Victoria: Beyond the Inner Harbour

Victoria’s Inner Harbour is where most of the city’s visitors spend their time. If you’re visiting Victoria, you’ve probably heard of the main tourist attractions in the Inner Harbour, such as the Royal British Columbia Museum, the Legislature Buildings, the Empress Hotel and the Wax Museum. These attractions are worth seeing, as there is a reason for their popularity.

However, if you visit Victoria without venturing outside of the Inner Harbour you’re missing out. There are many other great neighbourhoods to explore throughout the city. Wandering farther from downtown will give you a more comprehensive glimpse into this city.

Here are some insider tips to the best spots in this beautiful city.

Take a Ride on the Galloping Goose

A great way to get out of the downtown and explore more of Victoria is to rent a bike and take the Galloping Goose. It’s a meandering bike trail that will take you from downtown all the way to the municipality of Saanich. The flat, wide and paved trail is ideal even for inexperienced bikers.

The Goose, as it’s called by locals, will take you past the Gorge where you can watch the dragon boat teams practicing for a race. You’ll also ride past some graffiti artwork and several parks until you get to Swan Lake. In this protected nature reserve you’ll have a good chance of seeing ducks, swans, blue herons, cormorants, turtles and otters. It takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to walk the trail around Swan Lake. From here, you can hike up Christmas Hill, which is covered by Camus flowers in the springtime.

If you keep following the Galloping Goose, you’ll find yourself at Galey’s Farm. This is a great place to take children with its petting zoo, train and spooky haunted Halloween house.

Relax in Cook Street Village

Downtown Victoria is lovely, but if you’re looking for something quieter and offbeat, walk down Dallas Road until you get to Cook Street Village. The village has pedestrian-friendly streets and a small-town vibe. Cook Street Village has a local wine and liquor store, a laid-back neighbourhood pub, a pizzeria featuring delicious gourmet pizza and one of the best bakeries in town. It’s also where you’ll find the Moka House, one of the most welcoming community coffee shops in the city.

Cook Street Village is also a short walking distance from Beacon Hill Park, an urban oasis perfect for picnicking. In Beacon Hill Park you’ll find tranquil duck ponds, shady forests, picturesque stone bridges and an open-air stage that often features live music.

From Cook Street Village, it is only about six blocks to the beach where you can sink your toes into the soft sand. On a clear day, you can see the hazy outlines of the mountains in Washington State across the water.

Check Out Funky Fernwood

Victoria is known for its alternative community, and during your visit you’re sure to meet someone who is a vegan, a raw foodie, an artist, a yoga instructor, a spiritual healer or an organic gardener. Fernwood is the popular neighbourhood for free-thinkers, and it also boasts a great local theatre, a thriving art gallery, several coffee shops, a local pub as well as a massage and wellness centre.

While you’re exploring Fernwood, check what’s playing at the Belfy Theatre, a venue that has been part of the Victoria culture scene for years. Also, check out the exhibits at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Victoria is a beautiful and diverse city, with lots of neighbourhoods to enjoy. Get a bus pass or rent a bike to explore even more.

Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons

About the Author: Ruth Larsen is a travel agent who studied at the University of Victoria. She has lived there for eight years. She loves helping her clients to find a hotel in Victoria and enjoy this city.