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Unlike many other popular tourist cities, Victoria is quite compact with most attractions, sights, and activities within a very short radius. Coming to Victoria or deciding what you want to do is likely one of the easier decisions to make but what can be overwhelming for many tourists is where to stay. Being a tourist town, Victoria is full of hotels - arguably more than the city has tourists to fill except on very special days!
There are four main geographical areas from which to explore the capital city or lower Vancouver Island.
Downtown Victoria is generally the most popular place for tourists to stay as it is the area with the highest concentration of things to do. Not only are you in the heart of Victoria city life, but you are close to the beautiful Inner Harbour, Victoria's best restaurants, and attractions like the Royal Brutish Columbia Museum, Royal London Wax Museum, Chinatown, Undersea Gardens, Miniature World, BC Legislature, Maritime Museum, Craigdarroch Castle and much more. Downtown Victoria is generally the main departure point for tour buses to explore the city, or visit Butchart Gardens. Most whale watching tour companies depart from Victoria's Inner Harbour, and being downtown puts you right on the door step. The best part about staying downtown is that everything is within a 15 minute walking radius. So you can leave your car at the hotel! Downtown is also the arrival and departure point for many transportation options including the Victoria Clipper, Coho Ferry, Victoria Express, Victoria Star (Victoria San Juan Cruises), float plane services, VIA Rail, and Pacific Coach Lines.
If you do choose to stay downtown, there are basically three options: 1) Right in the heart of the city - downtown core, 2) On the Inner Harbour, 3) James Bay.
Being in the heart of the city puts you close to the action - all of the restaurants, shopping on Government Street and at the Bay Centre, Chinatown, and movie theatres. But downtown can sometimes be noisy with garbage trucks, seagulls, and bar crowds. Don't forget traffic! As picturesque and quaint as Victoria is, it's also the capital city and a hard working city so don't expect it to be a ghost town in the day time. From the downtown hotels, the Inner Harbour is usually a 5-10 minute walk away. Keeping in mind that parking is at a premium downtown, expect to pay for parking in the summer. Although tours do depart from the Inner Harbour, most companies offer complimentary pickups from downtown hotels. Examples of downtown hotels include the Best Western Carlton Plaza, Marriott Inner Harbour, Quality Inn, Hotel Rialto, Executive House, Chateau Victoria, Dalton Hotel & Suites, and the Magnolia Hotel.
On the harbour is an obvious choice for many because this is the option that offers the best views of Victoria's bustling Inner Harbour. It is usually the location in most demand, as you are closest to all of the tourist activities. As the Inner Harbour is the main concentration of tourist activities in Victoria, it's very convenient to walk out of your hotel and already be in the midst of the tourist attractions and all of the different tours. Most of the restaurants are downtown, so unless you eat at your hotel restaurant, you will find yourself having to walk 5 to 10 minutes to get to a restaurant. The same goes for if you want to go shopping. But if most of your time will be spent visiting the downtown tourist attractions, taking tours, enjoying the views from your hotel room, or enjoying the street entertainers on the Inner Harbour causeway, an Inner Harbour hotel is for you! But keeping in mind that the Inner Harbour hotels tend to be the most expensive and you will be right at the centre of the tourist crowds. Examples of Inner Harbour hotels include the Days Inn on the Harbour, the Empress Hotel, and Hotel Grand Pacific. The Delta Ocean Pointe Resort is also an Inner Harbour hotel but is on the opposite side of the harbour, which provides guests with the views but it's some distance from the attractions, restaurants, and activities. Luckily, the hotel offers a free shuttle service or you can take the harbour ferry!
James Bay is a popular choice for many as it is tucked literally just off of the Inner Harbour and behind the Inner Harbour hotels. It offers you a comfortable stay in a quiet residential neighbourhood of Victoria but within a 1 to 2 block proximity of Victoria's Inner Harbour. The James Bay hotels usually do have a higher price tag because of their location but they offer an option that is cheaper than the harbour view hotels without greatly inconveniencing guests on location. Some James Bay hotels even have harbour views from the higher floors. You will also find free parking at some of them. There is a strip of hotels on Quebec Street and that is the highest concentration of James Bay hotels. Some James Bay hotels include the Best Western Inner Harbour, Royal Scot Suites, Harbour Towers, and Queen Victoria. But there are other James Bay hotels that are located on the Outer Harbour. These hotels provide you with a very quiet residential setting and even water views. However, they are a very short distance from the Inner Harbour and an even greater distance from downtown Victoria. Hotels on the Outer Harbour include the Inn at Laurel Point and the Coast Harbourside. Some of the hotels offer a free shuttle but if you choose to walk, it will be a 5-10 minute walk. Take a stroll around the causeway to Government St and you are at the lower end of downtown. You could also take the harbour ferry. The nice part about staying on the Outer Harbour is that you are away from the tourist crowds and you are also closer to Fisherman's Wharf, which is quickly becoming a tourist magnet with whale watching companies and restaurants.
