Home to beautiful gardens and perfectly restored nineteenth-century architecture, Victoria has long been known for its charm, but today there’s so much more than just its aesthetic appeal to enjoy. The city now possesses a dynamic energy thanks to its status as a thriving technology hub, one that has attracted young people and entrepreneurs from far and wide. Meanwhile, breweries and cafés are everywhere, access to nature couldn’t be easier, and the summer festival season adds arts and culture to the mix—all of which make for an ideal summer destination.
Perhaps due in part to its British heritage, Victoria’s brewery and pub culture is one of the best in all of Canada. While other cities are jumping on the craft-brewing bandwagon, Victoria stands as the pioneer, dating back to the 1850s, and there are several modern craft breweries that opened in the 1980s. They each have their own specialties and styles, most if not all offering seasonal brews, and best of all, they are easily accessible on foot in a one-mile loop.
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For an introduction to the local beer scene, start at Vancouver Island Brewery, one of the largest breweries and the first craft brewer on the island, where you can go on guided tours and order tasting flights. The brewery is known for approachable, fresh beers made year-round, but be sure to check out its seasonal brews like Black Betty, a saison made with blackberries and Northern Brewer hops.
On the same street, you’ll find Phillips Brewing Company, a small-batch, craft brewery that was founded in 2001. The operation is a creative one, with funky posters on the walls, a poetry-laced website, and innovative brews including spiced ginger beer. They've even opened a new offshoot distillery that makes gin with locally foraged botanicals.
Locally Sourced Food
“Farm to table” makes perfect sense on an island that stretches for less than 300 miles. At 10 Acres Bistro + Bar + Farm, 85–90 percent of the produce used in the summer comes from an organic farm located on the Saanich Peninsula. Dig in to local seafood like “cedar plank BC salmon” or Salt Spring Island mussels.
For a more elegant dining experience with waterfront and skyline views, head to Aura. The restaurant blends modern and traditional European and Japanese techniques, showcasing local ingredients with flair. Try the “bacon & egg” starter with soy-cured egg yolk, smoked duck breast, wakame, yuzu mushroom, croissant ash, and Parmesan foam.
The Great Outdoors
In addition to a dramatic waterfront, Victoria has more than seventy parks. David Foster Harbour Pathway, one of the longest pedestrian and cycling harborfront pathways in North America, features eleven “special places” honoring indigenous people, Canadian arts and culture, and environmental restoration. Beacon Hill Park‘s more than 150 acres feature landscaped and manicured gardens with bridges, ponds, waterfront views, and what was once the world’s tallest totem pole.
Victoria is extremely bike-friendly and has more cyclists per capita than any other Canadian city. Several hotels offer loaner bikes and directions to bike paths, while The Pedaler offers bike rentals and guided tours so you can discover the diverse neighborhoods, drink and snack on a “Beans & Bites” coffee tour, or indulge even more on an “Eat.Drink.Pedal” tour with stops for pizza and ice cream.
Coffee culture is a big deal in Victoria, as evidenced by the coffee shops on nearly every block downtown, but it’s worth wandering a bit to discover some of the more noteworthy spots. The artsy neighborhood of Fernwood is home to Fernwood Coffee, a cult favorite with a focus on single-origin coffees. It is also known for its carbonated cold brew from Kenya, available in cans and on tap.
Another top pick is Second Crack Coffee Lab, located in an up-and-coming industrial neighborhood just steps away from downtown. It’s a coffee roaster and café helmed by a former automotive engineer, who designed his own pour-over system. Second Crack is one of just a few retail outlets selling Empire Donuts, whose fresh and intriguing flavors include rhubarb fritter, peanut butter, maple and bacon, strawberry-filled-and-rosewater-glazed, and salted caramel.
While Victoria is a lovely destination year round, the summer offers the added bonus of a number of art and cultural festivals. The new Aboriginal Culture Festival, from June 19–21, showcases indigenous dance, storytelling, carving, singing, and food. Other favorites include the International Buskers Festival (July 17–26), the largest street performing event in all of British Columbia, and the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival (August 21–31), with inexpensive tickets to a wide variety of theatrical performances.