Off the Beaten Path: Discover Hidden Gems in Victoria BC
Many of Victoria’s visitors come to our beautiful city for fairly apparent reasons. Our mild weather, abundance of stunning green space and fantastic museums are some oft cited reasons we hear from guests. Still, there’s a hidden side to the city as well. Some of the most stellar reasons to visit may not be immediately apparent at first glance. In light of that, here’s your guide to some of the most enticing hidden gems in Victoria BC you’ll want to check out while you’re our guest.
Many visitors to the Royal BC Museum — a must-visit in its own right — aren’t aware that this fantastic green space sits right outside. First established in 1941, Thunderbird Park houses an impressive collection of First Nations totem poles, reliefs and other carved art. Not only were many of these pieces far larger than could be accommodated by the museum itself, but curators and tribal leaders felt that these artifacts should be displayed as they were intended to be seen — outdoors. The result is a spectacular exhibit of native art that’s not to be missed.
Officially, Victoria’s Government House is both a National Historic Site and the residence of the province’s Lieutenant Governor. But it also serves an important spiritual purpose: It is the symbolic home of all British Columbians. As such, the lush 14.5-hectare (36-acre) grounds are open to the public free of charge during daylight hours, including its gorgeous green gardens and copse of rare Garry oaks. From May to September, guests are welcome to visit the Cary Castle Mews Interpretive Center and Tea Room for a warm cup in an educational setting. Guided tours are also available.
In search of a little tranquility? Abkhazi Garden is an absolutely breathtaking space that’s the definition of “hidden gem.” This intimate botanical marvel was first established in 1946 and has only grown more beautiful in the intervening years. Gently rolling slopes and meticulously landscaped features wind around old-growth Garry oaks and Japanese maple trees, while vibrant, fragrant beds of rhododendrons, lilies, heather, irises and other beautiful blooms line the walkways. Don’t take your leave without also visiting the charming Abkhazi Tea House for a bit of afternoon respite.
If you’re hungry for a little adventure, you’ll want to seek out this spectacular speakeasy-style eatery and its incomparable cocktail program. Little Jumbo has been described as “Victoria’s Best Restaurant,” and from the moment you step inside, it’s not hard to see why. The decor has won interior-design awards, and the vibe is immediately welcoming. Farm-to-table and pier-to-plate freshness informs the inspired menu by award-winning Executive Chef Gabe Fayerman-Hansen. The ever-evolving beverage menu is also the stuff of legend and reinvents itself every few weeks.
Dragon Alley is the definition of a “blink, and you’ll miss it” spot, so we recommend that you keep your eyes open. Located between Fisgard and Herald streets, in Victoria’s Chinatown (and snaking through a few buildings for a little added intrigue), Dragon Alley is only barely designated by some overhead signs at the street level. But intrepid wanderers who duck into this narrow passageway will find themselves deposited into a secret enclave of exceptional spots for unique food, coffee, art, souvenirs, home decor and more.
As a seaside city, Victoria has more than her fair share of picturesque beaches. But perhaps none is as lovely as Willows Beach. The tranquil waters and soft sands here would be more than enough reason to visit on their own. But this serene stretch also features grassy green space, picnic areas and even occasional outdoor concerts. Willows is also the perfect vantage spot to get a stunning eyeful of Oak Bay Marina, Mount Baker and Discovery Island. Hungry? Grab a bite at Willows Beach Tea Room during your drop-in. And be sure to check out nearby Estevan Village before you head out.
Plan Your Victoria Treasure Hunt
Ready to explore these hidden gems in Victoria BC for yourself? Check out the exclusive offers at The Parkside Hotel & Spa and start planning your visit.