We live in Victoria. Recently, we were watching all of these tourists pouring out into the streets of downtown and thought – we should do a staycation! So on a sunny weekend in July we set out to see things we don’t normally see.
We paused on our walk downtown by the Inner Harbour and caught the weekend water ballet performed by the little ferries. There are buskers along the walkway and local artisans selling art, jewelry and offering to make caricature drawings of you and your family for a fee.
Our goal was to see some of Victoria’s most iconic spots on a sunny summer weekend. First on our list was Fisherman’s Wharf. There are seals that swim along the docks waiting for the many tourists that can buy bait from a local shop and feed them. Watching the seals surface from the water was a highlight. We are also a little obsessed with orca whales at our house, and the whale watching companies that line the dock there have very interesting displays of sea life including an orca sculpture jutting from a wall. There is a playground in Fisherman’s Wharf Park, which has some great playground equipment for slightly older kids. For crawling babies and burgeoning toddlers there is also a great green space to roam.
Walking: We walked from the Inner Harbour all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. For most the walk you can stay on a walkway by the water. Close the wharf there is a wide, wooden path called David Foster Way. It was nice to let our son wander without worry that he’d stray into traffic.
Parks & Playgrounds: Beacon Hill Park has two and we went to both. The first is right on Cook Street. It’s got lots of options for toddlers up to slightly older kids who like a zipline or climbing. The other is in the park itself. It’s better suited to a younger child – new walkers and small children. You can really spend a whole day at the park looking at ducks, ponds, putting green and of course the petting zoo (by donation).
For breakfast we have two favourite spots. A traditional breakfast at Bubby’s Kitchen on Cook Street is always great. The meals are big and we always share. It’s also a short walk to Beacon Hill Park where you can roam before things start opening if you’re early risers like us. For a more European style light start, we go to Fol Epi Bakery and Caffé Fantastico on Harbour Road. Going there is like stepping onto the continent for a minute. The view from the café of the gorge waterway is breathtaking. The café even has a box of books and two stuffed mammoths for kids to play with; they will also make a teeny steamed milk for your child if he/she is interested.
There are a number of food options around Fisherman’s Wharf. However, we preferred a walk back in toward town. Santiago’s Cafe is one of the first good restaurants that are kid-friendly on the way back from Fisherman’s Wharf. On our second day we stopped at Pagliacci’s, one of Victoria’s best Italian restaurants. It’s snug and meant to feel like you’re in a crowded New York restaurant. There is no room for a stroller, but they have a great kids menu and you get one free Shirley Temple. (Both would be great for dinner.)
We stayed at our home, but I would recommend the Delta Ocean Pointe in Vic West to any family. It has the most beautiful view of the Inner Harbour, is completely walkable into downtown or you can take a Harbour Ferry from the dock in front of the hotel. We have often visited the hotel lobby in winter to escape our condo and give our son a little room to explore. There is a staircase that leads to two windows overlooking the water that he loves to climb and play in the alcove. The lobby is open with lots of seating and he can roam without disturbing other guests. There is also a pool and tennis court.
Victoria is on the south part of Vancouver Island. In order to get here you need to either take a BC Ferry (the most common option) – you can drive your car on and cross. Alternatives include the Clipper ferry if you’re coming from Seattle and don’t need or have a car, the Coho ferry from Port Angeles (drive on) or any number of airplane options, including seaplanes that land right downtown Victoria.
The best part of Victoria is that it’s incredibly walkable. You can roam with any version of stroller you might have, or simply pack your little one into your carrier. Although my son is old enough to do some walking, we always have the stroller with us. Parking downtown can be a bit frustrating at times, although there is now an app so you can pay for your street parking on the move. There are a number of city-run parkades that are clean, safe and relatively affordable if you’re going into the downtown core and need to park.
Every three years there is a major hot rod car show in Victoria. We happened on it this year. The cars were everywhere downtown and along the path we were walking. Next one will be 2019.
Walking along the boardwalk back into town was a lot of fun. It’s such a beautiful little city and it felt good for all of us to be moving our bodies. My son became obsessed with trying a dance move and we watched as he’d stop, try and then run ahead again.
The weather changes multiple times a day. Always pack layers and keep a warmer layer with you, even if it looks like the day is going to be hot. With the ocean breeze, you never know when it’s going to get chilly.