor & outdoor hands-on exhibits. Best of all, it’s free. Open Wednesday to Friday & Sunday (End of May to October).

LOCAL TIP: Don’t miss the famous Saltspring Island Saturday Market , where local artisans and farmers come together to sell their wares. We always try to time our day trips with the outdoor market which usually runs from April to October.

8. Pender Island

Rocky Beach with ocean and Mt. Baker in the distance.

  • Distance from Victoria : 54 km
  • Driving & Ferry Time: 2 hours 25 min

Pender Island is another Gulf Island that is a lovely place for a visit. Especially if you love the outdoors and are looking for a laid back vibe with family or friends.

Hike to the top of Mt. Norman for gorgeous views of the surrounding islands. Get out on the ocean with a guided sea kayak tour, through secluded coves.

Or take a swim at Mortimer Spit , and a walk along the beach and marsh trails in north Pender Island at the Medicine Beach & Nature Sanctuary.

Don’t forget to check out Jo’s Place for a tasty meal.

There are so many fun things to do on Pender Island, you may just want to spend more than a day.

Ferries leave from Swartz Bay to Otter Bay up to 8 round-trip sailings daily, depending on the season. It’s only 40 minutes if direct, or longer if there’s stops or transfers at at Galiano, Mayne or Saturna Islands.

9. Pacific Marine Circle Route

A day trip along the Pacific Marine Circle Route showcases what the natural beauty of Vancouver Island is all about. 

If you are looking for a relatively quick Vancouver Island road trip, this tops our recommendations. 

This 255-kilometer drive takes you through stunning coastal landscapes, old-growth forests, and charming seaside towns. While it can be done in one day, it’s best to take at least a weekend, to really enjoy all the sites, vistas and activities each town has to offer. 

Victoria to Sooke, Port Renfrew & Lake Cowichan

Young girl swimming in the river at Sooke Potholes, Vancouver Island Canada.

Starting in Victoria, you’ll head west along the coast & Highway 14 towards Sooke (a 45 minute drive) before turning north towards Port Renfrew. 

  • Sooke Potholes, and East Sooke Park are great places to spend some time in nature, hike or take a cool dip.
  • In Port Renfrew, you can take a break and explore the beautiful beaches and trails of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, Botanical Beach & Avatar Grove. 

Continuing inland, you’ll head to Lake Cowichan, on Pacific Marine Road. This used to be a dirt logging road, but has since been paved. 

Pass through the  Cowichan Valley , then drive through the town of Duncan, known as the “City of Totems.” It’s a great place to stop and wander through the town’s historic streets, which are lined with charming shops and cafes.

As well as 40 magnificent carved totem poles. They each tell their own story. Duncan also has a fabulous Saturday Farmer’s Market. 

Cowichan Bay back to Victoria

View of Cowichan Bay, boats from the  Museum.

Next make a quick detour off Highway 1 to Cowichan Bay  on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. Slow down and take in the beautiful vistas of this small maritime town.  

Visit True Grain Bread, an old world style bakery,  explore Indigenous art at the Arthur Vickers Gallery, and wander this lovely seaside town.

From Cowichan Bay, you’ve reached the final leg of your journey. We recommend heading over to the iconic Kinsol Trestle, one of the tallest free-standing timber trestles in the world. It’s a quick walk along an easy trail. 

Finally, the drive will take you back to Victoria through the Malahat Drive, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and ocean. Stop at the Malahat Summit for amazing views of the Saanich Inlet and the Cowichan Valley.

One of our favorite Victoria parks, Goldstream is a good place to stop along the way. In fall you can even see the salmon run.

10. Kinsol Trestle

Wooden Kinsol trestle over the river in Cowichan BC.

  • Distance from Victoria : 47 km
  • Driving Time: 50 min
  • Hiking time: 30+ minutes

The Kinsol Trestle, along the Cowichan Valley Trail is an impressive wooden trestle bridge spanning the Koksilah River. It’s one of the largest free-standing wooden trestles in the world. 

Originally built in 1920 as part of a rail line that connected Victoria to the interior of Vancouver Island. The Kinsol Trestle has since been converted into a hiking,  biking and horseback riding trail that offers visitors a unique perspective on the surrounding landscape. 

With a height of over 40 meters and a length of 187 meters, the Kinsol Trestle is a true engineering marvel that’s well worth a visit.

You can stop here on your way to Cowichan Bay  (our next stop on Victoria day trips not to miss).

11. Cowichan Bay 

victoria 1 day trip

  • Distance from Victoria : 55 km
  • Driving Time: 55 min

Cowichan Bay is a charming seaside town located on Vancouver Island, and is the perfect destination for a family outing. 

Take this epic whale watching tour   for a chance to see Orcas, Humpback Whales,  and other interesting sea life, leaving from Cowichan Bay.

Or start your day by exploring the  Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre , where you can learn about the town’s rich history as a fishing and boat-building community. Kids will love the interactive exhibits and hands-on activities.

Young girl playing on a kid size boat on the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre deck.

Next up, head to the  Cowichan Bay Fishermen’s Wharf , where you can watch the local fisherman bring in their daily catch. Kids will love seeing the variety of fish and sea creatures up close.

Definitely don’t miss the Rock Cod Cafe for fish and chips.

For a fun outdoor adventure, take a kayak or paddle board around Cowichan Bay , where you can explore the local marine life and take in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Finally, end your day with a visit to the  Cowichan Bay Estuary Nature Centre,  where you can learn about the local ecosystem and even spot some resident otters and seals.

