We arrived via ferry from Port Angeles WA into Victoria BC mid afternoon of a perfectly blue, sunny sky kind of day. Armed with our brochures and pamphlets and a trusty travel book of the area (Fodors) we determined where our hotel would be and set off to find it straight away.
Gotta say…Victoria BC was a bit of a disappointment.
We had come expecting Victorian homes in a quaint sea-side village with flowers and gardens and a slower pace of life, a sort of Eden hiding away from the hustle and bustle of real life. Instead we found a metropolitan city, crammed into the harbor of the island and home to the provincial capital of British Columbia. The no space left un-developed atmosphere was in stark contrast to the green hillsides and flowering garden brochures that we had read and so looked forward to find.
Victoria proper is a massive development of tourist and government buildings, hotels, restaurants, trinket shops and pubs stretching for miles outward in every direction. It felt and looked much like an older version of Vancouver with a mish-mash of modern and old and commercial developments splashed around sidewalks and one way streets with underground parking garages every where you looked. If you’re looking to find serenity and beauty and calm, Victoria the city is NOT the place. If you’re looking for city blocks of shopping, eating and drinking… you need look no further.
We made the most of our one day stay and crashed at the Quality Inn a few blocks back from the main square and discovered that Victoria area establishments in general have not yet invested in AC and if you happen to have a room whose heater won’t turn off (like we did) the result is a long and restless night with a borrowed fan and something of an impromptu “steam” room session.
The good news was the climate, as it is amazingly mild almost all year and enjoys sunshine, fresh flowers and cool breezes. Once we escaped our hotel inferno we were very comfortable in light jackets and enjoyed seeing the sights and finding multiple 100-year-old candy shops full of delicious treasures. We did find the food establishments in Victoria to be the best of our trip including an amazing Italian restaurant (Zambri’s) for dinner and a brand new small café for (The Clay Pigeon) for breakfast who made THE BEST apple fritter pastry I have ever eaten. My wife had lemon ricotta pancakes with strawberry butter and fresh maple syrup in a shot glass!
We were thwarted in our attempt to “explore” the island by massive lines of traffic and major gridlock from the tens of thousands of locals and tourists who have made the trek to the island. We later discovered a great city park and the seaside pathways that were beautiful for sure, but surrounded by so much metropolitan and suburban development it hardly felt like a “retreat” or getaway from anything but your hotel room.
We drove to Sidney BC (35-40 minutes north of Victoria) to catch our ferry back to Washington state in the morning. (Be sure to reserve your spot on this one as its a one a day kind of ride ) and found it’s seaside harbor to be quite tranquil and relaxed and much less congested than that of Victoria. Crossing back over from Victoria to Washington is an international trip so be sure to bring your passport and have some extra time for US Customs before you board.
Once again we were treated to a beautiful and sunny day as we took the three-hour ride through the San Juan Islands via Friday Harbor to Washington. The ride was worth the entire trip to the Northwest! Spectacular scenery as we floated past island after island, picturesque and beautiful in their Northwest glory of soaring fir trees and jagged rocks, cliffs and stone beaches of driftwood and sea-foam. WOW.
Arriving ashore in Washington we turned our rental south to enter the Cascade mountains just east of Seattle via state Hwy 2. We were in search of snow and snowmobiling and we were running out of time….
Join with us tomorrow as we discover the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth WA and find snow!