James Bay is just south of the Inner Harbour and is a quiet residential area. Fairfield is just east of the Inner Harbour, and is Victoria’s posh residential area. Craigdarroch Castle, Government House, and the Art Gallery of Greater Vancouver are in this neighbourhood. Community relaxation is centred around Macdonald Park, in the middle of the community. Recreation in the area tends to look in three directions: north to the Inner harbour and downtown for shopping and nightlife, east to Beacon Hill Park for relaxation, and south to Dallas Rd and the Juan de Fuca Strait to get to a great running/biking/blading trail along the water stretching from the Ogden Point Breakwater to the eastern end of Ross Bay Cemetery. Nearby, Foul Bay also has a great beach.
Inner Harbour / James Bay Attractions
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
1040 Moss St (off Fort), V8B 4P1
This museum, housed in the Spencer Mansion, is famous for its Asian collection, including the only Shinto shrine outside Japan.
BC Parliament Buildings
Belleville St (above the Victoria harbour)
The parliament buildings where opened in 1897, at a cost of $923,000, during the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The statue at the top of the copper dome is that of Captain George Vancouver. The city insisted on such a splendid building so it would not lose its place as provincial capital. Tours are given daily every 20 minutes June to September, and hourly tours are offered in the winter. You can sit in the public galleries when the legislature is in session. There are 5 hectares of gardens around the buildings, with a variety of flower displays, statues and fountains.
Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park. V8V 4Z8
East of Douglas Street, south of downtown (Victoria),
Children’s Farm: 250-381-2532
This park brings relaxation to Victoria’s downtown area. It is named for the beacons that were lit as a navigation aid. This 75 hectare park has streams, several duck ponds, a cricket field, playgrounds, wading pools, a children’s zoo, and a bandshell. In spring, this park is blanketed by hundreds of thousands of daffodils and blue camas, and over 30,000 plants replanted semi-annually. The Lookout, also known as Victoria’s “Lovers’ Lane” has a great view of the Juan de Fuca Strait. At the southwest end of the park is the official Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Douglas and Pandora Streets
This Square is the location of Victoria’s city hall, which was built in 1897. This building was recently refurbished to help preserve Victoria’s architectural heritage. The courtyard surrounding a pretty fountain is bordered on one side by McPherson Playhouse and on the other by the police station.
Fisgard and Herald streets at Government
Chinese immigrants in the mid 1800s not only helped exploit the early gold mines but helped build the toughest stretches of the transcontinental railroad. At the turn of the century, opium production was one of Chinatown’s biggest industries. The area, now known as Fan Tan Alley was the centre of the gambling houses. The entrance to Chinatown is guarded by the 11 metre tall Gate of Harmonious Interest which was built in 1981. The two hand-carved stone lions are from Victoria’s sister city in China, Suchow.
1050 Joan Crescent, V8S 3L5
This is the prettiest castle built in Western Canada, and was the gift of coal and railway baron Robert Dunsmuir to his wife in 1890. He was the province’s first millionaire, having discovered rich coal seams and then built the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway. Dunsmuir died before the castle was completed, but his wife lived there until her death in 1908. After her death the house served a variety of functions, including military hospital, college campus, and music conservatory. It is now owned by the City and has been refurbished to be an authentic representation of the time when it was opened, including some incredible stained glass windows.
Crystal Garden Conservation Centre
713 Douglas Street
The glass-roofed Crystal Garden was opened as a social centre and ballroom in 1925, and also had the British Empire’s largest saltwater swimming pool. Maintenance costs forced its closure in 1971. It was completely renovated, though without the swimming pool, and re-opened in 1980. It has a ballroom, a tea room, and luxurious tropical gardens with exotic plants, fish and birds.
207 Government St, V8V 2K3
250-3873-1218 fax: 250-356-7796
This house, just a few blocks south of the Legislature, was the home of Emily Carr, famed West Coast painter. The home ins now a National historic Site.
Emily Carr Gallery
1107 Wharf St
Exhibits of paintings by Victoria’s best-known painter., who died in 1945. Also shows works by Emily Carr’s contemporaries. Open Victoria Day to Labour Day Tues – Sun, remainder of year, Tues – Sat.
This hotel has been presiding over Victoria’s harbour since 1908. This hotel is the westernmost hotel in the chain of Canadian Pacific Hotels. The hotel has magnificent gardens, and is famous for its “high tea” ceremony daily at 4 pm.
141 Rockland Ave
This mansion is home to BC’s lieutenant governor, the Queen’s representative as head of state. The place is used to accommodate visiting royalty. Its grounds, with immaculate lawns and flowering gardens are open to daily to the public (but no public access to the building). A drive up narrow rock-lined Lotbiniere Avenue to the west is also worthwhile.
