We’re back in Canada! Hooray! …or should I say “Hoor-eh!” Living in the Puget Sound area of Washington, we’re really close to beautiful Vancouver Island and try to visit whenever we can, and yet this is our first trip to Victoria that we’ve brought the kids on. We’ve partnered up with Destination Greater Victoria to explore the southern tip of the island and have a fun fall getaway with the kids. We’ve built our own itinerary and found some really wonderful, family friendly activities in Victoria and directly around. It’s going to be great!
Follow along on our social media channels to see where we are, what we’re doing, the delicious food and Canadian treats we’re enjoying and more: @2TravelDads on Instagram on Facebook and on Facebook. The kids are just as excited as we are, especially our oldest, Oliver. He thinks he’s missing a few days of school work, but lucky for him we’ve got some really unique education opportunities worked into our family friendly Victoria plan. Bwah ha ha!!!
What you'll find...
- Getting to Victoria from Washington
- Where to stay in Victoria BC: the Inn at Laurel Point
- Family friendly Victoria itinerary
- Day trip to Sidney BC
- Enjoying Victoria’s Gardens
Getting to Victoria from Washington
If you check out our article about how to do a 3 day trip to Victoria (for couples) you’ll see that there are a few different ways to get to Vancouver Island, including by seaplane which we did last time. This time, we arrived via MV Coho ferry which runs between Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula and the Inner Harbour of Victoria. The crossing time is about 90 minutes either way and the boat runs twice daily from each port.
When it comes to cost, the MV Coho is the most cost effective way to get to Victoria assuming you’re walking on. We drove on, so reserved our spot in advance. Here’s the price break down so you can plan appropriately:
Car & Driver – $65.50 USD
Walk-on Passenger – $18.50 USD Child fare – $9.25 USD
Our family of four, driving on doing round-trip passage including the $16 reservation fee came to a total of $186.50. In comparison to flying into Victoria, this is a great deal. And sometimes you even see whales from the MV Coho…
Where to stay in Victoria BC: the Inn at Laurel Point
I’d be lying if I said this was our first trip to Victoria. We love it here! I’d also be lying if I said that this was our first time staying at the Inn at Laurel Point on the Inner Harbour. We were welcomed by the Inn at Laurel Point to be our home-away-from-home for four days, and I’m so glad. They’re finishing off a renovation of some of the public spaces and the restaurant, AURA, but there’s no disturbance from it and the rooms are as perfect as ever.
Our room is a family suite looking toward the Inner Harbour. We’ve got a very large living room with a kitchenette, desk, sitting area w/ pullout sofa, HUGE patio, separate king room and a giant bathroom. It’s basically hotel room heaven. The kids love having their own space and I love being able to sleep in complete peace. PS: our family suite has little kid sized bathrobes too. Be watching for a full family bathroom lounge photo, because it’s got to happen.
We actually got to take advantage of the pool already and hopefully there can be some gym time in the next few days too. I know, we’ve got a full schedule, but there’s always time to let the kids splash in the pool. Also, even though Victoria has some really wonderful restaurants downtown and out in the neighborhoods, we’re going to do at least one meal here at the Laurel Point Inn. How can we not?
Family friendly Victoria itinerary
Chris and I worked together to build a fun plan for taking the kids to Victoria BC for the first time. We were careful to make it entertaining, educational, Canadian, and of course, memorable. We do this a lot when we travel. We love to create travel itineraries and find cool new experiences, but that’s usually in relation to places we have never been or don’t visit often. Making a family friendly Victoria plan was actually tricky for us because we have been so many times and have our favorite things to do. We’ve incorporated some of those favs, but totally expanded on our Victoria fun list. Check it out!
Exploring Victoria’s Chinatown
We love checking out International Districts and Chinatowns when we travel. Score! Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and it shows. Between Fantan Alley, the narrowest street in North America, and the really beautiful Chinatown Gate, it’s a pretty cool place to check out. It was the very first place we added to our family friendly Victoria plan because we knew the kids would love it. After looking for dragons and peeping around corners we moved onto Market Square.
Victoria has so many wonderful squares and gathering places, and one of our favorites on any trip is Market Square. It’s a great place to find lunch, snacks or do some shopping. Today we happened into a bead shop on a whim and spent the morning talking with the shop keepers about beads, kids, Victoria and just enjoying doing a random project with a local. Our random morning at Bead World was perfect and just what we needed to wait out the rain rolling through town.
Victoria Bug Zoo – perfect for family friendly activity
So, if you’re squeamish about bugs you might shrug off this spot, but I have to say: the Victoria Bug Zoo was great. As a parent who avoids the daily potato bug circus that happens on our patio, I actually loved the Bug Zoo. Yes, there were all kinds of cool insects and lots of specimen displays, and don’t get me started on the crazy number of tarantulas, but the best part of the Victoria Bug Zoo is the bug encounters.
I loved getting to hold a Chilean Rose Tarantula while the kids “shook hands” with her. And then Elliott held a scorpion and was in entomological ecstasy. We loved every moment and now are discussing adding a large insect to the family.