12. Witty’s Lagoon

Wavy sand on Witty's Lagoon Beach with ocean & shoreline in distance

  • Distance from Victoria : 20 km
  • Driving Time: 45 min

  Witty’s Lagoon ,  is a beautiful coastal lagoon located just outside of Victoria, BC. It’s a popular destination for hikers, bird watchers and beach goers, especially in the summer.

  • The Lagoon Trail is a popular option, as it passes by the Sitting Lady Falls, and the Whitney-Griffiths Point picnic area.
  • The Tower Point Trail is another must-see, with a scenic lookout that offers panoramic views of the ocean. It’s only 500m (one way) on a flat mixed gravel / dirt footpath, and is the most accessible section.

Forested trail and stairs of the Witty's Lagoon Beach Trail.

The Beach Trail is the one we usually take, as it  ends at Witty’s Beach . Bring your beach blanket, & a picnic and take a stroll along the sandy beach. It’s a moderate 1.2 km forest trail that also goes through old apple orchards. Keep your eye out for blackberries to pick.

LOCAL TIP: Stop at  My Chosen Cafe for lunch  after a morning beach day, if you want to forgo the beach picnic. This is our favorite restaurant in the area and a local gem. 

13. Sooke 

Mother and daughter at beach in East Sooke Park

  • Distance from Victoria : 40 km
  • Driving Time: 40 – 60 min

Consider heading to Sooke, BC, where you can explore some of the region’s fun coastal hikes, explore tidepools, and dip in a river. The following are a few ideas of where to stop and hike on your day trip to Sooke from Victoria. 

Head to East Sooke Park,  where you can  hike the Coastal Trail  through old-growth forests and along rocky coastlines. Keep an eye out for the iconic arbutus trees. 

The full Coastal Trail is 10km and ranges from easy (at Aylward Farm) to more challenging, the further out you go. We usually just hike out 30-90 minutes and then return the same way.

LOCAL TIP: We recommend starting at the Aylard Farm Entrance. It’s the most family friendly for all ages. Plus there’s also a sandy beach right there if you don’t want to hike far. 

Sooke Potholes

Rocky holes in the river, with forest on either side.

  • Distance from Victoria : 45 km

For a fun and refreshing adventure, make your way to the  Sooke Potholes , a series of hikes and crystal-clear pools and waterfalls that are perfect for swimming and sunbathing. Kids will love splashing around in the cool water and exploring the surrounding rocks.

Sooke Potholes Regional Park also makes for a good starting point for a bike trip on the  Galloping Goose Regional Trail . It’s a 55 km multi-use trail that runs from Victoria to Sooke.  Bike south toward Roche Cove Regional Park.

The  Spring Salmon Place (KWL-UCHUN) Campground is open May to September  if you prefer to stay overnight at Sooke Potholes.

LOCAL TIP: Stop at the local’s favourite diner Mom’s Cafe in Sooke after a busy day.

14. Port Renfrew

victoria 1 day trip

  • Distance from Victoria : 111 km
  • Driving Time: 2 hours

If you’re looking for a fun day trip from Victoria, BC, consider driving to Port Renfrew, a small coastal community located on the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island.

First on the list is Avatar Grove , a stunning old-growth forest that’s home to some of the largest and oldest trees on the island. Including the “gnarliest tree. ” Just a 20 minute drive north of Port Renfrew, this popular family friendly hiking trail is 1.2km of boardwalk.

Next up,  head to Botanical Beach , a scenic coastal area known for its rich & diverse tide pools and unique rock formations. 

Kids will love exploring the tide pools and spotting the various sea creatures that call them home. Just make sure you go at low-tide to make the most of the tide pools.

It is about a 20 minute scenic forest walk down to the rock & pebble beach along an interpretive trail. Just be prepared for the walk back up.  

Hike part of the Juan de Fuca Trail . The trail follows Highway 14 and the Pacific Marine Circle Route from China Beach to Botanical Beach. A day hike can be as short or long as you like.

Whale Watching!   Their season runs from May to October, so plenty of time to see orca, humpbacks and other marine life. Look to the sky for bald eagles. 

15. Juan de Fuca Trail 

victoria 1 day trip

  • Distance from Victoria : 75km to China Beach Trailhead
  • Driving Time: 1 hour 20 min

Speaking of the   Juan de Fuca Trail , this scenic hiking trail  spans over 47 kilometers along the rugged coastline of Vancouver Island.

Fun fact: I spent a summer building trails here in my youth, back when it was first being created. Showing my age lol!

One of the top things to see on the Juan de Fuca Trail is the stunning natural scenery, including ancient forests, rocky coastlines, and secluded beaches (like Mystic Beach with its waterfall). Don’t miss the chance to spot some of the local wildlife , including bald eagles, black bears, and gray whales.

There are four main  entrances to the trail, each with its own unique features and section lengths. These include China Beach, Sombrio Beach, Parkinson Creek, and Botanical Beach. Depending on your fitness level and time constraints, you can choose a section of the trail that fits your needs.

16. Chemainus

Mural at the post office in Chemainus, BC Canada.

  • Distance from Victoria : 80 km
  • Driving Time: 1 hour 15 min

Chemainus is  famous for its stunning murals  that decorate many of the buildings in the town. These intricate works of art depict the area’s rich history and cultural heritage .

In addition to the murals, Chemainus is home to a bustling Wednesday market where you can sample local produce and browse handmade crafts and artisanal goods. Popping into their charming boutique stores, is another favorite (antique stores, art galleries, gift shops, & our favorite Hansel & Gretl’s candy shop).

If you’re visiting with kids, take them for a play and wander at Waterwheel Park , or fishing or swimming at Fuller Lake Park.

