Jake and I don’t take many trips. I guess you could say we’ve been saving it up for “the big one”. When we do travel, it’s mostly been to visit friends or family. Which is wonderful, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to plan a trip for yourselves. So we decided to do something special for our one year anniversary. We chose to visit Victoria BC, as it’s just about as close as you can get while still feeling like you are in an another country. I mean, you are in another country…but it’s Canada, so it’s not that far from the familiar for us. It’s just different enough to be exciting!
How to get to Victoria BC from Seattle
The Victoria Clipper is one of the fastest and easiest ways to get from Seattle to Victoria BC. Victoria is on Vancouver Island, so a boat ride is a must. There are other routes to take, like the ferry to Sidney which is also on Vancouver Island, but then you would need to find transportation both to the Anacortes ferry, which is about an hour and a half north of Seattle, and from Sidney to Victoria. The Clipper will take you from downtown to downtown in about two and a half hours. Pretty sweet!
How WE got to Victoria BC from Seattle
We booked our Clipper trip about a month in advance and planned on leaving Seattle on the 8AM boat on Friday. They recommend you arriving about an hour before departure, so we scheduled an Uber to pick us up at 6:45 to give us plenty of time to get there by 7AM and grab breakfast at their cafe. Just as the Uber arrived, we received an automated call from the Clipper support letting us know that due to the heavy wind picking up, our departure was delayed one hour.
One hour. No biggie. We’ll have a long breakfast at the terminal. When we got down there we see how the wind was really impacting the water. Whitecaps and crashing waves greeted us at the dock.
The weather didn’t let up while we were waiting, but the scheduled delayed departure stayed the same. Finally, there was an announcement confirming that we would be leaving at 9AM, however, due to the heavy seas, we would be taking the long way. The “long way” meant adding an additional 2.5 hours to our crossing. So instead of arriving at 10:30AM as planned, after tallying the initial delay plus the long way ’round, we would be arriving at 2:30PM. The first bump in the road, but they did give us a discount on booze. Let the anniversary weekend begin!
Arriving in Victoria
When we arrived, the first thing we needed to do was to pick up our key for the AirBnB we were saying in. The key was located in a “KeyCafe” which are lock boxes set up at various locations around the area. Ours happened to be at Grindstone Cafe (more on them later!) We arrived, found the lock box, entered our code into a digital keypad and… nothing. No door opened. We entered the code again, and the screen indicated that the key had been picked up. Crap. Next, we have to call the KeyCafe support line. While they were very nice on the phone and tried to give us access to the key by having us input some override prompts into the lockbox, we were on the phone for over 2 hours (good thing we got a $2 a day phone plan for Canada!) The cafe was closing, and we were just DONE. KeyCafe finally admitted that they would not be able to solve our problem that evening and offered to reimburse us the cost of a hotel.
We found the closest hotel to hold up for the night and they were able to get the key situation resolved the next morning. They had to send a local electrition out to take a look at the box. Fun! The second bump of the trip over. Things happen in travel, and you just have to roll with the punches sometimes. It was a bummer that we missed an entire day there, but c’est la vie. Not much you can do except make the most of the time you have.
Grindstone Cafe deserves a special mention. They were so helpful when we were dealing with the lockbox issue in their cafe. Above and beyond niceness, which is something I will say Victoria is also known for, they helped make what was an incredibly frustrating experience a bit more bearable. When we came back the following morning to get the key, we decided to try one of their breakfast sandwiches.
Oh. My. Gawd!
If you’re ever in Victoria, stop by, grab a coffee, grab a sandwich, or any of their baked goods. You will NOT be disappointed!
After breakfast and FINALLY checking into our AirBnB, we went to explore. Walking down along the waterfront, we headed over to Fisherman’s Wharf.
This place is rockin’ in the summertime, but that day, it was quiet. These shops will be shutting down soon, so we caught just the tail end of their season.
We enjoyed some great chowder, fish and chips, and visits from a few seals. While we enjoyed the walk over, the water taxi was just too adorable to pass up. $6 and it will take you back to a number of waterfront stops downtown.
Dinner was fancy, I mean it IS our anniversary. Jake chose this great little French spot and did some research on the best time to arrive. Which is before the doors open as lines get long and there are no reservations. Brasserie L’Ecole is a perfect little spot with great steaks and wines. Honestly, it was good, but for all the hype, we kinda expected better. But absolutely no complaints.
Day two started at the Grindstone Cafe… again… Did you SEE their breakfast sandwiches?! After a nice breakfast, we found some lunches to go and made our way back to our AirBnB to catch the Bengals’ game. Just because we’re on vacation, doesn’t mean we miss football. (Jake is sure to remind me 😉 )
It was nice to have a quiet afternoon, plus LOOK AT OUR VIEW!
After the game, we made our way to the Empress for their tea. Now this was the first tea service that Jake and I have even been to, so we figured we should do it “right”. I knew it would be pricey, but $75 pp, for TEA? Kinda blew my mind. What the hell, right? We only get one one year anniversary. So we went for it.
The tea was very nice and the food was way more filling than I had expected! I wasn’t starving when we arrived (mistake) and left feeling uncomfortably full the rest of the evening.
Next up, Ghostly Walks tour! I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. And Victoria BC is said to be one of the most haunted cities in Canada. Meeting our tour group in front of the visitor center, we made our way around the streets of Victoria with a story around every corner. Our tour guide was phenomenal and regaled our group with stories from the past that made our arm hair stand on end.
We saved Butchart Gardens for the last day. The weather was supposed to be the best, and as our boat home didn’t leave until 6PM that evening, we had a good amount of time to explore. When we were planning our trip, everyone we spoke to said that the gardens were a must see. I mean, they’re plants, right? How can they be that spectacular? But, since everyone said we just had to see them, we did.
They were right.
Our top tips for Victoria:
- Take the Victoria Clipper. In spite of the delay, it’s worth it and it is a really nice ride.
- Butchart Gardens, yes they are worth it. And the public bus is an easy way to get there and back. If you are only wanting transportation, don’t pay extra for the tour bus. You can purchase your day bus pass from the Information Center for a discount.
- Do the Ghostly Walking tour! It’s a really fun way to learn about the history of the city. Tickets can be bought at the Information Center.
- Watch out for bars in top tourist areas. This should be a no-brainer, but we were served some pretty weak and expensive beverages.
- Stay close to downtown and you can pretty much walk everywhere.
- Try tea in other places besides the Empress. Butchart Gardens has a tea, as well as a few other places that may be worth checking out. I feel like if you’ve never done tea before, go ahead and get the royal treatment. But next time, maybe find somewhere new to try.
- Grindstone Cafe. Just go there.
- We heard about a really cool Parliament tour that we were unable to check out but was supposedly worth it. And it’s free. Bonus.
- If you want something more “British”, there was this beastly Indian restaurant that served cauliflower that tasted like meat. Seriously… like meat! Jake said it was the best cauliflower he’s ever eaten. Check it: Varcha
- Try a water taxi. They are relatively cheap and they’re on water. And painted like a taxi. Win-win-win!
Have you been to Victoria BC? Did we miss anything we should catch next time?
Great post, Danielle, with some awesome tips. Sorry it started off rough for you and Jake, but sounds like you made the most of it. Your view was fab!
Thanks, Lynne! Yup, you just have to roll with the punches. It was a great experience, that’s for sure!
Traveling is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get! Or something like that… It was wonderful meeting you and Jake on the return Clipper to Seattle. Can’t wait to travel vicariously through you two on you next adventures!!