Where to Drink: Victoria Breweries, Distilleries and Cideries
Fans of local, craft beer, spirits and ciders will be impressed with Victoria's homegrown, award-winning offerings. Whether you're looking for a few pints, sleeves, shots or flights, there's a tasty drink waiting for you in Victoria. Better yet, take a tour and learn about how humble grains and hops turn into liquid gold.
Victoria Spirits (6170 Old West Saanich Road, Saanich): Take a tour of Canada's first premium gin distillery. This carbon neutral distillery is located on an organic vineyard in Saanich, about half an hour outside Victoria. See the German copper pot still, chat with Distiller (Peter Hunt) and lounge in their tasting room. Victoria Spirits also makes small-batch premium spirits and aromatic bitters.
Sea Cider (2487 Mt. St. Michael Road, Saanich): While in Saanich, stop by Sea Cider, a family-owned orchard and ciderhouse that's so beautiful it's a common destination for weddings. They grow organic cider apples that produce award-winning ciders and offer seasonal and special series varieties. Time your visit so you can stay for a bite and try one of their seasonal lunch plates alongside a flight of ciders.
Vancouver Island Brewery (2330 Government Street, Victoria): This is Vancouver Island's first microbrewery now producing internationally known, award-winning craft beer. Guided tours are available every Friday and Saturday ($7 or $10 with VIB pint glass).
Phillips Brewing Company (2010 Government Street, Victoria): A home-brewed favourite with a large, devoted fan base that seem perpetually impatient for next batch of seasonal varieties to be released. Tours available from Tuesday to Saturday, with a maximum of 10 people, first come first served ($6, includes tastings and a tasting glass to take home).
Moon Under Water (350B Bay Street, Victoria): A true "beer bar", Moon offers beer pairings with comfort pub food, served in glasses specific to each type of beer. They routinely offer special tastings and other educational sessions - check their Facebook page for the latest offerings.
Back in the day, Fort Street was best known for its lineup of antique stores. Today, people flock to Fort Street for the food, everything from steaming bowls of comfort noodles to artisanal imported cheeses to house-cured sausages. Check out:
Crust Bakery (730 Fort Street): The husband and wife team behind Crust Bakery whip up daily fresh treats such as baguettes, cinnamon buns, tarts galore and fluffy donuts (which tend to sell out by noon). They cover savouries as well, so feel free to stop by at lunch for a sandwich or quiche.
The Little Cheese Shop (1034 Fort Street): This little shop is packed full of a well-edited selection of superior cheeses. Owner, Lauren Van Der Haegen, can tell you a little background story about every offering there from the French Gruyère de Connté to the local Youbou Blue. Check their Facebook and Twitter pages for updates on daily lunch specials. Grilled cheese, of course... but which cheese?
J&J Wonton Noodle House (1012 Fort Street, Victoria): J&J is nowhere near Chinatown, yet this friendly, modestly-sized restaurant has survived 20 years because it serves incredible, authentic Cantonese and Szechuan food. Yep, authentic. There's no place for fusion here. Flavours are bold, fresh and delectable. And yes, the won ton noodles are delicious. They even offer separate menus for gluten-free and vegetarian dishes. But like any really good, authentic Chinese restaurant, they'll happily whip up anything you ask for.
Fishhook (805 Fort Street, Victoria): Fans of Victoria's wildly popular Red Fish Blue Fish will appreciate its new creative spinoff, Fishhook. The emphasis is still on fresh, sustainable seafood, but diners are treated to a wider range of playful flavours. Plus, it's indoors. Not to miss: their homemade pickles (and they pickle everything), tartines (open-faced sandwiches) and the Mulligatawny-esque chowder (simply scrumptious).
Choux Choux Charcuterie (830 Fort Street, Victoria): This cosy store is crammed full of cured, smoked and aged delicacies, all with a nod to French traditions. Largely regarded as Victoria's best delicatessen, it's a destination for foodies looking for house-cured sausages, hand-packed terrines and seasonal patés. Arrive at lunchtime and for around $10 you can try their daily plat du jour. Looking for take-away? Their porcini mushroom paté, duck confit and beef jerky are stellar.
What to Do: Cycle Through the City
Take a guided tour of Victoria by bike and get an authentic feel of how this city loves its neighbourhoods and neighbours – because Victoria also loves its cyclists. The Pedaler offers themed tours that break up the cycling with stops at eateries (Eat. Drink. Pedal.), breweries (Hoppy Hour Ride) and even castles (Castles, Hoods & Legends).
The Beans & Bites tour is an easy and pretty 10k ride through neighbourhoods like downtown, Fernwood and Chinatown. Stops can vary, but often include local favourites like Bubby's Kitchen, Fernwood Coffee Company and Bon Macaron. This is the perfect balance of sightseeing, exercise, caffeine and sugar.
719 Douglas Street, Victoria. 778.265.RIDE(7433)
Where to Stay: Magnolia Hotel & Spa
For an elegant home-away-from-home with killer location, Magnolia Hotel & Spa is outstanding. Guest rooms are newly refreshed, with plush and irresistible interiors that will tempt you to cut your evening early and invite you to lounge in bed a bit longer the next morning. Get a room with a harbour view and you can watch the float planes land and take off – from bed, of course – while sipping fresh coffee (thanks, Keurig).
Feeling nibbly? Catalano is the hotel's restaurant and bar, where you can order the gorgeously green Coastal Gin & Tonic (spiked with spirulina) while snacking on an assortment of cicchetti - small sharing plates that were made for happy hour. Must tries: arancini (deep-fried risotto balls), crispy polenta fries and the meatball flight (duck, pork, beef).
Tip: Cicchetti are half price from 4-6 p.m. and after 9 p.m.
Discover the fun and creative side of Victoria with eateries, distilleries and more
In Victoria, traditional tourist draws are taking a creative turn as fun, entrepreneurial offerings usher in new options for exploring B.C.'s capital. Tour the city through the backstreets (yes to charming neighbourhoods; no to Parliament) and swap your afternoon tea for little plates of cicchetti.
Catherine is a lifestyle writer, specializing in travel, style, food and beauty. You can read more of her work in WestWorld, Real Weddings, AsiaSpa, Darpan, Wine Enthusiast and others. Follow her on social (Instagram, Snapchat & Twitter) @TSEwords.