I was told several times “it never snows in Victoria, even in December you won’t need snow boots” so I wore my converse for the entire weekend and ended up with very wet, cold, SNOWY feet! But the weekend was worth every minorly frost bitten toe:
When I first arrived in Canada I didn’t really understand the huge distances that the country covers. When I heard about Vancouver Island I assumed it was maybe a 10 minute ferry ride from Vancouver city, but I soon discovered that 10 minutes was more like 90… It was still high on my list of places to visit though and when I found myself with a few spare days in December I hopped on the Sky Train, two buses, a ferry, another bus and finally arrived in Victoria.
The ferry runs from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, which is about an hour on the bus or a 40 minute drive from the centre of Vancouver to Swartz Bay, on Vancouver Island (again about an hour on the bus into the centre of Victoria). At only $17 it’s also the cheapest way to go whale watching, although I was sadly unlucky on both of my trips. Even without whales though the views from the boat are stunning, it’s an enjoyable 90 minutes.
I stayed in Ocean Island Inn Backpackers, a centrally located hostel directly across from a bus stop that services the ferry port. This hostel served free breakfast and FREE (vegetarian!) DINNER which is a first for me. They also run social events to get to know other guests and I won $3 in the quiz night.
British Columbia Parliament Buildings:
Due to its historically strategic position, Victoria is actually the capital city of the province of British Columbia, making its parliament buildings one of the main tourist attractions of the city. The buildings are open to the public and one of the first things I did in Victoria was take a free guided tour of them. Actually I did two tours because I missed the beginning of the first one and was too polite to leave in the middle of the second…
Directly next door to the parliament buildings is the Royal BC Museum, where I spent several hours on my first full day in the city. A one day ticket is $17 and I’d say I got my money’s worth spending an entire morning there. As with most provincial museums there are sections for natural history, culture, local history (inc. a reconstructed ancient Victoria street) and art.
One of the top things to do in Victoria is visit the Butchart Gardens, which are about an hours bus ride out of the central city. The fact that the gardens are accessible by public bus is always a major plus for us travellers without cars and a bargain at $2 each way.
I was worried about visiting the gardens in the middle of December, but there is actually a specific winter Christmas display for the whole of December and as if I needed more incentive there was also an ice rink!
However, the gardens were COLD… Probably the coldest I’ve ever been (due mostly to the aforementioned wet, snowy converse). Because of this though I has the gardens (and the millions and millions of Christmas lights) almost to myself and when I paid for my skate rental at 6pm I essentially has my own personal ice rink. The hour I spent salting quickly became one of my favourite memories of my Victoria trip.