Victoria BC has a population of over 300,000 people, a killer coastline, milder weather than its sister city, Vancouver and is touted as one of the most livable cities in Canada. This city located in the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island also reigns supreme as the cycling capital of Canada.
That means there has to be more to it than the tourist-laden waterfront that most of us first encounter when we step off the Victoria Clipper, right?
I set out on a long weekend to determine if Victoria is more multi-faceted than its reputation as the cute little sleepy town on Vancouver island only worthy of a cookie-cutter day long visit to walk around the inner harbor, hit up Butchart Gardens and high tea at The Fairmont
These were some of my finds: A little shop selling artisan popsicles owned by a father daughter team, a baguette sandwich more memorable than the ones I have devoured in Paris, a brunch spot that serves spectacular red velvet pancakes, and a coffee shop to go neck-in-neck with the best baristas in Seattle.
And there’s a bonus for you avid cyclists, the city is completely navigable by bike.
After telling Paul Rayman, co-owner of a bike tour and rental shop The Pedaler, that I wanted to see the locals’ version of Victoria, he takes me on a customized three hour edible trek with some history, beautiful homes, and the water incorporated into the mix.
We make our way through the residential neighborhoods of Oak Bay and Rockland, winding through several parks along the way, while also making multiple pit stops at the trendy and artsy Fernwood area. which reminded me of a rustic version of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.
Here are some of the culinary highlights from my weekend in Victoria:
Norte: From selling their handmade tortillas at the farmers market to a cute outpost, I slammed on my bike brakes when I spotted this taco outpost. Run by a young couple (the wife is from Mexico), the duo is dedicated to local, non-hormone, non-GMO and all of the other fancy words you should care about.
The Papa Dorado (crispy potato) and the Barbacoa (slow cooked beef cheek) could go head to head with Alvaro Candela-Najera’s famous Monday night taco pop-up at Sitka & Spruce. (Note: I have good news and bad news, Seattleites. Bad news: I just heard Alvaro is no longer doing Taco Mondays at Sitka. Good news: I hear he’s now running the kitchen at The Saint Bar so you can get your taco fix on a daily basis.)
Tip: You can generally score a great weekend deal on the passenger-only Victoria Clipper that conveniently picks up and drops off at the Seattle waterfront (Pier 69), but if you’ve got some extra time, consider taking the car ferry from Port Angeles to Victora, BC. That will give you some time to play in Port Townsend and the freedom of having your own car.