Let’s Go Exploring! Victoria BC: The Warmest (-ish) Place in Canada

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Even though our travelling days were cut short last year during the pandemic, one of the (very few) upsides of COVID-19 is that for the first time, we got to explore a slice of our own backyard. Originally, we were saving our travels in Canada for when we’re too old to traipse around the world. But with borders closed and nowhere to go, the pandemic pushed up that timeline. Surprisingly, our own backyard had more to offer than we expected.

For example, having lived only in Ontario, I thought all of Canada was a frozen wasteland. Well, at least from the months of November to March anyway. Yes, there’s always the option of moving to Vancouver, which, by Canadian standards is practically “tropical.” But having been to Vancouver before, I was well aware of its “aggressively rainy” reputation.

So, was that it? Were my choices during winter only cold or wet?

As it turns out, there is, in fact, one place in Canada that sees the LEAST rain and HIGHEST temperatures (for Canada, anyway) throughout the year. That place turned out to be….

Victoria, BC.

With 50% less rain than Vancouver and lowest temperatures of +4 C (49 F) in December and January (compared to -10 C (14 F) in Toronto), I was ecstatic there was a place where you didn’t freeze all your toes off just by standing outside.  

In fact, Victorians are so unfamiliar with snow that when it snowed for 1 weekend this February, restaurants and stores closed, figuring no one even owned a snow shovel to dig themselves out of their driveway. For them, winter is a novelty. For Torotonians, it’s a prison sentence.

Sounds like my kind of place. But, having never been to Victoria, BC (I simply looked up “warmest place in Canada”), I had to find out where it was. Google maps said it was on Vancouver Island, which surprisingly has nothing to do with Vancouver. In fact, Vancouver the city is landlocked and a 1.5-hour ferry ride from Victoria.

Geez, how silly of me to ever think that Vancouver would be on something called “Vancouver” island. That would be madness.

Anyhoo… I digress. As it turns out, Victoria, BC had so much more to offer than its strange location and warm-ish weather.

We discovered that Victoria BC is the biking capital of Canada! Which isn’t surprising, given how safe it is, with bike lanes safely separated from cars, designated bridges just for bikes, and bike paths where you don’t see a single car for miles. I would never consider biking in downtown Toronto unless I had a death wish, but in Victoria, it was a no brainer.

Especially with views this incredible…

Galloping Goose Trail

Since we stayed in the Fernwood area, within a 15 min walk from downtown, we didn’t need a car or public transit. Victoria had enough city amenities to keep us entertained, but was still compact enough for us to walk everywhere. We happily wore out our runners by exploring these local sites.

Ogden Point Sundial

A long-ass walkway that juts out to sea, where you will be rewarded with a pretty little light house at the end. On the way there we saw a mother and baby seal frolicking in the water. We also saw two halos of mysterious bubbles in the water that turned out be scuba divers. Yup. People were scuba diving in Canada in February. Madness.

Esquimalt High Rock Park

Across the water from downtown Victoria is the township of “Esquimalt,” which means “place of shoaling waters.” We walked for about an hour up to High Rock Park, which gave us a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.

Finlayson Point

This is my favourite spot in Victoria and has that Irish, ocean-side cliffs feel. Bonus points since it was so beautiful and yet so not crowded.

Beacon Hill Park

Home to the tallest Totem Pole in the world, Beacon Hill Park is a nice urban park to chill out in, where you can discover hidden natural statues like “the Moss Lady” or even feed some peacocks.

Your peacocks offset the snow. Well played, Beacon Hill.

Willows Beach

Beautiful calming beach with drift wood and once again, very few people! Sure, the water’s probably too cold to swim in, but who cares? We hiked around the area and found some incredible views from the top of the hill to watch the sunset.

If we were staying long term, I would’ve bought a bike and happily explored the city on 2 wheels instead of four. But since we were staying only a month and our Airbnb host recommended some great day trips, we rented a car for a day from National and drove to the following sites.

Thetis Lake

Just like many of the other nature sights in Victoria, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get here and how deserted it was. It only took us about a 15 minute drive and when we got there, we only saw a handful of other people during our hike. We ate lunch at the beach picnic area and had this incredible view all to ourselves.

Esquimalt Lagoon

My favourite day trip, this is only around a 20-25 minute drive from downtown where you have lake on one side and ocean on the other. And best of all there are lots of wooden statues to look at, kind of like a free outdoor museum!

