This is an updated version of a post I wrote two years ago. Most of my recommendations are the same, but the info is current!
It’s been raining on and off here in Victoria, which means… hygge time! Being warm and cozy INDOORS! But sometimes, I want to have an answer other than “Netflix” when someone asks me about my weekend. Plus, after 3 years on the Wet Coast, I’ve learned that you pretty much have to suck it up, put on some rain boots, and find things to do until at least December when it’s more acceptable to to start hibernating.
It’s actually a great time of year to explore: the big crowds of tourists are gone (if you’re a tourist, still come visit though!), there’s still lots of sun and blue skies between the showers, and there are so many amazing things to do in and around the city! Here are some ideas:
1. Check out the Salmon Run at Goldstream Provincial Park:
Goldstream Provincial Park is beautiful any time of year, but if you’re able to go in the fall you’ll be treated to something magical. Every year, from about mid-October to early December, thousands of salmon return from their ocean adventures to spawn (… and then die) at Goldstream Park. Heads up: it smells a little fishy!
The trails by the stream are lined with moss-covered trees that give the forest a supernatural vibe. You’ll probably see bald eagles feasting on gourmet dead fish eyeballs, and you’re guaranteed to see hundreds of salmon. I’m making it sound gross but it’s really incredible to see them all! There’s lots of information about the salmon life cycle, as well as a visitor centre.
2. Eat the best food, with a shorter line
Red Fish, Blue Fish is my main food recommendation for visitors to Victoria most of the year. Sadly, they close for winter (November to February), but they’re still open for a couple of months. In the summer, you can expect to wait in long lines (still worth it), but the wait is much shorter this time of year. The kitchen is in a converted shipping container in the inner harbour and seating is outdoors, with front row views of seaplanes coming in and taking off. Try the chowder!!
3. Stay warm with hot chocolate
If you’re chilly, go for a chili hot chocolate at Chocolat, Chocolatiere de Victoria. That’s all I’ve ordered there and it’s all I’ll ever order! The atmosphere of this place may not say ‘hipster-cozy’ or anything, because it’s mainly a chocolate shop, not a hangout spot. But if you’re a fan of the chili/chocolate combo (or hot chocolate in general), order up and you won’t be disappointed, whether you stay and people watch at the window bar or get it to go. It’s incredibly rich, you can order it dark, and it comes with a ~~sample~~!
4. Win big at Music Bingo
Music bingo is the best activity for cold and rainy nights! I’d never heard of it until I moved to Victoria, but it’s so popular here that different bars host every night of the week. It’s like regular BINGO but … with music. Plus sweet (usually boozy) prizes. Moon Under Water pub on Fridays is my favourite, but make sure you reserve!
5. Visit a Seaside Cidery
Fall’s the perfect time to hang out in an apple orchard, and why not have a drink while you do it?! Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse is, as the name implies, a cidery by the ocean. The property and views are beautiful, the ciders are delicious and each one comes with a story (one is made from local families and farmers’ leftover apples). You can visit for tours and tastings any time, but they usually host a couple of fall events, so keep an eye on their Facebook page. If it’s nice weather, take advantage of the bike trail that leads almost all the way there (close to 1.5 hours from Victoria… but it’s flat)!
6. Go to some spooky queer events
It’s ok, if you’re straight you can go too. There are soo many Halloween events to choose from in Victoria! The Queer Events page on Facebook does a pretty good job of posting them as they come up, but here are a few ideas: Crush (a queer dance party) just had a September party, and they’ll likely do one around Halloween too. Rumour has it that there may be a Backdoor Party – they hosted a FANTASTIC event full of drag and dancing at Pride, and Paparazzi’s Dragtastic Sundays will have a SPOOKY twist in October! Plus, they’ll be hosting a Drag Bingo night. Copper Owl is doing Halloweirdos on Oct. 28, with lots of drag. The Rocky Horror Picture Show will be playing at the Vic in late October, while Atomic Vaudeville will be putting on a live Rocky Horror Show around the same time!
Galey Farms is the place to go for outdoor, more kid-friendly activities, like corn mazes, hay rides, pumpkin picking, and a haunted house.
7. Head to the beach
So maybe it’s not prime weather for beach days, but I love going down to Willow’s Beach this time of year! The walk up to Cattle Point is beautiful rain or shine, and on clear days you get a great view of snow-capped Mount Baker and the Olympic Mountains. My personal favourite reason for hanging out at the beach this time of year? Puppies!!! Dogs are allowed at Willow’s on and off leash from October to April.
Saxe Point is Esquimalt is also a beautiful park with a rocky beach, and lots of space if you’re craving some quiet time.
Most of the local breweries do a pumpkin ale, and I’m all over that! Even if seasonal drinks aren’t your thing, why not pop into one of the local breweries or brew pubs and see what’s on tap? Spinnaker’s serves reliably tasty food and drinks, and comes with a great view of the Inner Harbour. Phillips has a new tasting room, and they know their beer!
9. Get lost in a secondhand bookstore
What’s your genre of choice? Whatever your answer, you’re in luck! Head to one of Victoria’s many bookshops and forget about the rain outside! Russell Books is huge (Canada’s largest used & new bookstore!) and has heaps of unique sections. Chronicles of Crime has pretty much every category of mystery and crime novels you could conceive of, as well as some mystery-themed décor. If you’re up in Sidney (near the ferries and airport), you can check out an entire booktown, made up of six bookshops within walking distance of each other!
10. Take a Day Trip!
Obviously, Victoria has a lot to offer! But if you want to go further afield, you could head out to the Juan de Fuca coast, 1-2 hours west of the city, depending on where you’re heading. You can visit Port Renfrew and nearby Botanical (tide pools!) or Sombrio (sometimes bears, always potholes!) beaches, or stay a little closer and hike into mystical Mystic Beach (about 40 minutes each way).
If you’d rather have an island adventure, you could head up to one of the Gulf Islands, like Salt Spring. Salt Spring is the biggest Southern Gulf Island (between Vancouver Island and the mainland), and they have a HUGE weekly Saturday market that runs until the end of October. It has a special place in my heart, because my girlfriend grew up there, so I’ve been able to experience it like a local 😉 Whether or not you’re there on market day, there’s plenty to do! Hike Mt. Erskine or Mt. Maxwell, drink up at a winery, cidery, or the funky brewery in the forest, sample some spectacular goat cheese and watch cheesemakers in action at the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, or marvel at the arbutus trees at Ruckle Park. I still can’t get over those crazy red trees. Use this map of Salt Spring to start planning.
Et voila! There’s enough to keep you busy until December, in between bouts of Netflix! But if you prefer to sit on the couch, I fully support that too. Happy hygge time!