The last stop on your “7-Day Sawyer Glacier Cruise” is Victoria, British Columbia‘s capital city. Exploring Seattle is up next, but not before Victoria shows off in a 6-hour whirlwind tour.
You may choose to see Victoria via Horse-drawn Trolley, wander Butchart Gardens or explore Craigdarroch Castle but on a clear, sunny day set out on foot. Walking Victoria is comfortable and picturesque and knowing paraphernalia.co as you do, excess calories can be burnt too.
Follow Dallas Road from the cruise port to Fisherman’s Wharf (about 10 minutes). Seaplane and boat tours are plentiful and the resident seals will have you in stitches. Feed them with plates of fish from Barb’s fish shop and watch all hell break loose. The demanding seals insist they are fed immediately slapping their fins repeatedly on the surface to the delight of children and adults caught in the splash.
A bell at “the fish store” rings at 4pm so jump in the queue for a buck a shuck oysters. Fresh daily, varieties change but the excellent quality does not. Try spot prawns if they’re in season. Best eaten freshly caught and cooked on the spot, (pardon the pun) the flesh sweet and the texture soft.
Fisherman’s wharf floating village is exactly that, a residential floating district. Be respectful of people’s privacy but certainly take a stroll down the wharves to check out these eclectic homes on the water.
Continue toward the city through Laurel Point Park or pick up a water taxi to cruise the harbour. Jump off at Swift Street at Canoe Brew Pub. Once housing the coal-powered electric generators powering Victoria’s streetlights, the heritage listed building is waterside with its own marina.
Supporting local food producers, donating leftover food to charity, recycling, and reusing, Canoe Brewpub also brew delicious beer. While inside admiring sparkling chandeliers hanging from sturdy timber beams you’ll encounter the brewing vats above your head. Order a “fleet”, 4 decent sized samples of unfiltered, naturally carbonated and preservative free small batch brews.
Canoe Brewpub is at the foot of the 2nd oldest Chinatown in North America. Wander the skinny “Fan Tan Alley” between Fisgard Street and Pandora Avenue. Imagine pre-1908 when opium factories lined the street before moral reformers joined with the Chinese Anti-Opium League to shut them down.
Brick gambling dens replaced wooden opium dens in 1910. During Japan’s occupation of Hong Kong in the 40s, Chinese men were unable to return to their families, spending their time and cash gambling in Fan Tan Alley. The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 lifted in 1947, allowing Chinese families to relocate to Victoria. This saw the end of the gambling dens and Fan Tan Alley is now home to artists and small businesses focusing on tourism.
Around the corner, Swans Brewpub, another heritage building with its own onsite brewery, is at Pandora Ave and Store St. With award winning brews, gastropub food, a restaurant, and live music, the Swan Hotel also has condo style accommodation overlooking the water.
David Foster Way is a waterside pathway reached from Wharf Street at Bastion Square. Find cafés, restaurants, bars and tour operators along with buskers, jewellery designers, and artists. The pathway is punctuated by historical markers detailing the culture and spirit of the original Lekwungen people, known today as the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. The marker at Bastion Square is for Fort Camosun (later known as Fort Victoria). The Lekwungen people built the wooden fort in exchange for trade goods. A large forested area was destroyed to build the fort, drastically changing their traditional sustainable land use.
In front of the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, the Lekwungen marker is “a place of mud”. Mud flats with some of the best clam beds on the coast were sadly lost when the area was filled to build the majestic Empress Hotel. Opened on January 20, 1908, the Empress of Victoria has entertained Hollywood stars, Royalty and more but by 1965 started looking a bit drab. Demolition was considered but in June 1966 that idea was replaced with a $4 million makeover campaign restoring her former glory.
Stay on David Foster Way to Government Street and the Royal BC Museum. Check out art and carvings in the Lekwungen people’s exhibition. Passing the Legislative Assembly, BC Legislature, and the cenotaph, wander back to the Steamship Terminal and pop into Steamship Grill & Bar. A local Pinot Gris is recommended to compliment the Crab cakes on cauli purée. 😉
David Foster Way continues back to Fishermans Wharf via Laurel Point and another Lekwungen marker. Until 1850 carved mortuary figures stood in front of graves under small burial shelters at this First Nations grave site. The area is one of the only sites without a traditional name.
Victoria is charming, promoting traditional and colonial history, locally sourced food and beverage, sustainability and respect for the environment. Boarding the Norwegian Jewel for the last time you may feel you’re leaving a city with a conscience. Victoria, British Columbia: it’s a place we love….