After our near-divorce experience of driving in Toronto’s “everything is trying to kill you at all times” streets, driving in Victoria made me feel like I was floating in a lazy river while being licked by kittens. At one point Wanderer got distracted changing the radio station and didn’t move at a green light for a full 10 seconds. Not a single driver behind us honked. They just waited patiently because, you know, they’re not anxiety-riddled, pill-popping psychopaths.

We even found a sign by the side of the road that perfectly described the chill vibe of Victoria (which was ironically near Toronto Street).

Clearly missing a subtitle that says “World Class Street”

A BOOKISH CITY

Another thing I love about Victoria is how “bookish” it is. Not only were there little “lending libraries” everywhere, we also found a plethora of cafés to write in, some with floor to ceiling books you can read for free, and others serving afternoon teas fit for a queen:

And guess what? A reader even sent us a picture of our book spotted in Bolen Books:

Oh Victoria, you really get me.

The Food

You know how I mentioned before about an acronym I like to use to vet places I’d possibly choose to live in for the long term? It’s “WAVES“, which stands for Warm, Asian Food, Value, Entrepreneurial, and Safe.

Chiang Mai has been the only city that checks off all 5 boxes and Toronto only has 2/5 (Asian Food, Safe).

Victoria had Warm and Safe, and Value wasn’t exactly there but I did like the fact that rent was less expensive than Toronto.  

But what about the food? The West Coast is known for their fabulous fresh seafood but would they also have authentic Asian food? (And no, Panda Express or Chinese take out don’t count. *puke*)

I thought I wouldn’t be able to get authentic Chinese groceries (having been spoiled by Toronto’s diversity), but I was pleasantly surprised. I found a whole Chinese food section that even had my favourite hot pot soup base in the Fairway grocery store in the Quadra area.

Japanese snacks galore!

We also managed to find Bun Bo Hue, Korean BBQ, and Gourmet Sushi.

Bun Bo Hue from Pho Vy Restaurant on Fort Street
Korean Grill at Sura on Douglas Street
Sashimi tapa from Nubo on Pandora street
Octopus tapa with seaweed from Nubo

Sadly, their options for authentic Indian food was lacking so that was one strike against them.

And of course, we had to go out for the obligatory oysters happy hour at Finn’s Seafood and the massive oyster burger at Ferris’ Grill.

1/2 price oysters from 4-6pm at Finn’s Seafood ($19.50 a dozen or $1.63 each )
Oyster burger with sweet potato and caesar salad from Ferris’ Grill

I never thought I’d say this, but if there’s one place I’d ever consider settling down in Canada, Victoria BC would be it.

As the sunniest, warmest (or warm-ish) place in Canada, and as a mid-sized city (population of ~300,000) that has enough amenities but is still small enough to get around by foot, it’s our kind of place.

As expected, food in Victoria, BC was a lot more expensive than Toronto (BC does stand for “Bring Cash” after all) but overall, we were still quite happy with the cost of living.

Here’s how much we spent per day in the capital of British Columbia:

CategoryCost in USD/couple per dayCost in CAD/couple per dayNotes
Accomodations$53 USD$65 CADOur rent went up from $1700 all inclusive in Toronto to $1950 in Victoria. This is because the Toronto rental was a sublet but for Victoria, I got an Airbnb for a month. If we were to come back long term, we could rent a 1 bedroom apartment in Victoria for $1500/month.
Food$33 USD$41 CAD ($13 for eating out, $28 for groceries)We ended up eating out for lunch once or twice a week. Unlike Toronto, which was locked down, most restaurants were open in Victoria with seating limits.
Groceries were 10-20% more expensive than Toronto, but surprisingly not as much as I thought it would be, considering we’re on an island.
Transportation$4.32 USD$5.32 CADThis includes the taxes ($73) for the flights (using points) spread out over 30 days, the bus fare to get from the airport to the Airbnb, 2 hours of bike rental ($40 for 2 bikes from “Cycle BC Rentals and Tours” on) and 1 day of car rental (from National).

Funnily enough the bike rental costs more than the car rental. If we were staying longer, we would’ve just bought bikes.
Entertainment$9.35 USD$11.49 CADThere is so much nature in Victoria, which is also easy to get to, that you hardly need to spend money on entertainment at all. Just some bus ticket to get to the various beaches around the island. We also ended up getting 2 Thai massages during the month, at around $70/hour with tax + 15% tip. We also had a great time bonding with the masseuse about Chiang Mai.
Other$2.12 USD$2.60 CADAdditional items we bought throughout the month included toiletries and one item of clothing, which totalled $78 and averaged only $2.60/day over 30 days.
Total$101.7$125.32 CADWe definitely spent way more in Victoria than how much we spent in Toronto for the past few months, but mainly this is because restaurants and spas were open in Victoria, so naturally spending would go up for entertainment. We also chose Airbnb over long term rental since we’ve never been to Victoria before, so that increased the cost.

