When we booked our trip to Canada, the Travel Agent mentioned a place called Victoria on Vancouver Island and told us it was a place that you should 100% visit whilst in Canada and as we didn’t know too much about any of the places she was really selling us, we just agreed – our heads all wanderlusty. Victoria Island was pretty much, the only place we didn’t plan. We didn’t really look at what to do there, or what excursions you could do apart from Whale Watching (I’ll go into that a bit further down – it’s worth it), which we booked in advance but other than that, it was the only place that we were happy to just discover when we arrived…
The trick to big holidays is aaaalways researching and always booking for trips in advance, if not just to save you money but to also get you excited and prepared for your holiday of a lifetime. So, on our last morning in Vancouver, we picked up our car. A lovely white Kia (not a clue on what kind) but it was automatic (obviously) and had the best air-con ever (my car needs re-gassing so this was a total joy). Mark drove because I wasn’t overly confident with driving up to 2000km on our road trip and I’m thankful for that because I was the one witnessing all of the beautiful sights and taking them all in (lucky me). We pulled out of the car lot and in a flutter of nerves, began our drive to the ferry to take us to Victoria. It was about an hour and half in the car and considering this was the first time Mark had driven on the other side of the road, it was totally plain sailing and actually quite fun. After the initial terror of driving through Vancouver City…
We arrived at the port in Tsawwassen and boarded the ferry which was simple and easy to do. We parked up and got out of the car and enjoyed the hours sail from Vancouver to Victoria (Vancouver Island). The ferry ride was beautiful, there were so many private islands and wonderful homes overlooking the crisp blue water. I remember as a kid watching Swiss Family Robinson and the little private islands reminded me so much of that film, the little houses and the abundance of trees and water – it was so pretty and made a usual ferry ride anything other than boring.
The drive to our hotel was stunning. It felt like we had driven into a film set, set in the 30s. The only way to really describe Victoria in not so many words is that it is a blend of old charm and new world experiences. Vancouver, London, New York… these are all fab places. Constantly bustling, constantly rushing, constantly worrying and constantly keeping up with other people but in Victoria, time almost stops. It’s the only place in the world that I’ve ever been to that offers you an escape from the hurried world and instead allows you to take your time and enjoy the ambiance of life, simple as that.
Victoria is both relaxing and utterly rejuvenating. There’s so so much to do and so many places to visit and there’s truly something for every interest and with that, it is super easy to see why everyone raves about Victoria. One of the most spectacular sights in Victoria is the incredible Parliament Buildings, constructed in 1898. The building is sprawling and the cultural histories that make Victoria so special is that it is a diverse, fun and welcoming City.
Our first day was lovely. We checked into our hotel (which was so nice, I am writing a separate blog just for that and will post here when it is complete), and once checked in we decided to do what Mark and I love doing the most – exploring. Almost instantly, Victoria became one of our most favourite destinations. We’ve been to a lot of lovely places and seen some incredible sights but Victoria was in a class of its own. It’s so relaxing and peaceful and everyone there goes above and beyond to help you and make your time there worth it. Coming from London, which can be very unfriendly at times, this was a welcome retreat.
HARBOUR AND RED FISH BLUE FISH
We headed to the lovely little harbour (also known as Inner Harbour) that is clearly one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. There’s a lot of history attached to this particular harbour with its first use being by the First Nations. There are recreational vessels and little cruise ships that moor up with lots of little float planes and ecotourism businesses bustling (will go into that further below)!! We stopped off at this little out door harbour eatery called Red Fish Blue Fish that was utterly adorable in every way and offered a varied selection of fresh and sustainable fish in a unique fish ‘n’ chip shop style (but with far more choice than your average chippy). We sat and enjoyed these wonderful wild salmon tacones filled with lemon pickled onions and a delicious coleslaw with crispy fried oysters overlooking the calmness that the harbour had to offer. It was one of the best days I’ve had on holiday – simple yet calm, relaxing and the start of what we already knew would be a wonderful trip. The food is fabulous, too!
HARBOUR AIR SEAPLANE
At Victoria Harbour, one of the funnest things to do is the sea plane. We hadn’t planned this and just decided to do it on a whim because, why not? When you’re on holiday (especially one of a lifetime), it’s difficult to turn down experiences that you usually would due to cost, but this holiday was all about firsts and our phrase “why not” set us in good stead for the rest of the trip. The sea plane was awesome. We both hadn’t done anything like it before and didn’t quite know what to expect but it was brilliant. It was a little bit like a chartered plane that seated up to 6 or 7 people and took you on a stunning flight around the harbour for 30 minutes. On a beautiful, summery day the views are really quite special and the feeling of taking off and landing in the water is something I hadn’t experienced before and loved it. If this is something you’ve fancied for a while and have that “why not” feeling, then check out Harbour Air. The prices are reasonable, you get to experience a tiny independent airport and it’s a lovely experience to have. I would recommend going before the season kicks in so you can enjoy it with limited people (we went at the very beginning of June) so it was lovely, welcoming and quiet.
WHALE WATCHING WITH EAGLE WING TOURS
One of the other things to do, and I’ve left it as last is whale watching. The reason I left it until last is because it was by far, the best thing I have ever, ever experienced so I thought it would only be right to leave the best until last. As mentioned above, the whale watching was the only pre-planned excursion that Mark and I had decided on and we wanted to experience this during sunset. It was a little pricier but absolutely well worth it. I even found a little discount on Google (I never buy anything without doing a google search. Almost all of the excursions I planned had a discount that I found online and overall, I saved $360 on all of the excursions) so do have a good hunt before you book. Anyway, whales…
We decided to do the tour with Eagle Wing Tours and boy oh BOY am I glad we chose this company. Not only are they rated #1 but the information you are given comes straight from someone who is a total naturalist (on our occasion we had the fabulous Dale Mitchell who has over 25 years at sea) and has spent years and years working with animals and understanding their behaviour in order to teach us all about the conservation, wildlife and history of this beautiful region. OH and they guarantee whales and I am extremely pleased to say that they aren’t lying.
We sped off into the sunset (at speed and that was fab) and although a bit bitter at times, this was soon completely forgotten when we were treated to one of the best moments of my entire life. A curious Orca whale decided to investigate us by coming so close we could lean over and touch her (we didn’t) but the thought of being that close to such a magical being was spine tingling. It was a moment I don’t think I will ever forget, being that close to something so natural and real and in a totally different world to us was truly a blessing. I’ve never been so engrossed or moved by a moment before and for that reason alone, just in case you get to experience this exact moment, then I would 100% do this trip of you were thinking about it and if you weren’t thinking about it the only question I have to you is why the hell not?!
Victoria is so special. We were there for 3 nights and I truly wish we were there for longer. Of all the places we went to in Canada, I definitely hold this place fondly in my heart. We went to some stunning places and I seriously cannot wait to show you the other awesome experiences we had (Whistler, Banff, Lake Louise etc) but if you want somewhere that has the best of everything and literally transports you to a totally serene environment then Victoria is the place to go. There is so much variety, with fabulous parks, great restaurants and a lovely shopping scene and it’s so easy to see why this is home for so many people. The other thing I will quickly mention is just how giving and wonderful the people are in Victoria. Absolutely everyone I met was kind, welcoming, warm and genuinely interested in you and your stories. I’ll never forget how generous people are there.