1. Start at Canada’s Mile 0 and you’ll start to see why so many love laid-back Victoria. Flowers all year, old-fashioned horse carriages on downtown streets, and musicians, performers and artists at the waterfront make for a lively mix amid grand homes and historic buildings.
This is where the country’s Trans-Canada Highway starts, at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It ends, almost 5,000 miles later, at the Atlantic.
2. Watch hang-gliders from pretty Beacon Hill Park, facing the ocean. On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains in Washington.
3. This is where you can visit a monument to Terry Fox, the Canadian legend who raised more than $20 million with a Marathon of Hope. His goal was to run across Canada, after surviving cancer in his teens that left him with one leg. He died in 1981, at the age of 23, before completing the marathon. Fox continues to inspire young athletes all over the world, who run in his name every year to raise millions more for cancer research.
4. In all seasons, Victoria is out and about. Victoria boasts that it’s “the fittest city in Canada”, so residents run, cycle, and row in all seasons, celebrating a provincial capital with the best temperate climate in the country.
5. Victoria has one of the smallest but most busy harbors, with paddleboarders, kayakers, and paddlers of all kinds finding a way through the water taxis, international ferries, float planes, yachts and historic tall ships.
STAY: One of the best deals in the city is at the Days Inn on the Inner Harbour. It’s close to all the major attractions, from the castle-like Legislature Buildings to the busy waterfront. It’s also across the street from the ferry terminal, linking Canada to the U.S. And, rare for any capital city, parking is free.
Current on-line rate: $88. Days Inn Inner Harbour, 427 Belleville St.; 800.665.3024/250.386.3451; daysinnvictoria.com.
EAT: If oysters are an aphrodisiac, then don’t walk away from the Inner Harbour and go straight to The Oyster Bar for the best from the cold waters off Vancouver Island. Try a Sea Dog Amber Ale, for a made-in-Victoria beer that honors Canada’s naval fleet.
The Oyster Bar, 614 Humboldt St.; 250.385.5562; theoysterbar.ca.
PLAY: Ocean River Sports rents kayaks, paddleboards and canoes; gives lessons in all things water-wise; and offers tours, at the Inner Harbour. Great staff; top-brand equipment; good location, close to all downtown hotels.
Ocean River Sports, 1824 Store St.; 800.909.4233/250.381.4233; oceanriver.com.
WEST COAST WEEKENDS TIP: Gotta’ love an eatery with a sign that beckons: Eat Oysters. Love Longer. On Wednesdays, it’s only “a buck a shuck” — $1 for every oyster at The Oyster Bar (see above).