The Best of Victoria, Off the Beaten Track

With so much to see and do on the tourist trail in Victoria, it"s easy to forget just how many of Victoria"s attractions lie "off the beaten track." But if you take the time to explore outside the box, you may be surprised at what you find. This itinerary will have you going where the locals go, and venturing outside of the standard tourist itinerary to find some of Victoria"s best "hidden gems."

Morning: Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse

Fort Rodd

Victoria is a city renowned for its natural beauty. In downtown Victoria, you"ll find plenty of stunning views, but head just outside of town, and the views become even more exquisite. This is the case at the Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site and Fisgard Lighthouse. This former military fortress is now a National Park full of natural wonders to explore, history to discover, and fun activities for the whole family.

At Fort Rodd Hill, you can visit historic buildings, learn about Canada"s military history, catch glimpses of local wildlife, play spy games in the fort, and explore the historic Fisgard Lighthouse, which was built in 1860 as the first permanent lighthouse on Canada's west coast.

Fort Rodd Hill is located near Esquimalt Lagoon, about 20 minutes outside of Victoria. During the summer, the park is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $3.90 for adults, $3.40 for students and seniors, and $1.90 for youth.

On a sunny day, the best way to get to Fort Rodd Hill is to ride a bike along the Galloping Goose regional trail. This former railway path has been converted into a hiking and biking trail that connects the city of Sooke to downtown Victoria. To find this trail from downtown, cross over the Johnson Street Bridge to Esquimalt, and take an immediate right on Harbour Road (if you get lost, just follow the other cyclists). Harbour Road leads you to Lochside Trail, another popular Victoria cycling route. Eventually, you will reach a junction near Uptown Mall. Turn left for the Galloping Goose, and follow the trail for about 10 kilometers until you reach the city of Colwood. When the trail crosses Wale Road, take a left, and follow Wale Road across the Island Highway. This will turn into Ocean Boulevard, which will lead you down a steep hill to Fort Rodd Hill. In total, this ride should take about one hour to one hour and a half.

Insider"s Tip: For bicycle rentals, check out Cycle Treks in the inner harbour at 1000 Wharf Street. In addition to daily and weekly rentals, they also offer several guided and self-guided tours of the city and its surroundings.

If you"re going by car, you"ll want to head out of town via Douglas Street, which turns into Highway 1. Take Exit 10 off of the highway, and follow Highway 1A until you reach Ocean Boulevard. Take a left on Ocean Boulevard and follow the signs down to Fort Rodd Hill. Parking is available on-site.

Lunch: Spinnaker"s Brewpub

Most tourists who come to Victoria looking for great food don"t end up at Spinnaker"s Brewpub, but those who do always have something to write home about. Although this pub overlooks the inner harbour, it"s located just off the main drag in Esquimalt. Gastro Brewpubs have really taken off in Victoria, and this is one with a truly unique location. Come here for traditional pub fare with a twist and to sample their selection of house-made beers.

If you"re heading to Spinnakers along the Galloping Goose Trail, enjoy a nice ride all the way back to the Johnson Street Bridge along the bike path. Then, rather than crossing over the bridge, take a right on Esquimalt Road, and then a left on Catherine Street, where you"ll find Spinnaker"s at the end of the road.

From Fort Rodd Hill by car, head up the hill on Ocean Boulevard and take a right on Island Highway. Follow the road as it turns into Craigflower Road and then Skinner Street. Turn right on Catherine Street, and you"ll find Spinnaker"s at the end of the road. 

Afternoon: St. Ann"s Academy

St. Annes

Many visitors to Beacon Hill Park walk right past one of Victoria"s most beautiful and important historic sites without even noticing that it"s there. St. Ann"s Academy was once home to the Sisters of St. Ann, who played an important role in the founding of British Columbia"s healthcare and education systems in the 19th Century. Today, the buildings and gardens that make up the academy are owned by the Province of British Columbia, and the property has been declared a National Historic Site. Tour the grounds and soak in the beauty of the gardens, and visit the buildings to see some stunning architecture and learn more about the history of the Sisters of St. Ann.

St. Ann"s Academy is located at 835 Humboldt Street, just outside of Beacon Hill Park.

If you"re cycling, it should only be a ten to fifteen minute ride from Spinnaker"s to get here. First, head downtown on Esquimalt Road and cross over the Johnson Street Bridge. Then, take an immediate left on Wharf Street, and follow the road along the waterfront. After you pass the Empress Hotel, turn left on Belleville Street, then take a left on Blanshard Street, and you"ll see St. Ann"s Academy on your right hand side.

If you"re driving, you should also be able to follow the same route. Pay parking is available on site, and the entrance to the parking lot is off of Blanshard Street. Street parking is also available on many of the surrounding streets.

Evening:  Harbour Air Flightseeing

Harbour Air

If you"ve never been on a seaplane before, this is an opportunity you won"t want to miss. Harbour Air offers a variety of seaplane trips around Victoria, including the one of a kind Fly ‘n Dine tour, which takes passengers on a thrilling flightseeing trip from Victoria Harbour to the Butchart Gardens" private dock.

Upon arrival, visitors will enjoy a specially selected three-course dinner right in the gardens at their Dining Room Restaurant.

After dinner, you"ll complete the evening with a leisurely, hour-long stroll through the floodlit gardens before your limousine returns you to downtown Victoria.

Although the Fly ‘n Dine option is only regularly available during the summer, Harbour Air offers year-round departures for flightseeing, and groups can request this option during the off-season.

The Harbour Air dock is located at 950 Wharf Street, at the north end of the inner harbour (just off of Broughton Street). Street parking is available in the area, and there are also a number of pay parking lots around the inner harbour.

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