What is consistent of the downtown area is the price - it can be quite expensive especially in the peak tourist season with hotel rates well above $149 per night. That's not to say that you can't find well-priced hotels downtown. The Royal Scot, Best Western Carlton Plaza, James Bay Inn, Embassy Inn, Queen Victoria, and Executive House often offer good value and better rates than that of their competitors.
The Gorge is a very interesting part of Victoria in that it used to be the original concentration of Victoria hotels. It has since become second place to downtown but has turned into a place for tourists to find good value while visiting Victoria. The Gorge neighbourhood gets its name because of the Gorge waterway. The Gorge waterway is an extension of the Inner Harbour. The Gorge area is quickly becoming known as Victoria's leisure district because of the numerous recreational opportunities available along the Gorge. Guests that stay on the Gorge are just steps away from numerous walking and running trails, including Victoria's famous Galloping Goose Trail, cycling opportunities and, of course, boating. Numerous companies in the Gorge area rent bicycles, kayaks, and canoes. It's a fantastic way to explore Victoria from a different vantage point. The Victoria Harbour Ferry also provides guests with the opportunity to ride a harbour ferry between the Gorge and the Inner Harbour while getting a narrated tour enroute. The Gorge is also next door to the Gorge Waterway Park which is a beautifully landscaped park in the heart of a picturesque residential neighbourhood. It's a popular place for families and people to go for walks with their dogs. Perhaps the best part about staying on the Gorge is the value offered.
The Gorge hotels are generally $20-$40 cheaper per night than downtown hotels. Most of the hotels are motels or budget to midrange hotel brands and offer numerous extras such as free parking and free internet. From some hotels, you even get water views of the scenic Gorge waterway. Another great advantage is accessibility to downtown. Although the Gorge would be a 25-30 minute walk to downtown, direct public bus service can get tourists to downtown in only 10 minutes. Alternatively, you could take the harbour ferry, rent a bicycle, or drive your own car and get there in only 5 minutes! The Gorge area offers a surprisingly convenient location for exploring the Greater Victoria/Lower Vancouver Island area. It provides access to downtown and the major highways leading to the West Shore (Hatley Castle & Sooke), Saanich Peninsula (Butchart Gardens & BC Ferries), and up-island (Tofino, Chemainus). If you don't plan on spending the majority of your time downtown, the Gorge is a great alternative and allows you to avoid downtown crowds and traffic when looking to explore other areas. There is also direct bus service to the University of Victoria and Oak Bay. Guests can walk all along the scenic waterway right to downtown. If you want to do a longer stay in Victoria in the summer, this is the place to do it affordably. The Travelodge Victoria offers weekly and monthly rates for guests wanting an extended stay. Some rooms even boast views of the BC Government buildings lit up at night and water views! Don't let the extra distance from the Inner Harbour seem like an inconvenience. Whale watching and bus tour companies pick up from the Gorge as well. Gorge hotels include the Travelodge Victoria, Ramada Victoria, and Howard Johnson. All three have swimming pools, free parking and free internet! Travelodge Victoria offers free shuttle service between downtown and the hotel during the summer season.
Sidney is a beautiful seaside town complete with picturesque scenes, a popular market, and quaint shops. It is also the closest town to Victoria's major transportation hubs including:
The West Shore
The West Shore is a relatively new location for hotels. The West Shore region, including Sooke, Colwood, Langford, and View Royal, is Greater Victoria's fastest growing region with numerous residential and commercial developments. It is the home to big box stores and many young families. The region is also home to tourist attractions like Hatley Castle, Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, and numerous provincial parks including French Beach. Many locals like to go surfing on the beaches of the rugged West Coast in Jordan River. Sooke is also a popular haven for tourists looking for a quiet isolated retreat at a bed and breakfast, the highly acclaimed Sooke Harbour House with its luxury cuisine, or Point No Point Resort. Many Victoria tourists like to take day trips out to Sooke to enjoy the scenery or explore on the provincial parks and trails. Sometimes you can even see orca whales from the provincial parks. Guests who stay on the West Shore are also close to numerous golf courses including Bear Mountain and Olympic View. The Malahat and its scenic viewpoints and Goldstream Provincial Park are also a short drive away. The West Shore is the first area that you will come to if entering Victoria via the Trans-Canada Highway from Nanaimo or Tofino. It's a great base if you're arriving late from up-island or departing the next day to head up-island. But it is 25-45 minutes from downtown Victoria, depending where you stay. West Shore hotels include the Westin Bear Mountain, Sheraton Four Points, and Sooke Harbour House. Don't expect rates out here to be too much cheaper than downtown Victoria. If you want to save money, don't sacrifice time, head to the Gorge.