But even at this inflated short term stay cost, we could still live comfortably in Victoria on $45,000/year, which is within the 4% rule of our initial $1 Million portfolio, when adjusted for 2% inflation for the past 6 years: 40,000 x (1.02 ^ 6) = $45,046.

What do you think? Have you ever been to Victoria, BC? Do you have any other “warm-ish” places to recommend in Canada?


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58 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Victoria BC: The Warmest (-ish) Place in Canada”

  1. Wow, I was not expecting to see pictures of my local grocery store on the blog today! I’m so happy that you enjoyed my city 🙂

  2. So happy you enjoyed Victoria! We moved here from Toronto a few years ago and never looked back. It’s the only place in Canada we are okay being rooted. Bolen Books is where I bought your book 🙂 There are a couple good, authentic Indian restaurants…you just have to head out of downtown and into Esquimalt and Saanich. Next time you visit try to check out Botanical Beach, Tofino and the Gulf Islands. We are spoiled for choice out here in terms of awesomeness.

    1. “Bolen Books is where I bought your book” –> AWWW! Thanks. You rock, Tara!

      Oh I had no idea that the good authentic Indian restaurants were in Esquimalt. Didn’t think to look in Saanich either (guess I only looked at the walkable places).

      Can you give me the restaurants names for next time?

  3. Now you know why everyone says the only people who live in Victoria are the “newly wed and the nearly dead”! Was lovely to see my hometown profiled. It was a great place to grow up (and would be a great place to retire).
    Spotted one teensy typo….it’s ‘Ogden Point,’ not ‘Oden Point’ 🙂

    I’m glad you enjoyed your stay and I hope you went through the oldest Chinatown in Canada, if not the oldest in North America!

    1. “newly wed and the nearly dead”. LOL. I thought that saying was only for cruises!

      Thanks for pointing out the typo! It’s been fixed now.

      And yes we did enjoy visiting the oldest Chinatown. That’s where we got the Thai massage 🙂

  4. How is a low of 39°F in Canada fair? Even 14°F is warm. In Nebraska this February it reached -31°F. and we’re a couple hundred miles south of Toronto.

    – Where’s the Fire?

  5. There’s a funny rhyme about Victoria that my (now retired) Toronto dentist once said to me:
    Victoria, home of the newly wed,
    Nearly dead,
    And gone to bed

    Hahaha, but seriously Victoria is a lovely place to live but not as culturally diverse as say Vancouver and definitely not as diverse as Toronto. Hence the lack of good Indian food. I live in Vancouver and taking the ferry over to Vic to see friends always feels like a “vacation”

  6. You reminded me of my university days in Victoria. Graduated from UVIC over 20 years ago where I met a great bunch of friends and many firsts. Hated it at first because I was a city girl who lived in Vancouver. Again being brought up by Asian parents, they will do whatever it takes to send you to university no matter how bad your grades were in high school. Anyway, explored, camped, kayaked, biked around many places you mentioned including Galloping Goose, Esquimalt, Thetis Island, etc. Now, having studied Japanese, got married, moved to Tokyo with my husband and on the way to FIRE while building a dividend producing stock portfolio. Hopefully, we’ll be able to reach FI in 10 years or less. 

    By the way, quite the selection of Chinese and Japanese food in the grocery section but expensive since it’s probably imported.

    1. Very cool that you moved to Tokyo! (one of my fav cities in the world). Yeah, if you ever come back to Victoria, you’ll be like “meh. food is just ok.”

      Definitely food is more expensive in Vic but worth it for the weather.

  7. glad you had a great time in my city .. its the best place in Canada

    but after 30 years i cant wait to move back to UK

    ???
    yes lots of reasons . way cheaper to live .. food etc and so many places to visit in UK . nowhere is near Victoria … 3 days to get to India for us . horrendous red eye expensive flights to europe … its a lovely town but wish it wasnt so removed from everywhere .

    the UK has improved so so much since i left many moons ago .. now they have same quality of coffee … supermarkets are in another league .. and i find 50% cheaper than in BC … and phone plans dont get me started on the prices here .. .. and now a mega heatwave today …. i also read that BC has increased in yearly temps than anywhere in past years .

