Port of Victoria
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Proud of its British influence, Victoria delights in serving up an elegant High Tea, with all the trappings. At the same time, it urges you to get outside and enjoy the alfresco lifestyle. Walking trails lead right from the city center to Dallas Road, what locals call the scenic drive, along the Pacific Ocean and around the southern coast of the city. Vancouver Island is renowned as a world-class scuba-diving destination, where you can get in the water with seals and sea lions on a regular basis. But, for people who prefer to keep their feet dry, there are all kinds of boat excursions, from kayaking and glass-bottom-boat tours, to get you up close and personal with the amazing marine life.
Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, and its grand Parliament Buildings, along with the gracious Fairmont Empress Hotel, dominate the Inner Harbour. Adjacent walkable inner-city streets foster cordiality. And, indeed, walking is a favorite local pastime -- Victoria is lauded as one of the most walkable Canadian cities.
An area of handsome 19th-century brick buildings, windows hung with richly textured flower baskets and lively shops, restaurants and brewpubs, invite leisurely exploration. Or you can just kick back with a picnic on the grassy lawn of the Parliament Building or find a bench by the harbor to breathe in all that fresh, Pacific Northwest air while listening to a busker belt out a tune.
Just beyond downtown, luxuriant yet well-ordered parks and gardens and a rugged, wind-swept Pacific shoreline offer broader vistas and invite you to set off on boat excursions to explore the coastline and soak in the snowy peaked views.
Where You're Docked
Cruise ships berth at Ogden Point, a short taxi ride or 15-minute walk northeast to downtown. Most cruise ships offer shuttles or taxi service, but it's a very pleasant walk along the waterfront on Dallas Road then on Government Street to reach the Inner Harbour or Douglas Street into town. Small passenger ships may dock or anchor in the Inner Harbour.
Good to Know
Victoria is a college town and fairly safe. There is, however, an abundance of panhandlers in downtown Victoria, although the police monitor them. Also, keep in mind that Canada's five percent goods and services tax is paid on everything you purchase.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Canadian dollar is the official currency. There's a Custom House Currency Exchange across the street from the visitor's center on Wharf Street, and others are in Bastion Square and at 1140 Government Street. Major banks with ATM machines are located at Douglas and Fort Streets. The U.S. dollar and the Canadian dollar are roughly equal these days, but check at www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for the latest rate.
English is spoken.
A two-pound box of Victoria Creams from Rogers' Chocolates (913 Government Street; 250-881-8771) makes a great gift.
For truly unique, handmade arts and crafts items (pottery, wood turnings, glass art, textiles, jewelry, etc.), you may also want to pay a visit to Side Street Studio (737 Humboldt Street; 250-590-4644), which represents more than 250 British Columbia artisans and artists.