Western Canada #02 – Victoria

September 25, 2017  •  1 Comment

May 2017

Western Canada #02 – Victoria

This installment includes a few sights in Victoria, BC.  These include the Royal Provincial Museum, Fisherman’s Wharf and Craigdarroch Castle

Victoria Map
01 Map 4 - Victoria01 Map 4 - Victoria


The city of Victoria is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada, just a short ferry ride from Port Angeles or Seattle in Washington State.  And, as it turns out, it is the capital of the province of BC.  This is a quant old city that retains much of its English roots feeling. 

First settled at the beginning of 1843, it was named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom which at the time included British North America.  Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest and still has many historic buildings such as the legislative buildings (finished in 1897) and the Empress hotel (opened in 1908). The city's Chinatown is the second oldest in North America after San Francisco.

But before the European’s arrived there were native populations in the area.  In this case they were the Salish people.  In Canada, the original inhabitants are known as “First Nations peoples” rather than “Indians”.  But, as in most cases, they were killed off and pushed out.

Victoria is known as "The Garden City", is an attractive city, and is quite popular with the tourist crowd – like us.   But it also hosts several universities and colleges as well as a thriving technology sector that has risen to be its largest revenue generating private industry.

This was our 3rd visit to Victoria, each many decades apart from the others.  I am happy to report that the charm of the city has not diminished from our prior visits.  Even though there is a thriving downtown commercial district the city is not overrun with modern skyscrapers as is Vancouver.  The main tourist area is at the head of the inner harbor.  This is where the ferry docks and the area boasts the lovely provincial government building and the imposing - and quite magnificent - Empress Hotel where you can take high tea if you have a fat wallet.  The streets in and around the harbor are festooned with English pubs, quaint shops, unique museums, interesting restaurants and tourist friendly streets. 

Victoria has several museums which include “Miniature World” (which has the world’s smallest operational lumber mill), a bug zoo, the Royal BC Museum, Craigdarroch Castle and Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse, among others.

Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC

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Cute little water taxi in Victoria harbor
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BC Legislative building, Victoria, BC

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Victoria flowers
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Fisherman’s Wharf

Up along the south side of the harbor is the old fisherman’s wharf.  At one time this was, of course, where the fishing fleet docked.  And as is the case with most cities that have embraced tourism it has morphed into a tourist friendly attraction.  One end of the set of floating docks is still used for the few commercial fishing boats that continue to call it home as well as a marina for the yachts of the well heeled who live in luxurious condos along the revitalized waterfront.  The other half of the docks has become the home to several dozen brightly colored house boats.  Many of these house boats have then been converted into a plethora of small restaurants, gift shops and floating versions of what most cities now call food carts – however these stay put.  This includes an ice cream parlor, candy store, Mexican restaurant, kayak rental station, souvenir shop and a few others.

Bow of fishing boat, fisherman’s wharf, Victoria, BC
The snout of the the boatThe snout of the the boat

House boats at Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC
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Colorful and whimsical house boat at Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC
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House boat bird carving at Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC
Houseboat carved birdHouseboat carved bird

Floating Candy Store, Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC

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House boat and Mexican Restaurant, Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC
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Royal BC Museum

The Royal BC museum is a must see if you visit Victoria.  We’ve loved it every time we have visited.  You walk through a prescribed route which takes you through the history of the province by placing you in replicas of what it was like there at that time.  The 2nd floor leads you through natural history and the third floor is for human history.  Along your route you’ll find yourself in a sailing ship, at a gold mine, on an early 1900’s main street, face to face with a mammoth, in a tidal marsh, in a submarine, an 1800’s farm kitchen, a mountain ranch and many more.  It is definitely worth a half day or more and is the first place we recommend to people planning a trip to Victoria.

Mammoth, BC Provincial Museum, Victoria BC
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Turn of the century town, BC Provincial Museum, Victoria BC

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Prairie Kitchen, BC Provincial Museum, Victoria BC
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Early 1900’s garage, BC Provincial Museum, Victoria BC
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Grand hotel, BC Provincial Museum, Victoria BC
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Mine works, BC Provincial Museum, Victoria BC
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Craigdarroch Castle

Not too far from downtown Victoria is a hill with Craigdarroch Castle perched on top.  Well, castle is just what locals called it, in reality it was just a mansion built in the style of a castle with elaborate rusticated masonry, chateau-styled roof line and the requisite turrets.  The opulent house was built in 1890 by the coal baron Robert Dunsmuir.  It is four floors of exquisite stained glass, intricate woodwork, and lavish furnishing (only some of which has been found and returned to the mansion).  At the front is a tower whose top floor was, in 1890, the highest place a person could stand in the city.  When built the house was surrounded by 28 acres of gardens and woodlands.  However, now it is on just enough land to offer a parking lot and some terraced lawn area.  The rest of what had been the estate is now mostly modest private homes on small lots with an occasional larger home here and there.

Robert and Joan had two sons and eight daughters plus one child who died in infancy. In case you’re counting that’s 11 kids.  I wonder if she was ever not pregnant. 

By the time Robert and family moved to Victoria from their prior home in nearby Nanaimo where he made his fortune in coal mining he had been elected Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Nanaimo.   When Robert relocated to Victoria, his oldest son, James, took charge of mining operations and stayed in Nanaimo.  Alexander, the younger son, lived in San Francisco and managed the sales and shipping office.  Dunsmuir coal moved to market on Dunsmuir railroads and in Dunsmuir ships and the business empire also included: collieries; an iron works; a saw mill; a quarry; a dyking company; a theatre; and extensive real estate.  In 1887, two years after the last spike had been driven on the E&N railway, and five years after he started accumulating the 28 acres of property, Robert gave the orders to start building Craigdarroch.

At that time there were still three unmarried Dunsmuir daughters and the new mansion would be the perfect venue to launch them into married life. Unfortunately, Robert died in April 1889 before the house was completed. After Robert’s death, Joan and the three unmarried daughters spent time travelling in Europe while her sons oversaw the completion of construction.   Upon their return from Europe Joan, her three unmarried daughters and two orphaned grandchildren, took up residence in the new house.  This was in 1890.

For those of you who have driven I-5 north from the California central valley toward Oregon through the California Cascades will be familiar with the town of Dunsmuir in the Trinity Alps along the Sacramento River, north of Lake Shasta.  It seems that Alexander was passing through and according to contemporary accounts was so taken with the beauty of the area that he offered to donate a fountain to a small town that had sprung up if they would rename the town in his honor. The offer was accepted and the town was renamed Dunsmuir.  Dunsmuir's fountain remains operational but has since been moved to a baseball field in a City Park.

After Joan died in 1908 the castle has been variously used as a military hospital, a college (the predecessor of the University of Victoria), offices of the city school board, a conservatory of music and is now an historic monument. 

Craigdarroch Castle
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Meticulous woodwork adorns main staircase in Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria BC

Ascending, Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, BCAscending, Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, BC

All the modern comforts, Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria BC

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I hope you enjoyed reading this episode of our Western Canada trip and that you’ll come back for the rest of our journey.  Next time we’ll be visiting the city of Vancouver.


This blog is posted at: 


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a New Zealand Gallery on my website. 

          https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/western-canada-2017-05   (all images)

          https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/western-canada-favs-2017-05  (subset of images)


Thanks for reading – Dan

(Info from Wikipedia, pamphlets gathered at various sites along the way and attraction websites)



Salvin Jerino(non-registered)
You had posted a wonderful blog about western Canada.I have really enjoyed your post .
You have been given wide and deep knowledge in Victoria. I hope that western Canada trip was was fantastic.I ad heard a lot about Royal BC museum.
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