Royal BC Museum – totem poles and more
The plan was to pop into the Royal BC Museum and see as much of the First Nations exhibits as we could… but we had more time than we’d planned and got to do so much more! First of all, the totem pole collection and interpretation is unmatched. The pieces that have been assembled are well displayed and expertly narrated. What was really thought-provoking though was the languages exhibit. Wow. The history of muting the languages of Canada’s native peoples paired with the resurgence and fight to keep languages alive, it’s incredible to learn about.
The other highlights were the Natural History section and Old Town. When was the last time you saw a woolly mammoth? Have you been through a gold mine lately? The Royal BC Museum has some really fun and educational exhibits, perfect for everybody.
OMG! I almost forgot!! The Egyptology exhibit! Yes, it’s only in the Royal BC Museum for a limited time but it’s really impressive. Outside of the British Museum, it’s the best collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts I’ve ever seen. And now we’ve also learned that Oliver (our oldest) is really into everything Egyptian. Good times.
Day 1 of Dining in Victoria: Brewpubs, cafes and kitchens
Dinner at Canoe Brewpub
You know how we love our breweries and how the kids love brewery tours (Bend brewery tours were off the hook!), so we decided to start our trip to Victoria with a Canadian brewpub. Good choice, good choice. Yes, this was on our first night, but it was the perfect welcome to Victoria. I have to day both the Dark IPA and the Dry Hopped Pale Ale were top notch beers. Very different from a Seattle-style beer in terms of body and hoppiness, but delicious just the same.
As of today, this is my new favorite breakfast spot. I loved my chicken and waffles with spicy syrup and cream cheese syrup (yeah, that’s a thing). The kids loved the pancakes and bacon, because duh. The service was great. Good coffee. And today we learned that we ARE NOT into gooseberries, as each of our breakfasts was garnished with one. So yummy and fun.
If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just want to be inspired to try new foods or learn where food science is heading these days, Nourish Cafe is the perfect spot for you. While not the most kid-friendly dining options, even for our guys who will eat most everything, the menu was fascinating and diverse. Nourish Cafe really has mastered the art of alternative ingredients. The most mind-blowing was the cashew cream cheese. Everything we tried was delicious and unique. Of all the dining we do as we travel all over, Nourish wins the award for the most thoughtful food creations.
10 Acres Kitchen
I love that they source all of their ingredients locally and mostly from their own farm. The future of being sustainable, in any field, is being able to do things locally, and hyper-locally when you can. 10 Acres is doing this in the Kitchen, the Commons, and the Bistro. Pay a visit to see that sourcing and intentional purchasing is possible.
NOTE: because this is our travel journal, you’ll see us fill it in as we go. By the end of our trip we’ll have a full fledged journal of fun!
Day trip to Sidney BC
The southern part of Vancouver Island includes more than Victoria. Although it’s a really cool city to visit and explore, Sidney and Saanich are also great communities. We wanted to be sure to spend some time enjoying the nature of Vancouver Island, so we added this fun day trip plan to our Victoria itinerary. This made sure that we got time learning about nature, enjoying farm fresh cuisine and getting out on the water.
Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
We’re really fortunate to have a two great local aquariums back home, both in Poulsbo and in Port Townsend, and the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is this and more. Located in the marina district of Sidney, BC the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is really cool. It focuses on only the creatures found in the Salish Sea, which is the Puget Sound, Haro Strait, Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia. They’ve got some great, hands on exhibits perfect for any age.
We loved the touch tanks (always a hit) and the whale bone collection. The kids are always up for learning and places like the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea make it so fun and easy.
Exploring the Sidney marina
We were planning on just going for a stroll to see what we could see after the aquarium, but we got sucked into Mineral World & the Scratch Patch. You don’t have to try to convince us to do anything science related, and putting a sign in your window that says “Fossils”… we had to go in. Actually, it was pretty great. There were microscopes set up for looking closely at fossils and minerals, and some pretty cool geodes too. The highlight was sorting through buckets and buckets of polished minerals and stones, picking out some to bring home. Great surprise activity!
Beyond Mineral World, we also headed out to the boardwalk area. We were just relaxing and having a nice time in the sunshine, killing time before our lunch, but it was a good way to let the kids expel some energy. The boats heading in and out were beautiful, the birds we perfect. It was just nice to have a relaxing morning in the sunshine.
Haro Strait Eco-cruise out of Canoe Cove, Sidney
What an awesome treat! We had initially planned to go with with EcoCruising out of Brentwood Bay (near Butchart Gardens) but since it was the end of the season, we went out of Canoe Cove on the eastern side of Sidney. The boat was really unique, as it was fully enclosed with cushy seats and all glass for a 360 degree view. We headed out and almost immediately found wildlife.
