A Weekend in Victoria, British Columbia
Canada is so close to us that it's a must do during your station at Joint Base Lewis Mcchord! Victoria is the capital of Vancouver and this waterfront city has charm, history, and lots to explore! We choose to do a Friday to Sunday weekend trip but if you only have a small amount of time you could go over for the day.
Day 1: Travel Day/Downtown Victoria
Fashion first of course! Unlucky for us it was July and unusually cold for the middle of summer. It stayed in the sixties our entire trip so I opted for a light jacket. I grabbed the Karen KanCan Jeans ($50), some perfect and comfy jeans for traveling. I paired them with our brand new Malia Floral Tee ($40) and added a mauve moto jacket to match my mauve booties. As always, we offer FREE shipping on the website! Grab them now at livandrory.com
We opted to take the 8:15am Black Ball Coho Ferry out of Port Angeles. Port Angeles is about a two hour drive from JBLM. You can take the ferry out of Seattle too but it was a couple hundred dollars price difference. For five of us and a vehicle it was $300 out of Port Angeles versus $800 out of Seattle. Also, your travel time will differ. You are advised to arrive an hour before departure.
We had never taken a ferry before but it was a breeze. We made online reservations ahead of time to hold our spots and paid for the actual tickets at arrival. Once you load your vehicle on the ferry you are required to go sit upstairs (you can't ride in your car during the voyage). When they say packed in like sardines, I'm pretty sure they came up with this term on ferries. The cars are so close and bumper to bumper that you can barely get out of your vehicle. We were holding our doors and the owners next to us holding thiers to help each other get out without dinging doors.
Dogs are welcome on the ferry. What I read on the website was that pets needed to be in a carrier during the voyage however I saw plenty of dogs just leashed and walking around. You should always carry your dogs shot record with you but they did not check them at either boarder.
The voyage from Port Angeles to Victoria is a mere 90 minutes. While there is lots of seating some of it is outside. On a cool morning in the fifties I was grateful we grabbed an inside seat and didn't get stuck outside. The ferry has a cafe with food options to purchase. I grabbed a breakfast sandwich and will have to say it was overpriced and disgusting. So for this one I would grab something from the many restaurants near the ferry terminal to take on board.
The ferry has a Tour desk and a pursors desk on board. The ferry is not the most comfortable form of travel but we made it work. Once you arrive you'll get back in your vehicle and wait to unload. You'll actually go through customs inside your vehicle and it was pretty quick compared to airline travel.
Heres some tips tips for traveling to Canada: Verizon Wireless includes Canada in thier plans so we were able to use our phones with no extra charges. If you don't have Verizon check with your carrier prior to coming! Canada does have thier own currency so get some beforehand or plan to exchange when you arrive. Some places do accept American money but they are required to give you change in Canadian currency. Thankfully, Canada drives on the same side of the road that we do. However speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour not miles per hour. Best thing? Everyone speaks English of course!
There are are tons of nice hotel options close to the ferry terminal in downtown. We went for the Doubletree by Hilton since it was quite a bit cheaper. It was a very nice hotel and they have a restaurant downstairs. Depending on what package you book the breakfast buffet in the restaurant may be included. Parking is valet only and is $21 CAN per day for parking.
If you need to exchange money I'd suggest heading to the Victoria Visitor's Center. The Whale Watching Company below it will exchange your money with no fee! At the time we went it was $1.00 USA for $1.30 CAN. So basically, we were getting 30% off everywhere we shopped (score)!
The waterfront area has some great photo opportunities, local artisans set up selling goods, and some street performers. You can grab a photo with this huge Canada sign here.
This is also where you can book and catch whale watching tours, harbor tours, and the water taxis. You can find these Whale Statues (I kept my calling them Shamu) around the area all decorated differently.
Across the street is the gorgeous historic hotel, The Empress. Take a photo of the live plant whales and then take a leisurely stroll through thier gardens.
Keep walking along the Harbor and you'll come the the British Parliament building. We did not do the inside tour but it's a great spot for photos since it's such beautiful architecture.
Walking around we found that a lot of the stores are dog friendly. We did have Muffin's stroller just in case though. Walk towards the British Museum and you can see the tallest totem poles in Canada. Ok, I'm not sure if they're actually the tallest or not but they're pretty dang big.
We took our time walking around downtown and killing time until our food tour. We booked the Taste of Victoria Food Tour. This is a two hour walking food tour in downtown Victoria. It was about $50 CAN per adult and we really enjoyed it!
