Skip to content

Victoria

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“I sat staring, staring, staring – half lost, learning a new language or rather the same language in a different dialect. So still were the big woods where I sat, sound might not yet have been born.” -Emily Carr

Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. This beautiful city, with a population of more than 80,000, is approximately 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the city of Vancouver on the mainland, and is about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Seattle. Known as the “City of Gardens,” Victoria is an attractive city and a popular tourism destination because of its temperate climate and abundance of year-round outdoor activities. The city is also popular with retirees, who come to enjoy its beauty and relaxed pace.

Visitors from Seattle can reach Victoria by seaplane, ferry, or the Victoria Clipper passenger-only ferry, which operates daily between Seattle and Victoria. Victoria can also be reached from Port Angeles in Washington State by ferry across the Juan de Fuca Strait. Visitors from the mainland of British Columbia can reach Victoria by seaplane, ferry and helicopter.

The city was named after Queen Victoria, and is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, beginning as a British settlement in 1843. Victoria has retained a large number of its historic buildings, in particular its two most famous landmarks, the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and The Fairmont Empress Hotel, which was opened in 1908. The city’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America.

Climate

Victoria is the driest location on the West Coast of British Columbia with a total annual precipitation of approximately 608 mm (23.9 in). Victoria receives significantly less precipitation than Vancouver, with 1,589 mm (63 in), or Seattle, with 970 mm (38.2 in). Nearly two-thirds of the annual precipitation falls from November to February.

Victoria averages 26 cm (10.2 in) of snow annually, about half that of Vancouver. When snow does fall, it rarely lasts long on the ground. Victoria averages two or three days per year with at least 5 cm (1.97 in) of snow. Every few decades Victoria receives a large snowfall, including the record breaking 100 cm (39.4 in) of snow that fell in December 1996.

With 2,193 hours of sunshine annually, Victoria is the sunniest place in British Columbia with the exception of Cranbook. In July 1958, during the hottest summer in provincial history, Victoria received 424.6 hours of sunshine, which is the most sunshine recorded in any month in British Columbia history. Often there is a break in the clouds over the Victoria area. Pilots use this “hole in the clouds” as a navigation aid, referring to it as the “blue hole.”

History

The Victoria area was home to several communities of Coast Salish First Nations peoples prior to the arrival of European explorers in the late 1700s. The Spanish and British first explored the northwest coast of North America with the visits of Juan Perez in 1774 and Captain James Cook in 1778. The Victoria area of the Strait of Juan de Fuca was not explored until the 1790s when Spanish sailors visited Esquimalt Harbour in 1790, 1791 and 1792.

In 1841, James Douglas was given the responsibility of establishing a trading post on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Douglas founded Fort Victoria, on the site of present-day Victoria in anticipation of the outcome of the Oregon Treaty in 1846. The fort was erected in 1843 as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post on a site called Camosun, and was briefly known as “Fort Albert.” It was renamed Fort Victoria in 1846, in honour of Queen Victoria.

The Songhees established a village across the harbour from the fort, which was later moved north of Esquimalt. In 1849, a town was laid out on the site and made the capital of the colony. James Douglas, the Chief Factor of the fort, was made the second governor of the Vancouver Island Colony. Richard Blanshard was the first governor, and Arthur Edward Kennedy was the third and last governor. Douglas remained as the leading figure in the early development of the city until his retirement in 1864.

In 1855, Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting centre for miners on their way to the Fraser Canyon gold fields. Victoria’s population grew overnight from 300 to over 5000. It was incorporated as a city in 1862. Esquimalt was made the North Pacific home of the Royal Navy in 1865, and remains as a west coast naval base. In 1866 when the island was politically united with the mainland, Victoria was designated capital of the united colony. It later became the provincial capital when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871.

The Port of Victoria became one of North America’s largest importers of opium in the latter half of the 19th century, serving the opium trade from Hong Kong and distribution into North America. Opium trade was legal and unregulated until 1865, when the legislature issued licences and levied duties on its import and sale. The opium trade was banned in 1908.

In 1886, with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus on Burrard Inlet, Victoria’s position as the commercial centre of British Columbia was lost to the City of Vancouver. The city subsequently cultivated an image of genteel civility within its natural setting, aided by the impressions of visitors such as Rudyard Kipling, the opening of the popular Butchart Gardens in 1904, and the construction of The Empress Hotel by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908. Robert Dunsmuir, a leading industrialist whose interests included coal mines and a railway on Vancouver Island, constructed Craigdarroch Castle in the Rockland area, near the official residence of the province’s lieutenant-governor. His son James Dunsmuir became premier and subsequently lieutenant-governor of the province and built his own grand residence at Hatley Park, which was used for several decades as Royal Roads Military College, now civilian Royal Roads University.

1907 Film of Victoria by US Filmmaker William Harbeck

Indigenous Peoples

The region’s Coast Salish First Nations peoples established communities in the area several thousand years before non-native settlement. Victoria continues to have a sizable First Nations presence, composed of peoples from all over Vancouver Island and beyond.

Nuu-chah-nulth

The Nuu-chah-nulth traditional home is on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They were among the first Pacific peoples to come into contact with Europeans when the Americans, British and Spanish attempted to control the Pacific Northwest and the trade in otter pelts. Nootka Sound was a focus of the European’s rivalries, which resulted in the Nootka Crisis.

The Nuu-chah-nulth speak a southern Wakashan language, and are related to the Makah of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. In pre-contact and early post-contact times, the number of nations was greater, but smallpox and other consequences of contact resulted in the disappearance of some groups, and the absorption of others into neighbouring groups.

Coast Salish

The Coast Salish, the largest of the southern groups, are a loose grouping of many tribes with numerous distinct cultures and languages. On Vancouver Island, Coast Salish peoples territory extends from the northern limit of the Gulf of Georgia on the inside of Vancouver Island to most of southern Vancouver Island. Distinct nations within the Coast Salish peoples include the Chemainus, the Comox, the Cowichan, the Esquimalt, the Saanich, the Songhees, and the Snuneymuxw.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Neighbourhoods

The City of Victoria has 12 neighbourhoods:
  • Burnside Gorge
  • Downtown
  • Fairfield Gonzales
  • Fernwood
  • Harris Green
  • Hillside-Quadra
  • James Bay
  • North and South Jubilee
  • North Park
  • Oaklands
  • Rockland
  • Victoria West

Recreation

Victoria’s superb climate, location and variety of facilities make it ideal for many recreational activities including golf, hiking, jogging, kayaking, rock climbing, team sports, and water sports. The city is known as the Cycling Capital of Canada, with its hundreds of kilometres of bike lanes and paths, including the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. There are also mountain biking trails at Mount Work Regional Park.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 342 other followers