When we first arrived in Victoria, I was mildly surprised to find it doesn’t especially cater to the cruising crowd; I mean it’s definitely not like Nanaimo, where the big three (food, booze and boat parts) are all within a short walking distance. But in retrospect it makes more sense to think of Victoria more as the tourist destination it is rather than a cruising mecca despite the numerous marinas. Still, there are a ton of liveaboards here, both permanent and temporary, and I bet the traffic is pretty high in the summer, so it must be a bit difficult for newcomers to find all the necessities.
So here’s my contribution to the the cruising scene: my Boater’s Guide to Visiting Victoria. These are the places we frequent and all of the services we have found so far. Pretty much everything is accessible within walking distance, although it is good to have a cart of some sort if you are loading up on heavier items. In terms of traditional shopping, there is too much to mention, so if you are flush with cash and have an urge to spend, Victoria is the place for you. I have tried to locate as many as possible of the essentials and the complete, interactive version of the map can be found here: Custom Google Map.
Marinas, Groceries & Liquor
There are three main marinas you are likely to stay at:
A: Wharf Street • GVHA (Greater Victoria Harbour Association); very central; close to showers and laundry; right beside busy parking lot and floatplane docks.
B: Causeway (Ship’s Point) • GVHA; right across from the Empress; lots of tourist passersby; these docks are often closed to the public (during the Swiftsure Race, the Boat Show, etc.), so you might have to raft up at Wharf Street.
(w) Showers & Laundry • 4 showers (1 loonie for 3 minutes) with a wheelchair accessible unit, and two large washers and dryers.
(o) GVHA Office • The building on the corner of Wharf and Fort—6th floor. Great people!
C: Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel & Marina • Use of pool and gym facilities; a bit more isolated; no locked gates – their link.
And there are three grocery locations, all reasonably equidistant from the Wharf Street docks:
1: Save-On Foods • Typical grocery store, a bit more of a hike than the others.
2: Market on Yates • Smaller store, great meat, produce and baked goods, smaller selection.
3: Thrifty’s • Full-service grocery, nice selection.
And of course there are three liquor stores (actually there are a lot more, but these are the three we mainly use):
4: The Strath Liquor Store • A bit touristy with slightly higher prices, great selection of BC wines.
5: Spinnakers Beer Store • An unbelievable selection of local and import craft beers with a small selection of wine and liquor.
6: BC Liquor • Good general selection and good prices.
1: Trotac Marine • Full-service chandler for recreational and commercial boaters; too far to walk so take a cab or hop the number 11 bus on Douglas Street between View and Yates.
2: Capital Iron • There’s No Store Like It! Seriously, there just isn’t. A little bit of everything from housewares to marine stuff. A good selection of line, spares like light bulbs, fenders, etc.
3: Quadra Mohawk • A gas station with full propane services. A bit of a hike, but we use our grocery cart to haul the tanks and it’s manageable.
4: Marine Fuel • Diesel and gasoline as well as used oil disposal.
5: GVHA Pumpout • Uses tokens that can be purchased from the Marina Office, marina dock staff, the fuel dock or Grilligan’s at Fisherman’s Wharf.
6: Customs Dock • Manned during peak season, phone in at other times.
1: Jeune Bros Tent & Awning • Not a boating canvas specialist, but they do have a good selection of material and can whip up a BBQ cover if you need one.
2: Post Office/Shoppers Drug Mart • An all-in-one stop for mail, sundries and basic food items.
3: Broad Street Dental • I had to visit an dentist and I highly recommend these guys. Friendly, quality service and they fit me in that day.
4: Monks Office Supply • All the regular stationery supplies as well as copying, colour printing and fax services.
5: GVPL (Public Library) • Lots of room to lounge around, free wireless and computer terminals if you have a membership.
Banks • All the major banks have branches on Douglas Street including (top to bottom) BMO, CIBC, RBC and TD Canada Trust.
A: MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) • For all things outdoors.
B: The Bay Centre • A standard mall with lots of clothing stores, cell phone retailers and a Sport Chek.
C: 7-Eleven • Lottery tickets, junk food, cigarettes and really cheap hotdogs that aren’t half bad.
There is so much in reach of the docks, but a lot of it is really tourist oriented. Here are just a small few of our favourite haunts. But remember there are tons more things to do and places to eat and it’s well worth exploring.
A: The Joint Pizza • Eat-in or take-out or even by the slice. Great pizza any way you get it.
B: Darcy’s Pub • Not too touristy and live music most nights.
C: Garrick’s Head Pub • Fun brew pub with a rotating section of local craft beers. Real wood-burning fireplace in the back.
D: Ali Baba Pizza • Pizza by the slice. Our go-to lunch eatery.
E: John’s Place • Apparently a must-do for the breakfast crowd, we haven’t made it there yet. A dock mate of ours works there.
Coffee Joints • They are everywhere. Just head east and you will run into 100s of them. Give Murchie’s Tea and Coffee a try (right beside Munro’s) if you want the real old Victoria experience.
1: Crag X Climbing Gym • A great workout in a brand-new facility. Bouldering, top roping and lead climbing—awesome fun.
2: Cineplex Odeon • First-run movie theatre.
3: Munro’s Books • A traditional must for any bibliophile. And Russell Books is just a block and a bit down Fort Street.
4: Royal British Columbia Museum and IMAX • If you are here for a while, get a season’s pass and make it your rainy-day destination.
A: Swartz Bay (BC Ferries) • Ferries leaving to Vancouver as well as the Gulf Islands. About an hour bus ride ($2.50) from downtown Victoria. The #70 is more direct than the #72.
B: Victoria International Airport • Around $55 to $60 for a cab, or two buses from downtown.
C: Inner Harbour Ferries • The Victoria Clipper makes daily high-speed runs (walk-on only) to Seattle and the M.V. Coho (vehicles and passengers) crosses to Port Angeles several times a day.
Float Plane Dock • Right beside the Wharf Street docks, you can catch Harbour Air‘s flights to Vancouver or Gulf Island destinations or Kenmore Air to Seattle.
Some Easy Sailing Destinations
1: Royal Cove, Portland Island • A great anchorage that is an easy one-day trip from Victoria.
2: Sidney Marina • A nice marina in the lovely little town of Sidney. Home of a couple of charter companies and a great place to shop … especially for old books. Around the corner is Tsehum Harbour with fuel, haulouts and more.
3: Roche Harbor, USA • A short sail away and a wonderful place to overnight, either on the docks or anchored (we like Garrison Bay just a bit south from there). It makes a better stopover place in shoulder season when it’s not so busy.
4: Butchart Gardens • You can visit Butchart by bus, but a better way to do it is to sail there. Free private mooring balls and your own back door into this magical garden. Great for any season.
Disclaimer: Victoria is still new to us. We’d visited as tourists but never really bothered to learn the city. I know that I’ve missed a lot in this brief list and I might just keep adding to it—minus the maps, they’re just too much work :-). I will keep updating the online version, though, to match any text I add.
Hopefully this will help someone else’s visit to this beautiful city go a bit smoother.