When you visit Victoria (on Vancouver Island) in the summer, you’ll find a huge variety of places to go and things to see – there’s something for everyone!
From music and parks, theatre and great restaurants, you’re sure to find something to do to enjoy the warm summer days and nights.
I’ve lived in Victoria for 17 years and been an English teacher to many international students during that time.
Here are some of the local Victorian favourites that I recommend to my students to enjoy during their summer studying in Victoria.
1. Beacon Hill Park
This lovely park is located steps from downtown Victoria, next to the ocean. It’s a must-see!
There are so many things to enjoy in the park, including a rose garden, ponds with ducks and peacocks, and an outdoor music stage. It also has a small petting zoo with pigs, birds, rabbits, and miniature goats that will climb on your back if you go into their pen!
There are walking trails throughout the park, and a water play area and playground for kids.
In the summer, Beacon Hill hosts outdoor movie nights. Bring your blanket or chair and enjoy watching movies on a big screen under the stars!
Beacon Hill Park is located near the city center, and it’s easily accessible by both bus and on foot.
2. Butchart Gardens
People from all over the world come to see Victoria’s Butchart Gardens.
Located about 30 minutes from the downtown center, Butchart Gardens is famous for its lavish themed gardens.
It’s a former rock quarry that has been lovingly transformed over time into a beautiful landscape of thousands of flowers, shrubs, trees, and water pools. Butchart Gardens is open year round, and it has a special focus each season.
In the summer months from July-September, the Butchart Gardens hosts fireworks displays every Saturday night. You can bring your chair, sit under the night sky, and watch beautiful light displays amidst the lush flower beds.
The Butchart Gardens is accessible by both car and bus, and open from 9am to 9pm.
3. Whale watching
If you have a taste for adventure, this might be the activity for you!
Join one of many Victoria whale watching companies and set out on an enclosed, 40-person catamaran boat to the Gulf Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
You can take a day or night tour to see the beautiful and abundant wildlife off Victoria’s coast, including humpback, grey, and orca whales, as well as seals, sea lions, dolphins and eagles.
Bring your camera and capture once-in-a-lifetime images!
Victoria has lovely Provincial Parks and campgrounds, located approximately 30 minutes from the downtown center.
Goldstream Provincial Park is a popular place to visit year round, because of its gorgeous scenery, walking trails that meander the forest, and waterfalls.
If ocean-side camping is more your style, Island View Regional Park offers an opportunity to camp right next to the ocean. There are trails along the beach and paths along the cliff to follow, if hiking is your passion. Reservations are accepted at both of these campsites and can be booked online.
Victoria is a city that loves parades! In the summer months, you can enjoy a variety of parades in different areas of the city.
The Victoria Day parade is held every May long weekend, and is the largest parade the city has to offer. Bring a lawn chair and join other Victorians on the sidewalks as they watch colourful floats, marching bands, and local entertainers walk from Mayfair Mall through the downtown center. While you might think this holiday is unique to the city of Victoria, in fact, Victoria Day started in 1845 to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria of England. The holiday is still celebrated across the majority of Canada’s provinces and territories, including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and more.
In July, Victoria hosts a Pride Parade, celebrating the LBGTQ+ community. It’s a colourful and musical event that runs through downtown Victoria near the Government Parliament Buildings. These parades are free events that are fun for all ages.
6. Swimming outdoors
There’s nothing better on hot summer days than playing in the water! Pack your swimsuit and a picnic lunch, and head to one of the many lakes Victoria has to offer.
Fresh water lakes include Matheson Lake, Elk Lake, Durrance Lake, and Thetis Lake. These are all popular places to spend a summer afternoon.
If you fancy ocean swimming, there are several popular beaches you can enjoy, including Cadboro-Gyro Park, Willows Beach, and Island View Beach.
A favourite local swimming hole for native Victorians is the Sooke potholes, located about 45 minutes outside the city. This area has deep, warm rock pools in several areas along the Sooke river. If you’re brave, you can climb the river walls and jump off small cliffs into the water below.
No matter where you decide to spend a day at the water, don’t forget a hat and sunscreen!
7. Victoria Buskers Festival
The Victoria Buskers Festival is held downtown Victoria every July. It’s a free, 5-day street talent festival that showcases amateur performers from around the area.
You can enjoy musicians, jugglers, magicians, acrobats, and other street performers in a variety of stages all around the city center. Fun for all ages, don’t miss it!
8. Victoria Fringe Festival
If live theatre is your passion, why not seek out the Victoria Fringe Festival? Held over 12 days in August, it features live performances in 12 venues, offering dramas, musicals, comedies, and magic shows.
Fringe festivals are known for showcasing alternative entertainment in fun and quirky ways. Each show is usually less than $20 to see, and is a unique way to experience some local Victoria talent.
9. Ice cream
What’s better than indulging in delicious cold ice cream on hot summer days? Local Victorians frequently visit two places in particular:
- Chocolat Favoris, located on Government Street in the heart of the city center, offers soft-serve chocolate and vanilla ice cream dipped in high-quality chocolate. The prices are very reasonable, from $3-$6 for a cone. The ice cream is sweet and rich-tasting, and only the very brave will choose the large size!
- Beacon Hill Drive Inn, directly across the street from Beacon Hill Park in downtown Victoria, is another favourite ice cream location. Since 1958, they have been serving Victorians soft-serve ice cream with special sauces drizzled as decoration. They also have a full food menu if you’re wanting dinner before desert. Bring your appetite!
10. Walk along the ocean
Downtown Victoria is right on the ocean front, and a short walk away from downtown will find you on Dallas Road.
This strip along the waterfront is a favourite walking destination of Victorians, offering footpaths to wander and a breath-taking view of the water. It’s a popular place for people to walk their dogs, fly kites, and watch brave windsurfers battle their surfboards in the wind and waves.
Locals enjoy visiting the “breakwater”, a concrete walking path that takes you 800 metres from shore out into the ocean, to be surrounded by the waves below. Just a short distance away from the breakwater, you can watch huge cruise ships dock to let passengers off for a day in the city.
If walking is on your agenda, make a visit to Dallas Road a priority during your time in Victoria.
11. Victoria Public Market
Located in the heart of the city on Douglas Street, the Victoria Public Market is a converted department store that offers a farmer’s market and live music daily during the summer months.
You can enjoy listening to local bands and performers while shopping for fresh food made nearby – cheese from Saltspring Island, varied and interesting kinds of meat from local butchers, and sweet deserts to tempt you.
The market is open every day from 10am to 6pm.
12. Music festivals
If you’re looking for exciting musical entertainment during your time in Victoria, you’ve come to the right place – there are various music festivals in Victoria over the summer.
Two of the biggest and most popular are the Victoria International Jazz Festival and the Rifflandia Music Festival.
In 2020, the Jazz Festival typically takes place place between June 19 and June 28, for nine days. Rifflandia will take place between September 10 and September 13, holding 150 performances over four days and nights.
Both festivals host performers from all over, including some major headlining stars. It’s a chance to meet many people and enjoy some great music, so check them out while you’re here!
So there you have it, 12 ways to experience some of the pleasures Victoria has to offer in the summer. Get outside in the warm summer sun and enjoy!