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Tourist in your own home town

Hop in the car for trips beyond downtown.

Wednesday July 13, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated July 14, 2022]

Insights by Molly Pearce | Island Social Trends

Playing tour guide for visiting friends and family can be a fun way to experience your hometown through fresh eyes.

Experiences like this are becoming more common again with the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions. The question is, out of all the things to do on Southern Vancouver Island, just what would you show you guests?

When my own guest arrived on the Clipper ferry from Seattle a few weekends ago, I had a clear plan in my mind of what I would show her. During a two-and-a-half-day visit, we decided that we would spend one day on city sights in the downtown area and one day exploring the outdoors around the Saanich Peninsula. Combinations like this allows visitors to experience the best of both worlds.

tourism. inner harbour
Visiting the Victoria Inner Harbour on Canada Day weekend. [Molly Pearce / Island Social Trends]

The beautiful natural environment and unique cultural charm of lower Vancouver Island are equally important to fit it, even for a short trip.

Starting downtown:

Starting off in downtown Victoria, where many visitors to the area arrive, a typical summer day might bring a mix of sun and cloud and warmish temperatures. That is just about all you need for sight-seeing in the city. The main tourist hubs downtown, I find, have remained the same for some time. For American visitors coming by boat from Washington, many of the main attractions are within sight from the water.  

victoria, moose, gift shop
Meeting a ‘Canada Moose’ at a downtown gift shop in the inner harbour walkway tourist district, July 2022. [Molly Pearce / Island Social Trends]
empress hotel
The Fairmont Empress Hotel on Government Street at the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria, BC, July 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

I find that the attractions which stand out most to tourists in Victoria are the cornerstones of the inner harbour: the BC Legislature, The Fairmon Empress Hotel, and the Royal BC Museum. The Victoria Bug Zoo and Miniature World remain staple attractions of the downtown area.

There’s also the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm for a natural experience, right in the James Bay area within Beacon Hill Park.

Most of these attractions are within the range of a student or budget traveller. With tours of the Parliament free for everyone, and with the Royal BC Museum offering $5 tickets for the one floor which remains open in during the building’s fluctuating plans, is possible to see some of the most impressive sights for cheap. Some attractions have admission by donation, such as the children’s farm.

goat stampede, children's farm
The popular goat stampede is back in action at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, July 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

As soon as you leave the city, however, the high cost of travel becomes unavoidable.

Car rental:

A five-day car rental from downtown Victoria costs around $300, while a day rental is about $80. If you can snag one, a day-long rental from a car share company like EVO is even more, at about $100 per day, but these cars are slightly more affordable and convenient for shorter trips.

With a car share, you can pay hourly—or even minute-by-minute—and you don’t have to pay for parking or gas.

It is unfortunately quite difficult for a visitor to the island to see the beauty of the area without access to a car. A large part of what makes the southern island unique is the proximity of stunning natural landscapes to urban areas.

What many of us forget, however, is that what is close by Canadian standards may not be close by the standards of visitors coming from other countries. The distance between downtown Victoria and Sooke, for example, makes the western island area seem or actually be inaccessible to many tourists.

SFAS, show dates, 2022
Sooke Fine Arts Show 2022 is back as a live exhibit! July 22 through August 1.

Starting next week is the annual adjudicated Sooke Fine Arts Show out in Sooke, worth the drive to see hundreds of custom artworks by coastal artists! The exhibit runs 11 days from July 22 to August 1, for a reasonable admission.

A privilege to share:

As all of us reconnect with family and friends from around the province, and from across the rest of the world, it feels like a special privilege to be able to share again the things we love about our hometown. With any luck, our guests just might return the favour!

It’s also pretty awesome that the pandemic has receded enough that people can get out an about this summer. The tourism industry took a hard hit in summer 2020 and to some extent also in summer 2021 as people followed the public health guidelines about physical distancing and mask-wearing during those earlier waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

monk office, 70th
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Molly Pearce, writer
Molly Pearce is a freelance writer, contributing to Island Social Trends.

Molly Pearce is a summer student writer with Island Social Trends. She is heading back to McGill University this fall, for her fourth year to complete her B.A. in English literature.

This past winter, Ms Pearce was an exchange student for a semester at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Molly also worked for Island Social Trends last summer, as a reporter. This summer she is also the assistant editor, taking on more decisions about content, direction and presentation.