    1. Interesting. Yeah, I guess it is easier to find flights in the UK (thanks Ryanair!).

      Interesting that you find UK cheaper than Canada. I guess it depends which city. I do agree that public transportation is way better in UK than in Canada though. I also love the bookish-ness of UK. Great for writers.

      1. flights are like an hour or 2 to anywhere in europe and so cheap .

        from YVR . i normally pay $1000 return and 10 hour flight to UK .. ha ha its a no brainer for travel

        phone plans so much cheaper . internet . . supermarkets ( 50% cheaper) than Van island

        lovely modernised 3 bed house to buy $ 350k in NW england .. Victoria $1 mill plus .. errrrr etc etc …

        1. “from YVR . i normally pay $1000 return and 10 hour flight to UK .. ha ha its a no brainer for travel”

          Have you tried travel hacking using credit cards points? I find it’s easier to do that in North America. The credit card scene in Europe aren’t as competitive for points.

          Phone plans abroad are definitely cheaper than in Canada. Canada has some of the most expensive data plans in the world.

          Is NW England comparable to Victoria though? You can get houses for $350K in the Atlantic provinces in Canada too or Quebec.

          Although, I guess if you compare Brighton, UK, average cost cost is 500K pounds or 800K Canadian, which is better than the average $1 Million home in Victoria. So I think you’re right that UK has better cost of living (housing-wise) in warm(ish) places than Canada.

          1. you are right , Brighton is a more comparable place to Victoria

            now its 42 C .. no AC , no one has AC or pools etc

            . never gets above 30 c here ….. .. climate change is real

            i joined a site on FB.. expats returning to UK

            and had so many responses .. everyone agrees … so much cheaper and so manay things to do compared to huge canada ..

  8. SO happy to see a photo of Murchies Tea!
    This is the BEST tea in the world. We lived in the States for a few years and still had it shipped to us if we weren’t going to be home for a while.

    1. I was so impressed with their tea selection. I tried to find it in Toronto, but the one here is not a cafe, just a tea shop. Sigh. I miss writing on my laptop in Murchies.

  9. We’re headed to the island for the first time next spring for 6 weeks. We will be staying a bit further north between Vic and Nanaimo. Have some FIRE friends there who love it.

    I feel like it would be a great place to visit but moving there would easily add 5+ years to our FIRE plans due to the high cost of living. Personally we decided to stay put in AB and plan to head south to warmer climates 3 months out of the year for the same price as living year round on the island and get a proper warm winter out of it.

    1. Sounds like a good plan to me! Hope you enjoy going there next year (so great that you have FIRE friends who love it!)

  10. Hmm, Victoria: Canada’s NZ? Maybe! I’ve only spent part of a day there 15 years ago. I expect the sushi to be pretty good out there, as it is in Vancouver.

    I’m shocked that there are no T&Ts in Victoria.

    1. Yeah, Vancouver and Toronto are hoarding all the T&Ts. Oh well. Fairway had enough Asian groceries for me so it was do-able.

        1. What?! Waterloo has T&T now? When did that happen? Where the heck was it back when I was in univ! *Grumble grumble*

  11. We went to Victoria several years ago on a family vacation and we liked it a lot. We walked around the city, went to Butchart Gardens and went on a boat ride. Lots of fun.

    1. Oh fun! Butchart Gardens was closed due to the pandemic while we were there. Might go see it next time.

      Glad you enjoyed Victoria!

  12. Save BC as your background in 20 years (I assumed you both are in your mid 30’s)!

    Here is a repeat…

    It really does not matter much where you live in the world as long as…
    1. You have your LOVE with you.
    2. You have a SOLID health.
    3. TheEngineer 30% rule – minimally, you must be able to afford the LOCAL median lifestyle with the additional 30% cushion.
    4. Have a COMPASSION for the LOCAL population.

    The big world is waiting…carve a small piece for yourself!

  13. Just ran my dog around Thetis, walked home, reheated some amazing Indian for breakfast, (Sizzling Tandor) and read this post. Glad you enjoyed our little slice of heaven.