We met inside Victoria's Public Market at The Hudson. Our first stop was Roast for the beef and pork meatball with salsa verde pesto. Wow. It was very different, but dang it was good! Not like any meatball I've ever had in the states. It came with a side of baked pork skin (aka pork rinds).
We sampled some beautiful skin tea at Silk Road Tea before leaving the market. Supposedly, it's got great skin benefits.
Next we we headed into China Town. One thing I love about food Tours (besides the food) is that they give you a bit of history about the city.
Interestingly enough we went to a French bakery inside Chinatown to grab macaroons. The bakery is called La Roux Patisserie. Now I've been to Paris and I will say that these macaroons are pretty dang good. You'll get two each. I picked the vanilla and the passion fruit.
Macaroons are one of my favorite sweets and this place is really cute inside! Very Instagram worthy.
We took a shortcut to our next stop through Fan Tan Alley. This is the skinniest alleyway in the country!
Just Matcha had some caramel matcha lattes for us. I was pleasantly surprised at these. I have never been one to enjoy matcha but this was delicious! It was made of Matcha tea mixed with frothed milk and caramel.
Next we headed to Shanzee's Biscuit and sampled the Southern Comfort biscuit and the sweet biscuit. I'm from the south where biscuits are big and I will say these were pretty great. The Southern Comfort was topped with sausage gravy, bacon bits, cheese, and chives. The sweet biscuit had Nutella, a grilled banana, and whip cream.
Something I'd never heard of, we went to a Pierogi Bar called Sult. Peirogis are a european dumpling and we sampled the three cheese roasted garlic potato. It was good but I was so overstuffed at this point I could barely eat it.
Our last stop on the tour was Rogers Chocolates. We were given a Vanilla Cream Chocolate which is the Queen's favorite.
The tour will end at the Visitor's Center so it was a nice little circle through downtown. To book a tour or for more info, visit atasteofvictoriafoodtours.com
There are tons of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore around this area in downtown Victoria.
We were super stuffed from the tour and pretty tired from getting up so early, so we just hung out at the hotel the rest of the night.
Day 2: Buchart Gardens & Craigdarroch Castle
Buchart Gardens is by far my favorite thing we did. I highly suggest getting there when they open. If you brought your car it's about a thirty minute drive from downtown. If you're planning on coming without a vehicle there are plenty of tours that will take you to the gardens. Plan for at least a half day if not majority of your day in the gardens.
Outfit for day two, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was in and out of the clouds but it was 68-70 degrees. I knew we would be taking some incredible photos so I grabbed our brand new Hippie Floral Playsuit ($60). It's got a gorgeous dark background with bright florals so it looked perfect in these photos. I had a light jacket with me and paired it with booties. As always we've got FREE shipping on the website, livandrory.com
In the summer the gardens open at 8:45am. We arrived around 9:15am and begun walking. If you want any chance of getting nice photos without thirty photo-bombers in the background, then get there early. Admission is a bit pricey but totally worth it. Rates change with the season so keep in mind summer is the most expensive. When we visited we paid $34 CAN per adult, $17 CAN for students 13-17, and $3 CAN for ages 5-12. Foreign military receives a 50% discount but this is for the active duty member only. They'll give you a map when you arrive and there are plenty of maps posted throughout the gardens. Also, dogs are welcome!
The maps show you a specific direction to walk so that you don't miss a section. At the entrance grab a photo in front of the "Buchart Gardens" sign (reference above). You'll walk inside and see a sign that says "Start Here". Basically, stay to the left.
This area with the hanging floral baskets is one of the first areas you'll come to, its gorgeous! Keep left and you'll walk into a woodland straight out of a children's book. You can even find the three bears.
Through the forest you'll come to an opening, this area is called the Sunken Garden. The entire premises use to be a cement quarry and this is where they had dug out all the materials.
There are a few ponds here, willow trees, and plenty of Lilly pads. It reminded me so much of Claude Monet's Estate in Giverny, France.
Keep walking and you'll come to the Ross Fountain. We spotted an otter hanging out nearby.
After this area we headed over to the carousel so Aurora could ride. This is a large green grassy area too where you can actually walk on the grass, unlikely the rest of the gardens.
In the summer months they have fireworks on the weekends and this is the viewing area too.
You'll run into the totem poles and then the dragon fountain before you hit more gardens. The Rose Garden is next and boy are they beautiful.
There is every color rose that you can imagine. They've even got roses that are multi color. Here are all the amazing photo spots!
There are benches, fountains, and plenty of archways in the Rose Garden.
We made reservations for Afternoon Tea online ahead of time, so we took a break and ate lunch at 11am at The Dining Room. The Dining room has indoor and outdoor seating with a view of the Rose gardens. There are two restaurants on the grounds along with a Gelato stand and some food and snack stands.
