By Fiona Anderson
(Due to COVID-19, Victoria’s iconic water taxis are only running Fridays through Sundays in June but expect to run daily in July. Their normal operating hours are from 10 a.m. to dusk. We updated this piece on June 19 to say that Glo is now open, as well as the Canoe Brewpub, the Boom and Batten and the Smoke & Anchor. Q Bar intends to open on June 26, and management at the Empress Hotel is still determining hours, and exploring take-out options and expanded outdoor eating space. They say they’ll be open for breakfast, and the Veranda will be open for lunch and dinner. As of June 19, Lure remained closed.)
Anyone who has been to Victoria can’t help but notice the tubby little green or yellow boats that zigzag back and forth across the inner harbour. These water taxis are a fun way to see Victoria ‘s waterfront, from the inner Harbour of downtown Victoria up under the Johnson and Bay Street bridges to the quiet Gorge Waterway.
The pickle boats, as they are also known, are also a great way to taxi from watering hole to watering hole.
Stop 1: Q Bar, The Empress Hotel (Stop name: Empress Dock)
In the pre-COVID era, the place to start any trip to Victoria, no matter the mode of transportation, would be the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the Grand Dame of the Canadian Pacific Railway hotels built in 1908 to service railway passengers. Today it is thoroughly modern and named one of the top hotels of the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine. Although the hotel’s Q bar (Q for Queen) is currently closed, you’d normally be surrounded by images of Queen Victoria, as well as well-heeled tourists and business clientele. As its website says, it’s a place to see and be seen.
Stop 2: The Canoe Brewpub (Stop name: Chinatown; Status: OPEN!)
Even older than the Empress is the building which houses The Canoe Brewpub. Built in 1894 for the generators that ran Victoria’s streetlights, the building is a designated heritage site. With its oversized ceiling beams, and hanging cedar canoes, the pub is worth visiting just for the ambience. But the craft beer, changing with the seasons, and the view, especially from the patio in the summer, are an added bonus. Jump off the taxi at historic Chinatown and it’s a short walk to the Canoe Brewpub.
Stop 3: Glo Restaurant & Lounge (Stop name: Selkirk Landing)
Further up the Gorge and just short of the Selkirk Bridge – the foot and cycle path that was once the railway line that serviced the local mills — is Glo Restaurant and Lounge,a fairly recent addition to the area, which describes itself on its website as “as close as you can get to Victoria’s Inner Harbour without getting wet.”
In the COVID era, the stop is a great place to walk and enjoy the bustling waterway and occasional wildlife.
Stop 4: Lure Restaurant & Bar at the Delta Hotel and Boom and Batten (Stop name: Delta Hotel or Songhees Landing; Status: Closed/OPEN!)
Head back out under the Johnson Street Bridge to Lure Restaurant and Bar at the Delta Hotel. Although currently closed, Lure bills itself as the best patio in Victoria, but inside on a cold day it is also warm and welcoming. The bar is in a large, airy room, with comfortable chairs along a wall of windows overlooking the Inner Harbour. And its white-shirted attentive staff makes every patron feel like a welcome tourist, whether they are one or not.
Just steps away along the boardwalk from Lure is he latest addition to the waterfront, the Boom and Batten, which opened in 2019 as part of the new International Marina that berths yachts from around the world. Not only can guests ogle the mega-yachts, they can also watch paddlers paddle under the dock that houses the marina office, which is built on stilts over the water.
Stop 5: Fisherman’s Wharf (stop name Fisherman’s Wharf: Status: OPEN!)
Another must-visit stop for any Victoria tour is Fisherman’s Wharf, a mixture of fishing boats, whale watchers, floating homes and food stops. Crossing the harbour from Boom and Batten means crossing the floatplane runway – the busiest airport of its kind in Canada. Our recommendation, Smoke and Anchor, an outdoor space with draft beer and amazing mouth-watering sandwiches, including pulled pork and done-just-right tuna.
From Fisherman’s Wharf it’s a quick jump back to the Empress via water taxi or via the David Foster walking path, if you are ready to walk off some of the beer and great food you’ve had.
Fiona Anderson is a veteran journalist who loves travelling and travel writing.
(When this article was posted, the government of B.C. was advising residents to avoid non-essential travel, and to safely and responsibly enjoy restaurants and activities close to home. Be sure to check this website when planning any future trip to Victoria.)
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