Years ago, I went to Victoria B.C. with my family in the summertime and we loved it. The summers are so mild and the city has so much history. When I moved to Seattle for college I went back to Canada multiple times with friends because it was just a short drive away. Now that I’m graduated and have settled into Seattle as my permanent home, Jared and I still want to travel to Canada since it’s so close. We talked about visiting Victoria several times but never did it because it seemed like a lot of effort to get there, being that Victoria is at the southern tip of an island. Finally at the end of 2018 when we talked more about where we’d like to travel in the new year, I decided to surprise Jared with a trip to Victoria! My surprise was made super easy with the help of Clipper Vacations. I am so glad that we chose to take the Clipper to Victoria and am excited to share more about out trip with you!
Why I Recommend Clipper Vacations
Clipper Vacations runs a passenger-only ferry service between Seattle and Victoria. You’ll depart from Pier 69 in downtown Seattle’s waterfront which is a quick ride from where we live in CapHill. The journey takes just under three hours each way and is so relaxing. Skip the traffic and border crossing lines to sit back while enjoying gorgeous views and amazing food and beverage service. For those that like to stretch their legs, you won’t be disappointed by the roomy seats but if you’re willing to brave some winds, check out the upper level deck at the back of the ship.
For only a $25 upgrade per leg of the trip, you can book Comfort Class on the Clipper. Comfort Class is a private cabin on the upper deck with comfortable seats that each have a large table in front, panoramic views, and complimentary snacks and beverages! Attendants are super helpful and will also come take food orders at your seat. Something I really appreciate is the support of local businesses and artists. From the gifts you can buy on board to the menu and even the coffee served, local businesses from around Seattle around highlighted. Speaking of gifts, we took advantage of the Duty Free shopping on board and got some liquor because it’s a really good deal!
Since Jared and I live right in the city and often prefer trips that allow us to go carless, taking the Victoria Clipper was a dream. We didn’t have to deal with the stress of driving and parking from start to finish on our trip. I can’t recommend this mode of transportation enough for those of you who also live in the city or might not have a car. And even if you do have a car or are coming from further outside of downtown, this is still the best way to explore Victoria. Fun fact: you can also take the Clipper to the San Juan Islands, book vacation packages to other destinations, and tons of day trips and excursions through Clipper.
What to Do in Victoria
There are tons of things to do in Victoria even in the colder months. If you are needing tips on what to do, check out what we did below or make sure to visit Tourism Victoria’s visitor center or website. It’s in a prime location in the harbor area so you won’t miss it. They are so friendly and helpful! We were able to visit a lot of these destinations with their help, thank you Tourism Victoria!
Royal BC Museum – There is a lot of rich history in Victoria and if you are a museum fan like we are, you have to pay this spot a visit. The museum is a mix of natural history and human history so there’s a little bit of something for everyone. One of my favorite parts was the wildlife photographer of the year exhibit. The mini version of Victoria’s Chinatown was also fun to walk through. If you like IMAX films, you can also view a variety of films at the theater here.
Craigdarroch Castle – As you can tell from Jared and I’s past travels, we also love castles if we can find them in a city. We visited a bunch during our last trip to Europe at the end of 2018 so we were excited to visit Craigdarroch. There is so much history in this one building! I loved seeing the decorations all throughout as well. Sadly the castle is going under some work because they are filming a movie there soon but it’s totally worth visiting.
Gray Line Tours – If you’re also traveling on foot in Victoria, consider booking a Gray Line hop on/hop off tour for a day. It’s a great way to see a few areas of Victoria and it’ll get you to the previously mentioned castle, for instance. I have no problem traveling like a true tourist and don’t worry, there are blankets if you choose to brave the cold and sit on the top deck. It is so fun! The shuttle drops off near most big hotels so it was really convenient for us. We timed it perfectly and got to see a beautiful sunset right before getting dropped off right at our hotel. Remember, Canada does not allow the use of rideshare apps like Lyft so this is a great way to explore the city without having to call taxis at each landmark. (Check out Chinatown and specifically Fan Tan Alley!)
