Laurissa Marion is a Vancouver Island-grown writer who works as a content manager for tourism sites based in Victoria, Tofino and Ucluelet.
There are typically two kinds of travelers, those who like to be in the heart of the action, and those who don’t. In Victoria, the center of the action means the downtown Inner Harbour. Not sure where to choose? Here’s a pros and cons list to help you decide if staying along the Inner Harbour is right for you.
Let’s start with the good news, shall we?
1. Loads of Nearby Attractions
Downtown Victoria is home to most of the city’s top attractions. Aside from the bustling Inner Harbour with its street performers, artists and booths, you’ll be right next to the Royal BC Museum, the Parliament Buildings, the Empress, St. Anne’s Academy, Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown.
2. Plenty of Amazing Restaurants/Food Options Nearby
Victoria has a high concentration of restaurants of nearly any type of food imaginable. Again, many can be found right downtown in the heart of the action. With local produce and fare easily attainable, you can expect restaurants to give off a more farm-to-table vibe, proudly serving sustainable and locally grown/raised veggies and meats. Not to mention, Victoria is the Brunch Capital of Canada.
3. No Need for a Car or to Bus/Walk/Cab Very Far
Because you’re already at the core of pretty well everything, chances are you won’t need a car. Although Victoria has a solid public transit system, unless you’re heading out to the Butchart Gardens or to the choice few attractions outside of downtown, you’ll be all set with a good pair of walking shoes.
Downtown Victoria is riddled with unique boutiques and stores. It is known as a famous shopping destination. There’s even a Bay Centre bounded by four major streets right in Victoria’s historic center. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that! Downtown is also the best place to pick up a souvenir from your time in Victoria.
5. Scenic Views
Any downtown Victoria hotel is almost guaranteed to have a spectacular view. From up high, you’ll be able to see the bustling Inner Harbour, the shining Parliament buildings at night and, depending on which way your room faces, the picturesque Olympic Mountain Range.
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6. Close to the Top Clubs and Music Venues
Music lovers and partygoers will rejoice staying on the harbour, as plenty of Victoria’s top clubs and music venues and bars reside close by. Whether you seek an up-all-night kind of place, or a cozy spot with live music, you’ll find it within a short walk from wherever you’re staying along the harbour.
7. Most Tours Leave From Downtown
Any tour you may sign up for—bus, walking, scenic flights, whale watching or otherwise—is likely to leave from either a designated site downtown, or from the Inner Harbour itself. Staying right next to where you’ll be departing from relieves that much more stress from the day—no need to rush or find a way to your tour, you can walk out your hotel door and be on your way.
And now for the deal breakers…
1. Busy Until Late
Being at the heart of the city, you can expect traffic—be it boats, people, cars, or even tour groups—to be in the area until quite late at night. Although Victoria is considered to be a quieter city in general when compared to say, Vancouver or Toronto, downtown is still downtown. University students, amongst others, tend to party late.
2. Street Parking/Costly Parking
It is likely that your hotel will have an underground or designated parking lot, but if they don’t that means it’s up to you. Parking on the streets or in parkades in Victoria can run up a solid tab. Plus, you need to be a confident parallel parker and must be prepared to have to walk a ways to your destination—depending on the time of day and week, a parking spot can be a hot commodity. If your hotel does have parking, you’re at their mercy for the extra parking fee.
3. Harbour Traffic
Floatplanes, harbour taxis, sailboats, kayakers, tour groups, street artists, buses, cars, taxis… The Harbour pretty much never stops. If you’re seeking quiet moments of solitude on a balcony overlooking the ocean, don’t bank on finding it while staying next to the harbour.
4. Confined to One Area
Most attractions are already downtown, so you’ll likely be spending the vast majority of your time there, especially if you’re staying there, too. That’s unfortunate when there are so many beautiful areas in Victoria to discover! Moreover, should you forego a car with respect to con #2, getting to those areas can make for a bit of a journey.
5. Bright Lights at Night
Breathtaking at night, the Inner Harbour is certainly worth paying a visit to after sunset. However, the Parliament Buildings are lit up with about 3500 light bulbs. If you’re staying in the area, all 3500+ light bulbs will be shining in your window all night long. On top of that, streetlights, bar, café and restaurant signs, headlights and other general city glow will be present throughout the night.
6. Looking at the Harbour
There’s no doubt that the Inner Harbour is an incredible sight. To some, however, the hotels, buildings and boats subtract from the scenery of the ocean and mountains. Other areas in Victoria provide unobstructed views of the stunning, more natural scenery that the city has to offer.
Victoria is highly ranked as a destination city, which is reflected in the price of accommodation for the area. The closer you are to the action, the higher the cost—especially in the summer peak season. Sometimes you can snag more upscale accommodation at a lower price, simply by being a bit farther from the Inner Harbour.
There will always be pluses and minuses to wherever you choose to stay in a place, so it really depends on your needs and travel style. One thing is for certain though; Victoria has an accommodation style and area to suit anyone. Happy travels!
To do a bit more research on Victoria and what’s right for you, you can check out www.VictoriaBC.ca.