Victoria is less than a quarter of the size of Vancouver, and you can easily hit the highlights in 1 day if you arrive on an early ferry. The scenic ferry ride -- from Vancouver, Seattle, Anacortes, or Port Angeles -- is part of the fun. Although it's easy to experience Victoria on foot, by bike, and using public transportation, having a car will help to maximize your sightseeing.
1. Inner Harbour
Victoria's official facade, epitomized by a pair of landmark buildings designed by Francis Rattenbury, is reminiscent of an era that promoted the idea of a British Empire. A stroll along the Inner Harbour takes you past the Provincial Legislature, a massive stone edifice completed in 1898, and the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel, which dates from 1908. Along the busy waterfront you'll also find information on whale-watching excursions, a popular Victoria pastime.
2. Royal British Columbia Museum
The highlight of this excellent museum is the First Peoples Gallery, an absorbing and thought-provoking showplace of First Nations art and culture. The other exhibits pale by comparison, but do have a look at the life-size woolly mastodon if he's on display.
3. Take a Break -- The Fairmont Empress
Tea at the Empress is a traditional affair that has remained a real treat despite its fame. Make it your main meal of the day (seatings at 12:30, 2, 2:30, and 5pm), and be sure to reserve in advance.
4. Butchart Gardens
This century-old garden is one of the gardening wonders of the world, meticulously planned and impeccably maintained. Though hordes of tourists can jam the paths in the summer months, time your visit for late afternoon and you'll have more room; plus you can stay for the fabulous summer fireworks display.
If there's time, have dinner at Il Terrazzo Ristorante. Victoria's best Italian restaurant serves delicious, northern-Italian dishes and has a lovely patio for outdoor, summertime dining.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.