Picturesque British Columbia has long been on our bucket list, and we recently fulfilled that dream.
We’d visited Victoria briefly on a cruise stop but never fully explored the city – our gaffe. Friends recommended that when we flew into Vancouver International Airport – located in the city of Richmond – and before heading off to Victoria, we should check out Richmond’s culinary scene and the nearby revitalized fishing town of Steveston. Those recommendations proved spot on.
Richmond and Steveston
Both Richmond and Steveston offer wonderful surprises.
We began our stay within minutes of landing by checking into the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel (fairmont.com/vancouver-airport-richmond). And, that’s right – it’s in the airport, not near the airport.
Recognized by many as the finest airport hotel in North America, we couldn’t imagine a more deluxe stay. Located in the main terminal, practically next to the control tower, the hotel is the perfect place to hang out on arrival and before departures. The soundproof rooms, attentive staff, fine-dining choices and “Gold Floor” option are major benefits.
Room rates at Richmond hotels are typically lower than those in Vancouver and Victoria, and the city is well known for its large Asian community, eclectic dining scene and night markets.
One of our most fun and unusual culinary experiences in eons was a dim-sum breakfast at Vivacity Restaurant (vivacityrestaurant.com), packed every morning with dim-sum aficionados.
While in Richmond, be sure to head out to Steveston, once one of Canada’s most active fishing and cannery towns and now, sans canneries, a charming seaside destination with a boardwalk.
Strolling through town and touring the historical museumlike Gulf of Georgia Cannery (gulf- ofgeorgiacannery.com) are musts.
Our meal at Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant (bluecanoerestaurant.com) proved the culinary luncheon highlight of our entire trip, and we understand why locals often name it as their favorite. Featuring creative, sustainable seafood, the service staff is a fun-loving group.
If we return to B.C., we’d definitely stay at the Fairmont again, book a night in Steveston and dine at more of Richmond’s highly regarded restaurants.
For more information on Steveston and Richmond, visit tourismrichmond.com.
To visit Victoria, located on Vancouver Island, you can opt for seaplane service or the less expensive combination of a Pacific Coach Lines bus (pacificcoach.com) from the airport directly to the BC Ferries terminal (bcferries.com). We chose the bus/ferry combo and found the entire trip enjoyable – especially the amazing island vistas, sealife viewing and stunning waterways.
In Victoria, we hunkered down at the stately Fairmont Empress (fairmont.com/empress-victoria) our first few nights. The highlight of our Empress stay was experiencing the grand hotel’s 95-year tradition of afternoon tea in the majestically restored Tea Lobby. A stop at the richly decorated Bengal Lounge provides an unforgettable bar and light-dining scene.
Our last few nights in Victoria, we stayed at the stunning Magnolia Hotel & Spa (magnoliahotel.com), a newer property that has received numerous accolades as one of Canada’s finest luxury hotels – deservedly so. The accommodations, buffet breakfasts and staff are exceptional.
Exploring Victoria is a relatively easy task – it’s a very walkable downtown. Be sure to visit the beautiful Parliament of Victoria (leg.bc.ca) complex and the exquisite Victorian-era Craigdarroch Castle (thecastle.ca), an 1890s mansion. Both offer tours, and the tower at the castle boasts the best views of Victoria.
For history buffs, a visit to the Royal BC Museum (royalbcmuseum.bc.ca) is a must. Stroll the bustling walkways along the inner harbor, Fisherman’s Wharf (fishermanswharfvictoria.com) and Canada’s oldest Chinatown.
If you aren’t up to walking, take a Hippo Tours (victoriahippotours.com) amphibious vehicle, which splashes into the inner harbor for a brief cruise as well as a land route that visits local highlights.
For Victoria’s ultimate highlight, take the CVS shuttle bus (cvstours.com) to Butchart Gardens (butchartgardens.com), one of the most famous botanical gardens in the world. The colorful panoramas we encountered exceeded our expectations. The National Historic Site estate, formerly a quarry, offers 55 acres of truly spectacular viewing.
For those into whale watching, Victoria is one of the best whale-watching spots in the world, with more than 80 resident killer whales sticking around throughout the year, in addition to numerous other whales and marine animals. Our out-to-sea trek on the Five Star Whale Watching (5starwhales.com) high-speed expedition catamaran proved a positive adventure with a profusion of whale sightings.
For more information on Victoria, visit tourismvictoria.com.
Los Altos residents Ann and Don Shanahan have written travel articles for more than 25 years. Look for their account of their trip to Vancouver in a future Town Traveler.