In our opinion, living in downtown Victoria would be a little like living in Disneyland. While it has great little shops, and touristy things to do, the daily traffic and tourists would be a lot to deal with on a day to day basis. But just south of the downtown are the lovely neighborhoods of James Bay, Fairfield, Rockland and Oak Bay. These are all great walking communities and an easy stroll into the heart of the city by the Inner Harbour. A large section of south Victoria is Beacon Hill Park and the entire south coastline with a walking trail along the water. Those who retire in Victoria, BC will always have something to do in this great little city of about 80,000 people.
Victoria sits on the very south end of Vancouver Island. If you are coming from the US, there are several walk-on ferries from Port Angeles, Washington and the express ferry from Seattle. You can either walk-on or take your car from Anacortes for a ride through the beautiful San Juan Islands to Sidney, B.C. – which puts you 17 miles north of Victoria with easy bus service into the city. If you drive off the ferry, you can stop at the world famous Buchart Gardens – something not to miss while on the Island. If you are just going to visit Victoria, you don’t need a car at all. There is easy bus service all over the island. See the Tourist Office in the Inner Harbor for ideas about where to go and transportation.
Key attractions in Victoria include the Royal BC Museum and Imax theatre, whale watching tours out of the harbor, Chinatown, Antique row, the shops along Government Street, and the Empress Hotel. If you plan ahead, make a reservation at the Empress for high tea which is held in the afternoons in the main lobby. Be sure to dress up a bit. Everyone should do it once. The Empress also has an amazing Indian Restaurant on site. If you have your car, take a drive along the perimeter of the isthmus and see the beautiful coastline and cute little neighborhoods. Have a pint in a British pub! Take in a play. Visit the Butterfly Gardens and the wineries. And, by all means, spend some time in Sidney!
There are several very nice 2 bedroom apartments in the James Bay area for $1,200 a month. We also found a furnished suite in Oak Bay for $1,400 a month. You pay all the utilities. If you want to buy a home in Victoria, you need to apply for residency (otherwise you can only stay for six months) and most homes are in the $500,000 and up range.
Victoria has several hospitals in the area, but you should have your own travel insurance. If you need to come back to the US for medical care, you can catch the Anacortes or Port Angeles ferry as both cities have great medical care where you can use your US insurance. You should also know that there is a small airport in near Victoria with service to Vancouver.
Every single time we go to Victoria, at least twice a year, we see something new.
Editor’s photo of Buchart Gardens
Zoom in and out on the map below to see roads and attractions!