Explore thousands of years of history, from First Nations artifacts to modern times, at the renowned Royal BC Museum, then step across the street for an insider's view of the imposing Parliament Buildings. Make time for some of downtown's smaller slices of history too, including Carr House, the childhood home of much-loved artist Emily Carr, and Helmcken House, one of the oldest homes in the province. Take a turn by foot, bike or perhaps horse-drawn carriage around Beacon Hill Park, home to a children's farm and petting zoo. Or stroll through the cobbled-stoned streets of downtown before hopping on a harbour ferry to Fisherman's Wharf for some delicious dockside fish & chips.From the landmark Parliament Buildings to castles, museums and art galleries, Victoria’s heritage architecture and attractions invite visitors into a world of history, entertainment and color.
Situated next to the mainland coast of British Columbia and the north shore of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, Vancouver Island occupies an area about the size of Holland. It stretches 500 kilometres (320 miles) southeast to northwest with an area of 3,175,000 hectares (9,493,171 acres) and 3,460 kilometres (2,150 miles) of coastline. It is separated from Vancouver, B.C. by the Strait of Georgia to the east and from Washington State by the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south and southeast. Vancouver Island is actually closer to the United States than to mainland west coast Canada.
A mountainous spine runs the length of Vancouver Island breaking into long mountain fjords on its west coast. The Alberni Inlet cuts more than halfway through the island ending at the community of Port Alberni. The Saanich Inlet in the Victoria area, is one of the few fjord inlets on Vancouver Island's east coast. Along its southern half, the terrain is so rugged that the Malahat Mountain section of the Island Highway climbs to an elevation of more than 335 metres (1,099 feet) above the inlet's waters.
The west coast of the island is sprinkled with small communities, notably Ucluelet and Tofino, located on either side of the world-renowned Pacific Rim National Park. The open Pacific Ocean allows for storm watching while expanses of sandy beaches attract visitors from around the world.
All part of the Saanich Nation of Coast Salish peoples, the Songhees, Esquimalt, Tsartlip, Tseycum, Pauquachin, Scia'new, Tsawout and T'Sou-ke Nations are all important bands that have long called Southeastern Vancouver Island home.
Prior to European arrival in the late eighteenth century, a Songees fortified village existed at Finlayson Point in Beacon Hill Park. After the establishment of Fort Victoria in 1854, the village was moved across the harbour into what is now Victoria West. Currently the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations reserves lie at the Southwestern edge of Victoria, bordering each other and the Town of View Royal. With their traditional lands lying northwest of Victoria, reserves of the T'Souke and Scia'new bands lie along the Sooke Basin while the Tseycum, Tsartlip, Tsawout and Pauquachin bands are all located east of Victoria along the Saanich Peninsula.
Victoria is renowned for its wildlife viewing, especially in the nearby waters. Marine wildlife thrives in the surrounding ecological reserves like Discovery Island, Race Rocks and Sidney Spit. Orcas (killer whales) and humpbacks are most frequently sighted, but these marine parks also offer incredible views of elephant seals, harbour seals, Steller and California sea lions, seabirds and bald eagles.
Victoria's regional and provincial parks provide prime habitat and great viewing opportunities for many animal and bird species and contain old-growth trees hundreds of years old. Many tours leave right from downtown Victoria.