Truth be told, I haven’t visited Victoria for a while. Yes, it is only a short ferry ride away from my hometown of Vancouver, however the garden city’s reputation as a lovely spot to retire in or a great place to share afternoon tea with your granny has had me heading to “cooler” weekend getaways.
This spring, I decided to challenge my preconceptions and return to BC’s capital city in search of fun things to do in Victoria. I enlisted the help of a few locals who could steer me off the beaten path and into the company of in-the-know locals.
Brunch Game On Point
First things first, Victorians like to brunch. The city is strewn with brunch spots and locals often arrive early and line up for a table at their favourite location. Jam Cafe is one such place. Located on the edge of Chinatown, the restaurant serves up generous plates of comfort food to fuel your day. I paired my chicken and waffles with a mimosa — there is no shame in my brunching game. Argyle Attic is another spot beloved by locals. Its charming Canadiana decor and menu will have you coming back for more.
No morning would be complete without coffee, and Victoria has some exceptional cafés! A few of the choice spots I found included Habit, Discovery Coffee and The Parsonage Cafe.
Shopping Local in Victoria
The best thing about shopping in Victoria is wandering down historic streets and popping in and out of beautiful little local stores. Two of the best areas for shopping are Lower Johnson street (also known as LOJO) and Fort Street.
LOJO has something for everyone. Don’t miss Still Life and its separate men’s and women’s boutiques. Lore General Store is a lifestyle shop celebrating local and independent homeware and gifts. Oxford has a beautiful selection of locally made clothing and leather goods. Little Gold is a shop you likely shouldn’t be left alone in—I wanted to buy all the jewelry. They have a great selection of independent and emerging designers at various price points.
Fort Street is for those who take food seriously, with a little shopping on the side. I particularly loved the corner where Fort and Blahshard meet; it’s a fun intersection with a modern vibe. Folk has a beautifully curated collection of minimalist clothing, jewelry and shoes. Discovery Coffee’s downtown location has a gorgeous interior and spacious patio. Partea is a must for the adventurous tea drinker; try one of their traditional Chinese teas topped with a whipped cream cheese foam! If a cocktail is a little more your speed, The Livet is a beautiful upstairs venue to enjoy a beverage in the fading light.
Take a Walk on the Seaside
In a city that boasts an average of 2,109 hours of sunshine per year (that’s a lot of sunshine!); you can bet that the locals have figured out the best ways to enjoy it.
In late 2017, Victoria introduced a new bike share program, U-bicycle. Grab one of their bright green bikes and take a scenic ride along the waterfront. Stop by Breakwater Café, it’s a little touristy but still worth taking a break for a coffee and wandering along the breakwater. Continue along Dallas road, where the waterfront views are gorgeous. Insider tip: get off the busy upper trail and head to the beach to feel the sand in your toes.
Eat and Drink like a Local in Victoria
While downtown still is the hub for food and drinks, I did venture over to Pizzeria Prima Strada on Cook street for some of the most delicious pizza in the city. Sit at the bar, order a glass of wine and watch as the chef hand-stretches the dough.
10 Acres is a true farm-to-table experience, with three dining options. Much of what is served in the restaurant comes from their farm just 25 km away and everything from their restaurants are composted and returned to their farm. Try the burger at The Commons and the signature rotisserie chicken at the The Bistro. For their self-described “slightly finer dining”, head over to The Kitchen.
Part and Parcel is another lovely option favored by locals. They focus on local ingredients and the menu changes often.
The island is known for its breweries but it can be hard to get out into the surrounding area to visit them all. The Churchill is a one-stop-shop with over 50 of the Pacific Northwest’s finest beers on tap. An evening here will give you a good taste of what the region has to offer.
If you are looking for a lively spot for a cocktail, Clarke & Co is where it’s at. For something more down-tempo, the bartenders at Clive’s know their way around a Gin cocktail. I highly recommend trying something featuring Sheringham Seaside Gin.
Victoria has modernized so much since I’ve been here… I promise not to wait so long to come back again!
Top image: Lone Tree Hill