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Excursions in Victoria, BC


stevendom57
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My DW and I will be taking our first cruise to Alaska in September. We are really looking forward to it.

 

As I am working out my shore excursions I have come to the last port, Victoria, BC. We arrive a 3:00 pm and leave at 9:30 pm. We really wanted to do the castle but their last tour is at 4 and we were told we could not make it. What else is there to do in Victoria? We like historical things, walking though the buildings and hearing stories about days gone by.

 

We are looking for suggestions.

 

Thanks

 

Steven

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Our time in Victoria is far shorter than yours: 8pm to midnight.  Sunset time around 9:30.  We elected the ship tour to Butchard Gardens.  My wish would be to have Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, but last seating is at 5:45

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We took a bus into town and had drinks at the Empress Hotel. Then did some shopping and took the

bus back. Turns out a cab would have been the same price so if I go back that is what I

am going to do. No waiting for the bus to fill.

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I did a city tour, which stopped at Timmy's for coffee and doughnuts (such a Canadian thing)😉 Victoria's a beautiful place. It was nice to visit a real city where people actually live and work after stopping at the touristy Alaskan ports.

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We were in Victoria twice on a 

back 2 back. First week we got a taxi into the centre and walked around ourselves - this was brilliant. 2nd week we went to Butchart Gardens. Whilst the gardens were beautiful we thought the excursion was awful. It was so overcrowded you could hardly move (we were in port with two other ships). Victoria is such a stunning city. 

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I visited the all vegan speciality chocolate truffle shop. It's located in one of the narraowest corridors

 

There is also a vegan butcher shop in a market with lovely shops. Sadly the Mac & cheezze was not good.

 

I loved Victoria. It's a beautiful city. My mom loved the tea at Empress palace but didn't like that you couldn't choose your tea sandwiches.She paid $75.

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Since you actually arrive before they roll the sidewalks up you do have some options (after dark Victoria shuts down, as the average person living there is a 70 year old British expat lady - this is mostly a joke, they have a lot of government workers too... 😉 ) The downside of all of these sites is timing - if you hustle you can realistically get into ONE site, as pretty much everything shuts down at 5pm (hence the sidewalk joke...)

 

Royal BC Museum will definitely be open - and if your visit is Fri or Sat, it'll be open until 10pm making it probably the only ticketed thing you can do after 5ish. It's excellent, and ticks of the 'historic stuff' box with all the exhibits. In general the buildings around the harbour downtown will also work for you - they're old, at least for the left coast of Canada(!), but more importantly they look much older than they are (there's a strong London vibe - helped by the red double decker buses...). Check on your exact date, as if it's Mon-Fri Parliament will be offering tours - that's another old building, very attractive, with some beautiful interior features and IIRC the tours usually run until at least 4:30pm, so you can definitely get in with a 3pm arrival even if you take a while getting off the ship and walk there.

 

If you mean Craigdarroch by 'the castle' then worry not about missing the last tour, as it's not a castle despite the cheeky name of their website. It's a Scottish Baronial Manor House - and unless you've never seen a castle in your life you will be disappointed if that's what you expect (even Disney has more authentic looking castles). The interior is beautiful, great stained glass and period furnishings, so if they advertised themselves as Craigdarroch House/Manor/Mansion I'd have zero beef with them. Hatley Castle looks much more like the real thing - but it's a hassle to get to without a car. But rent a car or pay a cabbie, and you can swing out to Royal Roads Uni where Hatley is, see their lovely gardens (probably no tour of inside unfortunately, September is out of peak season) and then continue on to Fisgard Lighthouse and Fort Rodd Hill, both nice & historic. Unless your visit is the first couple of days in Sep, they'll have stopped doing tours BUT the ticket price drops to just $5 for garden access.

 

So what about after 5pm? Aside from general wandering around to enjoy the streets, do yourself a favour and sample something that Victoria has been doing longer than anywhere else over this side of the pond - craft beer. Spinnakers is the first, and obviously the oldest, brewpub in the country (though personally I prefer the products at Swans, which is a shorter walk but a tad less convenient if you take one of the 'pickle boat' ferries as Spinnakers is right by a dock). Both, and this is the important part, have two beer cellars - one for the heathens who think beer should be drunk straight from the fridge, and the other for civilized folk who realize that the complex and subtle flavours are best appreciated at 8-10C (~50F). They also both offer 'real' ales - naturally carbonated with a secondary fermentation in the keg, no added CO2 - so you can sometimes do a comparative tasting of the same beer in all three possible states of cold/fizzy, warm/fizzy, and warm/flat.

 

You can also enjoy the free parks & gardens while the sun's up - walk the other way from the ship (or cab it) to Beacon Hill Park where there are various zones with roses, native trees etc. plus a huge totem pole and the 'mile 0' marker for the Trans-Canada highway (though we use kilometres of course!)

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