Shopping in Old Town – There is only one spot in Victoria you need to visit for shopping and that’s Old Town. Easily my favorite area for the beautiful old buildings that have had interior restoration to house hip, independent designers and makers. Some shops I recommend: Salt Pure Goods, Ollie Quinn (Market Square in general is a cute spot), and Little Gold. If you like to shop small there are tons of amazing things to buy here. You can also find your familiar brands like lululemon, New Balance, etc. Book lovers, you have to check out Munro’s Books!
Walk the harbor/downtown area – As soon as you walk off the Clipper ferry you’ll be in the middle of the bustling downtown area. I personally love being in this area by the harbor. Luckily there are tons of things to see in just this small, walkable area. You can walk along the waterfront and usually hear performers, like the man playing the bagpipes all weekend! You can also visit the Empress hotel which is an amazing hotel from just the exterior! The Parliament Buildings are also so grand and beautiful to walk around. We didn’t have enough time to do a tour but we did walk by several times. You have to see them a night as well, they are lit up! We saw an epic sunset on the harbor area as well.
There are tons of other activities, especially outdoors, that you can do in Victoria. We came at a pretty cold time of year and there was still snow on the ground. In the spring and summer, you can go on whale watching tours, go on a seaplane, go kayaking, and there are plenty of hikes if you drive a bit outside of the city. We’ll come back and try ziplining sometime too!
Where to Eat in Victoria
Everyone can agree that eating is the best part of vacations, right? Okay second to experiencing new sights and landmarks maybe..but it’s definitely a priority to me on all trips! The food scene in Victoria really impressed me actually. It has been several years since I last visited and I don’t remember much about the food. We learned that there is a little bit of everything in Victoria and we were never hungry on this trip! There are so many other spots to eat at but here are a few highlights from our trip.
Fishhook is so unique – this intimate (note: not a lot of seats!) spot has a mix of seafood, Indian and French flavors. So if you love those things, you have to check out their menu. I was pleasantly surprised by the food and all our neighbors at the communal table shared in our excitement about their food. Trust me, we all talked about it! I recommend getting a tartine (we got the tuna melt, which actually had pieces of tuna) and the biryani that had the softest pieces of squid and a delicious piece of salmon on top.
Jam Cafe was easily our favorite meal I think. We had to wait almost an hour outside but luckily it was sunny and not too cold during our wait for brunch! I wanted everything but we ended up getting a tator tot bowl and a buffalo chicken benedict. They do some fun twists on normal brunch classics, at a really reasonable price point.
Some spots I recommend for dinner are Gozen for Japanese food. This is a casual spot that’d be great if not everyone in your party wants the same type of food. The menu is extensive and has everything from curry to sushi to ramen. You can get it all here. Tapa Bar is another nice spot for dinner – it’s a lively, dim lit restaurant that’s perfect for a date. Aside from tapas, they also have really delicious pasta dishes. Jared and I both got seafood pastas and were absolutely stuffed. You will definitely have leftovers! Irish Times pub is also a fun spot but really you can go here for just a drink or any meal. We stopped in for a cup of soup and beer during the day to warm up and got to enjoy the live band!
For all your drink needs, here are a few spots we went to. 10 Acres Commons is right next to the harbor area and is a lively spot for a bite to eat or drinks – we came here for a pre-dinner happy hour. Little Jumbo came highly recommended to me for cocktails but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for this. Hey Happy is a cute little coffee shop in Old Town. They have a lot of milk alternative drinks – I had an iced cashew milk latte and Jared had a hot cashew honey latte. Bubble Tea Shop in Chinatown is also an interesting spot that offers (you guessed it) bubble tea and apparently, Thai massages. They have a ginormous list of traditional bubble tea flavors and then a bunch of fun, unique ones too.
Lastly, you must get high tea! There are tons of options. We had our eye on multiple places but it’s not offered everyday at all locations. We went to the Venus Sophia Tea Room that’s also in Chinatown for afternoon tea. Since we weren’t very hungry, we went with a smaller portion. If you prefer savory over sweet, this tea is perfect for you because it’s mostly savory!
We had such a fun time in Victoria and it’s a perfect getaway from Seattle. Huge thank you to Clipper Vacations for providing us with such a great ferry experience which made our vacation stress free and enjoyable!