27 Fabulous and Free Things To Do in Victoria BC

Want to do Victoria on a budget? Explore our list of 27 free things to do in Victoria BC:

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1. Grounds and Gardens at Hatley Park

Explore the 565 oceanfront acres at Hatley Park where you will discover the Japanese, Italian and Rose Gardens. At the centre of the magnificent property sits Hatley Castle which is open for guided tours however they are not included in the free garden tour. Check their website for up-to-date information.  

2. Guided Tour of British Columbia Parliament Buildings

You don’t have to be a historian to enjoy this 45-minute guided tour of the majestic BC Parliament Buildings. Afterwards, head to the lower level Legislative Dining Room for casual breakfast or lunch prepared by an award-winning chef (not included in the free tour).  Hours are based on the schedule of the Legislative Assembly.   

3. See Cherry Blossoms

If you’re here in the spring then you will have the opportunity to witness one of the most amazing sights when thousands of cherry blossoms, plum blossoms and magnolia trees are in full bloom. Keep reading to find the best places to see them. 

4. Esquimalt Lagoon

With the beauty of the bird sanctuary on one side and the ocean marine traffic sailing by on the other, the Esquimalt Lagoon has always been a magical place to clear your mind and feed your soul. Add local artist Paul Lewis’ evolving collection of Bark Birds, and you have even more reasons to visit. This is one of my all-time favourite free things to do in Victoria BC.

5. Island Farms Victoria Day Parade

If you’re in town over the Victoria Day Weekend (in May) then your timing is perfect to take in the Island Farms Victoria Day Parade. One of the largest and longest running parades in the Pacific Northwest, this parade attracts floats, marching bands and visitors from across Western Canada and the United States. 

6. Mount Tolmie and Mount Douglas

For 365 degree views of the city and peninsula, you can’t beat either of these two options. Mount Tolmie is perfect for those who want to drive to the top while Mount Doug (as it is more commonly called) requires a short hike from the upper parking lot to reach the summit. You will not be disappointed by the views from either of these spots! Both are favourite free things to do in Victoria BC for locals and visitors alike.

7. Fairmont Empress Hotel

If you enjoy history and architecture – particularly intricate Edwardian millwork - then a stroll through the Empress Hotel lobby is a must. Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981, the Empress is also considered one of the world’s most iconic hotels. 

8. Government House

This is where the Lieutenant Governor lives and works. It is also where prominent politicians and royalty typically stay when in Victoria. The house is generally open for tours however all indoor tours are currently paused. Check their website for up-to-date tour information. If you don't have time to visit Butchart Gardens, then a stroll through the well-manicured gardens of Government House is one of the favourite things to do in Victoria BC for visitors and locals alike.  

9. Chinatown

Victoria’s Chinatown is small but mighty and you could literally spend hours exploring all the interesting shops and sampling some of the food. A must visit is Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada and while you’re there, treat yourself to a unique gift from one of over 20 stores that line the narrow road. 

10. Inner Harbour/Ships Point

If ever a space can be calm yet chaotic at the same time, it has got to be Victoria’s Inner Harbour and Ships Point. Spend just a brief time at the harbour and you may see international ferries, seaplanes, kayakers, whale watchers, harbour cruises, water taxis, tug boats and personal yachts all coming and going with the harbour police conducting the marine traffic like a grandiose symphony orchestra. It is beautiful to watch and one of the most iconic things to do in Victoria BC.

11. Fisherman's Wharf

Visiting Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the coolest things to do in Victoria BC because of all the funk they have managed to pack into a relatively small space. You’ll stroll past incredibly colourful and eclectic floating homes, each distinctly decorated by their live-aboard owners. There is unique gift shopping, food kiosks serving up tantalizing meals and eco-tourism shops welcoming you onboard. Further down the docks are working fishing boats where you can buy fresh seafood right off the boat. Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-see gem in Victoria. 

12. Goldstream Provincial Park

Any time of year if the right time to visit Goldstream Provincial Park. About a 30-minute driving distance from downtown Victoria, Goldstream is a perfect destination for a walk through old-growth rainforest or a hike up Mount Finlayson for the more adventurous. Bring some firewood and enjoy a fire at one of the parks pits for the ultimate back-to-nature experience. 

13. Salmon Run

You can visit Goldstream throughout the year for all the reasons above, but if you happen to be here between mid-October and early December, then you simply must visit to watch the natural phenomenon of the annual salmon run where over a period of approximately 6 weeks, about 30,000 salmon will return to their place of birth to spawn and die. This is one of the most popular things to do in Victoria BC for school-aged kids at this time of year so it can be very busy in the park with classes during the week and families on weekends.

14. Eagle Extravaganza

Did you miss the salmon run? Don’t worry, mother nature isn’t done yet. Visit Goldstream Park in December or January to witness eagles feasting on the salmon carcasses. The park has closed the estuary to the public and this has resulted in many eagles coming to the area to feast – over 250 in a single day! 