I highly recommend the Afternoon Tea, it was delicious. It was $40 CAN per person. If everyone in your party doesn't want that, they can order off the regular lunch menu.
Every single item was delicious and there were three tiers of it. Sandwiches, quiche, desserts, appetizer, tea, and of course a scone.
It is worth the $40 x5! We were so stuffed we weren't hungry for dinner later.
The Italian Garden is right outside The Dining Room and is where the Gelateria is located. Keep walking and you'll pass the star pond into the Japanese Garden.
The Japanese Garden is a beauty in of itself. It feels like you're walking into a lush forest filled with tiny stone houses and red archways.
You'll find this great little peep hole down to the Harbor in the Japanese Gardens. Keep walking and you'll come to the lookout area.
In the summer months they have boat tours through the inlet. We had a fun time! It's a 45 minute tour and was $20 CAN per adult. You cannot make reservations ahead of time for this, you need to purchase tickets at the information desk when you arrive.
The views were beautiful but we also got to see some wildlife. We saw an otter, lots of jellyfish, birds, and even a mom and baby deer.
The Gardens were gorgeous and a must see in Victoria.
For more information, visit buchartgardens.com
For the afternoon we headed to Craigdarroch Castle. It is pretty, and it was cheap to visit, but I was less than impressed. Having been to Palaces' and Castles' in Europe this one doesn't even compare. We actually purchased our tickets on the ferry over to Canada because it was cheaper. $11 CAN per person on the ferry versus $15 CAN per person at the castle.
The Castle is located in the middle of a neighborhood. I questioned where our GPS was taking us because I didn't think there could be a castle located there.
The inside wood is original and there are lots of artifacts throughout the castle. It is cool to see if you've never been to anything like it before but bottom line is if you've seen real castles in Europe, this isn't for you.
For more info about Craigdarroch Castle, visit thecastle.ca
Day 3: Hatley Castle & Fisherman's Wharf
Hatley Castle, interestingly enough, was built was James Dunsmier, who is the son of Robert Dunsmier. Robert Dunsmier built Craigdarroch Castle which we visited yesterday. This one is much more castle-esque and I'd recommend it over Craigdarroch if you have to choose.
Fashion first, it was a bit chilly so I grabbed the Naomi Paper Bag Waist Jeans ($45). I paired them with the beautiful lace sleeve Snow White Tee ($37) and grabbed the Leighton Color Block Cardigan ($45) for a lightweight option. This is a great summer outfit for those unusually chilly days! As always, we have free shipping online at livandrory.com
Hatley Castle is the sight of over thirty films. Some of the ones you may recognize are X-Men and Disney's Descendents. This castle was Xavier's school in the movie.
It still has the original wood, lights, and chandeliers. All of the original furniture and decorations were sold off years ago in an estate sale.
You will only get to see the inside of the castle on a guided tour because the castle is currently used as a university. Guided tours are offered seasonally and are $18.50 CAN per adult, $10.90 CAN for ages 6-17 and free for kids 5 and under.
On the tour they will give you a bit of history on the castle and the Dunsmier Family. Unfortunately the other three floors of the castle are not viewable so you will only get to see the first floor. After touring the first floor they'll take you down to the basement where there is some memorabilia of the family and the military college that was once there.
After this you'll get the chance to walk through the gardens, entrance included with your tour. The grounds of the castle (now college) are huge and include multiple gardens. If you don't want to view the inside of the castle you can pay to just walk in the gardens for around $10 CAN per adult.
You have a great view of the castle from the gardens, and the gardens are beautiful.
Dogs are allowed on the premises but not inside the gardens or inside the castle for the tour.
Visitors parking is down the hill just follow the signs and is $1 CAN per hour or $8 CAN for the day.
After our hour tour we enjoyed about thirty minutes walking around the gardens.
For more info, visit hatleycastle.com
Our last stop before heading back home on the ferry was Fisherman's Wharf. This is a marina filled with brightly painted houseboats, floating restaurants, and even a houseboat turned gift shop.
This area is also dog friendly. Honestly there is not much to actually do here. This is a hub for all kinds of tours. You can take kayak tours, whale watching tours, rent paddle boards and more here. You can also take the water taxi across the Harbor to downtown and a few other areas.
It's a fun place to walk around and eat as there are several food options.
For more info, visit gvha.ca
Overall we really enjoyed our weekend in Canada and will most definitely be back to visit again!
For more info on visiting Victoria, go to tourismvictoria.com
You are Beautiful, You are Strong, You are Smart, so dress like it!
Love, Liv & Rory