Victoria ia a harbour sity at the southern end of Vancouver Island. It was a government centre since the very earliest colonial times.
To capture the essence of this city, and particularly the area closest to the Inner Harbour, here are suggestions for your first day (especially if its your only day) in Victoria.
Start along the waterfront, are the Wax Museum and the Undersea Gardens
Across the street are the BC Parliament Buildings. Take a tour, or watch the legislature, if its in session. Horse-drawn carriage tours of Victoria start here.
On your right you'll pass the Empress Hotel, with the Victoria Conference Centre out back
Across from the Victoria Conference Centre is the Crystal Garden and Thunderhead Park
To the back of the park is the Helmcken House historical site
Right beside it is the Royal British Columbia Museum worth a couple of hours to explore
Head back to the seawall along the Inner Harbour. You'll pass the Visitor Information Centre along the way
Explore Old Town, with its pre-1900 buildings and courtyards, with quaint back alley shops. Notice all the carved-wood pub signs.
Visit the BC Maritime Museum in Bastion Square for BC's maritime history
Keep heading north, past the Old Market Square and the Johnson Street Bridge
Tour Chinatown, on Fisgard and Herald Street, once Canada's biggest. Check out the little shops on Fan Tan Alley.
Come back down Government Street, and enjoy Victoria 's main shopping district, which includes Victoria 's Bay Centre.
On your second day in Victoria, begin exploring the areas around (but still really close to) downtown Victoria:
Emily Carr House, home of BC's most famous painter
Beacon Hill Park, south of downtown, with its great water views of the Olympia Mountains to the south, and Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway
Craigdarroch Castle, built for BC's first millionaire
Head back toward the water, and drive east along Dallas Drive. The road curves north and you'll pass through many of Victoria's more interesting coastal communities including Gonzales Hill, Oak Bay, past the University of Victoria, beautiful Ten Mile Point, and Cadboro Bay.
You'll pass through Mount Douglas Park.
Stop at Elk Lake-Beaver Lake Regional Park to enjoy the largest lake in the area
If you are visiting for a longer period, there are a number of destinations worth visiting (each about a day, including driving):
Head southwest along Highway 14, the Sooke Road, toward the charming coastal village of Sooke.
On your way back visit the Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse historical sites,
On the way back, check out The Gorge which splits View Royal from Esquimlat, which is home to the Canadian Navy's Pacific Headquarters.
At one spot, the Gorge is crossed by a wooden bridge for the Galloping Goose Trail, not far from the Victoria Rowing Club.
Head North, up 17A and pass by, perched high on a hill above Elk Lake, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. You'll also pass by the Victoria Butterfly Gardens.
Continue up to Brentwood Bay and visit the world famous Butchart Gardens and the adjacent charming seaside village on the Saanich Inlet. Continue up the West Saanich Road north, driving around Lands End and end up at Swartz Bay ferry terminal.
Continue to the seaside village of Sidney, just south of the ferry. There is a short passenger ferry to Sidney Spit Provincial Marine Park. If you want some close-in water activity, take the Sidney Harbour Shuttle around the harbour. Take the Patricia Bay Highway (1) back to Victoria
Visit any of the Gulf Islands, all accessible from Swartz Bay. Saltspring is the biggest and the busiest. All have quaint little shops and restaurants near the ferry docks, some offer pleasant seaside hikes or more strenuous scenic climbs.