This is ground zero for Victoria. Politics, business, transportation and tourism are all centered here. You will find the Provincial Parliament Building here along with the Empress Hotel - and a host of others - as well as the central business district, the ferry docks and the seaplane terminal. The seaplane route between Victoria and Vancouver is Canada’s busiest air route by number of flights per day - and don't forget you can use the seaplane to get here from Seattle, as well. The seaplanes - and helicopters - shorten an otherwise four hour journey between the two towns via road and boat.
Many visitors will first experience Victoria from the Inner Harbour as their ferry slowly approaches. The sight of the Empress, the Parliament and the old Canada Pacific steamship terminal - now somehow attached to the floating Undersea Gardens - is quite impressive especially when the flowers are in bloom. I am not so sure about the many new condominiums and other hotels that have sprung up along the approaches to the Inner Harbour replacing the Edwardian architectural theme with glass and steel. Walkers can see the Inner Harbour from pathways lining the shores or for those so inclined, little harbor taxis ferry people about to several destinations in a manner like you can also see in Nanaimo and Vancouver.
While it used to be great, and I would have rated it much higher, most of the Inner Harbour is closed to kayakers now. From what I have gathered, the float planes and the water taxis have complained about kayakers and now the Harbour Patrol prevents kayaks from approaching the area in front of the Empress Hotel and the Legislature Bldg. They also prevent you from crossing over to Fisherman's Wharf.
That really makes kayaking in the Inner Harbour a waste of time.
Guess I'll have to go elsewhere, now.
This is a nice park on the seawall along the southern shore of the Inner Harbour. It has nice views across the harbour towards downtown, the Empress hotel, etc., and it is a nice stroll around the harbour to downtown, past the legislature, BC Museum, etc. It has nice grounds, tress, some totem poles.
The Inner Harbour of Victoria is quite pretty and is filled with a variety of different boats. If we had had more time, we would have taken a water taxi trip across it.
As we walked along the waterfront we encountered several naval monuments.
Ask for someone named Darren Beasley. He will take you on a fishing trip out in the harbour. We had a great fishing experience here. He was great at taking us to spots where there was plenty of fish for us to catch.
Darren is fantastic. he was very easygoing and patient with tangled lines and many of the other common nuisances that happen during fishing. Ask around for a Darren Beasley when you go to the Inner Harbour.
This place is the heart of Victoria, a sweeping waterfront that contains several of the city's best-known landmarks such as the Empress Hotel, Parliament Buildings and the Royal BC Museum. In the evenings, its gardens and promenades are full of people and street entertainers. This is an amazing place for you to take some of the most beautiful pictures you can ever take.
Your first stop must be the Infocentre which has a wealth of information on the city, its surroundings and Vancouver Island in general.
It was really hard for me to decide about listing this in the "Tourist Trap" items or in the "Things to Do" list, but as it is in the primary tourist area of Victoria I will list it among the "Things to Do" and let you decide it is worth coming here.
First off, the entrance fee is $10.95, but $1.31 of harmonized sales tax is added as well, so the total entrance fee is $12.26.
As a second warning: there are no rest rooms in the facility. You have to go to either the ferry terminal building down the road or across the street to the hotel to find restrooms.
The facility is somewhat unique in that you do go down below the surface of the harbor, but the fact is that only the water is part of the harbor: the fish are completely boxed in, and so this is really just a pretty standard aquarium. You may as well stay above the water surface for all the difference it makes. The fish are in tanks either way. There isn't a single window out to the harbour.
The species found in the tanks are all local in nature, and therefore it is unique in providing people unfamiliar with our local underwater wildlife a good look at such things as dungeness crab and wolf eel.
There is a small touch tank which is completely unsupervised, and features several starfish that people may touch. The only supervision is a sign saying "Please touch me gently, and I prefer to be in the water." While I am sure they are perfectly happy that they are not being touched, the fact that the tank is so tiny compared to what more modern aquariums are offering today, plus no one available to keep children from being excessively rough with the animals, seems a little melancholy.
