Despite being only an hour away, it is impossible to visit the USA in these times (and probably for the rest of 2020) so Victoria is basically the only worthwhile city accessible to us. The capital of British Columbia is located on Vancouver Island, which is only a few hours away by ferry. During our travels, lots of people had told Andy and I that we should consider living in Victoria over Vancouver for the lifestyle, so we were pretty excited to see what it had to offer.
We were actually quite surprised by how small Victoria was. We were definitely glad we had made the decision to live in Vancouver. It was approximately the size of Dunedin and it didn’t seem to offer quite as much as Vancouver does, especially in terms of meeting people. However, Victoria does offer a number of great restaurants, cafes and even breweries. It is also beautifully perched right on the waterfront with the stunning buildings of Parliament only a stone’s throw away.
We didn’t have long in Victoria (although I have no doubt we will go back) and we spent it walking around, eating and doing a whale watching tour. We chose to go with Prince of Whales because not only did they have a great reputation, but they were offering a BC resident special following lock-down and they also have a guarantee that you can ride again for free if you don’t’ spot a whale. The boat was only half full because of Covid-19 measures, so it was pretty spacious.
After checking in and hearing the safety protocols, we were off spotting whales in the Salish sea. It didn’t take long before our first sighting: a sleeping humpback whale called Sparky. A sleeping whale tends to coast along, rising minimally out of the water and not taking long between appearances. It was cool to see a whale but it didn’t take long before I was ready to move on; his movements became pretty predictable and I wanted to see what else was out there.
It was freezing out on the water despite dressing as warmly as we could and I was very excited for the promised hot chocolates. Unfortunately they were LUKE WARM. I was so unimpressed, as the only other thing I had to distract me from the cold was spotting whales. Thankfully it didn’t take long before our next sighting: a mother and a calf as well as various other humpbacks dotted about. Everyone on the boat was going crazy – basically in whatever decision we looked there were whales. Excitement levels reached a new high when the calf started breaching, not once, not twice but three times! It was truly magical to see.
After a few hours spent combing the ocean, it was time to head back to shore. On the way back we had the good fortune of spotting a number of seals, as well as TWO orca! I was so excited when the boat started slowing down unexpectedly, because it meant there must be something to see in the waters around us. We were told there were two orca brothers lurking in the area and that we should watch for their fins. We saw one which was exciting and then it breached, we think to show its brother where he was as they must have separated during a hunt. It was incredible! The two whales then came together and swam for a bit together, before we had to leave them.
I didn’t know if anything would top this afternoon, but everything we did from then on in Victoria felt just as magical. We ate at some delicious restaurants and had the chance to try out just one brewery (read about them here), as well as sipping on some delicious coffee in the sunny streets at 2% Coffee shop.
We wandered through Chinatown and perused Canada’s narrowest street, Fan Tan Alley, which is crammed full of independent shops and artisan goods. There are a number of great shops in Victoria and a few pedestrian streets which make perusing all the more enjoyable. I couldn’t help but notice the insane number of chocolate and souvenir shops, alongside all the pubs.
Sadly, due to both Covid-19 and timing restrictions we were unable to visit Parliament or the Butchart Gardens, but both of these look really amazing. Victoria is a great place to visit without an agenda. Rather just follow your nose – to the restaurants, to the ocean or wherever else it may take you!