The crisp days of fall lend themselves to bundled up walks along leafy streets, warm cups of tea and historical and ghostly explorations of British Columbia’s charming capital city, Victoria. Autumn is an ideal time to steal away for an Island sightseeing holiday, with or without the littles in tow.

Photo credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Stroll through gardens

Victoria is home to several outstanding gardens, the most famous of which is Butchart Gardens north of the city. Fall is a magnificent time to walk the trails through this former limestone quarry and marvel as the crisp nights produce a rich display of red and golden maple leaves. Extra bonus for those with fur babies, Butchart Gardens is dog-friendly.

Abkhazi Garden is a hidden jewel, tucked away on a residential street outside of downtown Victoria. Pre-book a guided 45-minute tour of this lush one-acre ‘garden that love built’ and then enjoy a sumptuous Royal Abkhazi High Tea in the Teahouse, with views onto the landscaped grounds.

Photo credit: Claudia Laroye

Visit Beacon Hill Park

This family-friendly park and green space is in downtown Victoria and within easy walking distance from most downtown hotels and the inner harbour. The park is big, about 200 acres, and amenities include duck ponds, a Children’s Farm with donkeys, llamas, peacocks and a popular goat petting area. (Please note that in fall 2020, the Farm is temporarily closed due to Covid-19. However, you can still view the goat feedings from the outside gate.)

Pack a picnic to enjoy at the top of Beacon Hill and relish the lovely views of the Salish Sea and Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

Photo credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Royal BC Museum

Visit all of British Columbia at the Royal BC Museum, a world-class facility showcasing the natural and human history of this province and beyond. The First People’s Gallery features totems, masks and cultural treasures from across the region. Experience a Woolly Mammoth in his rocky, icy world, celebrate Canada’s oldest Chinatown, and voyage on a tar-scented trip on the HMS Discovery. The Museum’s IMAX Theatre is showing several outstanding nature films. Tickets must be pre-purchased online.

Photo credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Savour a food tour

Sample city flavours with the A Taste of Victoria Food Tour of downtown Victoria and Chinatown. This tasty tour includes stops for zesty meatballs at local independent market stalls, teahouses, homemade pizza tastings and the chance to nibble on sweet treats like macarons from La Roux and creations from Rogers Chocolates. Along with an introduction to all the good eats in town, the walking food tour shares the history of the city, including a stroll through the narrowest street in Canada, Fan Tan Alley.

Photo credit: Claudia Laroye

Go play outside

For kids young and old, travel just west of the city to zip, dodge and wobble in the trees at WildPlay Elements Park. With aerial adventure courses, suspended ladders, zip lines and giant swings to explore, the entire family will enjoy leaping into the known fun zone.

Take a walk through the city’s past

Dating back to the 1880s, Victoria’s Rockland neighbourhood is one of the oldest in the city. Stroll past the changing leaves on the lawns of beautiful mansions, including Government House, home of BC’s Lieutenant Governor. The sprawling grounds and gardens are open to the public and free to explore and enjoy. Watch out for the wild deer roaming the property.

Photo credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Go mini

The miniature Victoria Bug Zoo may not be for the squeamish, but it will certainly delight those who appreciate the amazing world of insects and spiders. This is a hands-on experience with safe introductions to giant walking sticks, alien-eyed praying mantids, hairy tarantulas, glow-in-the-dark scorpions, and tickling millipedes. It is located in downtown Victoria.

Go big

If you’ve never been to the sea (and even if you have), take advantage of some of the unique local and BC resident whale-watching deals with Eagle Wing Tours. The Salish Sea is teeming with large wildlife species, and the odds are high you’ll spot orcas, humpbacks, seals, eagles and sea otters while you’re out on the water.

Photo credit: Destination Greater Victoria

In search of ghosts

The cool, dark nights of fall are perfect for uncovering apparitions and the city’s sordid past on a Ghostly Walks Walking Tour in downtown Victoria. Night falls quickly, which is ideal for a lantern-led wander through dark alleys and narrow streets, learning of Victoria’s lost souls, tragic accidents and crimes of passion. Pre-book tours online.