Northwest Road Trip: Victoria, Canada

Looking back a decade, one of our all-time favorite road trips was a road trip through parts of Western Canada in late summer. There’s lots of natural beauty to see, between the oceans and forests, which can work well for young kids. Plus some great Canadian cities like Victoria and Vancouver. We also visited Banff National Park in Canada, and headed down to Glacier National Park in Montana towards the end. If you ever have the opportunity, consider visiting these somewhat remote, but completely amazing destinations.

We did this particular family trip over the course of 2 weeks in late August. Since we planned it relatively last-minute, flights weren’t feasible. If we were to do something like this again, we’d probably start from Seattle. That said, given the constraints, we decided to be ambitious about driving, so we made our vacation a loop from the Bay Area.

Getting to Victoria

Victoria, capital of British Columbia, is on Vancouver Island. To get to Victoria by ferry from the US requires either a 1 hour 35 minute ferry from Port Angeles, WA or a 2 hour 45 minute ferry from Seattle. The Port Angeles ferry makes more sense if you’re coming from further south (e.g. Oregon), though less so if you’re already in Seattle.

Our boys really enjoyed the experience.

There’s also a 90 minute ferry ride from mainland British Columbia, and it’s also possible to fly to Victoria.


In this particular case, we found a great last-minute deal at the iconic Empress Hotel Victoria on the waterfront. While the room we got wasn’t one of their better rooms (hence the deal), it had a fabulous location in downtown Victoria, and has tons of history. The classic hotel was built in the early 1900’s, with all the period Victorian architecture. You may even get to stay in one of the same rooms that Shirley Temple stayed in as a child. Other notable guests that have visited the tea room include King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

An evening and day in Victoria

With an evening and one full day in Victoria, we decided to make the most of it with an evening walk around downtown, followed by a morning tour of Parliament, lunch in Chinatown, a solo walk while the kids napped, a visit to Beacon Hill Park, and a swim in the hotel pool.

Obviously, there is a lot more to do in Victoria, but having toddlers/preschoolers in tow definitely affects the pace and set of activities that you can pursue. Traveling with kids can be a little limiting, but it is still worth doing. Research your options and pick an itinerary that work for the whole family.

An Evening in Victoria

Since we were driving up the west coast (the previous evening was in Portland) and had to deal with factors like the ferry schedule, customs, and such, we were not completely settled into our hotel until after 7pm. This left a little time for an evening walk before the kids’ bed times. We did have time to take a nice overview tour of the waterfront and associated areas.

Having lived in Alaska as a teen, I was delighted to find native totem poles with very similar artwork to my hometown. If you ever have the opportunity to visit a town that hosts totem poles, try to identify the different animals depicted and appreciate the hours that were devoted to the carvings.

We wandered until sunset, then decided the boys had been up long enough and took them back to the hotel to get some sleep.

Tour of Parliament

Knowing that we would be touring parliament the next morning, during our evening walk we managed to capture some beautiful pictures of the exterior.

Then in the morning, the boys decided that it would be great fun to chase the geese. A lot of tourists thought it was great entertainment and were snapping pictures of them, but apparently the police weren’t so amused.

The Parliament tour was fun. If you have the opportunity, try to go.


We wandered the downtown core around more, and then made our way to Chinatown for lunch. Yum!

The boys were quite tired from a somewhat late evening, plus they were overdue for a nap, so after lunch, we took them back to the hotel to rest while Jeremy did some more solo exploring.

Beacon Hill Park

Once the boys woke up, we took them to Beacon Hill Park for more exploring.

It really is a beautiful park, so we spent some time there, eventually making our way back to Chinatown for dinner, and then took the boys back to the hotel for an evening swim before bedtime.

What a lovely day in Victoria! Consider this delightful destination for your next family vacation!

Keep reading our travel blog for more adventures in Canada!

Here are some more blog posts from this trip:


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