BC Ferries
BC Government
City Hall
Esquimault Dock
Royal Roads

BC Communities
Map and index

Travel Index
Intro to section

Events Index
Intro to section

Intro to section
BC Gov't,
Pulp & Paper
Water Resources

Vancouver Index
Intro to section

Victoria Index
Intro to section

Victoria: BC's Capital, Gateway to
Southern Vancouver Island: A Taste of Old England
Empress Hotelby Muguette Goufrani

One never gets tired of a trip to Victoria any time of year, whether it's by jet aircraft, a Helijet whirlybird, a Harbour Air seaplane, a BC ferry or charter cruise ship. We took our close friend and Travel Writer Karen Hoffman from New York and her mom there by ferry and they were blown away with the charm, and the trip from Tsawwassen itself became a highlight. As we say at BC Scene Magazine, getting there is a big part of the fun, with plenty of options in terms of transportation, accommodation, services, tours and connections. To those familiar with vacation gateways, Victoria is world class, earning Conde Nast Magazine's prestigious ranking as best city in the world for environment /ambiance, ahead of Paris, Florence, Salzburg and San Francisco. Thanks to Captain Cook, Captain George Vancouver and others who followed, the area retains an Old English character even today. Here is some official information from Tourism Victoria:

Victoria (pop. 322,000 ) is Canada's westernmost city and capital of British Columbia. Having the mildest climate in Canada, (some call it our Banana Belt) the area is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts any time of the year. Golfers on the prairies and points east become green with envy and ready to take flight by the time February rolls around. That's why we produced our “Golf Vacations Supermap” for distribution at eastern airports and travel shows.

Butchart GardensA sophisticated seaside resort city, Victoria is the commercial hub for most of Vancouver Island and is the political centre for the province (see BC Government Profile). The city combines the formality of afternoon tea with the exhilaration of an ocean whale watching adventure; the exquisite and delicate beauty of its many fragrant and colourful gardens with the awe-inspiring untouched beauty of its wilderness.

Located on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island, Greater Victoria averages over 2,000 hours of sunshine and an annual precipitation average of only 25 cm. Here, flowers bloom year-round, as witnessed by the world famous Butchart Gardens, and hanging flower baskets on downtown street corners. Most Victoria and area attractions are open year round and an entrance fee may be applicable. Groups are welcome and motorcoach parking is available at most sites. Advanced reservations may be required. Themes include Heritage Attractions, British Tours, Garden Tours, Oriental Tours, Christmas Lights and Scenic Coastline Tours.

Victoria's attractions are surprisingly easy to get to and are generally no farther than 20 minutes from downtown, which allows you to include plenty of attractions on a tour with minimal time spent in transit. Close proximity to Seattle and Vancouver also make Victoria easy to include as part of a larger tour.

Parliament Buildings, Victoria: The Parliament Buildings, site of the provincial government were constructed in 1897. From the time the buildings were first opened, the facade's outline was illuminated by more than 3,300 small light bulbs fixed along the corners of the walls, a feature that has contributed to its landmark status. In 1973, restoration work began that would extend from the foundations to the statue of George Vancouver on top of the central dome. Stained glass windows were repaired. Moldings, light fixtures, and door knobs were made to replicate the originals, and mosaic tiles and ornate plaster work were restored. After 10 years of work, the buildings were restored to their earlier magnificence. Guided tours of the buildings are in groups and without charge. Large groups must phone ahead.

Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria: Location: 675 Belleville Street This museum is probably like few others you have ever seen. `Walk through' exhibits take you to the streets of a pioneer town, to an old working Gold Rush waterwheel, aboard Capt. Vancouver's ship "Discovery", into a native Indian longhouse, to the bottom of the ocean, through a coastal rain forest or along a seashore.
Exhibits focus on the natural and human history of British Columbia. There are lectures, films and special event days. In the summer, native carvers are at work. Outside, there is a garden of BC's native wildflowers. The museum was founded in 1896. It was housed in the Parliament Buildings across Government Street from 1898 to 1968 when it moved into its present quarters, specifically designed for museum activities.
The museum has more than ten million artifacts in its anthropological, biological and historical collections, though only a fraction are on public display.

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria: Location: 1050 Joan Crescent. Coal baron Robert Dunsmuir must have truly felt a man's home is his castle when he built this lavish house in the 1880s. He died before the castle was finished and his widow Joan moved into Craigdarroch in 1890. She lived there until she died in 1908. Craigdarroch is now a museum furnished in turn-of-the-century style: many of the pieces are the originals. The castle has been restored and features magnificent stained glass windows, intricately carved oak paneling on the walls and ceiling of the main hall, walnut, mahogany, cedar and spruce paneling in many of the rooms and complex designs in the parquet floor throughout the castle's 39 rooms, executed in exotic wood.