10 Eliott Square (behind Thunderbird Park)
This house, the oldest in BC open to the public, was the home of Dr John Sebastian. Helmcken one of Victoria’s first medical doctors and the son-in-law for Governor James Douglas. He was one of the country’s Fathers of the Confederation and lived here until his death in 1920, at the age of 95. The house includes his medical and surgical tools, and his medicines to form one of Canada’s finest nineteenth century medical collections. The house has period furnishings and costumed interpreters. Allow an hour. Open daily 11 am to 5 pm mid-may to mid-September; noon – to 4 m in the off-season. Admission is $4 for adults and $10 per family.
Maritime Museum of B.C.
25 Bastion Square, V8W 1H9
This museum, in the former Provincial Court House, recently declared a national historic site, shows the maritime history of BC from the Haida days to recent times. Exhibits include the 11 metre Tillicum, a wooden dugout canoe which was fitted with sails and sailed to England in 1901-1904. Other exhibits cover the history of Captain Cook’s voyages, the Canadian Pacific Lines’ “Empress” ships, and a Kids Zone with interactive exhibits. Allow an hour. Open 9:30 am to 4:30 pm daily.
Between Johnson and Pandora on Store Street
This market’s pre-1900 architecture around a central courtyard has been restored to its original elegance. Two stories of retail surround its courtyard ampitheatre. The square is now home to specialty shops, restaurants and galleries.
Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada
At the southwest end of Beacon Hill Park, about a kilometre south of the Inner Harbour, is the official Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway.
This is the heart of Old Victoria, and the location of the BC Maritime Museum. It is west of Government Street, a continuation of View Street. This is where Governor Douglas established Fort Victoria in 1843. The area was known in earlier times for its saloons, hotels, bordellos and warehouses. Recent revitalization has made the area a hip location for restaurants, boutiques, offices and art galleries.
Humboldt Street (around the corner from the Empress Hotel)
This attraction has 80 highly decorated and animated miniature scenes, including two of the world’s largest doll houses, and a space diorama. The scenes also illustrate nursery rhymes, “Gullivers Travels,” and Charles Dickens novels. There is a Great Canadian Railway exhibit showing the turn-of-the-century railway splendour.
Ogden Point Breakwater
This 750 metre breakwater juts into Juan de Fuca Strait, providing some protection for Victoria’s harbour. The structure was built of 18 tonne blocks of granite in 1917 at a cost of $1.8 million, complete with a lighthouse at its tip. It is popular for fishermen, boat watchers and joggers.
Point Ellice House
2616 Pleasant St
This 1861 bungalow was home to three generations of the O’Reilly family on what used to be one of Victoria’s nicest neighbourhoods. The house is restored and has an authentic 19th century garden. The home had guests including Sir John A Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, and the Antarctic explorer Scott. While the home is now in largely an industrial neighbourhood, it is worth a visit and “high tea” (phone for reservations). Open 10 am to 5 pm mid-May to Labour Day, and closed in the off-season. Admission is $4 for adults.
Royal British Columbia Museum
675 Belleville St, V8W 9W2
250-356-7226, fax: 250-387-5674, toll-free: 1-888-447-7977
Discover the Royal British Columbia Museum and its award-winning First Peoples, Natural History and Modern History Galleries. Sit among aboriginal ceremonial poles and masks, explore the dark world of mining and the dangerous world of logging. Walk through a rainforest and visit with a Grizzly Bear or take a trip into the depths of the sea in Open Oceans. The museum also features a cafe and fine gift shop with well-stocked book sections and exceptional art and jewelry. Open daily 9-5, except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Royal London Wax Museum
470 Belleville St, opposite the Parliament Buildings, V8W 1W9
250-388-4461 fax: 2503884493
This attraction has 51 scenes with famous people of the past, present and future, and a Chamber of Horrors. Open daily year-round.
Belleville & Douglas
This park, beside the BC Museum, features a long house and several totems from the Bella Coola, Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-cha-nulth, Salish, and Tsimshian people. Sometimes you can even watch carvers at work.
490 Belleville St
This attraction, at the end of a pier by the Wax Museum, is an observation room on the sea bottom, where visitors can view marine life through large undersea windows. Open daily 9-98 summers, and 9-5 pm the rest of the year.
Victoria Conference Centre
720 Douglas Rd
This facility was opened in 1989, connected to the Empress Hotel, and features a totem pole and fountains in its lobby. The Centre can host 1,500 delegates in the largest of its 15 meeting rooms and seat 400 into its lecture theatre.