Victoria Daytrip
September 5, 2014 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Three of us are taking the ferry from Seattle to Victoria, BC this Sunday morning at 7am. We're going to go to the botanical gardens, and take the ferry back at 6pm. Do you have any tips, suggestions, or recommendations to make this a relaxing, fun, stress-free trip?

Only one of us has been in Canada before (not me.) We'll have plenty of free time after the gardens. No car, and we're not big walkers, and we'll be tired because of the early wakeup. We love yummy food, yarn, craft & art stores, cute gift shopping, tea, and have pretty open minds.

The purpose of this trip more than anything is to catch up with each other because we only see each other maybe once a year and have been friends for 15 years. We're three women, all about 30.

Places to eat, things not to miss, things to avoid, best place to be really sleepy in the middle of the day? Tips to make the travel part less-taxing or really nice? I'm a good cook and was thinking of making up some breakfast things to eat on the ferry in the morning, would that be a good idea or more trouble than it's worth? Budget-friendly ideas are best; the ferry itself is pretty pricey. Thanks!
posted by Mizu to Travel & Transportation around Victoria, BC (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You say you like tea?
posted by Poldo at 2:52 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am assuming that you are heading to the Butchart Gardens. The food at the Brentwood Bay resort nearby is fantastic, though a little pricey.

If you are staying in Victoria itself, Red Fish Blue Fish by the wharf is pretty good. Rebar impressed me with their vegetarian offerings.
posted by axismundi at 3:16 PM on September 5, 2014

I live about a block from the ferry terminal, and love it. I'm not entirely sure how you are planning to get out to Butchart Gardens (botanical gardens?), although I think the #75 bus goes out there (it's the cheapest option). It will take an hour to get out to Butchart Gardens from downtown via public transportation (the bus stop is on the east side of the Parliament Buildings, on Government Street), and an hour to get back into town. With 2 hours or so at Butchart's, that's half your day. Butchart's admission fees will also be pretty pricey.

Abkhazi Gardens might shave some time off of your trip, and is cheaper. Abkhazi Gardens seems to offer tea.

I'm not sure when the Clipper leaves back to Seattle, but if you can, I would aim to go out to Butchart Garden first thing, so you can get back into town for lunch, or head out to Butchart's after lunch. Butchart's is located a long way from any amenities. There is a restaurant there, but it's very touristy, and it's a long way out of town.

If you like coffee, locals go to HABIT on the corner of Pandora and Government. HABIT is a 4th Wave coffee shop, so they like blonde citrusy roasts. Discovery Coffee is another local hangout and there is one on Menzie Street, about two blocks from the Inner Harbour.

Your best bet for tea AND coffee is Murchie's on Government Street. It's touristy, but has a fabulous tea selection. It's also next door to Munro's Books, the most famous and most beautiful bookstore in Canada.

Silk Road Teas, at Government and Johnson, has some good teas.

The stretch of Blanshard Street between Johnson and Broughton is known locally as "Eat Street" because it has a ton of cool little cafes. The Atrium building at Yates and Blanshard has a HABIT coffee shop (I prefer Bean Around the World in Chinatown, on Fisgard).

The only caveat I have is that some of the restaurants above Douglas Street (the divide between local and tourist) will probably be closed because it is Sunday.

The only thing I would avoid is the west side of Douglas Street between Fort and Johnson. It's kind of gross.
posted by Nevin at 3:19 PM on September 5, 2014

I haven't done the trip to Seattle in a number of years but, yes, I do remember that bringing food was a pretty good idea.

I assume you're heading to the Butchart Gardens which is not in town. If you're taking transit it's worth noting that it may require some advance planning.

Coming back into downtown/the inner harbour you'll be walking distance to most of the touristy sort of things as you're not that far from where the cruise ships dock. The empress, as mentioned above, does an impressive tea but a block further is Murchies which is a nice shop. A couple blocks further up is the (rather small) China town. In the other direction there is the (much larger) Beacon Hill Park which has both meadows, manicured gardens, reflecting pools, a petting zoo and the like. Across the street is the Beacon Hill Drive-In which may well do the best soft-serve anywhere.

Travelling east you can walk (getting a little farther out of downtown) to the Craigdarroch Castle or the Governor General's Estate.

Coming back to downtown I can heartily recommend Munro Books and Russell Books for new & used respectively. The Royal BC Museum is very close and wins awards and such. It's pretty great.
posted by mce at 3:24 PM on September 5, 2014

I was going to say that you could take the 7 Foul Bay bus to Abkhazi Gardens. You might have to walk a couple of blocks, but Fairfield is filled with beautiful old homes. It's a nice walk.

The best place for a snooze during the day would be the Parliament Buildings lawn, or the soccer pitch in Beacon Hill Park at the corner of Southgate and Heywood.

Beacon Hill Park should fit the bill for a botanical garden, by the way, and it's within walking distance to downtown. Beacon Hill Park is also close to Cook Street Village, which is where the locals all hang out. Bubby's Kitchen is popular for breakfast and lunch.
posted by Nevin at 3:24 PM on September 5, 2014

Beacon Hill Drive-In which may well do the best soft-serve anywhere.

Yeah, this is another uber-local hangout. Quite close both the park and the ocean (and quite close to my house!)
posted by Nevin at 3:32 PM on September 5, 2014

Response by poster: Ah, sorry for the confusion.

Yes, it's Butchart Gardens but no worries, we're doing the kinda silly tour that includes transportation there.

So please, no further other garden suggestions, thank you. This has already been purchased and planned for by the most Type A of the three of us.
posted by Mizu at 4:21 PM on September 5, 2014

In case you're feeling embarrassed about the "silly tour", don't worry, it's not silly. You have to get to Butchart somehow and the big bus is cheaper than a taxi and faster than the local. Once you are at the gardens you are there, no stigma on the method of arrival. And Butchart is totally worth it. Locals go several times a year on their own - it's not just a tourist thing.
Now the Bug Museum....
posted by dness2 at 4:57 PM on September 5, 2014

Despite their almost defiantly bad website and slow service, my wife & I enjoyed Itami Sushi on View Street (Caveat: We're flyover rubes and wouldn't really know very good, very fresh from a punch in the mouth.) Bookstorewise, I found Munro's pretty overhyped/overrated and Russell's a frustrating experience if you are trying to browse while on a transport-time-sensitive schedule. If you like comics, you are probably better off staying in Seattle. The Museum is quite nice, but not worth admission if you're just looking for a way to kill time and are on a tight schedule.

My wife isn't big on walking either, but the Legislature/downtown/harbor area is a lovely and dense environment that offers a lot of opportunities to just sit, talk, and enjoy. It's definitely dorky and touristy and might be old hat to someone from Seattle, where I assume there's a comparable attraction (Any you might not want to get on another damn boat!), but we really enjoyed the Victoria Harbour Ferry Inner Harbour Tour and Fisherman's Wharf. (Again: Rubes!)

I would have liked to have gone to the Bug Museum...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:32 PM on September 5, 2014

Butchart Gardens' afternoon tea is pricey but worth it.
posted by brujita at 7:52 PM on September 5, 2014

I vote yes on the idea of packing your delicious home-cooked food on the ferry. You will not be very pleased with the snack bar.
posted by oxisos at 9:34 PM on September 5, 2014

Make sure you all have your passports with you.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:52 AM on September 6, 2014

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