In 1843, the Hudson's Bay Company founded a fur trading settlement in the Victoria area called Fort Camosun; it was later renamed Fort Victoria to honour the British Queen. In 1849, the Hudson's Bay Company's western headquarters was moved from Fort Vancouver to Fort Victoria, and the Fort Vancouver Chief Factor, James Douglas, was relocated to the new settlement. This prompted the British colonial office to designate the territory a crown colony. The Hudson's Bay Company was then given a ten-year lease to the area, and in 1951, Douglas was appointed the new governor.
In 1866, when the Colony of Vancouver Island united with the mainland, Victoria became the capital of the new united colony; when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871, Victoria became the provincial capital.
Today, Victoria is a world-famous destination for visitors. Known as the Garden City, it is home to some magnificent gardens including: Government House with 14 hectares of gardens and woodlands, the small but stunning Agkhazi Garden, Beacon Hill Park, Glendale Gardens and Woodland and the world-famous Butchart Gardens and Butterfly Gardens in Brentwood Bay. With a spectacular inner harbour, Victoria has a downtown that is easy to walk around. It is graced with beautifully restored heritage buildings and superb shopping, dining and entertainment options. With horse-drawn carriages and flower baskets everywhere, the Inner Harbour is the hub of the downtown activity and bustles with kayaks, sail boats, whale watching boats, tour boats, ferries and floatplanes. In the summer, street performers and artisans line the walkway.
Victoria is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, on the Saanich Peninsula, 32 km (20 mi) south of the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal which services ferries from Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen in the Vancouver area. From Nanaimo, Victoria is 112 km (70 mi) south via the Trans Canada Highway 1. Ferries from Port Angeles and Seattle in Washington State, USA provide regular service to Victoria's Inner Harbour.
Discover the Royal British Columbia Museum depicting BC's history from the pre-Ice Age to the present through its First Peoples, Natural History and Modern History Galleries. Three-dimensional displays offer the senses a feast of the sights, smells and sounds of British Columbia. Walk through a rainforest, experience dramatic glimpses of First Nations culture before and after the arrival of Europeans. Explore a replica of the stern section of Captain George Vancouver's ship HMS Discovery.
A sampling of Victoria's downtown attractions include: Helmcken House, the oldest house in BC; Thunderbird Park which boasts a collection of totems mostly carved in the 1950s by Chief Mungo Martin; Carr House, the birthplace of Emily Carr; Miniature World, featuring scenes from history and fantasy created with incredibly detailed tiny figures; the Bug Zoo which is popular with children and features many kinds of insects, including some you can hold; the Pacific Undersea Gardens provides a close up look at the creatures living in the Pacific; the Maritime Museum of BC which is located in Bastion Square, the site of the original Fort Victoria, has three floors of nautical exhibits complete with tales of pirates, shipwrecks, and explorers; Craigdarroch Castle, built in the 1880s and is now a gorgeous museum.
Experience the sights of hundreds of exotic butterflies flying free in an indoor tropical paradise. Sense the smell of flowering plants, delicate orchids and the rainforest that is home to fascinating birds. Hear the waterfalls as the stream flows for the koi and provides a home for flamingos. Friendly staff, guided tours, an art and gift store, attached restaurant and plenty of free parking will compliment your visit to Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Five minutes to the world famous Butchart Gardens.
Butchart Gardens is located 21 km (34 mi) north of Victoria on Saanich Inlet and has been designated a National Historic Site. Comprised of 22 ha (55 acres) of floral displays, you will find spectacular views as you stroll along meandering paths and expansive lawns.
Designed by renowned architect Francis Rattenbury in the 1890s, the Legislative buildings are a visual feast inside and out. Gold and silver leaf, murals, ornate plaster details and wood mouldings ornament the richly-hued walls and ceilings. Visitors also encounter solid marble columns, statuary, stained glass as well as unique architectural flourishes. Be sure to take some time to appreciate the beauty of the grounds, which feature flower gardens, fountains, statues and exhilarating views of the harbour and mountains. Free tours are available.
Whether you are just window shopping or on a major shopping spree, in Victoria you can browse quaint shops, local markets and major shopping malls to find your heart's desire. Victoria offers everything from antiques to the wares of local artisans and the designs of the hippest trendsetters. The city's layout encourages strolling and exploring the many side streets at an easy pace. Check out Government Street, Trounce Alley, Bastion Square, Chinatown and Antique Row.
Whale watching is hugely popular in the waters surrounding Victoria. No other spectacle of nature compares to the awe-inspiring sight of a massive orca, or killer whale, breaching out of the deep blue water only 100 m (100 yds) from your boat. Also seen are gray, humpback and mike whales, plus sea lions, seals, porpoise and an abundance of marine birds.
Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands provides boaters and sailors with some of the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world. A network of marinas and marine parks make getting ashore easy. Bring your own boat, rent from numerous charter companies or take a guided cruise. Victoria and its surrounding area is also considered to have some of the best kayaking and canoeing in the world.
If you enjoy cycling, Victoria is known as the cycling capital of Canada, with hundreds of kilometres of bicycle paths, bike lanes and bike routes in the city, including the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. There are also mountain biking trails at Mount Work Regional Park and a BMX track located in the nearby community of Colwood.
For golf enthusiasts, there are several courses in and around Victoria that cater to all levels.
The highlight of the August long weekend is Symphony Splash. Victoria's Inner Harbour is transformed into a concert venue of gargantuan proportions. The orchestra and guest performers are set up on a barge directly in front of the Parliament Buildings. Powerful speakers carry the sound to the thousands who ring the harbour to listen. The concert traditionally closes with The 1812 Overture, complete with guns and the carillon.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia