The must-see Victoria tourist attractions include national historic sites, majestic estates, magnificent architecture and of course meticulously manicured gardens. If you have 2-3 days to spend in the area, you’ll want to experience every one of these Victoria tourist attractions to get a full west coast feel. And the best part is, many of them are free! If you have less time, pick the ones that appeal to you most. I intentionally haven’t numbered these because I don’t believe there is a “number one” tourist attraction. So much of it is personal preference. And you simply can not go wrong with any of these choices.
The Gardens have been amazing visitors for over 100 years. Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2004 and welcoming nearly one million guests annually, Butchart Gardens is a gem we are very proud of and one of the most popular Victoria tourist attractions. Read more.
Esquimalt Lagoon is my absolute favourite place to feed my soul. It is a place for a peaceful ocean-side walk, a place to observe and photograph the migratory birds in the sanctuary or enjoy the incredible Bark Birds beach art. A visit here and you will understand why so many of us arrived on this island and never want to leave! Read more.
The Royal BC Museum was founded in 1886 and is home to some of the finest archives and artifacts in Canada. With permanent galleries and travelling exhibits, there is always something interesting to see at the museum. Be sure to explore Helmcken House and Thunderbird Park located on the surrounding grounds.
If you enjoy history and beautiful architecture then you will want to take advantage of a free 45-minute tour of the BC Parliament Buildings. Conclude your tour with a relaxed dining experience in the building’s lower level Parliamentary Dining Room. The public hours vary depending on the schedule of the Legislative Assembly. Check their hours here. Lunch is not included in the free tour.
Located very close to Butchart Gardens and approximately 30 minutes from the Inner Harbour, Victoria Butterfly Gardens provide guests with a unique jungle experience. Experience the magic of thousands of tropical butterflies flying freely throughout the facility. See flamingos, tortoises, birds, iguanas and more. A thrill for family members of all ages.
The public is welcome to stroll through the lobby of the magnificent Empress Hotel Victoria, which was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981. There is no charge to explore the lobby and enjoy the splendid architecture from another time. Or visit this popular Victoria tourist attraction for boutique shops and the quintessentially Victoria experience of Tea at the Empress.
Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor, currently The Honourable Janet Austin. The home is normally open for tours however early in 2020, Government House will be undergoing refurbishments that will result in periodic closures. Be sure to check their website before you go. The gardens on the property are open every day from dawn until dusk for self-guided tours.
The Emily Carr House and Gardens were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1964 for the significance the home played in shaping the life of Group of Seven artist/writer Emily Carr. Emily’s art and books were inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest, as well as the abundant natural surroundings of her childhood home in the Victoria neighbourhood of James Bay.
Victoria’s Chinatown is small but mighty. At just a couple blocks in size, you may think you’re not missing much if you avoid this Victoria tourist attraction, but I think you’ll be disappointed if you don’t go. Step through The Gates of Harmonious Interest at Government and Fisgard Streets and be transported to a world where the sights and smells of another world will tantalize all your senses. Be sure to treat yourself to a stroll down Canada’s narrowest street – Fan Tan Alley. Read more.
Another one of our local National Historic Sites is Fort Rodd Hill, a 19th century coastal artillery fort that was designated in 1956. A visit here will find you touring through secret bunkers, guardhouses, barracks and more. Also located on the site is the oldest lighthouse on the Canadian west coast - Fisgard Lighthouse – and it is still in operation! 2 for 1 Victoria tourist attractions!
Everybody’s favourite park located just minutes away from the Inner Harbour (and also convenient to the cruise ship terminal). With so many things to explore – including the always popular Children’s Petting Zoo – Beacon Hill Park is the perfect oasis in the city. Read more.
Do I sound like a broken record if I tell you that Craigdarroch Castle is also a National Historic Site of Canada? If you haven’t realized it yet, Greater Victoria contains several significant locations that have been well preserved for guests to enjoy. Craigdarroch castle was built as a private home in the 1890’s and is now open to the public year-round to explore as a self-guided tour.
You guessed it – another Historic Site of Canada designated in 1995. Hatley Park is located on the Pacific Ocean overlooking Esquimalt Lagoon and a migratory bird sanctuary. The 230-hectare property is home to 15km of walking trails through old-growth forest and gorgeous Japanese, Italian and Rose formal gardens that are open to the public to explore at no cost. The majestic Hatley Castle is at the centre of the property and guided tours are provided at a fee.
The Inner Harbour is considered the causeway and Ships Point areas of downtown Victoria. Sit back on a bench with a snack (try Red Fish Blue Fish for awesome fish and chips) and take in the sights and sounds of one of the world’s busiest and most beautiful harbours. From kayakers to ferries to seaplanes and more, there is always so much to see. And on summer weekends, the area is even busier with festivals and events. Read more.
Have you heard about the colourful, floating homes in Victoria’s Harbour? This is fisherman’s wharf, a unique marine destination located along the David Foster Waterfront Walkway. The floating wharf is home to live-aboard float homes, working fishing vessels, eco-tour adventures and commercial businesses. And of course, the curious seals!
Towering old growth trees, a stream filled with over 30,000 returning salmon in the fall and an estuary where hundreds of bald eagles dine on the remnants in the winter makes Goldstream Provincial Park the ultimate nature lover’s destination. Read more.
For a discount on your admission to some of the region’s heritage, arts and culture locations, consider purchasing a Pass It Around pass. Available online and at the Destination Greater Victoria Visitor Centre in the Inner Harbour.
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