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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
We also managed to find Bun Bo Hue, Korean BBQ, and Gourmet Sushi.
Sadly, their options for authentic Indian food was lacking so that was one strike against them.
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:
|Category||Cost in USD/couple per day||Cost in CAD/couple per day||Notes|
|Accommodations||$53 USD||$65 CAD||Our 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 CAD||This 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 CAD||There 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 CAD||Additional 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 CAD||We 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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