LOCAL TIP: The  Chemainus Theatre  puts on some of the best local plays I’ve ever seen. It’s a fun date to take in their brunch and one of the 4 or 5 plays they put on each year.  Derek & I have stayed at the Best Western Plus & it was clean & comfortable way to enjoy a weekend away.

17. Parksville & Qualicum Beach

Young girl walking along a sandy and rocky beach.

  • Distance from Victoria : 147 km
  • Driving Time: 2 hours 10 min

Parksville and Qualicum Beach are two charming towns located a fun day trip with kids from Victoria, and are home to some of Vancouver Island’s best beaches and beach activities .

In Parksville, you can spend your day  exploring beaches at  Rathtrevor Beach or Parksville Beach,  with plenty of space to relax and soak up the sun. I spent many summers here as a kid, and teen, and take my own kids here regularly. 

Parksville offers a long stretch of sandy beach, which is perfect for building sandcastles or playing beach games. With shallow, protected waters, perfect for toddlers and babies too. 

Parksville Community Park is the playground, with space to kite fly, an outdoor gym and plenty of space to run around.

More things to do in & near Parksville, BC with (or without) kids .

There are also plenty of outdoor activities nearby, including hiking trails, mini golf, golf courses, and water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding.

In Qualicum Beach, you can take the kids to the Qualicum Beach Museum, which has a collection of artifacts from the area’s history. The town also has plenty of quaint shops and cafes, perfect for a leisurely stroll. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a  short drive to the nearby Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park , which offers guided caving tours of the park’s fascinating underground caves.

Or take an easy hike through  old-growth and second-growth forests of Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock and maple to either  Qualicum Falls or Englishman River Falls .

Coombs, our next recommendation below is just a short drive away.

Waterfall between mossy rocks at Englishman River Falls

18. Goats on the Roof, Coombs

Goat on the roof at Coombs Country Market

  • Distance from Victoria : 154 km
  • Driving Time: 2 hours 15 min

Witness the famous “Goats on the Roof” at Coombs. Yes, you read that right – there really are goats living on the roof of the Old Country Market.

But that’s not all there is to see here. The Old Country Market is also a great spot to shop for local produce, baked goods, and souvenirs. 

And if you’re feeling hungry, there are plenty of food vendors serving up delicious eats. Like our usual stop for an eclectic mix of Billy G’s donuts and of course ice cream for our daughter. 

The town also hosts events throughout the year, such as the Coombs Bluegrass Festival and the Coombs Fair.

19. Cathedral Grove

Mom and young girl staring up at large Tree in Cathedral Grove on a day trip from Victoria.

  • Distance from Victoria : 176 km
  • Driving Time: 2 hours 25 min

Immerse yourself in the ancient splendor of Cathedral Grove , a protected old-growth forest in MacMillan Provincial Park.

Stand in awe beneath the towering Douglas firs, some of which are over 800 years old, and breathe in the crisp, clean air as you connect with nature.

Such a magical place. I try to stop here whenever I am in the area.

LOCAL TIP : Make a day of it and see Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Cathedral Grove & Coombs. They’re all relatively close and well worth a visit on a day trip from Victoria.

20. Bike the Galloping Goose Trail

The  Galloping Goose Regional Trail is a 55 km multi-use trail that runs from Victoria to Sooke. You can bike ride part or all of it on a day trip from Victoria, Canada.

Originally a railway line, it has been transformed into a multi use path connecting with the Great Trail across Canada.

You’ll pass by farmland, lakes, marshland, rocky outcrops and more.

Popular Galloping Goose Day trips include

  • Victoria to Thetis Lake Regional Park (11km one way). Spend the day at Thetis swimming, hiking or fishing.
  • Park at the Galloping Goose parking lot on Rocky Point Road and follow the trail to  Matheson Lake , then Roche Cove   Regional Parks (5km one way) then onto Sooke Potholes (another 13km one way).

If you are starting from downtown Victoria, cross the Johnson Street bridge,onto the paved path that connects to Harbour Road and the trail.

LOCAL TIP: ☕️ Stop in at Dockside Green for some tasty croissants, pastries and coffee at Fol Epi & Cafe Fantastico. A local gem. Miss S always goes for the macarons & the buttery croissants.

21. Goldstream Provincial Park

Young girl sitting on the roots of a large tree at Goldstream Park.

  • Distance from Victoria : 19 km
  • Driving Time: 30 min

Goldstream is a lovely park, perfect for a family friendly day trip. It also makes our list of our favorite Victoria area parks for families.

There’s a series of easy trails along the water, picnic areas with firepits, camping and hiking. In Fall, people come from all over to see the Salmon Run & Bald Eagles.

The Goldstream Trestle Trail is a flat, 3.5 km roundtrip easy trail that follows the old railway bed through the park. Past the Trestle.

For the more adventurous, a hike up Mount Finlayson offers a rewarding challenge with stunning panoramic views of Victoria & Valley. It’s a 6km rugged loop.

Another trail short leads you to a  47.5 metres tall waterfall.

You’ll wander through forests full of  600 year old Douglas fir and western red cedar trees along the river. Then arbutus trees, and lodgepole pine in the drier areas.

Final Thoughts: Day Trips from Victoria, BC Not to Miss

And there you have it – 21 incredible day trips from Victoria, BC, that promise to make your time on Vancouver Island truly unforgettable.