We knew it was unlikely to spot any orca whales on this particular outside, but the EcoCruising office was certain we’d still have a great time. Wow! We visited several harbor seal colonies, checked out the small private and National Park Islands, and got to watch a couple of eagles eating fish on the shore and flying about. The kids were at ease and warm within the encolsed ecotour ship and we dads enjoyed the incredible views as we relaxed aboard. This was a great use of our afternoon and we’d happily go out with EcoCruising again, and for a longer expedition too.
Day 2 of Dining in Victoria: vintage fun and fish & chips
Today’s dining was all about finding the local culture: hipsters, farmers, fishermen, and international influence.
The Ruby on Douglass
The Ruby on Dougless is a cool spot. It’s a part of the Hotel Zed, where we actually stayed on our last trip to Victoria. It’s an old motel/apartment building from the 60s and it’s all been renovated to be hip and new, including the restaurant, The Ruby. The waiting area is just fun, as it’s one big mod living room, complete with typewriters and low couches. And then the restaurant is everything you’d want from a Victoria dining spot.
The menu was all about local sourcing and Canadian favorites. Chris had a truffle and mushroom breakfast skillet, while I enjoyed the… wait for it… poutine Benedict. That’s right, potatoes covered in cheese curds and gravy, poached eggs and Hollandaisee sauce. Amazing. And they use PAPER STRAWS with their drinks!
Farm lunch: Roost Vineyard Bistro in Saanich
Roost Farm Center is everything you could want from a Victoria dining EXPERIENCE. The farm and winery combo means that they’re sourcing everything locally or directly on property. We all had delicious meals ranging from fresh baked breads to lamb and local salmon. A bonus was the house made wine. We tried the bubbly rose and this other, fascinating unfiltered white. So interesting to drink wine as close to the source as you can possibly get. Loved the whole experience.
Fishhook at Mermaid Wharf
When we first started looking at the menu for Fishhook all we could glean was that there was a heavy Indian influence. Yes, every meal option had some sort of Indian ingredient or seasoning influence, but the main idea was still fresh local fish. We all had very different meals… and the kids FINISHED their dinners without any prompting or questions. Sold.
Chris had the vindaloo mussels with a baguette and the chowder (also with some great Indian spices). The kids shared fish and chips with a coconut milk based tarter sauce and a “red shred & citrus pickle remoulade. And I ordered off the menu, cuz I’m a baller like that. Actually, I mixed the day’s special with the catch of the day: sockeye salmon on a bed of chanterelle mushrooms and brown butter gnocchi. It was all so delicious.
Enjoying Victoria’s Gardens
A highlight of visiting Victoria for us has always been the amazing gardens, both public and private. We wanted to be sure to take the kids to our favorites and check out a new one while on the Island.
Butchart Gardens with kids
Butchart Gardens is a bucket list destination for any gardener, and tightly so. This was my fifth visit to Butchart Gardens and every time I’m impressed. This visit was the first with the kids and we weren’t too sure they’d be completely into it. The formal nature of Butchart Gardens wasn’t a deterrent to them at all. We all had a wonderful visit.
Something interesting about visiting in November is that the Butchart Gardens are nearly completely setup for Christmas. We were able to enjoy fall colors, Christmas decorations and just the natural beauty, altogether. We’d recommend visiting in the last week of October for the best fall colors, but honestly year round the gardens are impressive.
Tip: a perfect souvenir for kids that both practical, fun and zero waste are flower seeds. Butchart Gardens has some great varieties and they’ll even package then for you to go through customs.
Visiting the Victoria Butterfly Gardens
We got butterfly garden and pavilions whenever we can. We even have a membership for one in Seattle. The Victoria Butterfly Gardens take the call though, and not just for the butterflies. In arrival we instantly were wowed by the awesome leaf cutter and exhibit, and then the beetles and stick bugs, the Goliath bird eating tarantula and more. That was just the beginning.
One last day of dining in Victoria
Tip: summer or winter, you can sit in the atrium area to feel like you’re outside and stay warm while still enjoying the sunshine and bustle of the sidewalk just beyond the glass
Playing at Beacon Hill Park
We have always thought of Beacon Hill Park as one of the most incredible city parks in North America. The kids now agree with us. From play fields and play grounds, to a petting zoo and peacocks running around, it’s a really fun place for families. We particularly love to stroll through the gardens and fountains, but the most unique feature of Beacon Hill Park: the world’s tallest totem pole. Really awesome!
Thank you so much for following along on our adventure. I hope this has given you some great ideas for planning a family friendly Victoria trip (or just for adults too). As you can see, we love this city and are happy to call it our Canadian home-away-from-home. Thank you to Destination Greater Victoria and the Inn at Laurel Point for welcoming us to your home. We can’t wait to return!
Want to pin this for planning your own family friendly Victoria BC trip? Go for it!!!
Rob Taylor is the founder of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT Family Travel blog. Focusing on ecotourism and education, 2TravelDads inspires LGBT families (and traditional families also) to go beyond their usual getaways and use travel to learn about and be part of a bigger world. “Traveling the globe and giving the kids a broad worldview.”