15. Thunderbird Park

Located on the grounds of the Royal BC Museum, across from the Inner Harbour, Thunderbird Park is home to several hand-carved totem poles from the museum’s collection. Seeing all these free-standing totem poles in one place is another example of some of the pretty cool, free things to do in Victoria BC. 

16. Breakwater District at Ogden Point

The breakwater is a large, concrete structure that juts out approximately 0.8 km into the sea and is home to the Breakwater Lighthouse at the end. It is an incredibly picturesque walk that is very popular for locals and tourists alike. Due to the wind and waves, it is not recommended to walk it in times of inclement weather. The Breakwater District is also home to the cruise ship terminal which is extremely busy from April through October with up to 3 ships docked on any given day. 

17. Self Guided Walking Tours

Architecture of James Bay
Architecture of James Bay
Architecture of James Bay
Architecture of James Bay

Architectural features of homes in James Bay

The Victoria Heritage Foundation have created several neighbourhood walking tours, focusing on the history and architecture of each district. Two of those in the downtown area are The James Bay Heritage Walking Tour #1 Emily Carr Walk and #2 Ogden Point-Inner Harbour. Download the brochures at the links above or pick up paper brochures at the Visitor Centre. Follow along throughout the very walkable James Bay neighbourhood. You’ll be amazed at what you discover. 

18. Cadboro-Gyro Park

Named one of the 11 most unique playgrounds in the world by Fodor’s Travel Guide, Cadboro-Gyro Park is a destination all by itself. Located on the eastern coast of the island at Cadboro Bay, the park is home to massive cement structures for kids to play on, an accessible play area, zipline and more. Come see what makes it so special.

19. Scenic Marine Route

If you’ve got access to a vehicle and want to get out of town for a few hours, driving the Pacific Marine Circle Route might be just the thing for you. The entire drive is just under 300 km and will take you from one side of our island to the other and back along the south coast. This is one of those road trips you will not forget!

20. Outdoor Movies

Bring the lawn chair or grab a blanket and enjoy a good old-fashioned outdoor movie experience. We hope to publish a complete listing of 2022 movies in late spring. Locations that have participated in the past include Cameron Bandshell at Beacon Hill Park, Bullen Park in Esquimalt, Millstream Village and Westshore Parks and Recreation. 

21. Victoria Public Market

The Victoria Public Market is a year-round indoor market, located in the historic Hudson Building. Drop by to meet the local vendors and take home a taste of Victoria. 

22. Farmers Markets

In addition to the indoor market downtown, Greater Victoria boasts several outdoor farmers markets throughout the summer months (some with live entertainment) and a couple that move to indoor locations in the winter. Here you will find numerous vendors who employ the grow, make or bake philosophy meaning that many of the offerings are either grown by the farmer, made by the artisan or baked by the baker. Our markets regularly win awards and we’re happy to show you why on your next visit. 

23. Music in the Park

Memorial Park in Esquimalt is the place to be on Tuesday evenings from mid June until the end of July for the free Memorial Park Music Fest. Expect to be entertained by live music and find local food vendors with a variety of multicultural snacks and beverages for purchase. 

24. Buccaneer Days

Buccaneer Days is a highly anticipated festival that takes place in early May at Bullen Park in Esquimalt. Unlike many small fairs, there is no gate charge making this another one of those terrific free things to do in Victoria BC with your family. 

25. Beacon Hill Park

Located just minutes from the Inner Harbour and with over 200 acres of parkland, manicured gardens, play structures and sporting fields, there truly is something for everyone at Beacon Hill Park. Two highlights though are the free-roaming peacocks and the children’s petting zoo (admission by donation to the zoo). 

26. Esquimalt Adventure Park

The Esquimalt Adventure Park is one of the newest children’s parks in the region and it is attracting a lot of attention for the quality and variety of structures for kids to play on. Add to that the spectacular splash pad and you’ve got a recipe for fun and free things to do in Victoria BC. The park is located beside the Esquimalt Rec Centre and is open year-round with the splash pad being operational May through September, weather permitting. 

27. Pilot Street Gnomes Homes

Gnome Homes on Pilot Street in Victoria
Gnome Homes on Pilot Street in Victoria
Gnome Homes on Pilot Street in Victoria
Gnome Homes on Pilot Street in Victoria

Gnome Homes on Pilot Street in Victoria

Across from the Breakwater District in James Bay is a very short street packed with enormous fun. Along the boulevard the property owners have created amazing little vignettes featuring fairy doors and gnome homes. It will only take a short time to stroll this street and you are guaranteed to smile the entire time. 

I hope you enjoy these fabulous and free things to do in Victoria BC. 

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