With such a diverse range of experiences to choose from, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie.

victoria 1 day trip


Here are our favourite resources we use to research and book our trips. They offer competitive deals, and good customer service. Plus itineraries and more travel ideas for Victoria & Canada: Top whale watching tours in Victoria 3 Day Victoria Itinerary with Kids Free & Cheap Things to do in Victoria, BC Top 11+ Victoria Parks & Playgrounds not to miss! How to travel from Vancouver to Butchart Gardens Seattle to Victoria Ferry Best Seaplane Tours from Victoria —- Vancouver Island Bucket List Fun things to do in Parksville, BC Where to stay in Parksville, BC Canada How to see the Northern Lights in Yellowknife – Book accomodations here. Excellent all round site for lowest lodging rates. VRBO – Book family friendly accommodations here, All the comforts of home, but no cleaning! Viator – Find & book even more experiences, tours & fun lessons world wide. Discover Cars – Use this comparison tool to find the best deal (worldwide) Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) – Save money on flights Anything else? Check out our Family Travel Resources & Tips page

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Donna Garrison is the founder of Packed for Life, an ever curious traveler with a passion for making memories with her family. With a unique perspective on travelling on a budget gathered over 30 years, 20 countries and 5 continents she gives families the tools & resources they need to experience the joys of travelling more for less through practical solutions. She helps over 20,000 families a month plan & take the family travel, camping and road trip adventures of their dreams in Canada, the USA and around the world. Contact her at: Donna [at]

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20+ Awesome Things To Do in Victoria BC Kids Will Love

W ith the US / Canadian border open again, it’s time to start planning another trip up to Vancouver Island ! There are so many great things to do in Victoria with kids or just as adults. It’s one of our favorite Canadian cities and I know you’ll love it too!

Victoria BC is our go-to destination for fun and easy weekend trips around the holidays and in spring when the weather is getting nice. Yes, we go to Victoria often , but it’s because we love it so much! We’ve figured out our top favorite activities and tips for visiting Victoria with kids and get ready, because we’ve got 20+ things for you to do to have an unforgettable trip.

If you have any questions about getting to Vancouver Island, the many fun things to do in Victoria BC, exploring Canada with kids or anything else about the Pacific Northwest, please leave a comment or send us a note . We’re happy to share more and help plan fun trips and adventures!

Where is Victoria BC?

Victoria BC is on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, just north of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and just west of Vancouver, BC . It’s a fairly large city and is situated on a harbor, the Inner Harbour, and then stretches out to its suburbs of Saanich, Sidney, and Sooke. Getting there is fairly easy and doable on nearly any budget.

Transportation to Victoria

We have written about Victoria many times and have a lot of details around transportation to the city here, in our article highlighting a great 3 Day V i ctoria itinerary . Here’s a recap though and top tips for getting to Victoria with kids. And we actually have a podcast episode all about the 7 different ways to get to Vancouver Island .

By ferry, you can depart for Vancouver Island from either Vancouver (Tsawwassen terminal) or Port Angeles. Both sailings are approximately 1.5 hours so which you choose depends on your starting point, travel schedule and budget. Check out the map to see which makes sense for you. You can also take the passenger-only Victoria Clipper from Seattle , which is a great option for those adding Victoria with kids to their family trip to Washington.


Note : you can also do the auto ferry from Anacortes , WA but it takes a bit longer since it goes through the San Juan Islands and makes several stops along the way. PS: the rate examples provided below are subject to change and are only provided for comparison

You can also fly to Victoria from both Seattle and Vancouver via seaplane or regular aircraft. This is for sure not the budget option for a family to get to Vancouver Island, particularly if you want also have a car on the island, but it’s an option. Flying in via Seaplane is really cool and it’s one of the best things to do in Victoria!

Remember , Victoria is in Canada so a passport is required. DO NOT FORGET PASSPORTS.

Best Things to Do in Victoria with Kids

Since we aren’t digging into all of the hiking and kayaking destinations around Victoria, we’re going to keep our top activities in Victoria with kids to things in Victoria proper, Saanich, Brentwood Bay and Sidney. This part of the island is rather condensed, so getting between each spot is fairly easy by bus, super easy by car, and totally doable (with time) by bicycle if weather is permitting.

Note : please confirm hours of operation with each activity before adding to your plan. We’ve included posted hours, but they are subject to change without notice or in conjunction with events.

Victoria Bug Zoo – gross and fascinating

I’m starting here because if you need to keep one thing in mind to leverage when you do Victoria with kids, it’s the Victoria Bug Zoo. I know, this is not what you’d expect at the top of a list for such a beautiful, amazing city, but it’s a winner with kids (and adults). The Bug Zoo has a very impressive collection of tarantulas, stick bugs, exotic insects and butterfly specimens. This was an awesome stop for us and made Victoria with kids an easy addition to our world-schooling plans.   Tip :  take part in the “tour” and actually hold the bugs. So cool.

Location :  near the Fairmont Empress   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  11am – 4pm M-F, 11am – 5pm Sa/Su

Website :   Victoria Bug Zoo

Royal BC Museum – incredible history and indigenous art

We’re very selective about which museums we take our kids to. We want to be sure they’re interesting, educational, and that they’ll genuinely feel a connection to something there. The Royal BC Museum checked all those boxes. We went for the totem poles and incredible First Nations exhibits, and left excited about Egyptology and prehistoric creatures.

As adults we could’ve stayed for at least three hours, but with two kids we only explored the Royal BC Museum for just under two hours. The Royal BC is one of the best things to do in Victoria no matter what your interests are. It’s great for all ages and is a prime activity when the weather turns.

Tip : in the First Nations area, take time to explain to kids about western expansion and the obliteration of native tribes. It’ll make the whole exhibit must more understandable.

Hours :  10am – 5pm daily

Website :  Royal BC Museum

Victoria Butterfly Gardens – TOP PICK of Things to Do

If you follow our podcast and listen often you know that the Victoria Butterfly Gardens really impressed us and we think it’s one of the best things to do in Victoria. We’ve visited many butterfly pavilions in our travels, including famous ones in Key West and Denver , but the Victoria Butterfly Gardens impressed us for a few reasons:

  • number of butterflies
  • diversity of other exhibits and inclusion of birds (flamingos and parrots particularly)
  • availability of staff to answer questions
  • coat check – seriously, this is exceptionally important when you’re spending an hour in an 80 degree humid space.

