Sunken gardens, a classic high tea, and an unparalleled exhibit of First Peoples artifacts await in Victoria, B.C.
An early British outpost that blossomed into a cosmopolitan center, this harbor city on south Vancouver Island boasts manicured gardens, Victorian architecture, and refined cuisine against a backdrop of Pacific Northwest mountains, forests, and ocean.
Dahlias, Japanese maples, and rainfed lawns in autumn dress create a profusion of color at Butchart Gardens, a life-list destination for horticulture fans. Highlights of the 130-acre spread include five sunken gardens, a carousel with a menagerie of hand-carved steeds, and a bronze dragon fountain.
A 45-minute tour with Victoria Harbour Ferry shows off the town’s watery side: houseboat neighborhoods, floatplanes on the marina’s harbor runway, Fisherman’s Wharf, and views of the Parliament Buildings along the shore. Keep an eye out for sea otters and seals.
Don’t have a room at the opulent Fairmont Empress, now halfway through a two-part renovation? You can still savor Victorian luxury at nearby Venus Sophia, a tearoom renowned for its classic high tea of scones, quiche, Devon cream, and organic sips.
With its stone turrets, stained glass, and intricate woodwork, Craigdarroch Castle stands as a symbol of the vast wealth of mining baron Robert Dunsmuir. The four-story, 39-room mansion, now a National Historic Site, offers self-guided tours.
The Royal BC Museum’s natural history exhibits evoke the province’s wild side. Even more amazing are the hand-hewn artifacts of the First Peoples Gallery. Poles, masks, and ceremonial objects meld human images with those of crest figures: ravens, wolves, bears, and eagles.
This article was first published in Fall 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
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