vancouver guide: victoria

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The trip over to Vancouver Island is especially nice in the morning when you’re able to catch the early sun out on the various viewing decks. To get to Victoria, BC’s capital over on Vancouver Island, you need to take a ferry from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal over to Swartz Bay, which takes about an hour and a half. Ferries leave every hour on the hour and cost $17 for passengers over age 12 for a one-way trip.

There’s always been frustrations over ferry costs, and I know for sure that I personally would travel across to the island a whole lot more if prices weren’t so steep. If you’re in a car you’re looking at $56 one-way. Given that it’s the only available transportation method between the mainland and the island, a continuation of Highway 1, the prices are shockingly high.

Regardless, the ferry trip is a pretty one, as you weave in and out of the gulf islands.

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Downtown Victoria is small enough that most of it can be seen in a day just by walking through the city. Right in downtown Victoria, just beyond the Parliament Buildings near the southern coast lies Beacon Hill Park, complete with walking trails, a lighthouse on Beacon Hill, and a number of gardens, fountains and even a children’s petting zoo.

At the entrance the park looked like something out of a safari, but the landscape changed completely when we entered the gardens with flowers in full bloom and peacocks roaming loose. Just to the right of the children’s petting zoo is a trail up to the top of Beacon Hill where you can spot the United States over on the horizon across the water.

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Victoria, as BC’s capital, is home to the British Columbia Parliament Buildings where the Legislative Assembly meets. Situated overlooking the Victoria Inner Harbour, the majestic neo-baroque building is surrounded by large green spaces and holds a central position in downtown Victoria.

The building is open to the public year-round for free guided tours or simply to view at your own pace and it is a great chance to see how and where our government is run. I highly suggest the free tour as the guides are very knowledgeable and provide insight into the inner workings of government.

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After we went on a guided tour of the Parliament Buildings, Scarlett and I walked down the main street past the beautiful Empress Hotel – which I’ve heard is a lovely place for afternoon high tea.

We stopped in at the local summer artisan market happening in Bastion Square where Scarlett picked up a few small gifts for her parents back home in the UK. Also, take a moment to wander through the Inner Harbor, usually full of musicians and craft booths, and a guarantee of a stunning view.

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A little further on is Chinatown, the oldest one in Canada, and second only to San Francisco in North America! There is an abundance of shops featuring traditional foods, gifts, stationary and knick knacks through the various alleys.

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We had to stop in at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for some delicious ice cream. A Canadian company, the first location was opened in Whistler Village in 1988, so we know the quality is good ;)

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Scarlett and I were watching the sunset from the bus as we approached the BC Ferries Terminal and we were lucky to be arrive just as the sun was approaching the horizon, lighting up the sky in the most gorgeous shade of pink. I love sunsets from anywhere, but undoubtedly the best place to see them is over the water.

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*Including photos by Scarlett

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