Vancouver Island, BC Canada
Vancouver Island is a short ferry ride away with so much to explore! You could easily spend a week or more here going through all the island has to offer. Since we were venturing as a day trip from Vancouver, we had a few specific spots in mind. If a day trip is too much, you can easily make this into an overnight trip to explore even more on your trip to Vancouver.
We had an early wake up call for our day trip to Vancouver Island to explore the area in and around Victoria – the capital of British Columbia. The ferry port is about 45 minutes from Vancouver and you have to arrive at the port no later than 30 minutes before the departure time of the ferry. I booked the 7AM ferry and I had us arrive at the opening of the arrival window an hour before at 6AM. We showed out confirmation and got tickets in return as well as a lane number. That’s right, the car is coming with us! Since we were only there a day, having the car was essential to see everything we wanted. I was glad we had experience taking a car on a ferry (New Zealand, Sardinia) as it can be an overwhelming experience so make sure to give yourself plenty of time if it is your first time or are nervous.
Since we had an hour to kill, Kevin ran instead the port terminal to grab a coffee, we enjoyed granola bars I packed, and strangely there was WiFi accessible so we just chilled until the announcement came on overhead the return to your car as boarding was starting. We drove the car onto the boat and we went up to explore the ferry.
The ferry is enormous but I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful views so we found seats in the sun on the top deck. The route of the ferry navigates through several islands offering some wonderful scenery. Since we were returning in the dark, I knew this was the time to enjoy the outdoors.
The ride was an hour and a half so we returned to our cars and drove off the ferry shortly after 830AM. Our first stop did not open until 9AM so we took the opportunity to grab breakfast at Beauregard Commons where Kevin got his morning coffee and got a breakfast sandwich to go.
Our first stop this morning was the famous Butchart Gardens – National Historic Site of Canada and is one of the best gardens in the world. I booked our tickets online to secure our arrival slot at the opening time and had no issues upon our arrival. I did not too too much picture peeking ahead of time so we were looking forward to the surprises ahead.
Read about our visit to the Butchart Gardens and see the unbelievable photo journal here!
After a beautiful morning, we were ready for some food. On our way to Victoria, there was an ice cream spot I wanted to hit – Parachute Ice Cream. Our pre-lunch dessert in check!
We drove to downtown Victoria and loved everything we saw – beautiful harbor, large historic buildings, and car free downtown area. We parked along Wharf Street and made our way to lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish. While I was under the impression I had top secret intell that this was THE spot for fish and chips – apparently everyone else got the same intell. I did not think much about the line and just solidified our spot. The line was probably over 20 people deep but they are a made to order operation so they were only moving as fast as this tiny shipping container kitchen could move. We ordered the BC Halibut fish and chips and from the start of our time in line to sitting down with the food, it was actually only 35 minutes which I thought was pretty good. Even when we returned to our car later in the day and passed Red Fish Blue Fish, the line was still the same. So just know there is going to be a line. The fish and chips were delicious and well worth the wait and the praise.
Happy and full, it was time for a walking tour of the harbor. There were a few things that caught our attention. First, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia – the parliament building for British Columbia. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and this building masterfully demonstrates that. The second was another impressive building – Hotel Fairmont Empress. The third was how darn floral everything was – those Butchart Gardens must rub off in all sorts of ways but the baskets of florals on each light post and beds of flowers that lined the walkways were just beautiful.
Kevin was eager to step inside the Empress and it was quite impressive on the inside. After all, all the members of parliament need a lavish place to stay! The restaurants inside looked wonderful and even club a high tea room. We then moved onto the parliament building which offers free entry and guided tours on the hour. We waited in a bit of. aline that took about 20 minutes to move through, then you have to go through security. The inside is quite regal as you would expect and you even have the chance to see the chamber.
We walked along the harbor towards the wharf and once again, spotted many seaplanes doing the laps of take off and landing. Then a set of floating houses appeared – we were definitely intrigued!
And thus we found the Fisherman’s Wharf district and we were impressed with hoe formalized it was. The entire wharf was on a dock of various eateries and shops, including several rows of private residences just floating on the water. This is definitely an are to see in Victoria. There is even a taxi boat to take you from the downtown area if you did not want to walk.
We made our way back to the downtown are to explore the the streets and shops. There is so much to see around here from admiring historic buildings, grabbing a drink at one of the many bars, browse the retail stores, or if you are us you spend hours in a bookshop.
At our friends recommendations, we had dinner at Little Jumbo and as expected, we adored the vibes and the food. The inside gives a bit of a speakeasy feel while being relaxed and fun. Kevin ordered the burger and I got their salad with the duck wings – everything was delicious.
We certainly wished we had more time to relax but the looming return trip to Vancouver awaited us. The last ferry leaves the island back to Vancouver at 9PM which is the one I had us booked. Typically the schedule was every hour departures and we had enough time to make an 8PM ferry. We drove back to the ferry port making before before 7PM as we watched the cars load onto that ferry. We were told that there was no 8PM ferry which was rather disappointing since we now had two hours to sit in the car. As the 9PM ferry rolled around, we boarded and slept on the hour and a half journey home, making it back to the Airbnb in Vancouver just after 11PM. Thank goodness we had no plans in the morning!
There is so much to do not just on Vancouver Island but just in and around Victoria. We definitely had an abridged version and staying overnight to extend the trip here was definitely a consideration. But I think a return trip would be much longer to explore the rest of Vancouver Island, including the amazing hiking I have read about. If you have time on your Vancouver trip, definitely add the ferry ride to Vancouver Island to your itinerary!
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