If you’re spending a week in Seattle, or even a long weekend like I did, you should spend a day in Victoria, B.C. This beautiful Canadian city is a just ferry ride away from Seattle and small enough to squeeze in a lot sights in a short period of time. Plus, why not visit another country?
Take a Day Trip to Victoria from Seattle
Living in Texas, we take any chance we get to visit several places on a vacation because it takes so long to get anywhere in this huge state. So when we visited Seattle in 2013, before I started law school, I added a day trip to Victoria to our itinerary. My only mistake in planning was thinking everything was in walking distance…Technically it was since we got everywhere by foot, but it was a little more walking than we would have liked.
Here is everything we did in Victoria to help you plan your own day trip! Starting with the Ferry Ride.
(1) Ferry from Seattle to Victoria
The Ferry Ride is approx. 3 hours long so we also packed some snacks to save money. (I brought nuts which was a bad choice because you can’t bring them into Canada).
There’s only so many departure times from Victoria back to Seattle so plan your stay accordingly. We had to be back to the ferry by 7 pm. That meant we either had to eat a very early or very late dinner (we ended up doing the latter).
The terminal in Victoria is conveniently located down the street from the British Columbia Legislature, Empress Hotel, and the Royal BC Museum. That’s where your day of touring can begin!
(2) British Columbia Parliament
Address: 501 Belleville Street, Victoria, BC Canada V8V 1X4
Hours: Monday to Friday; 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Free Public Tours are available: click here for more information.
Duration: 30 – 45 mins.
The Legislature sits on 12 1/2 acres and has served as a site of government in British Columbia since 1864. “The original structures, known as the Birdcages, were built to house the elected assembly for the Colony of Vancouver Island and continued to be used by the Legislative Assembly after British Columbia became a Province of Canada in 1871. The current Parliament Buildings, designed by the architect Francis Rattenbury, were officially opened on February 10, 1898.” – Legislative Assembly Website.
We did not take a tour of the Legislature. At the time, arranging a tour was more complicated than it is today. Instead, we walked around the park in front and took some pictures of the beautiful architecture. For more information about visiting the Parliament building, click here.
You can also dine at the Legislature Dining Room. Click here for hours, which depend on when the Legislature is in Session.
Another website to use in your planning is the Tourism Victoria website. Click here for information on visiting the Parliament Building.
(3) The Fairmont Empress Hotel
Address: 721 Government Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 1W5
The Empress Hotel opened its doors in 1908. It is a 4 Star hotel with world famous tea. Feeling luxurious? Stop in at the Hotel!
Enjoy a cup of tea at the Empress Hotel. The hotel has been serving tea to royalty and celebrities since 1908. You can be one, too. You’ll need to make reservations and dress appropriately (“sophisticated, smart casual”).
Casual dining at the Empress is also an option. If I had known about the Q at the Empress, we probably would have eaten here for lunch. Dress code is the same as for tea, and you can make reservations online.
I’m more of a coffee person so we skipped tea time. Plus, I think we were under-dressed. Instead, we started our walk to the Craigdarroch Castle, which was a much farther walk than originally thought.
(4) Craigdarroch Castle
Address: 1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, BC V8S 3L5
Hours: Summer Months – Daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm; Winter months – Daily from 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Admission Fee: $14.25 / adult (purchase tickets on site)
Craigdarroch Castle was the home of a wealthy coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir. The home was built 1887 and 1890. This quintessential Victorian home was meant to show Dunsmuir’s status to the world. Sadly, he never got to live in it. He died in 1889. His wife lived here with their daughters for 18 years. She had tumultuous relationships with her sons. To learn about the family before taking a tour, check out the website.
The home includes interesting architecture, artifacts, and great views of the city (which were probably even better in 1900). I’m a history buff, so touring the Castle was worth the visit for me. Note: If you are wearing a backpack, you’ll be asked to wear it in front. You’re less likely to knock things with it this way.
Although only a 30 minute walk from the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the walk was mostly uphill and a little tiresome (living in South Texas meant we weren’t used to it…and were still a little tired from our Mt. Rainier hike the day before). If its too far of a walk for you, consider other modes of transportation.
(5) The Government House and Gardens
On our walk back towards the marina, we stumbled upon the Government House, only 5 minutes from the Craigdarroch Castle.
If you plan your visit to Victoria ahead of time, you can schedule your stay to align with the available tour dates for the interior of the house. They only provide tours one Saturday a month. The website announces the upcoming tour dates. Only 100 guests are allowed on each tour. Since we stumbled upon the house we didn’t know about the tours. Instead we walked the gardens.
If you missed out on tea at the Empress, you can enjoy a cup at the Cary Mews Tea Room, located in the Butterworth Cottage.
Realizing we had more time to kill before our ferry ride, we headed towards the Harbor and the Market Square.
(6) Market Square
Location: Johnston St. to Pandora Ave.
Market Square is a group of buildings located between Johnson St and Pandora Ave. Its also a few minutes from the wharf and Chinatown. There’s several boutiques and restaurants located at the square. Its a beautiful and lively part of Downtown. Check out the Market Square website for a list of shops and restaurants. Walk down Johnson Street for a snack at Wannawafel.
Towards the harbour, you’ll see murals and statues. The Homecoming Statue captures the moment when a sailor comes home to his family.
(7) Butchart Gardens
Location: 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8 – Vancouver Island
Hours: Vary depending on time of year, click here for information
Entrance Fee: $21 – $35 / adult depending on the season, click here for rates
If you’re staying longer in Victoria, check out the famous Butchart Gardens. It’s located on Vancouver Island, so it may not be an option for a Day Trip. Check out the website to see if its something you’d like to extend your trip to see.
The Butchart Gardens is comprised of a Sunken Garden, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, a concrete garden, and a rose garden. To familiarize yourself with the layout before your visit you can look at the Garden’s interactive map.