Squares and Old Town, Victoria: Location: Bastion Square, Market Square, Chinatown, Centennial Square. These squares and small streets all have a history and atmosphere that make a walk in downtown Victoria pleasant and historically inspiring. Bastion Square was originally the site of Fort Victoria, established by James Douglas in 1843. The Maritime Museum, prominent on the square, the Courthouse and several other buildings from the turn of the century have been restored and currently house shops and offices. Two blocks over is Market Square, a pack house and busy warehouse at the time gold was discovered in BC's interior. Now a collection of interesting boutiques opens onto a central courtyard, a unique mix of old and new. Another block over is Chinatown, once covering several city blocks but now mainly Fisgard Street. Off to the side is Fan Tan Alley, a narrow passage with shops tucked away. On Fisgard is the ornate Gate of Harmonious Interest. Shops here offer merchandise and meals straight from the Orient. A block away is Centennial Square, a relative newcomer where history nonetheless blooms in a restored City Hall, vintage 1878, and an old theatre restored as the McPherson Playhouse.

One of Victoria's strengths as a tourist destination is that visitors can mix and match their holiday - take short day trips or use the city as a convenient base for longer explorations.

Guided Tours: Various technical tours throughout Victoria can be arranged for groups. Contact the organization directly or the Tour & Travel Department at Tourism Victoria at (250) 414-6999 for details. Advanced arrangements required.

Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt: Free guided tours of Canada's historic West Coast naval base. Contact (250) 363-5583.

City Hall: Victoria City Hall will assist with various technical tours. Minimal cost. Contact (250) 385-5711

Forestry Tours: Complimentary forestry and mill tours are available in Port Alberni. Contact the Alberni Forest Information Centre at (250) 724-7890.

Health Industry Educational Tours: Contact BC Health Industry Development Office at (250) 370-8691

Roger's Chocolate Factory: Complimentary tours on how these world famous chocolates are made. Contact (250) 727-6851

Esquimalt Graving Dock in Victoria is the largest non-military graving dock on the west coast of the Americas. The facility is a large, solid foundation graving dock 361.5 m OAL, 358.6 m maximum clear inside length by 38.4 m wide. It is a monolithic concrete structure with granite blocks used at the cope, quoins, and three levels of the altars. The dock can handle most vessels up to 100,000 deadweight tons and can accommodate and service more than 90% of all vessels operating on the west coast of North America.

Dining in Victoria traditionally has been derived largely from its British ancestry. However, close proximity to the ocean and a new appreciation for international influences have resulted in an exciting fusion of flavours known as West Coast cuisine- you'll find the influences of Chinese, French, Italian, Vietnamese, German, Japanese and East Indian dining. And, of course, salmon and shellfish fresh from the Pacific Ocean are always a Victoria specialty.

Vancouver Island Golf Tours (3 to 5 days)
Victoria is one of the premier golf destinations in Canada and, with the mildest climate in the country, you can golf year round. There are 15 public and private golf courses located in Victoria and the surrounding areas including Sooke, Colwood, Metchosin, and Sidney. Prices start at $45 Canadian for 18 holes. Contact the golf courses directly or one of Victoria's golf booking agencies for tee-off times in Greater Victoria. Mini bus transportation to golf courses is available. Motorcoach parking is available at all facilities. A drive north from Victoria along Highway 1 brings you to the beautiful Cowichan Valley and a number of scenic and challenging golf courses.(Victoria/Duncan 60 km)

Farther up island, the Nanaimo, Parksville, and Qualicum Beach area is renowned for wonderful beaches, magnificent views, and great golf. There are more than 20 golf courses in this region of the island. (Duncan/Qualicum Beach 97 km)

Continuing north, Highway 19 leads to Courtenay and the Comox Valley. Tee off on any of several spectacular courses in the area and enjoy the views of Mt. Washington and the Comox Glacier. (Qualicum Beach/Courtenay 62 km) Local accommodation is available near all golf courses listed and most courses offer full pro-shop services and restaurant facilities.

Victoria, BC: Continued on next page

For more information on touring in and around Victoria and the Islands, visit Tourism Victoria's Visitor Info Centre (open seven days a week): 812 Wharf Street, Victoria, BC V8W 1T3 (located at the Inner Harbour)

Tel: (250) 953-2033 , Fax: (250) 382-6539 for general information.
Call 1-800-663-3883 for accommodation reservations.

Photos by Tourism Victoria, Tourism British Columbia and BC Scene Archives.

The ford G