Another legacy of the persistent expansion of the fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Victoria, as an island town, was left out of the railroad boom and subsequently missed any accompanying growth spurt or economic stimulation. This left British Columbia’s capital with a manageable, metropolitan size of under 400,000 people, and a laid-back, genteel air, cultivated to maintain its identity and bring in visitors after the loss of economic prominence. Visitors will find that Victoria’s efforts succeeded, creating an elegant, stately Pacific Coast town with a calm and a cool borrowed from the sea breeze.
Accessible by ferry from Vancouver and a few different points in Washington state, Vancouver Island, with Victoria at the southern tip, offers an incredible bounty of heavenly natural scenes. Majestic firs hem close to winding roads, with tree-topped mountains taking up the background. The coast is lined with cliffs and caves, and mist suffuses the seaside hamlets and tree-covered hilltops. The sizeable island is home to several large, protected nature parks, and it will almost certainly take more than one trip to explore the whole thing.
A temperate Pacific Northwest climate means the temperature is rarely below freezing or above mildly warm. This tendency toward mild weather means the area has even allowed for the growth of some palm trees. Beaches, sailing tours, ferries to islands off of Washington state, and the whole interior of Vancouver Island offer beautiful options for adventure and relaxation in a climate that’s friendly in more ways than one.
Victoria itself offers the best of luxury in an atmosphere that recalls old imperial England. Younger residents drawn by the relaxed pace and well-regarded educational institutions are helping to spur newer, hipper development and more cutting-edge attractions in dining and culture. An abundance of high-end accommodations, representing a tradition stretching back to Victoria’s tourism drive in the late 19th and early 20th century, ensure visitors won’t be left in stale or generic lodgings. During that era, the wealth of industry and its leading lights built architectural gems like Craigdarroch Castle, the stately Empress Hotel, and Hatley Castle at the Hatley Park National Historic Site. Long known as a little slice of England transplanted to North America, Victoria offers loads of historical spectacle, with tearooms, antique shops, and elegant gardens completing the picture. If that sounds a little boring, the youthful vibrancy and grand, purely North American magnificence of the Pacific shoreline help add a refreshing, contemporary zest to the atmosphere.
Culturally, Victoria packs a punch. The Royal BC Museum offers a multimedia kaleidoscope of provincial natural history and that of the First Nations who have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The lovely buildings of the provincial parliament are open to visitors and include lively and informative tours. The Robert Batemen Centre features a collection of the well-regarded painter and environmentalist. Several mansions and “castles” built for wealthy residents offer tours explaining the historical significance of the structures and their original owners.
Vine Vera Victoria offers the best in skincare at the Mayfair Shopping Centre, a modest Victoria-area mall with over 100 stores.