Victoria is a place whose name speaks its character, recalling an imperial Britain reminiscent of old fashioned virtues. Well-ordered towns & gardens populated by ruddy folk whose habits include the vigorous seaside walk followed by a proper afternoon tea with warm scones and jam.
The Tourism Victoria Info
Centre at Inner Harbour.
For the jangled Americano this may seem just the thing. A short plane ride from Los Angeles or Denver, Victoria affords a window through time to a Vancouver Island sliced deep by fjords, frequented by whales and spawning salmon.
To experience the full refreshment of a weekend — better yet weeklong — excursion to Victoria consider lodging plans which harmonize its distinctive offerings.
A fine way to enjoy the "dear old town" includes a sojourn at one of the cozy bed-and-breakfasts near the Inner Harbour. A jewel among these local inns is Abigail's, a Tudor manse within walking distance of the parliament buildings that line the waterway of British Columbia's capital city.
Abigail's is a jewel among Victoria's
cozy bed-and-breakfast inns.
Abigail's proffers 23 individually appointed rooms, many with wood burning fireplaces and jetted tubs, within a deliciously Victorian ambiance. Guests gather in the library late each afternoon for appetizers and a good chat-up. They are encouraged to continue those conversations next morning in the breakfast room, where entrées like eggs benedict and blueberry pancakes — the menu changes daily — prepare one superbly for a good day's wander about the town.
For reservations at Abigail's Hotel, 960 McClure Street, Victoria, BC CANADA V8V 3E7: email firstname.lastname@example.org Phone toll free: 1-866-347-5054. Further information is at www.abigailshotel.com
Victoria is a walk-friendly city. A stroll through Beacon Hill Park opens out to an extended promenade affording vistas across the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The network of streets above the Harbour are alive with bustling shops, pubs and restaurants.
Vancouver Island is sliced deep by fjords.
A remarkable attraction is the Royal BC Museum, centerpiece of a "cultural precinct" covering a city block adjacent to Parliament at Harbour-side. The Royal BC's historical collection and dioramas feature the development of British Columbia from its wild timber/mining days to the ultra modern throb of 21st century Vancouver (just a short ferry ride away). Equally absorbing is the natural history section, including a magnificent woolly mammoth display. The museum also houses a National Geographic IMAX theatre, plus new permanent exhibitions devoted to climate change and BC coastal waters. Allow for an entire day to explore this first-rate provincial museum.
Victoria is a modest jewel (pop. 75,000) surrounded by sparkling blue waters. It makes perfect sense, after some days in town, to relocate a few miles up the Saanich Peninsula to one of the seaside inns convenient to opportunities for sailing, kayaking, whale-watching, or just ambling about the countryside.
Brentwood Bay Lodge.
Marine view from SeaGrille.
The Peninsula's one luxury inn is a boutique hotel in the heart of BC wine country.
Brentwood Bay Lodge & Spa affords a romantic getaway opportunity. This spa destination has 33 sumptuously furnished Ocean Suites with marvelous bay views, fireplaces, and hot tubs well designed to put you in a soulful mood. Need more coaxing? The Essence of Life Spa includes a heated pool, aroma garden, eight treatment rooms and a suite for couples. Local grapes (you can stomp them yourself!) are used for the Vinotherapy massage treatments. Information about tours of the local wineries is available from the concierge.
If you'd rather imbibe fermented juice, the Lodge's SeaGrille & Pub offers a cellar of BC and foreign corks which pair nicely with the gourmet seafood entrées available daily. The Grille's patio is very nice for afternoon tea or a sunset aperitif.
To book Brentwood Bay Lodge & Spa, 849 Verdier Avenue, Victoria, BC CANADA V8M 1C5: email email@example.com Phone toll free: 1-888-544-2079. Further information is at www.brentwoodbaylodge.com
It's a five minute drive from Brentwood Bay Lodge to Victoria's most delightful attraction — The Butchart Gardens. Long one of Canada's top tourist destinations, this erstwhile limestone quarry displays 55 acres of wondrous beauty in every season, from the tulips of spring to the magnificent Rose Garden of summer and fiery colors of the Japanese maples in autumn. The mild micro-climate of the Saanich Peninsula allows for luxuriant growth of practically any tree or flower. Summer features concerts under the stars; Christmas turns the Gardens into a wintry wonderland with a skating rink particularly favored by the locals. Ask the concierge about eco-cruising to the Gardens from Brentwood Bay.
Brentwood guest suites
have a distinctive Asian flair.
Victoria abounds with gardens.
From the west side of Saanich Peninsula at Brentwood Bay to the east side port of Sidney is a half hour drive. The colorful waterfront town invites a few hours poking about. A walking path skirts the sea for miles. Watch for eagles, seals, sea ducks, and other aquatic life. The Marine Ecology Centre presents a world of undersea life. Orca whales return each summer; SeaQuest Whale Watching offers viewing trips among the sheltered islands between Sidney and the coast of Washington.
If you're wont to linger a few more days, it's interesting to spend some time on one of the isolated Gulf Islands reachable by the car ferry which plies between Schwarz Bay, near Sidney, and the city of Vancouver two hours ride to the Northeast.
On Mayne Island the local hostelry of good cheer is Oceanwood Country Inn, presided over by English-born Jonathan Chilvers. The idea here is utter relaxation in the atmosphere of a rambling country house with good books on the shelves, sprightly conversation in the common room, and a crackling fire.
Oceanwood Country Inn.
Accommodations include a dozen spacious rooms, most with fireplace, soaking tub and private deck. The on-site restaurant offers a prix-fixe four course menu, often featuring local entrees like Mayne Island Lamb or Salmon & Squash Steamed in Cabbage.
To book Oceanwood Country Inn, 630 Dinner Bay Road, Mayne Island, BC CANADA VON 2J0: email firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 250-539-5074. Further information is at www.oceanwood.com
Mayne Island is a grand spot for sea kayking, biking or idyllic pastoral walks. Chilvers can steer you to all the activities. He'll even play Scrabble with you of an evening—or you can accompany him on a morning run through the forest of fir and cedar close by the Inn.
Victoria's Inner Harbor.
Take a drive into the wilds.
DETAILS: Yes, rent a car. Although you may not need it for walking around Victoria, outlying areas like Brentwood Bay, Sidney, or the Gulf Islands are not readily explored by public transport. Taxis are few and not cheap. In fact shifting exchange rates mean that Canada in general has become rather expensive for Americans. Victoria is reachable by air, usually via Vancouver or Seattle. Another option is to ferry in from those cities or other Washington port towns. Passports are necessary for Canada.
All three lodgings featured in this story are affiliated with Unique Inns, which includes approximately forty member inns located in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. Each of these inns is operated independently by owners committed to providing both personal hospitality and customized service for its guests. More information about Unique Inns is at www.uniqueinns.com or call 877.2UNIQUE.
Feature by Jerry Nemanic, Jetsetters Magazine Travel Editor; photos by Donna Nemanic and Unique Inns.