The Northwest Pacific Coast of North America has harbored people for thousands of years amongst the jagged rocks and morning mist. This week’s fall find takes us on an autumnal adventure to the southwestern most point of British Columbia, Canada. Named after Queen Victoria of England herself, not even the passage of time – 174 years, to be exact – has torn this city from its English roots.
The Garden City, as British Columbia’s capitol city is known, is among the Top 20 cities for quality of life in the world. Pairing high tea and stately Victorian façades with the dramatic, misty pacific landscape, the city of Victoria is the embodiment of autumnal elegance.
Settled in 1843 as a trading post at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria later served as a busy port and supply base for hopeful miners looking to strike it rich during the great gold rush.
While Seattle and Vancouver are deservingly-popular cool-weather destinations, we think wandering a bit off the beaten path to Victoria, British Columbia will offer you a more authentic Pacific Northwest experience with a posh twist.
As with the other posts, three days in Victoria should give you ample time to discover the city and surrounding beauty. Located just 60 miles from both Vancouver and Seattle Victoria, we suggest catching a flight to one of these larger airport hubs before jumping on a bus to Victoria!
The Victoria Clipper Ferry will get you there from Seattle while you’ll want to find BC Ferries Connector Coach if you leave from Vancouver. While the ferries take around 4 hours, the entire journey is filled by the beauty of haunting, craggy rocks and somber seascapes.
Similar to many cities of its age and origin, Victoria’s compact center is a dream from exploring by foot. With the highest rate of bike commuting in all of Canada, you won’t regret renting a bike, either. Boundless panoramic fall foliage and misty landscape cover the entirety of Vancouver Island, so the additional mobility offered by biking is worth the elevated rental costs (around $30 per day). BC Transit also runs buses in the city with $2.50 fares.
Where To Stay
To fall even further into the historic English opulence that Victoria has to offer, we can't help but send you to the Victorian Queen Ann-style Pendray Inn and Tea House.
For the same fantastic location and at more accessible price, Harbour Towers Hotel & Suites offers an equally lovely jumping off point from which to explore the city.
The city of Victoria is built around a small inner harbor at the southernmost point of Vancouver Island. At the time of the city’s founding, the harbor was the life source of the inhabitants; the historic city center is wrapped around this early cradle of life in The Garden City.
The eerie beauty of craggy shoreline, distant mountains, and misty ocean create the perfect setting for experiencing the autumn’s moody elegance.
Outside of the compact downtown area you’ll find a remarkable number of tidy, English style gardens and parks. To drive from one tip of the island to the other would take nearly 6 hours – while your three days will confine you to the immediate area around Victoria, know that a longer stay will allow you to explore the myriad of other adventures that can be found further north.
You’ll be intoxicated by the ocean’s crisp salty breeze while strolling by the brightly-colored floating homes that line this stretch or shoreline.
The wharf is also known for seals and sandwiches: wander on down for the best fish and chips in town. When you’re done, get to know some real locals – buy some fresh fish to feed the local Harbour Seals that hang about!
Royal BC Museum – open daily 10 – 5
Tickets: $21.60 for adults, $15.75 for students, youth, and seniors
Built between 1887 and 1890, Craigdarroch Castle is an opulent example of intricate Victorian architecture. Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant having made a massive fortune from Vancouver Island coal, constructed this towering castle on a hill overlooking the city of Victoria.
The old, leaded glass windows act as a mirror between the rich, deep tones of the oak, walnut, jarra, rosewood, maple and holly detailing and the golden splendor of the estate’s many trees.
The massive stone fireplaces of this 12th century French, Spanish, and Italian Romanesque-style mansion will take you back in time and have you dreaming of windswept autumnal evenings.
Parks & Gardens
Beacon Hill Park
Don’t be fooled by Victoria’s nickname, The Garden City: while the flourishing parks and gardens this Northwest Pacific wonderland certainly do shine in summer, they are known as displaying a whirlwind of crimson colors come fall.
Beacon Hill Park is reputedly best to visit during autumn – the park ‘shows off’ its colors during September and October, because a golden garden of yellow, orange, and red.
