victoria british columbia, my top 5 highlights!
Call me ignorant, but previous to my USA/Canada trip I had not heard of a place called British Columbia. Let alone that there was a Victoria there. Victoria BC is a small island off Vancouver, reached by a short ferry ride across. I’m so glad that I was able to travel to Victoria and experience the beauty and history of this Canadian island. The scenery is absolutely stunning. I was there in Winter – snow capped mountains and overcast skies lent a quietness to the surrounds outside of the city, out in the beautiful country. I can imagine in the warmer months it would be just as enchanting too.
Though we (my mum, aunty and cousin) were not there long we were able to cram in seeing quite a bit of Victoria BC. Below is a list of my 5 top highlights on the island!
1. Lighthouses – Breakwater and Fisgard
Jutting out of James Bay there is a winding 800m length walkway called the Breakwater. And all the way at the end is the Breakwater Lighthouse. It’s a great walk to do at a slower pace so you can enjoy the stunning scenery. The snow capped mountains in winter, the light glinting off the water and of course the lighthouse! You’ll also see the comings and goings of the bay’s ferries, ships and sea planes.
If you are there in the cooler months rug up because it will be very windy and cold. And you may get splashed! The water gets whipped up against the side of the entrance to the walkway so watch out! There’s a little cafe there to enjoy a few drinks too whatever the weather.
This lighthouse is situated on an historic naval base, Fort Rodd Hill, which was built to protect Victoria and Esquimalt in the 1890’s. I absolutely recommend visiting this historic site. Apart from the lighthouse there are many remnants leftover from the areas battle days – barracks, old buildings, a giant cannon shooter gun thing (haha I don’t know what it’s called exactly!) The grounds are so beautiful and there’s so much to see and explore that you could easily dedicate a least half a day there.
The Breakwater lighthouse on an overcast day. It was positively freezing but worth the walk down the breakwater.
The Fisgard lighthouse at the Fort Rodd Hill. I didn’t take my proper camera this day #regrets so had to use my phone.
2. Mr Tubbs Ice Cream Parlour
Our Canadian hosts insisted that this ice cream parlour was a must do on our Victoria BC tour. And they were right! At Mr Tubbs there are 48 flavours of homemade ice cream to choose from. With names like Shark Bite and Tiger Stripes and classics such as peanut butter, chocolate, berry, caramel and vanilla bean it’s really hard to choose! The ice cream is so delicious and creamy, exactly as ice cream should be. Maybe make Mr Tubbs a place you visit multiple times (to sample all the flavours of course!)
The store is also decked out like a 90’s arcade complete with pinball machines and token games. Mr Tubbs is a gem in Victoria BC and should definitely be on your list to visit whilst there.
3. Bulk Barn
Let me just talk about the amazingness that is Bulk Barn. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of every type of kitchen cooking staple, candy, chocolate, dried fruit, nuts and grains one could possibly think of – all in one place! Needless to say I was pleasantly overwhelmed upon entering one of these amazing stores. Anyone that knows me knows that I love experimenting with different foods and ingredients so seeing at least 30 different types of flour for sale was really exciting to me. Yes, that excites me! Which is why Bulk Barn is on my list of highlights.
It’s actually a good place to go to pick up snacks for throughout the day. Making up a custom trail mix would be fun and delicious. And there’s a ton of cracker options too!
Vanilla Bean and Peanut Butter Choc at Mr Tubbs – classic flavours and oh so delicious!
4. Castles – Hatley and Craigdarroch
If you’re an X-Men fan (or even if you’re not!) this next location you’ll find interesting. Hatley Castle is one of Victoria BC’s national historic sites being the house that prominent family, The Dusnmuirs, built and then resided in for a time. The ‘castle’ is truly spectacular, nestled in beautiful green parklands, surrounded by pretty trees and gardens. It’s easy to see why this castle has been the backdrop for more than just X-Men movies. Here’s a list of movies filmed here if you’re interested.
Under the house is the castle museum where its history is laid out. There are lots of items and paraphernalia on display from the castles time as the Dunsmuirs home, as the dormitory and mess hall for cadets and staff officers at Royal Roads Military College and now its use as a top filming location.
Another of the Dunsmuir family homes, Craigdarroch Castle. Craigdarroch is again, absolutely amazing; there is so much fascinating history packed into its walls. Visitors are permitted to walk through this house and see all the rooms, furniture, etc that the Dunsmuir family and their friends owned and used. There’s a staircase in the house that winds all the way to the top of a turret like room. It’s small but from there you can look out on a beautiful landscape. As I looked out I imagined I was a character in an Austen novel. But then I’m a romantic history nerd at heart!
Each castle is beautiful and absolutely worth visiting. Especially if you love history and appreciate the romanticism of such buildings.
*So sorry but I don’t have any photos of Craigdarroch castle because I was actually sick the day we went and taking photos wasn’t really on my mind! Sorry 🙁 🙁 *
Didn’t take my camera again (!!) but just look at the beauty that is Hatley Castle. I’d live here!
Having my very own princess moment.
5. Royal BC Museum
Once again if you love history you must visit the Royal BC Museum! This museum has an intimate history on display of Victoria’s and Canada’s first people, early settlers and pioneers, which is utterly fascinating. There are life sized (and some original) totem poles, relics, clothes and weapons from the earliest time on the island. I found the culture of the first people, their customs, their everyday lives so interesting. Not only them, but the people who followed, who ‘settled’ the island and made it what it is today.
There is so much in this museum to look at definitely dedicate a good portion of your day to explore. You won’t be disappointed!
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The best highlight of the Victoria BC leg of our trip was by far, getting to meet our ‘Canadian family’. These people welcomed us into their home and went out of their way to make our stay the best it could be. They spoiled us with cupcakes and drove us wherever we wanted to go. And introduced us to some ‘Canadian only’ customs, language and food – tooks, toonies, butter tarts and poutine, to name a few!
Many tears were shed when it came time to say goodbye to these wonderful people. Don’t forget you promised to come visit us in Oz one day! Thank you for being such a big part of making Victoria BC such a memorable place!
My Canadian family ?
(Jim & Katie in the back row, me, Mum, Aunty & cousin Jenna in front)
Enjoying ice cream at Mr Tubbs with Katie!
More beautiful Victoria scenery. Look, there’s snow!!
Until next time!