The live dive show occurs in a small underwater auditorium, and basically consists of a diver that encourages the fish to show themselves to the audience. This is particularly good for being able to see the octopus and eel, as they prefer to stay hidden in the rocks most of the time. The diver is equipped with a microphone and is able to answer questions from the audience while under the water.
The place is unique in that it has several large tanks of fish that allow for extensive species intermixing. This makes the habitat somewhat more natural than what you would find in a place that separates out the various fish. However, it also makes it a bit difficult to determine exactly what you are seeing as it is somewhat difficult to separate the fish, crab, etc. in the large tanks into the individuals shown on the signs.
The walk around the harbour is a very interesting and lively one. There is a nice walkway and you will see various kinds of boats, float planes and interesting people.
It is a short walk to the legislative buildings which are impressive, especially when they are lighted up at night.
This is the Heart of the City really....its central and most "tourists" venture here likely because its the main tie up area for private boats,yachts,as well as the wharf area for the ferries that run between Victoria and Seattle and Victoria and Port Angeles which is also also in Washington State[see transportation tips].Its not strictly an area enjoyed by tourists because it really is a fun place to hang out and watch the comings and goings of the masses...
The Inner Harbor is also a terminus or stop for a "Harbor Ferry" that will drop you off for a small charge at any point on its route..
Most of the "special" celebrations happen here as well...Civic and National celebrations..fireworks and parties...The Victoria Symphony Splash is an annual event that happens here..in case you might be wondering what Spalsh is...Victoria Symphony Splash is the largest annual outdoor symphony event in Canada often attracting up to 40,000 people...
The "Classic Boat Festival" operates from here...a collection of "classic" boats often of cedar strip construction that participants agree to display and "race"...generally this is a fun event with boats gathering in a "sail past"...or parade if you like...
The Empress hotel is across the street,The Royal British Columbia Museum is here,The Provincial Legislature is also across another street that fronts the Inner Harbor...This is also a center for whale watching tours...both the ticket offices and tie up and loading area for different companies that offer this service is also located here..
Its lined in certain areas with food vendors and on the South West corner there's even a Night Market happening now which wasn't operating the last time I was visiting...Buskers offer up some really interesting entertainment normally...
Its essentially a GREAT people place...and its central to some of Victoria's most noted attractions..if you're into people watching or you're hiring onto a whale watching tour the this is likely the place for you!
Its busy during Tourist Season...so if you don't like crowds....you better TRY to avoid this area...otherwise...maybe Ill see you down there the next time I'm in town...
After our High Tea at the Fairmont Empress, Sue and I walked around a bit right at the Inner Harbour and some of the streets nearby. We experienced our first taste of Bubble Tea which is a sweet tea type drink with tapioca pearls at the bottom which you suck up with a huge straw. We have had Bubble Tea several times since in Chinatown in our home area of Chicago.
The Sunday evening we walked around there was a juggler performing along with a number of different artists selling their wares. We ended up purchasing a tile painted with a scene from the Inner Harbour.
If you're travelling as a couple and you're in to outdoor activities, one of my favourite activities is to Kayak the Victoria harbour. A kayak rental for a two-person kayak for 2 hours is about $40. Or if you shop around, some other kayak rental companies offer summer specials of 3 hours for $30. It's a good value for the amount you get to see, the exercise, and the amount of time you get in the Kayak. You can go in the day time or in the evening and enjoy the sunset. 2 hours is more than enough time to travel the perimeter of the harbour and to take a trip down the Gorge Wateway to the Selkirk waterfront. If you're lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of a harbour seal. Be careful though as Victoria has one of the busiest harbours in Canada. You'll also have to follow special right of way rules as Victoria is home to the only harbour designated an airport in the world. There are hundreds of float planes taking off and landing on a daily basis from Victoria harbour and you'll have to make sure that you don't get in their way.
The most familiar image that comes to mind when thinking about Victoria probably is the Legislature buildings overlooking Inner Harbour. The scenery around the harbour is so nice, you won't be able to put your camera back in your bag! Once you're done taking pictures, you can go for a short walk around the harbour which is always filled with tourists, street performers and street artists. Nothing left to do but enjoy the atmosphere of the place!
The Victoria visitor information centre is also located right next to Inner Harbour, at 812 Wharf Street (250-953-2033).