7 Ways to Explore Victoria with a Flexible Budget

When we travel, as much as we’re out to have an amazing time, we also have a budget to keep in mind. A great way to keep within a budget is to do a mix of “splurge” and “save”. We’ve compiled seven ideas to help build your Victoria itinerary, so that you can flex your budget for maximum effect. The range runs from upper-end experiences to totally free ones! Get ready to explore with our high/low list.

1. Afternoon tea

The Splurge: In a city known for its tearooms, the one that started the delicious ritual here more than 110 years ago is the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. The famed luxe tea is served in the contemporary Lobby Lounge overlooking the Inner Harbour. Indulge in cold-smoked Pacific sockeye salmon on blini with chive crème fraîche, Coronation chicken salad on brioche and banana caramel financier. $89 per person. Or go big with the Champagne Tea with a glass of Veuve Clicquot for $128.

The Save: Afternoon tea at the Teahouse at Abkhazi Garden comes with the love story of Peggy Pemberton-Carter and exiled Georgian Prince Nicholas Abkhazi. Separated by the second world war, they found each other again and married. Their former home is now a tea house overlooking the beautiful grounds known as “the garden that love built.” Choose from the Royal Abkhazi High Tea ($65) or Afternoon Tea ($54) or enjoy the saving option of Abkhazi Elevenses with a savoury cheddar scone, two tea sandwiches, some sweet baked treats and pot of tea for $28.

The Bigger Save: Drop in at Murchie’s Tea & Coffee on Government Street for a pot of one of their many delectable teas and a fresh-baked pastry.

2. Ballet two ways

The Splurge: Victoria is home to one of British Columbia’s top professional ballet companies, Ballet Victoria. Now celebrating its 20th season, the company blends contemporary ballet and dramatics in a unique west-coast style. “Broadway on Pointe & New Works” starts in October. Tickets are $50 for adults and $25 for kids. Seniors are $35.

The Save: Who doesn’t love the colourful Harbour Ferry electric vessels you see chugging around the Inner Harbour? Locals call them pickle boats. You’ll call them adorable, especially if you catch the free Water Ballet Saturdays and Sundays at 10:45 a.m. It’s on until Thanksgiving. Captains steer the little boats through lively choreography to a classical music soundtrack. The best seats are at the Steamship Terminal. The Ballet Captains do a meet and greet at the Causeway Marina near the Empress Dock after each performance.

3. Seafood Feast

The Splurge: Indulge in fresh local seafood in a 1882 heritage building in the heart of downtown Victoria at Finn’s Seafood, Chops & Cocktails. A 60-seat patio overlooks the Inner Harbour at this popular Wharf Street restaurant. The culinary team is led by Executive Chef Richard Luttman, who puts a focus on delicious and sustainable seafood. Landlubbers and vegetarians are also well fed. There’s a daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. where a two-course prix fixe meal is $32.95.

The Save: Victoria’s Red Fish Blue Fish is famous for tempura-battered fish and chips. With outdoor seating on the dock and a walk-up window, the vibe at this seafood shack on the water is casual and the views are terrific. Tacones, grilled or tempura fish sandwiches and chowder round out the menu. One piece of Pacific cod with coleslaw, Kennebec chips and tartar sauce is only $15.

4. Year-round garden life

The splurge: The Butchart Gardens is a can’t-miss stop in Victoria, with 55 acres of lush gardens, water features and quiet spaces to explore and enjoy. It’s also a National Historic Site of Canada. Until Sept. 11, night illuminations turn the gardens into a wonderland. Admission is $38 for adults, $19 for youth and $3 for kids five to 12.

The Save: The Gardens at HCP is nine acres of gardens on a 103-acre site in Saanich, just outside Victoria. Walk nature trails and peaceful garden spaces, including a new W̱SÁNEĆ Ethnobotany Trail that explores the relationship between Indigenous peoples and native plants. Adult admission is $12, seniors $9 and kids under 16 free.

The Bigger Save: Admission is free at Finnerty Gardens, a hidden gem tucked into a quiet corner of the University of Victoria campus. There are more than 4,000 different trees and plants to enjoy along winding paths, including one of the best collections of showy rhododendrons in Canada.

5. Get golfing

The Splurge: Olympic View Golf Course is located just 20 minutes from Victoria, and features spectacular views and tranquil nature immersion. You an also practice or take lessons at their award winning GBC Golf Academy. After your rounds, enjoy a premier culinary experience at their restaurant, Table Nineteen. $99 for 18 holes during peak season.

The save: Henderson Park Golf Course is ideal for beginners, kids and anybody who wants to sharpen their pitch-and-putt skills. Adults play nine holes on this par 3 course for $10.65. Club rentals are $6.30.

6. Epic views

The Splurge: There’s nothing more west coast than a float plane. Harbour Air Seaplanes’ Victoria Classic Panorama Tour is a 20-minute flight that takes in the city, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Peninsula, landing in the Inner Harbour. Starting from $143 for adults and $73 for kids.

The Save: Enjoy views of Finlayson Arm fjord, the Olympic Mountains and Salish Sea islands from the top of the accessible Malahat Skywalk, Victoria region’s newest tourism attraction. The gentle spiral walk above the treetops boasts 360-degree views. Walk down or take the spiral slide to the bottom. Tickets are $34.95 for adults, $30.95 for seniors and $20.95 for ages six to 17. Until Sept. 4, the Skywalk is open to 8 p.m. and there’s a 25 per cent discount on admissions after 5 p.m., Thursday to Sunday

The Bigger Save: Hike the beautiful wooded trails to the top at Mount Douglas Park, or drive to the summit for panoramic views. Sunset is often spectacular here. Free.

7. Say Spa-aah

The Splurge: Luxury boutique property the Oak Bay Beach Hotel is home to the Boathouse Spa, Victoria’s only oceanfront spa. Guests who book a treatment can add two hours in the outdoor mineral pool and Jacuzzi hot tubs for an additional $30. Reservations required. Treatments starting at $155.

The save: Located downtown, Ritual Nordic Spa offers a modern take on the classic Finnish sauna house circuit experience with cedar, basswood and infrared saunas, eucalyptus steam room, cold plunge pool, Nordic bucket showers and a salt lounge. $59 midweek, $69 on weekends.

The bigger save: Built for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, Saanich Commonwealth Place recreation centre has pools, wet and dry saunas and a whirlpool. The kids’ pool (with pirate ship and west-coast critters) and waterslide adds to the fun. One-day admission is $7 for adults and $4 for kids.

Now, all that’s left to do is get booking and have fun!

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Destination Greater Victoria is honoured to be based on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples of the Songhees Nation and the Esquimalt Nation, whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.