  14. Sooooo….here is my story. Moved to Point Roberts, WA which is actually the tip of the peninsula directly south of Vancouver. Very reasonable cost of living and until recently, below-market real estate prices. The border closure has just kicked our butts but the national and international press coverage has brought a significant number of new (mainly American) buyers. They are buying everything up, often sight-unseen but prices are still great. Our weather is slightly better than Victoria and during regular times we are only about forty minutes from Vancouver. Also love the nearby towns of Tsawwassen, Langey and Steveston. It is an odd little exclave with amazing upsides. We have water on three sides, big trees, unbelievable number of eagles and other birds and critters. Point Roberts is essentially rural with limited amenities, but by crossing the “Barbie border” everything is available. A magical place that is now on the map because of the gobs of coverage of the difficulties
    due to pandemic border closure. Give it a look.

    1. Interesting! I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m in the area (once borders open obviously)

  15. Great article about Victoria, it’s definitely a gem of Canada and a top candidate for those looking to settle somewhere for the long run. Note that you misused the word “landlocked” when describing Vancouver. Landlocked means surrounded by land, which is definitely not the case for Vancouver, since it’s on the Strait of Georgia (the sea)

  16. My only trip to Victoria was in 1997 as part of a western Canada business trip – one day in each of Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and then a day trip to Victoria. That was also the only time I’ve even flown in a helicopter – from Vancouver to Victoria and back.

    But Victoria is definitely on my retirement short-list if I end up back in Canada.

    1. Where do you live now?

      Yeah, I never end considered retiring in Canada (Thailand all the way baby!) until I discovered Victoria. Who knew you could actually be warm in the winter here?

      1. Currently in Hong Kong but leaving before end of year – you know why! It’s an exodus over here ….

        Siem Reap is near the top of my Asia retirement plans – definitely WAV_S, not sure about entrepreneurial. I just hope it survives the past 18 months.

  17. Multiple cars at a green light waited 10 whole seconds at the same time to not honk?!?!? I think that’s the most shocking thing I’ve ever read on your blog.

  18. Summer is the best time to visit Vancouver Island …. Victoria, Fisherman’s Wharf, the boats and seaplane taxis, Butchart Gardens are in full bloom, the hikers at parks, the magical views as the ferry weaves its way through the smaller islands along the journey … by the way Andrew Hallam Arthur of Millionaire Teacher I believe has a condo there now … as for retiring there maybe… but maybe Maple Ridge, Chilliwack or Kelowna B.C … or Southwestern Ontario by the lakes would be cheaper and more economical etc … less isolated etc

      1. Yes, I’ve heard that concern before from other people. Chance of earth quake versus 100% guarantee of winter storms every year in Ontario. I’ll take my chances in B.C.

    1. Yes, I’ve also heard summer is the best time to visit–but then I’d have share it with all the tourists and cruise go-ers. 🙂 Will probably use it as my winter hide away to avoid freezing to death in Ontario instead. Summer is tolerable in Toronto so I’ll come back to visit family.

  19. The crowds in Canada don’t seem to be too much, … I actually think they make things seem more lively and energetic… less lonely… but then again I am used to living in Beijing with 20 plus million people… for the last few decades… Canada does not seem crowded .. anyway Vancouver Island in the summer is beautiful 😎🙏😇😀

  20. Darn.. missed you guys when you were here. Come to think of it, I likely walked or cycled right by you guys and didn’t know it. Oh well… great photos! Next time.

  21. Not sure if you were being cutesy or if you really don’t know that both the city of Vancouver and Vancouver Island were named after George Vancouver, who between 1791 and 1794 explored the Pacific Northwest coast and mapped all the intricate channels and inlets along the coastlines of the island and the lower mainland.

    You may want to do a quick internet search before posting if you don’t know things.

      1. So I thought the point of your posts was to actually share knowledge and help people — something not done with your attempts at sarcasm.

        You have shown your character very clearly with your reply.

        1. Relax, it’s not all bad! The last years of the accumulation phase are so tedious, I pretty much only come for the sarcasm now. I. need. my .fix.

  22. We love living in Victoria. Only thing you need is secure housing because the low vacancy rate and house prices are out of reach now for some. We travel the most inclement months ie. November and Jan-Feb (covid aside) and find that a flights to California, Mexico or the UK (as a stepping off spot – Ryanair is like 99 return to a lot of places in the EU) are reasonable. Japan is a well serviced destination from here too and can be the landing point for the rest of Asia with inexpensive continuing flights from Osaka or Tokyo. You can easily sublet a place in Victoria while you are gone, and home swaps are possible as it is a desirable destination. We’ve done a homeswap to France, Greece, Holland and Israel.

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