Will you be visiting Victoria, BC this year? Find out where to go and what to do, especially if you have kids in tow! Use this article as a guide to finding the best outdoor family activities in Victoria.
(For indoor attractions, read this article: Best Indoor Activities in Victoria)
Outdoor Activities Near Victoria’s Inner Habour
A trip to Victoria is never complete without a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf. Whether you are hungry for fish and chips, pizza, mini donuts or ice cream, you’ll find all of that and more while there.
Fisherman’s Wharf is located within a 15-minute walk from Victoria’s Inner Harbour, or a 10-minute walk from the Ogden Point cruise ship terminal. Enter off St. Lawrence Street or Dallas Road. If you plan on driving, paid parking is available right out front, but be aware, it’s not a very big lot.
If you’d rather not walk or drive…
Ride the Victoria Harbour Ferries
Hop on the Victoria Harbour Ferries for a quick ride to a variety of the city’s top attractions (including Fisherman’s Wharf mentioned above). Or, better yet, take a full cruise around the harbour.
If you are visiting during the summer months make sure to watch the Water Ballet put on by the little ferry boats. For over 25 years and counting, Ferry Captains have been volunteering their time to make this much-loved event happen each summer. Dates and times can be found by visiting their website.
Explore the Inner Harbour by Bike
Whether on a tour or on your own, the city of Victoria is completely navigable by bike. Several companies rent out bikes of all sizes and styles (electric bikes are available too!). If you’d rather not venture out on your own, a variety of easy biking tours are available as well. Having a guide take you around the city allows for stops at unique locations you may not have otherwise known about.
Recommended bike rental/tour companies located near the harbour:
What better way to explore a city than by eating delicious tastings along the way. We highly recommend A Taste of Victoria Food Tour to do just that! The kids will love all the dessert you get to sample. And everyone in the group will appreciate the wealth of knowledge they have gained about Victoria once the tour is complete.
There’s no need to eat before this food tour, as I guarantee your belly will be full by the end!
Walk through the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America behind San Francisco. While wandering, keep on the lookout for the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley, the old Chinese Public School building (still in use), plus a selection of other historic buildings and monuments.
Download the self-guided tour pamphlet created by the City of Victoria to help you navigate through the colourful streets and narrow alleys.
China Town is Located on Fisgard Street, between Government Street and Store Street.
Beacon Hill Park & Petting Zoo
Beacon Hill Park is the crown jewel of Victoria’s downtown core. There are over 200 acres of parkland to explore, and always something to look at. The park offers plenty of natural areas, plus manicured sections of beautiful flower beds and pathways (including a rose garden). Peacocks roam free, and the many ducks and birds in the area flock to the ponds.
For the kid’s enjoyment, there are two playgrounds, a waterpark, sports features, and, of course, the much loved Petting Zoo.
Download a map of Beacon Hill Park for easy reference.
Outdoor Attractions Outside the Downtown Core
This famous year-round garden oasis is a must see when visiting Victoria. There are 55 acres of gardens, with over 900 varieties of bedding plants on display. You can easily spend an entire day here, but plan for a minimum of 2 – 3 hours. The main points of interest at the Butchart Gardens are as follows:
- Sunken Garden
- Ross Fountain
- Rose Garden
- Japanese Garden
- Star Pond
- Italian Garden
- Mediterranean Garden
- Carousel Ride
- Lunch or Dinner at the Blue Poppy Restaurant
One of the best things about The Butchart Gardens is that each season offers something beautiful to look at. So it doesn’t really matter when you visit!
Fort Rod Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse
View the oldest lighthouse on Canada’s West Coast at Fort Rod Hill.
From 1878 until 1956, a series of coast artillery fortifications guarded Victoria and the nearby naval base in Esquimalt. Now a National Historic Site, Fort Rod Hill is one of the world’s best preserved and most complete examples of its kind. The site consists of only original structures that have received very minimal restoration over the years.
Grab a pamphlet when you enter and take a self-guided tour around the site. Admission rates are extremely reasonable (under $5.00 per adult and youth under 17 are free!). Expect to spend at least a few hours exploring historic battlements, weapons and displays.
This National Historic Site is located at 603 Fort Rod Hill (approximately 20 minute drive from downtown Victoria).
Esquimalt Lagoon & Colwood Waterfront
Separated by a sandspit, this area features miles of ocean views on one side, and a picturesque bird sanctuary in a saltwater lagoon on the other.
People flock to this area to view wildlife, beach comb, sun bathe, swim, kayak and scuba dive.
Personally, we visited the area to view the amazing driftwood sculptures created by Langford resident Paul Lewis. Although Paul’s creations have caused a bit of controversy with a few locals, they are definitely worth the drive to view. There are 12 driftwood sculptures scattered along the beach. Can you find them all?
Esquimalt Lagoon can be found near Fort Rod Hill on Ocean Boulevard.
Hatley Castle and Gardens
Another must-see National Historic Site is Hatley Castle, located on the grounds of Hatley Park and Royal Roads University.
Along with the castle, the site features hundreds of heritage trees significant for their size, rarity and diversity, including 250-year-old Douglas firs that are among the largest in the area. The showpieces of the park are the Italian, the Rose and the Japanese manicured gardens.
The site has been the set of many movies and TV shows, with the most well-known being Deadpool and the X-Men series.
Don’t leave the grounds without taking a guided tour of Hatley Castle. For a tour of both the gardens as well as the castle, and to learn some incredible history about the site, opt for the Guided Walking Estate Tour.
So there you have it, our top 10 favourite outdoor family activities in Victoria. What are yours?
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