When doing Victoria with kids, spending time at the Butterfly Gardens is a great addition to a day at Butchart Gardens or an afternoon lazing around Brentwood Bay. Allow 1.5 hours or more, depending on how much your kids enjoy insects and how much you need to escape to a tropical paradise. 🙂

Location :  near the Butchart Gardens, Brentwood Bay area   Google Maps link here . Hours :  10am – 4pm Sep-Mar, 10am – 5pm Apr-Jun, 9:30am – 6pm Jul-Aug Website :  Victoria Butterfly Gardens

Visit Craigdarroch Castle

Can you really explain the cool buildings and Victorian era lifestyle to kids without including a little history? Or a castle? You could, but why would you want to? Craigdarroch Castle  is a nice walk or short ride just outside of the downtown area. Victoria with kids is very doable on foot, including walking to the Castle, so plan to visit on a nicer day and enjoy the neighborhood along the way.

Once there, do a guided tour (not too long) of the really impressive rooms and grounds. Watch for ghosts, ask questions of the docents, and take lots of cool pictures!   Note : if you live on Vancouver Island and have a Greater Victoria Public Library  card, you can use the ePass system for free admission to Craigdarroch Castle.

Location :  east of downtown, Rockland neighborhood   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  10am – 4:30pm Sep-Jun, 9am-7pm Jun-Sep

Website :  Craigdarroch Castle

Miniature World – way cooler than you think

Our kids’ favorite thing in any museum are always the dioramas; you know, the scenes that are setup like a snapshot in time of a town full of people or an event. Miniature World is nothing but dioramas and they are impressive! I know this sounds weird, but Miniature World is one of the best things to do in Victoria with kids.

From castles and villages to space exploration, Miniature World is full of the most impressively intricate models. If only the kids could play with them unsupervised…  Tip :  this is a great activity to add to a Victoria Bug Zoo visit, as it’s very close and will keeps the momentum of fun going.

Hours :  9am – 5pm Sep-May, 9am – 9pm May-Sep

Website :  Miniature World

Explore Chinatown’s Alleys and Shops – One of the Best Things To Do in Victoria

When doing Victoria with kids, you HAVE TO VISIT CHINATOWN. It’s such an easy walk from the downtown area that you don’t even realize you’re nearly there almost all the time. We actually spend a lot of time in Chinatown during each visit to Victoria due to the great restaurants (Chinese and not), the interesting stores (for more than standard Chinatown souvenirs) and the great photo ops.

The red Chinese lanterns are always hung and the vibe is always buzzing.  Must see : Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in North America. There are many businesses off the alley and if you’re there early or late enough, it feel like you’ve stepped back in time to 1800s Chinatown.

Location :  just north of downtown   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  always open!

Cost :  free to explore

Available tour : we haven’t done this one, but it came highly recommended by the locals – Chinatown Walking Tour (still operating during COVID-19)

Victoria Harbour Ferry Rides – the coolest water taxi around

While the main part of Victoria proper is situated directly around the Inner Harbour, going from Chinatown to the Wharf area will be quite the long walk. Getting a sea lion’s eye view of the city from the water is a fun, unexpected activity to add to your trip to Victoria with kids.

The Victoria Harbour Ferry   offers 45 minute tours of the Inner Harbour, tours us the Gorge Waterway, and private tours. It’s a unique experience unlike any other boat tour in any city we’ve visited.   Note : the Victoria Harbour Ferry stops running in the Winter, returning in Spring.

Location :  first stop is the Empress Dock, map link has all stops to catch boat   Google Maps link here .

Website :  Victoria Harbour Ferry

Enjoy the Harbour Water Ballet

Yes, you read that right. On a nice summer day, one of the best things to do in Victoria BC is to hang out on the waterfront, and bonus if you can catch one of the hilarious and cool Water Ballets. The small Victoria Harbour Ferry water taxi boats perform a synchronized ballet around the Inner Harbour while music plays on loud speakers.

For the best view, watch from the upper street level of either Government St or Belleville St. It can get crowded, so you might need to put kids on shoulders to watch the ferry water ballet. It’s only a few minutes though, so it’s not too bad. And the water taxis are the cutest boats you’ll ever see.

Location :  middle of the Inner Harbour

Hours :  10:45 am on Sundays, April through October

Cost :  totally free to watch

Go Wildlife and Whale Watching

Depending on the season and what you want to sea, you’ll have several great options for wildlife and whale watching out of Victoria. You could do the crazy open speed boat out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca leaving from the Inner Harbour, or you could do a more tame, longer tour ( kid friendly whale watching ). We’ve done these and enjoyed them, but really fell in love with the Salish Sea when doing an ecotour out of Sidney, BC.

Find a Wildlife / Whale Watching tour here!

Recommended Ecotour –  Ecocruising

Ecocruising is a small operator running out of Brentwood Bay and Sidney, both about a half hour from downtown Victoria. Meandering through small islands and rookeries, Ecocruising provides up close, respectful wildlife viewing ranging from orcas and porpoises to harbor seals and bald eagles. This is always a highlight when we do a trip to Victoria with kids. We love ecotourism and this company is passionate about sharing and protecting the environment of the Salish Sea.

Victoria Location :  Inner Harbour near tourist office   Google Maps link here .

Sidney Location :  Canoe Cove Marina   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  throughout the day, typically spring and summer – charters available

Cost :  prices range from $40 per person to over $100, depending on tour operator and length of trip

Recommended Whale Watching tour – ORCA SPIRIT ADVENTURES

Whale watching is one of the most special activities anywhere on the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. Grey and humpback whales frequently visit the waters around Victoria, but the resident and transient orca whales are what most guests are here to see. Focusing on eco-tourism, animal awareness and preservation, we cannot recommend Orca Spirit Adventures enough for a Victoria whale watching experience, especially with kids.  


See Totems at Thunderbird Park

Part of the Royal BC Museum, this collection of totem poles and a replica longhouse is worth visiting. You can pair a visit to Thunderbird Park with your trip to the museum or work it in wherever you have the time. The totem poles are best viewed/photographed early in the day when the sun is on them, but if you’re doing Victoria with kids, you’re probably not going to be up super early and out and about.

Because Thunderbird Park is located outside of the Royal BC Museu m, it’s free to check out the totems both outside in the park and in the glassed in pavilion. There are quite a few, so take your time enjoying them. Appreciating the indigenous culture is a must when in Canada, and seeing totem poles and structures is one of the best things to do in Victoria.

Location :  between Royal BC Museum and Beacon Hill Park   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  8am officially, but it’s outdoors so always on display

Cost :  free

Website :  Thunderbird Park Victoria

Enjoy the Butchart Gardens and Carousel

We have been to the Butchart Gardens four or five times and still love it . An ideal representation of Victorian gardens, it’s much more kid-friendly than you might expect. True, you can’t let the kids run free and pick flowers, but they’ll enjoy the Butchart Gardens just the same. There are fountains, sculptures, a Japanese garden, totem poles, and in the winter there’s even an ice rink. 

Tip : be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt sheet from the visitors desk to give the kids a little something extra to keep them interested.

And for those who love getting dizzy, the carousel at the Butchart Gardens is one of the most beautiful ones we’ve seen. The cost to ride is an extra $2 per person (parents ride free for safety).

Location :  north of Victoria in Brentwood Bay   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  9am daily, closing time varies greatly by season and events  check hours here

Website :  the Butchart Gardens

Christmas at the Butchart Gardens

We can’t describe it well enough to do it justice, but the Butchart Gardens at Christmas are amazing. From the glowing forest to the Twelve Days of Christmas theme, it’s remarkable. Add to the ornate gardens an ice rink and live musical performers and you’ll have the most wonderful holiday experience in Victoria.  

Check out our complete article about Christmas in Victoria for more ideas .

Learn about Marine Life at Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

Since we recommend getting a taste of what’s just beyond downtown Victoria, a day trip to Sidney is a great idea. The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a small aquarium located just off the marina in quint little Sidney. The  Centre has touch tanks and exhibits showcasing the native marine life (except for mammals) of the surrounding bodies of water. With lots of hands-on activities, it’s a great morning activity in Sidney before walking around the waterfront and downtown.

FYI, Sidney is about 20 minutes from downtown Victoria. It’s a nice little adventure and is great for seeing a different side of Vancouver Island but is still really close to Victoria.

Location :  Sidney marina area   Google Maps link here .

Website :  Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

Do the Totem pole Scavenger Hunt

One of the things we love about living in the Pacific Northwest are all of the totem poles and native art everywhere. Victoria with kids is one big ongoing scavenger hunt to find totem poles ! They are all over the place, but there are many that you have to know where to look. We’ve created a map to guide you around Victoria (below) and beyond to find a wide variety of totem poles. The abundance of totems is incredible, and even if seeking them out isn’t on your list of things to do in Victoria, you’ll encounter them all around.

Tip :  If you’re looking to book a great hotel that’s full of art, the Inn at Laurel Point  has a very impressive collection of First Nations art and artifacts, but it’s for guests to enjoy while staying there only. It’s one of our favorite hotels in Victoria .

Location :  all around Victoria’s downtown and beyond   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  all day and night, but be respectful of local businesses and posted hours

Cost :  free except for admission to the Royal BC Museum

Tour the Parliament Building

We’re always fascinated by grand buildings and the parliament building in Victoria is no exception. You can actually add a tour of parliament to your Victoria with kids itinerary very easily, as they run tours daily. You can do short “express” tours of about 20 minutes or you can do the full architecture tour which lasts 90 minutes. 

Photography may be limited and tour schedules may be changed depending on when parliament is in session, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to get onto a tour during one of your days in Victoria.  Tip : if you have small kids, the express tour is recommended as the building is a functioning government space and longer tours may make for antsy children. We’ve done state house tours in Columbia SC , Madison WI and many more, and the doing the parliament building in Victoria with kids is one of the most small-kid-appropr

Hours :  tours begin at 9am, check website for times and cancellations

Tour website :  Victoria Parliament tours

Relax in a Public Square

This sounds odd, but the city of Victoria is full of small and large courtyards surrounded by shops and cafes. You’ll find the Public Market, Market Square, Bastion Square are all very easy to get to and each is full of good food and interesting shops and galleries. Perfect to add to a day in Victoria with kids. Our favorite is Market Square.

With each trip to Victoria, we like to visit Beadworld in Market Square for working with some veteran bead artisans, making souvenir bracelets. It is the perfect morning activity: a craft project and a great way to bring home a zero-waste souvenir. And then we get coffee and hot chocolate right after, so that is always a win too. Check out our favorite restaurants in Victoria BC !

Public square locations (with map links):  Market Square     Bastion Square     Public Market     Trounce Alley

Explore Beacon Hill Park: one of the best things to do in Victoria

Beacon Hill Park in Victoria has long been our favorite city park in North America. Spending an afternoon at Beacon Hill Park is a must for doing Victoria with kids. Between the peacocks running around, the Children’s Farm , the playgrounds, walking trails, views from the bluff, the tallest free-standing totem pole in the world, and ornate Victorian gardens, it’s an incredible place.

