Vancouver Island’s temperate climate, iconic architecture, deep passion for all things local, and thousands of hectares of nature to explore and enjoy make it a beautiful place to experience any time of year. There is, however, something special about it in the spring and if you’re looking for a unique setting or activity to enjoy over the May long weekend, this is the place. After all, where better to celebrate Victoria Day than somewhere that was named for Queen Victoria herself?

Explore the Inner Harbour

When you think of Victoria, the Inner Harbour is likely what springs to mind – and with good reason! The beautiful views are punctuated by stunningly gorgeous buildings, including the Victoria Parliament Buildings, which have stood on this site for more than 120 years. The impeccably landscaped grounds only add to the iconic majesty of the building’s architecture and if you’re hoping to get a peek inside, virtual tours are available, free of charge. Just around the corner from the inner harbour is the vibrant Fisherman’s Wharf, where delicious seafood and home baked treats will delight your tastebuds while your eyes are treated to a sea of quaint, colourful float homes. Perfectly designed grounds and floral arrangements, local shops, patios and expansive views looking out over the Haro Strait – when you visit the Inner Harbour, you’ve got access to it all.

Get Lost in Nature Without Leaving the City

Greater Victoria is the most populated area on Vancouver Island, but there are more than a few spots in the city to immerse yourself in nature. Beacon Hill Park – a 200-acre oasis overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca – has something for the whole family, including playgrounds and a petting zoo for the kids, rose gardens and abundant flower beds and for the sports enthusiasts: a putting green, baseball diamond and a lawn bowling green. History and horticulture aficionados can find both at Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and visiting place for many honoured guests of the province. The estate, which was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2002, is 36 acres, made up of vibrant gardens – including the Sunken and Victorian Rose Gardens and the one-of-a-kind Rotary Garden of International Friendship – and walking paths with breathtaking views of manicured gardens, woodlands and wildflowers.

Have a Drink Along the Saanich Peninsula

Northeast of Victoria lies the picturesque Saanich Peninsula, which includes charming small towns like Saanichton, Sidney and Brentwood Bay, and is home to several local wineries, breweries and distilleries. The mild climate on Vancouver Island makes it an ideal environment for light red and sparkling wines, and the farm-focused wineries in this subregion, including Church & State Wines, are committed to sustainable practices. Craft breweries and cideries in the area pride themselves on serving up unique beverages made up of locally grown produce – Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse alone grows more than 50 types of apples – and locally sourced ingredients. Distilleries brewing gin, spirits and other liqueurs can also be found along the Saanich Peninsula, including the award-winning Devine Distillery and the Victoria Distillery which, despite its name, is actually located in Sidney and is one of the oldest small-batch distilleries in the country.

Follow the Trails in Nanaimo

The trail network in Nanaimo has something for everyone: paths for short, leisurely strolls along the water, challenging, mixed terrain hiking trails, and mountain biking tracks complete with jumps and ramps. More than 170 kilometres of trails meander throughout the area, connecting to city streets, parks and cycling routes and featuring a mix of paved surfaces and natural terrain. If you’re pressed for time, enjoy the coastal views at Piper’s Lagoon or Neck Point Park, but if you’re looking for a challenge and for a longer hike through nature, it’s impossible to beat Mount Benson. This 8 km hike is worth the climb (literally – it’s an ascent of 740 metres) because the views from the top are astounding: panoramic views of Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands that are beautiful in any season. Mountain bikers of all abilities will love the trails and obstacles near Nanaimo, including the 10 foot drops on the Doumont Trails and the twists and turns of the Stevie Smith Bike Park, and the beautiful views of the Westwood Lake loop.

The town of Parksville sits on the northern coast of Vancouver Island and is a perfect place to spend a day at the beach. Kilometres of soft, sandy beaches line the coast, with lots of safe space in the shallows where the whole family can splash around in welcoming water that can warm up to 20 degrees on a sunny day. The nearby playground – which is wheelchair accessible – and splash pad are beloved by kids of all ages, and the boardwalk is a stunning place to take in the expansive views. One of the most incredible and unique elements of the Parksville Beach, though, is the tide – at low tide, treasures like starfish, shells and sand dollars are easily visible and when the tide goes out, visitors can walk out on the floor of the Strait of Georgia for kilometres. A truly beautiful sight at sunset.

Go Fishing in Campbell River

Also known as the Salmon Capital of the World”, it’s no surprise that five species of Pacific Salmon – Chinook, Sockeye, Pink, Chum and Coho – can be caught in the waters off of Campbell River. This truly unique destination, where rivers meet the ocean, is where true anglers go for a first-class fishing experience; whether you’re looking for a salt water or freshwater experience, bait-fishing, bait-casting or fly-fishing, this is the place to start. Fish aren’t the only wildlife you’ll find in these parts either – saltwater anglers may be lucky enough to spot pods of whales and dolphins in open waters, while those near the coast may catch a glimpse of eagles or bears. 

So there you have it – Victoria for Victoria Day long weekend – what could be better? If you’re on the mainland and looking to get out into nature, British Columbia’s public gardens or mountain biking experiences promise a beautiful and exhilarating adventure every time. 

Always follow Canada and local health authority COVID-19 guidelines for travelling or visiting attractions. Learn more about current restrictions and travelling within Canada.

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