Inner Victoria is endlessly picturesque -- you only have to amble and enjoy. Highlights include the Parliament Buildings, Fairmont Empress Hotel, the Royal B.C. Museum, Bastion Square and the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, and Beacon Hill Park, which overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the mountains of the Olympic peninsula in Washington state. At the Inner Harbour, watch the buskers from a bench in the sun, or line up a boat trip to see whales at play.

Antique-lovers can peruse the stores of Fort Street, known as Antique Row. For something edgier in the same area, head to North Fort Street, home to east-meets-west fashion boutiques where you'll find modern, sustainable clothing lines for sale, in keeping with the city's trendy-yet-green ethos.

Garden aficionados will want to taxi 13 miles to the world-famous 50-acre Butchart Gardens. It recently celebrated its 100th year, and the gardens are particularly beautiful during the spring and summer months, when fireworks light up the concert grounds each Saturday. Consider the behind-the-scenes tour that takes you to rarely visited corners of the park, including the greenhouses where the flowers and plants are grown. Afternoon tea in the gardens' Dining Room Restaurant during spring and summer is another beloved ritual, complete with scones, tiny lobster rolls and tasty organic teas. It's open daily at 9 a.m. (800 Benvenuto Avenue; 250-652-4422).

Victoria's Chinatown, while small, is the oldest in Canada and worthy of a visit. Traditional Asian markets share space with contemporary boutiques. Begin at the entrance gate at Fisgard and Government Streets, and don't overlook Fan Tan Alley (the narrowest street in Canada) and its eccentric shops like the Fan Tan Gallery and Silk Road Aromatherapy and Tea Company.

Numerous ships offer evening calls -- inquire at Tourism Victoria about a nighttime lantern-lit walking tour, or visit Old Chinatown. A variety of city walking tours, including ghostly walks, can be booked at Discover the Past.

Of course, a visit to Victoria isn't complete without having tea at one of the city's plentiful tea salons. Good bets include the Fairmont Empress (721 Government Street; 250-384-8111).The cost of tea -- the full spread -- is pricy. A less expensive option is tea in the garden of Point Ellice House, a historic Victorian manse just outside the downtown (2616 Pleasant Street; 250-380-6506). Another is the White Heather Tea Room in Oak Bay (1885 Oak Bay Avenue; 250-595-8020).

Visit the watery ocean hangout of resident orca whales, roughly 80 in all with a boat tour into their domain. Try Prince of Whales or Victoria Whale Tours. For something more adventurous, don a very thick wetsuit at nearby Brentwood Bay (about 15 minutes from downtown Victoria) for a snorkeling excursion with Rockfish Divers. You'll stay warm in the thick rubber while admiring colorful starfish, octopuses and lion's mane jellyfish in the shallows, and you might even get the chance to fin around with seals!

For more sedate ocean travel -- and perhaps a whale sighting from a distance -- venture for the day to Southern Gulf Island by B.C. Ferries.

Another enticing destination is the coastal Sooke-Metchosin region, west of Victoria. Visit Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery near the village of Sooke, and try a glass of rare, barrel-aged mead -- the oldest fermented beverage known to man. May 1 - September 30, Wednesday - Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. (8750 West Coast Road; 250-642-1956).

Head north to the pastoral Saanich Valley and Marley Farm Winery for limited-edition vintages, including pinot grigio and pinot noir, blackberry and other fruit wines. May - December, daily, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. (1831 Newton Cross Road; 250-652-8667). Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse is a lovely 10-acre certified-organic farm with orchard and ocean views where you can sample ciders crafted on-site and tuck into a charcuterie and cheese platter in bucolic surroundings. Daily 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (2487 St. Michael Road; 250-544-4824). Wine tasting at de Vine Vineyards is another quintessential Saanich stop. May 7 - September 25, Weekends, noon - 5 p.m. (6181B Old West Saanich Road; 250-665-6983).

Active-minded travelers can rent kayaks, canoes or powerboats from one of many vendors in the Inner Harbour or hire bikes or scooters from Cycle B.C. The Galloping Goose Trail is an easy and scenic cycling route to Sooke . Or, visitors can cycle the city's leafy streets eastward to Beach Drive and Oak Bay.

Golfers should check out Bear Mountain Resort and its two 18-hole courses in suburban Victoria (1999 Country Club Way; 250-391-7160).