Confession: it’s cooler than Seattle’s Volunteer Park or SF’s Golden Gate Park (IMHO). Beacon Hill Park is really impressive and is great in any weather (except pouring rain). Visit in summer for the most amazing flowers and views, but then visit in winter for relaxing in the crisp sunshine and walking the trails.  Tip : another great park is Irving Park . You’ll find peacocks there too, as well as a labyrinth.

Location :  south of downtown to the bluffs   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  dawn to dusk

Website :  Beacon Hill Park – City of Victoria

Biking the Galloping Goose Trail of Victoria

Biking the Galloping Goose Trail out of Victoria is so much fun and great exercise! This is a great summer activity for Victoria with kids, especially if you have older children. Starting downtown or anywhere really, you head north out of the main core of Victoria to connect to the Galloping Goose trail , which will take you up to the Butchart Gardens and Brentwood Bay.

It’s a great way to experience the southern end of Vancouver Island. Heading east into the farming valleys of Saanichton and then south along the Lochside Trail , you’ll ride through neighborhoods, sunflower fields, marshes and more. It’s incredible.

If you’re enjoying yourself biking out of Victoria, you can also head west towards the town of Sooke. There are endless hiking trails around Sooke and it’ll give you a very different Vancouver Island experience.

Location :  Biking Route via G oogle Maps link here.

Hours :  daylight, not all bike paths are well lit

Cost :  bike rentals vary, from free through your hotel to $40/day – Find a guided bike tour here!

Eat a BeaverTail – the Fair Food of Canada

A Canadian delicacy, beaver tails are the great northern equivalent of an elephant ear. Usually dusted with cinnamon and sugar or topped with maple and whipped cream, or Nutella or apples or everything. One BeaverTail will suffice to share, but you know, when in Rome… There is a BeaverTail stand directly downtown, across from the Bug Zoo and then during festivals , like the street hockey festival in February or summer concerts.  Tip : napkins and wet wipes.

Location :  downtown and at festivals   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  12 pm – 9pm – for the BeaverTails stand

Have Afternoon Tea or High Tea Service

I’ll confess, we haven’t done this with the kids yet, but we’ve done it as adults. It’s fun and delicious. Afternoon tea in Victoria can be as costly or as budget-friendly as you want it to be.  There are several shops and restaurants that will do a tea service but our two recommendation are the Empress Hotel (high end) or Murchie’s (budget). The Empress’ tea service is very comprehensive with trays of finger sandwiches, scones and deserts, including tea. I’ve also enjoyed afternoon tea at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise , which is very similar, and it’s amazing.

Tip : the Empress does a children’s tea service also. It’s very nice and quite the touristy thing to do.

Murchie’s is much more relaxed and a better option for doing tea in Victoria with kids. Either doing a pre-set menu or going a la carte, you can do Murchie’s without reservations and you can linger as long as you like. This is our favorite place for tea.  Tip : leave with a box of Orange Pekoe  tea; it’s my favorite!

Location :  Fairmont Empress   Google Maps link here .  Murchie’s Tea downtown   Google Maps link here .

Hours :  late morning to mid-afternoon daily

Cost :  tea service can be as little as $15 for doing a la carte in smaller shops or up to $78 + tax & tip / person at the Empress

NOTE :  if you’re booking Tea at the Empress, know that there is a strict dress code and reservations require a credit card. Failure to show up will result in a 50% charge for the reserved tea services.

Find a great Canadian Souvenir

Souvenirs are a big part of travel for many families. When you do Victoria with kids, you’ll see a thousand things that you’ll want to buy. Here are our recommendations for bringing home a thoughtful souvenir from Victoria:

  • seek out something useful that won’t be thrown out when you get home
  • support tribal and local artisans by shopping for art and First Nations goods
  • shirts and hats showing the destination are great for striking up conversation with others when you get home
  • be zero-waste and avoid cheap toys and items made of plastic wrapped in plastic.

Keeping these points in mind you’ll for sure be able to find a thoughtful, memorable souvenir that you and your kids will enjoy long after your trip to Victoria is over.

Wow! I know that was a lot of information, but aren’t you excited to plan a trip to Victoria with kids?! We’re so ready to go back and hopefully will do so in late spring, as that’s our favorite time to visit.  Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your trip!

Also check out our 3 Day Victoria Itinerary for couples and our Family Travel Journal for more ideas.  And if you’re ready to book passage to Victoria from Seattle via the Victoria Clipper , check out Victoria Clipper tickets and packages here !

Want to pin this article for planning your own trip to Victoria with kids? Go for it!!!

Victoria with kids is an adventure full of fun, architecture, gardens, wildlife and more. 18 activities for a family trip to Victoria BC.

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The huge solar storm is keeping power grid and satellite operators on edge

Geoff Brumfiel, photographed for NPR, 17 January 2019, in Washington DC.

Geoff Brumfiel

Willem Marx

victoria 1 day trip

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of solar flares early Saturday afternoon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there have been measurable effects and impacts from the geomagnetic storm. Solar Dynamics Observatory hide caption

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of solar flares early Saturday afternoon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there have been measurable effects and impacts from the geomagnetic storm.

Planet Earth is getting rocked by the biggest solar storm in decades – and the potential effects have those people in charge of power grids, communications systems and satellites on edge.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there have been measurable effects and impacts from the geomagnetic storm that has been visible as aurora across vast swathes of the Northern Hemisphere. So far though, NOAA has seen no reports of major damage.