The expansive 200 acre grounds of Beacon Hill are a microcosm of the island’s ecosystems: woodlands, ocean shoreline trails, mirrored ponds, landscaped gardens, and even an alpine and rock garden. The hill on which the park was founded in 1858 is a burial site for the First Nations Coast Salish People – the original inhabitants of Victoria. You can also catch breathtaking vistas of the Straight and Olympic Mountains of Washington from Beacon Hill’s higher elevation.
A generous mix of oak, Douglas-fir, red cedar, birch, willow, and maple trees explode with wild color come fall and find an interesting juxtaposition against the meticulous trimmings of the park’s English-style gardens.
Over a million plants in nearly 1,000 varieties ensure constant blooming from March deep into October. The Japanese Garden of Butchart in particular thrives in autumn. Vibrant, varied dahlias and green foliage are the perfect backdrop to the “stunning reds, russets and golds” of the Japanese Maples’ falling leaves.
Open daily 9-4
Entry: $27.75 for adults, $13.65 for youth
Salt Spring Island Apple Festival
Sometimes the most simple and classic fall activities are the best. Salt Spring Island Apple Festival is a 157-year-old Victoria tradition boasting over 450 different apple varieties.
Salt Spring Island is a smaller island in the Strait of Georgia between Victoria and Vancouver. You can access the island and the Apple Festival via BC Ferries routes to Fulford, Vesuvius, and Long Harbour – or by sea plane for the adventure-seekers!
Each year, about 1,500 apple fanatics swarm the festival to experience the incredible quantity of locally-grown, organic apples. A host of apple-themed foods and events are also a part of this unique autumnal apple fest!
As their moto states, “Connect with your inner apple!”
Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students, children 12 & under are free
Food & Drink
High Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel
The Empress Hotel is a testament to the opulent British rule that used to reign over Victoria. Crimson vines crawl over the old brick that make up the palatial luxe of the castle-like building.
As you leave the crisp kiss of autumn and walk indoors through the main entrance, your eyes are greeted with bygone grandeur and lavish warmth. You can’t come to Victoria without experiencing the Empress Hotel. And you can’t come to the Empress Hotel with experiencing High Tea.
You simply must stop here to enjoy made-in-house scones, pastries, treats, and a special ‘Empress Blend’ of loose tea. And it doesn’t hurt that the china used here was initially given to King George V of England in the early 20th century.
Open daily 11 – 6. See website for specific seating times.
“Sophisticated, smart casual” dress code
Call ahead for reservations
Built in 1860, Fisgard Lighthouse guards the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour. The first lighthouse on Canada’s west coast, the British constructed this white tower and red brick building as a beacon to the Royal Navy ships before Vancouver Island was even a part of Canada.
Open daily 10 – 5:30
Entry: $3.90 for adults, $1.90 for youth, $3.40 for 65+
The city of Victoria and her inhabitants warmly embrace local First Nations heritage and work hard to honor its importance for the area. Throughout the city – and of course in the Royal BC Museum – you can see examples of carefully carved totem poles in homage to the Coast Salish First Nations peoples.
As proved by the number of citizens who commute to work by bike throughout the year, Victorians enjoy spending time outdoors amongst the numerous parks, gardens, and along the stunning coastline.
As a visitor to Victoria, we’re grateful that one stereotype of Canadians rings true – their kindness and hospitality. You’ll find happy, helpful locals here. Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations at a bar or while wandering through town. As always, be respectful of any place you visit and realize that this is someone’s everyday life.
🍁 Following Fall 🍁
You won’t regret skipping Seattle and forgoing Vancouver to experience the more quaint and historic Victoria. High-brow English heritage melds with the rugged Pacific landscape to offer a unique adventure found only here in Victoria, British Columbia.
While the Pacific Northwest is known for being cooler year-round, visiting Victoria in October offers even chillier weather (mid 50°s this entire week!) as well as a slew of autumn-themed activities and attractions.
Heavy fog rolling into the bay off the calm, cool ocean; tall wooden masts piercing through the water’s morning mist; manicured English gardens rolling through an old limestone quarry; opulent high tea in a soaring mansion.
Victoria is what fall dreams are made of.