Victoria, British Columbia

Sep 18, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird


We arrived today in the city of Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The tours offered were “Secret Garden Tour”; “Historic Walking Tour” in downtown Victoria; the visit to Royal BC Museum; an art gallery tour; or a bike ride through the city. We had a little bit of everything today, ending with a lovely reception at the Robert Bateman gallery.  

The southern part of Vancouver Island has been home to the Songhees, T’Sou-ke, Esquimalt, and Saanich of the Coast Salish people for thousands of years. Victoria represents these cultures throughout the city with totem poles and carvings. At the Royal BC Museum there is an interactive Living Languages exhibit and rooms full of Coast Salish regalia, masks, totem poles, and other beautiful displays. One of the tallest free-standing totem poles in the world stands at Beacon Hill Park overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the gateway to the inside waters of the Salish Sea. Many an early explorer mistook the strait for the elusive Northwest Passage that was supposed to cross through the top of North America, eliminating the long voyage around South America’s Cape Horn.

Captain James Cook became the first non-aboriginal person to set foot on Vancouver Island in 1778. The island became a Hudson Bay Trading post that predated the city’s 1843 founding. In 1849, Victoria became the seat of government when the colony of Vancouver Island was created. Today, it is the capitol of British Columbia, complete with a parliament building.

Victoria is proud of its British influence, and it shows. There are a multitude of gardens throughout the city. Perfectly edged, manicured lawns surround sections of exotic flowers, shrubs, and trees. In contrast, some of these gardens have incorporated the native Garry oak into their landscape. The Garry oaks are the only native oak trees in the provinces west of Manitoba. Many of these gardens overlook the glacier-covered Olympic Mountains and the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is filled with harbor seals, porpoise, and whales. It’s Pacific Northwest meets England. High tea is served at private receptions and daily at the Empress Hotel on the downtown waterfront. Chinatown is representative of the large Asian population that came here and stayed. Scottish and other ethnic influences are evident throughout the city.

 It is the size of a large town, yet it is truly a city. Victoria creates a unique experience that is truly special.

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About the Author

Victoria Souze

Naturalist

Victoria is currently director for the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to responding to marine mammal strandings and the welfare of marine mammals. After completing her studies in fisheries and wildlife at Grays Harbor College and marine biology at Western Washington University, she moved to Lummi Island, a small island that is part of the San Juan Islands in Washington State. For the past two decades she has worked as a marine naturalist on tour boats with an emphasis on the endangered Southern Resident killer whales in the Salish Sea, a region that encompasses the Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia (Canada). In 2009 this area was officially renamed the Salish Sea in honor of the Coast Salish native tribes who have lived there for thousands of years.

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