Photos: See the Northern lights from rare solar storm

The Picture Show

Photos: see the northern lights from rare, solar storm.

There has been some degradation and loss to communication systems that rely on high-frequency radio waves, NOAA told NPR, as well as some preliminary indications of irregularities in power systems.

"Simply put, the power grid operators have been busy since yesterday working to keep proper, regulated current flowing without disruption," said Shawn Dahl, service coordinator for the Boulder, Co.-based Space Weather Prediction Center at NOAA.

NOAA Issues First Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch Since 2005

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"Satellite operators are also busy monitoring spacecraft health due to the S1-S2 storm taking place along with the severe-extreme geomagnetic storm that continues even now," Dahl added, saying some GPS systems have struggled to lock locations and offered incorrect positions.

NOAA's GOES-16 satellite captured a flare erupting occurred around 2 p.m. EDT on May 9, 2024.

As NOAA had warned late Friday, the Earth has been experiencing a G5, or "Extreme," geomagnetic storm . It's the first G5 storm to hit the planet since 2003, when a similar event temporarily knocked out power in part of Sweden and damaged electrical transformers in South Africa.

The NOAA center predicted that this current storm could induce auroras visible as far south as Northern California and Alabama.

Extreme (G5) geomagnetic conditions have been observed! — NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (@NWSSWPC) May 10, 2024

Around the world on social media, posters put up photos of bright auroras visible in Russia , Scandinavia , the United Kingdom and continental Europe . Some reported seeing the aurora as far south as Mallorca, Spain .

The source of the solar storm is a cluster of sunspots on the sun's surface that is 17 times the diameter of the Earth. The spots are filled with tangled magnetic fields that can act as slingshots, throwing huge quantities of charged particles towards our planet. These events, known as coronal mass ejections, become more common during the peak of the Sun's 11-year solar cycle.

A powerful solar storm is bringing northern lights to unusual places

Usually, they miss the Earth, but this time, NOAA says several have headed directly toward our planet, and the agency predicted that several waves of flares will continue to slam into the Earth over the next few days.

While the storm has proven to be large, predicting the effects from such incidents can be difficult, Dahl said.

Shocking problems

The most disruptive solar storm ever recorded came in 1859. Known as the "Carrington Event," it generated shimmering auroras that were visible as far south as Mexico and Hawaii. It also fried telegraph systems throughout Europe and North America.

Stronger activity on the sun could bring more displays of the northern lights in 2024

Stronger activity on the sun could bring more displays of the northern lights in 2024

While this geomagnetic storm will not be as strong, the world has grown more reliant on electronics and electrical systems. Depending on the orientation of the storm's magnetic field, it could induce unexpected electrical currents in long-distance power lines — those currents could cause safety systems to flip, triggering temporary power outages in some areas.

my cat just experienced the aurora borealis, one of the world's most radiant natural phenomena... and she doesn't care — PJ (@kickthepj) May 10, 2024

The storm is also likely to disrupt the ionosphere, a section of Earth's atmosphere filled with charged particles. Some long-distance radio transmissions use the ionosphere to "bounce" signals around the globe, and those signals will likely be disrupted. The particles may also refract and otherwise scramble signals from the global positioning system, according to Rob Steenburgh, a space scientist with NOAA. Those effects can linger for a few days after the storm.

Like Dahl, Steenburgh said it's unclear just how bad the disruptions will be. While we are more dependent than ever on GPS, there are also more satellites in orbit. Moreover, the anomalies from the storm are constantly shifting through the ionosphere like ripples in a pool. "Outages, with any luck, should not be prolonged," Steenburgh said.

What Causes The Northern Lights? Scientists Finally Know For Sure

What Causes The Northern Lights? Scientists Finally Know For Sure

The radiation from the storm could have other undesirable effects. At high altitudes, it could damage satellites, while at low altitudes, it's likely to increase atmospheric drag, causing some satellites to sink toward the Earth.

The changes to orbits wreak havoc, warns Tuija Pulkkinen, chair of the department of climate and space sciences at the University of Michigan. Since the last solar maximum, companies such as SpaceX have launched thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit. Those satellites will now see their orbits unexpectedly changed.

"There's a lot of companies that haven't seen these kind of space weather effects before," she says.

The International Space Station lies within Earth's magnetosphere, so its astronauts should be mostly protected, Steenburgh says.

In a statement, NASA said that astronauts would not take additional measures to protect themselves. "NASA completed a thorough analysis of recent space weather activity and determined it posed no risk to the crew aboard the International Space Station and no additional precautionary measures are needed," the agency said late Friday.

victoria 1 day trip

People visit St Mary's lighthouse in Whitley Bay to see the aurora borealis on Friday in Whitley Bay, England. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images hide caption

People visit St Mary's lighthouse in Whitley Bay to see the aurora borealis on Friday in Whitley Bay, England.

While this storm will undoubtedly keep satellite operators and utilities busy over the next few days, individuals don't really need to do much to get ready.

"As far as what the general public should be doing, hopefully they're not having to do anything," Dahl said. "Weather permitting, they may be visible again tonight." He advised that the largest problem could be a brief blackout, so keeping some flashlights and a radio handy might prove helpful.

I took these photos near Ranfurly in Central Otago, New Zealand. Anyone can use them please spread far and wide. :-) — Dr Andrew Dickson reform/ACC (@AndrewDickson13) May 10, 2024

And don't forget to go outside and look up, adds Steenburgh. This event's aurora is visible much further south than usual.

A faint aurora can be detected by a modern cell phone camera, he adds, so even if you can't see it with your eyes, try taking a photo of the sky.

The aurora "is really the gift from space weather," he says.

  • space weather
  • solar flares
  • solar storm


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