Sunset over BC parliament building - how spend one day exploring Victoria, BC

I'm trying to avoid the cliche that it's hard to just spend one day in Victoria, but it's true. The beautiful, British-inspired capital of British Columbia could easily steal a few days of your time as you stroll the streets, marvel at ornate buildings, go wildlife watching, and explore all the museums. 

We had one full day in Victoria before driving onto to Tofino, and it was enough for a short introduction to the city that left us wanting more. 


Walk the city

On our day in Victoria we ended up walking something stupid like 20km, and boy did our feet know about it. We parked out at Beacon Hill Park by the ocean and walked along the coast into Victoria. It took us about an hour, and it was a great way to get a feel for the city. The coastline is stunning and combined with 20C+ temperatures, you could have easily pretended you were somewhere in the Mediterranean.

The city itself is seriously beautiful. A lot of the buildings are very Victorian-era Britain inspired and to be honest, Victoria's architecture puts a lot of British cities to shame. 

Walking around Victoria, BC

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf is a few minutes walk from Victoria's inner harbour and is a must-see when you're visiting the city. We went on World Ocean Day and the wharf was teeming with people, and stalls set up by charities educating people about the state of our oceans, and getting kids involved with conservation. It was a boiling hot day and I'm sure that had it not been World Ocean Day, the place would still have been packed.

The funky wharf is made up of a few piers with colourful floating homes (yes, people actually live there), restaurants, shops, and tourist information. Grey seals like to pop up in the harbour sometimes too, alas we didn't see any when we went; though it's still fun to try and spot them.

One day in Victoria; marvel at the cute, colourful houses in Fisherman's Wharf

Wildlife watching

On the walk from the Inner Harbour to Fisherman's Wharf you don't have to look to far to spot some local wildlife. As we walked into Victoria, we followed an otter and a heron, who were competing for fish. It was pretty amusing to watch the otter steal the herons food; you could almost see the look of absolute disgust on that birds face.

I know you're already short on time, because you only have one day in Victoria, but if you really want to; there are plenty of whale-watching tours leaving Victoria. Both Daz and I really want to see an Orca. We took a whale-watching tour in Tofino, and didn't see one; from the research I've done since, it seems like you have a better chance of seeing killer whales on tours leaving from Victoria or Vancouver. Maybe I'm wrong, I'm certainly no expert, but it just seems that way from what I've seen since. 

And because you're short on time, if you want to speed things up you can catch a water taxi to explore the city faster. 

Watching an otter in Victoria BC, harbour

Heron in Victoria, BC

Walk the sea wall

Ok, so Victoria doesn't technically have a seawall but you can easily make a really nice trail from the Inner Harbour to Beacon Hill Park. From the Inner Harbour, keep walking along the water towards Ogden Point (and stop of there, too), keep going up Dallas Road, and then join the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail.

Exploring the coast in Victoria, BC

BC Parliament building, Victoria, Vancouver Island

Museums & fancy buildings

Victoria is not short on beautiful looking buildings and museums. The most famous of which is the BC Parliament Building, and it's easy to see why when you finally see it with your own eyes. In Victoria, you'll also find the Royal BC Museum, the Robert Batemen Centre art museum, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and so much more. To top it all off, they even have a castle in the city too! Craigdarroch Castle is a Scottish-inspired castle about a 35-minute walk from Downtown Victoria.

The city also has plenty of parks and gardens, the most famous of which being Butchart Gardens. I get the feeling you could spend your one day just exploring the gardens if you wanted. 

Stick around for sunset

Let's make sure we finish those feet and legs off! I'm pretty sure our feet were overjoyed when we sat down for dinner; it wasn't over for them just yet.

 

The city quietens down in the evening, and you can watch the sun paint the sky above the BC Parliament building orange and pink, to the tune of a local busker playing to a small crowd in the harbour. Take a walk towards Fisherman's Wharf and you can experience an orange sunset with no one else around.

One day in Victoria; watch the sun paint the sky orange over Victoria, VC

Golden hour over the BC Parliament Building, Victoria

And when you've walked your little legs off, you can finally chill out. We were camping and stayed at McDonald Campground out near Sidney, which was about a half an hour drive. It's a small unmanned campsite in a little wooded area. It was so nice to wake up and cook breakfast surrounded by trees. It is pretty close to a main road, though we didn't find it disturbed us. 

Have you ever been to Victoria? 

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Trestle Bridge, Goldstream Provincial Park

Our first three days in Canada were solid travelling AND STRESS, so we were delighted to reach Vancouver Island and to start our trip off with a hike to Niagra Falls (not THAT Niagra Falls) and to the trestle bridge in Goldstream Provincial Park.

To be honest, we would have completely missed out on Goldstream if it hadn't been for this blog post I read on Go Live Explore. As soon as I saw Alicia's photos of the trestle bridge, I knew I wanted to see it for myself. It was well worth the leg burn and feeling incredibly unfit.

There is parking right by the trail, but it's really easy to miss as it can only be accessed from the southbound lane heading towards Victoria. (Here is the exact point on Google Maps if you need it.) There is more parking a little further down on the other side of the road and you can walk up. 

The walk to Niagra Falls only takes a few minutes and in those few minutes you're taken from the side of a busy highway to feeling like you are in one of the most remote places on Earth. The falls are nestled in the corner of a lush valley, with trees forming a canopy over the top of it. If you get there early, you will pretty much have the place to yourselves and that is the best way to see it, because it feels so tranquil. We got there about 10am and there was us, and a family with a dog; when we headed back to the car about 12ish, there were loads of people heading towards the falls.
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Niagra Falls, Goldstream Provincial Park

Niagra Falls in Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

Niagra Falls canyon, Goldstream Provincial Park

As we stood there admiring the falls, I felt so relaxed and so happy that three days of being tired and stressed had produced this wonderful moment. We took a few photos, fell off rocks and got our feet wet (that was me...) before I sprung it on Daz that I'd read about a trail up to a railway trestle bridge. The trail to the trestle bridge is not signposted so it took us a couple of minutes to find it. If you're headed away from the falls, as if you're going back to the car, it is on your left hand side. 

Boy, did that trail give us a workout. It is quite steep (170m elevation), and thankfully there are steps but that doesn't make it any less punishing. By the time we'd reached the top, we were convinced we'd destroyed our legs for the rest of the trip. And if your legs aren't already feeling weird, just wait until you stand on that trestle bridge.

Obviously, I should tell you to exercise extreme caution on the trestle bridge because there are gaps and you could seriously injure or kill yourself if you slipped. It's not like it's a knackered old bridge with pieces of wood that are going to break as soon as you step on them like something off Scooby Doo; plenty of people walk across it, but you need to be careful if you do.

View across the trestle bridge in Goldstream Provincial Park

View over the trestle railway bridge in Goldstream Provincial Park

The red railway trestle bridge in Goldstream Provincial Park, Vancouver Island

I am not usually bothered by heights but my legs definitely felt weird and a bit tingly when I started walking across the bridge. For the first time, I could understand what Daz means when he tells me heights make his feet feel weird. I think I made it about a third of the way across before deciding to turn back. I wanted to look over the sides to see the canyon below but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Like Emerald Lake last year, Niagra Falls and the trestle bridge were a great way to start our adventure and gave us great expectations of what was to come. Of course, it's Canada, that place hasn't got any problems living up to lofty expectations, as you well know from my relentless fangirling about it.

I think it took us maybe two and a half hours to visit the waterfalls and head up to the trestle bridge, though we did take it fairly easy. If you want to find out more about the trestle bridge trail and other trails around it, have a look at Victoria Trails.

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The Trestle Bridge Trail, Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

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