As if you need another excuse for a getaway to Victoria: while other parts of Canada are still fighting off the winter blues, Victoria is already celebrating spring in shorts and sandals. Here's eight reasons you should visit B.C.'s capital city this month.
1. You'll be immersed in colourful, blooming gardens everywhere you go!
It's that time of year. Victoria is looking super colourful right now, and if you visit this month you'll not only catch the best of spring, but early summer too. The Butchart Gardens has been recording some of the earliest-ever summer blooms, plus their tulip displays are out in full-force. Near downtown, Beacon Hill Park is also flourishing with colours, from massive rhododendrons to meadows filled with wild daisies.
Image: The Italian Garden at The Butchart Gardens
Keep your eyes peeled around town; it's not just the public gardens that are looking good right now. Many of Victoria's inhabitants grow their own beautiful gardens right at home. Some of the finest private gardens can be seen in neighbourhoods like Fairfield and Oak Bay. You can opt to explore on your own or take a walking tour with Victorian Garden Tours. Feel like exploring on two wheels? Try a guided bike tour with The Pedaler Cycle Tours & Rentals.
2. You'll be encouraged to be creative (and drink great wine)
Let your creative juices flow! There's no reason not to try something new when wine is involved. Head to Blue Grouse Estate Winery for their Paint Night, where you'll learn a little bit about painting and a lot about having fun with art. You'll also try some of their own great wines while you're at it. No experience necessary.
Image: Blue Grouse Estate Winery
3. You'll discover unique treasures at Victoria's markets
In Victoria, markets aren't just a summertime thing. Make sure to visit the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson while you're in town. It's located on the ground floor of the iconic Hudson Building. Tip: If you visit on a Sunday, you'll also catch live music and fun family activities at the market!
The Victoria Public Market will also be hosting Victoria's annual Spot Prawn Festival on May 22, which will feature live spot prawn available for purchase from Cowichan Bay Seafood, chef demonstrations and samples, fresh-off-the-boat BC spot prawns on menus of market vendors, local wineries sampling wines that pair well with BC spot prawns, local musicians performing live, kids activities and local artisans offering handcrafted items.
Image: Victoria Public Market at the Hudson
You can also pay a visit to the James Bay Community Market, which takes place each Saturday beginning on May 7. It's located just behind the BC Parliament Buildings, about a five minute walk from the Inner Harbour, and features an array of food vendors and live music. All of the products on display are handmade, homemade and homegrown on Vancouver Island.
4. You can actually get out on the water
The ocean around Victoria is still a little cold for full-on swimming, but that doesn't mean you can't get out there. Whether you prefer stand-up paddle boarding (or SUP as the locals call it), sea kayaking, skim boarding or sailing, there's no shortage of on-water activities to take part in.
For a fun, guided SUP adventure, try SUP Rebel or Ocean River Kayak Adventures. Ocean River also offer a number of guided kayak tours for paddlers of all experience levels, including a sunset harbour tour in Victoria's Inner Harbour. Kelp Reef Adventures are located in Fisherman's Wharf and offer guided kayak tours of the wharf and surrounding areas.
Image: Ocean River Kayak Adventures sunset harbour tour.
Those who prefer to stay on land can still go for long, relaxing walks along any of Victoria's many beaches. Willows Beach in Oak Bay is one of our favourites. It's sandy, so you can go barefoot. Walk in the shallow surf and feel the waves come in around your ankles, or stay up high and check out all the cool driftwood forts!
Image: Willows Beach
5. You can eat fresh, locally-produced food
Because when you can get fresh food, you should eat it. Victoria's chefs take the concept of fresh seriously, with local eateries like Finest at Sea Seafood Boutique and Red Fish Blue Fish serving up catches of the day just steps away from the waterfront. These are both casual, outdoor-eating options and perfect choices for this time of year when al fresco doesn't mean al freeze-your-buns-off.
Images: Fish n' chips from Red Fish Blue Fish (top), fish tacos from Finest at Sea Seafood Boutique (bottom)
If you're looking for a great sit-down dinner option, try 10 Acres Bistro + Bar. Their menu offers a unique West Coast experience showcasing the freshest foods from Vancouver Island including seafood, cheese and the finest seasonal produce, meats & eggs direct from the 10 Acres farm on the Saanich Peninsula. It doesn't get much fresher than that.
Image: 10 Acres Rotisserie Chicken and Spuds
One of Victoria's top bakeries Fol Epi has recently launched Agrius, a full-fledged contemporary restaurant located in the heart of downtown Victoria. The chefs at Agrius work with many local producers, farms and foragers, with an ever-changing menu dictated by the seasonal availablilty of organic ingredients. It's a great spot to chill out, enjoy some fresh food and feel like a local in Victoria. Tip: Buy some pepperoni or sausages and take them to go. With a full-time butcher on staff, Agrius boasts a huge selection of in-house dried and cured meats that you will definitely want to squeeze into your carry-on luggage.
Still not satisfied? Check out more insider scoop on Victoria's great food scene.
Images: Both at Agrius by Fol Epi, Agrius chef's salad (right)
6. You can bring out your inner child
Whether you're traveling with kids or just like to act like one, a visit to Victoria will let your inner child shine. Head to Beacon Hill Children's Farm to pet, brush and feed the friendly goats. Keep your eyes peeled...this park is also home to some free-ranging peacocks!
Afterward, head across the street and enjoy Victoria's favourite soft-serve ice cream at the Beacon Drive-In.
May 14 is Vancouver Island Family Fun Day, so if you're in town then, head to Centennial Square (right behind City Hall) to check out food, live music, face painting, bouncy castles, games and crafts! If you'll be in town at the end of the month, make sure to visit the Victoria Comic Book Expo.
Image: A resident baby goat at the Beacon Hill Children's Farm
7. You'll get out in nature...
Whether you choose to take a mellow walk through one of Victoria's parks and gardens or work up a sweat with a hike, there's no reason not to immerse yourself in Southern Vancouver Island's wild, wonderful natural beauty. Take a gentle, guided tour along Victoria's waterfront attractions and most photogenic spots with HikeVictoria.com. You'll be driven between each location, so this tour is a great option for those who aren't super mobile.
If a vigourous hike is more your style, try Mount Doug Park (right in town) or Gowlland Tod Provincial Park (about 20min north of the city). A happy medium is the mellow but rugged Coast Trail in East Sooke Park.
Image: A majestic Douglas Fir tree in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park
8. ...and Enjoy Epic Sunsets
Take a stroll along Dallas Road between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. for unobstructed southern-facing views, arguably the best place in town to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and Olympic Mountains.
If you'd rather drink it in from a patio with a glass of sangria or white wine (just an idea), head to Canoe Brewpub, Milestone's Restaurant or the Breakwater Bistro & Cafe. All three are perfect locations to sit back, relax and enjoy the last rays of the day.
Image: Victoria Inner Harbour as seen from Milestone's patio, taken by Lindsay Mac via Blog Victoria
There you go, eight reasons why a visit to Victoria in May is a totally fantastic idea. The only question we have left for you is this: have you booked your trip yet?