What do you get when you've got insanely good weather, a long weekend & a serious need for exploring? If you guessed a weekend getaway to Victoria then you would be absolutely correct (and maybe have the ability to read minds..). Only an hour and a half away from Vancouver on the ferry, Victoria is close enough for a weekend away, but still far enough away from the hustle of Vancouver to make even the most stressed people feel relaxed.
Friday morning, albeit a little earlier than I'd like to be up on a day off, it was straight to the ferry terminal to catch the 9 am boat across to the island & where I finally started to feel like I was going to be in for a great weekend. From the Tsawwassen (please don’t ask me to pronounce that) terminal in Vancouver you’ve got about 1.5 hours cruising through the beautiful Georgia Strait until you hit the Schwartz Bay ferry terminal. And that short time you’ll be gifted with incredible views of smaller surrounding islands in the area, and gorgeous homes that peak a bit of jealously in anyone who has ever wanted to build a cottage on a tiny island. Smooth seas & sunny skies were another gift of the day and something welcomed by I’m pretty sure everyone coming from Vancouver after what feels like 5 months of straight doom & gloom rainy days. With the sun on my face I was beyond stoked to finally arrive at the terminal, and hop the bus for the 40 minute ride to Downtown Victoria.
Without getting lost (winner right here ladies & gents) we (2 token Aussies & myself) managed to get to the hostel without an issue, and although not much time was spent at the hostel (besides sleeping) HI-Victoria on Yates street was the perfect spot for the weekend. Located within a block from the harbour & all the main bars/restaurants/shops it’s one of the most centrally located hostels I’ve ever stayed in. A cool looking building from the outside, and a great group of staff on the inside, even though most of the time was spent outside exploring it was a hostel I will definitely staying at when I go back to Victoria. Dropped my things off pretty quickly and then it was off to see the sights, and well seeing as the weather was so inviting have my first patio beer of the season! Exciting I know right? And if you’re reading this from anywhere on Canada’s East Coast, I’m really sorry but I’m sending you all warm & sunny thoughts from the West! Without walking all that far we managed to find, what I’m going to admit is now my favourite bar, The Local. With a full patio looking out onto the harbour & some good 90’s tunes going it was the perfect spot to have a drink, refuel & make a little plan for the afternoon
Deciding to just go with the flow for that afternoon, we took a little stroll around the water front –which is awesome. I mean I love a good waterfront city, the energy is always contagious, people smiling laughing, lots of vendors & artists, and who doesn’t love being surrounded by that many boats? From there we headed just across the street to the BC Legislative Building, which just might be the most majestic building I’ve seen in a long time. First opened in 1887 the Legislative building is one of the most central landmarks in Victoria, you can’t miss it. The building itself is ornate and beautiful and the surrounded area is beautifully kept with overflowing luscious gardens looking out over the waterfront. From there we strolled along through Antique Row, which as you can assume is home to A LOT of antique shops, on our way to a castle. Yep, a castle –in Victoria, actually right in the middle of a huge residential neighborhood. You get to the sign that points you up the hill towards the castle and you can’t help but feeling like you’re about to see a full on game of street hockey going on, and not like you’re about to see a pretty decent sized castle. But alas we turned a corner and there it was – Craigdarroch Castle. Built in the late 1880’s for Robert Dunsmuir (a coal baron), the castle is now in the process of being restored and is open daily for tours of the interior as well as a guided history of the properties and the Dunsmuir’s. Enjoying the outside was about as far as I went, felt a bit silly paying to get a tour of the inside of a place on such a beautiful day.
From there we strolled back into the downtown core through a few parks & enjoyed the last bits of sunshine for the day. Grabbing some dinner and a drink before calling it an early night was about all I had in me for that night after an early morning. So it was straight to bed for an early start on Saturday for more adventures.
As sunny as it was on Friday, Saturday seemed even sunnier (if that’s possible) and this alone had me happier than I have been in a longggg time! Armed with a huge smile plastered to my face and a much needed breakky under wraps it was off towards Fisherman’s Wharf. Walking along the harbour front from downtown brings you right into view of the most adorable house boat community I’ve ever seen! Sure, Vancouver’s Coal Harbour is home to a few colourful homes on the water, but that doesn’t even compare to Fisherman’s Wharf! Rows & rows of the most characteristic homes make up this little community on the water, spaced between quite a few shops & restaurants the energy down there was awesome. Now what could possibly make it better? Probably not a lot..until you turn your eyes to the open space tween the house boats & the actual boats that is. A few ripples in the water, a few kids & parents laughing, and then a splash – what the?! Yep! SEALS. Half a dozen adorable and pudgy harbour seals all lined up for a feed! They aren’t part of any attraction or tour, they’re wild animals who after what I’m sure is years of being fed by tourists & homeowners alike have realized they don’t need to do a whole lot for a few tasty fish. This pretty much made my weekend, I love being able to see different animals when I'm travelling and I’m a sucker for a dog of any kind no matter where I am, so seeing seals who essentially look like little water dogs was the best thing I could have imagined.
It’s pretty obvious that I could have spent my entire Saturday sitting on a bench next to the water watching these little dudes swim & splash about (okay maybe not splash as I did get a bit soaked) but there was still so much more of Victoria to see so off I went. If you continue along the same path you'll find yourself well on your way to Dallas Road, Ogden Point & Beacon Hill. First stop you'll find is Ogden Point, which . is a deep water port with a pretty lengthy walk way extending from a restaurant. Strolling around on the sides of the actual walkway you’ll most likely run into a dozen fisherman set up for the afternoon trying to reel something in. And from that point it’s a straight (well maybe a curve here and there) shot along the coast. Beach after beach & about 100+ dogs to pet later (I was in heaven obviously) you’ll end up at one of the entrances to Beacon Hill Park. Stretching out over 75 hectares, the park has something for everyone! Have a love affair for weeping willow trees? Enjoy feeling the ducks in a big pond? Want to spot nesting cranes? Or maybe you want to see some peacocks & goats at the petting zoo? So really there are sights catering to every type of person coming into the park. After spending a fair amount of time wandering from pond to pond & getting chased by a duck or two the park opens up pretty close to to the Legislative Building downtown. Which was a perfect spot for meeting up with a few people at The Local once again to finish the afternoon/start the night off with a cheeky patio drink or two
And that brings me (very sadly) to my last morning on the Island. It was slightly overcast & a little windier than the rest of the weekend but that didn't stop me from enjoying one last stroll before leaving. And what better way to spend the morning than a coffee, and a stroll with a newly moved in Victoria local. The brother of a friend of mine recently moved out to the island from the east coast onto the Naval base, so lucky me I got a little look into a few spots outside of the downtown area. Which basically included more dogs, awesome & a view of Victoria from the opposite shoreline, again awesome! With that it was bags packed & back onto the ferry to Vancouver.
Every time I come back from a trip I always feel a little bit sad, that "post travel blues" feeling as some people call it hits me pretty hard. And the same can be said about my feeling sitting on the train Sunday afternoon headed back to my apartment. The same feeling I have after coming back from a year abroad is what I felt like after just under 3 days on the Island. I absolutely love to get away. I love to immerse myself in another place, to experience things fully. To get lost on a regular basis is something I strive for when I travel. Whether it be in the streets of a busy city or the middle of the mountains, I love the feeling I have when I'm away. This past weekend made me really aware of how much I need that in my life. How much that makes me who I am.
So with that I'm looking forward to getting away more and more. To getting lost and finding more than I ever imagined.