“We definitely need to do this more often,” my husband said as he squeezed my hand and leaned over my lap to look out the window. Soaring above the ocean in a Twin Otter float plane, we were heading home after a relaxing weekend getaway to Victoria. With three young kids at home, and two overloaded work/life schedules, it had been far too long since our last sojourn sans kids.
With friends and family scattered throughout the Island, Victoria is a place that we visit often, but when we make the trek, we usually tuck in up town, rarely venturing into the city’s downtown core. For this weekend getaway, we wanted to discover some local hidden gems, get some fresh air, and enjoy ample downtime before diving into a busy new week, and this trip allowed us to do just that.
Here’s how to surprise your sweetheart with a romantic weekend getaway to Victoria, filled with great local places to stay, eat, and play.
Skip the ferry and splurge on a seaplane
Our sojourn started with a quick seaplane flight with Harbour Air, which took us from Vancouver’s Coal Harbour waterfront, right into the Inner Harbour of downtown Victoria. In less than 40 minutes, we were at our destination and ready to start the first day of our getaway.
Car-free, we were able to stroll to our hotel in minutes, and all of the places that we discovered along the way were easily within walking distance from our door.
Book a “Bed, Bubbles & Brunch” package at a beautiful boutique hotel
There’s something special about boutique hotels that are locally owned and managed, and the Magnolia Hotel & Spa — with its 64 guest rooms, personalized services, and proximity to the city’s picturesque Inner Harbour, is the ideal setting for a quiet weekend getaway.
From the classic exterior that nods to the historic architecture found around town, to the European-inspired room decor featuring deep soaker tubs, textured walls, thick and elegant carpets and drapes, and floor-to-ceiling windows, the hotel oozes with old-world charm — without feeling stuffy or pretentious.
The property is positioned in an unbeatable location, only steps from the water, and within walking distance to over 20 restaurants, as well as Victoria’s must-see museums, local boutiques, and a bounty of beautiful walking and bike trails.
Amenity highlights include complimentary pedal bikes, available for guests to explore the twists and turns of Victoria’s historic streets, or to venture along the vast waterfront and forested bike trails that can be found in and around the city.
Locally-curated trail and journey maps are provided by the hotel to guide guests to neighbourhood gems, and full-day outdoor adventures. Themes range from food-focused, such as the “Culinary Trailblazers,” “Tea-rific Trail,” and “Tapa Trail” maps, to the more activity-focused routes such as the “Beautiful Boutiques Trail,” the “Rainy Day Trail,” the “Bike Trail,” and the perfectly-suited-for-sweethearts “Best Places for Romance” trail.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Magnolia Hotel has launched a Bed, Bubbles & Brunch package, which includes a stay in a spacious room, a sparkling bottle of bubbles on ice upon arrival, bubble bath soap (with a bubble whisk for bigger bubbles!) to enjoy in your private in-room deep soaker tub, and brunch for two in the award-winning Courtney Room restaurant, located right in the hotel.
Enjoy freshly-baked bites at a high tea for two
Victoria is steeped in tea history, making high tea a must try during your stay. From the Island’s First Nations people using native plants and berries to make medicinal teas, to European settlers searching for the best teas in Canada’s oldest Chinatown, Victoria’s tea culture thrives, and continues to grow and flourish.
Skip the more traditional tea rooms and head to the Venus Sophia Tea Room & Vegetarian Eatery, a warm and welcoming space that sits snug in the centre of Chinatown. Owned and run by a local couple who are passionate about combining wholesome, homemade food with their wide selection of signature loose leaf teas to create the perfect shabby-chic tea spot, Venus Sophia offers a beautiful blend of laid-back and lavish lunch options.
For the signature afternoon tea, a mix of mouthwatering savoury and sweet bites are presented on a three-tier tray, each item equally as decadent. When available, the homemade Egyptian Date Cake (created using a family recipe belonging to the owner’s aunt) will satisfy your sweet tooth, as well as the perfectly-prepared orange zest and white chocolate scones. The finger sandwich made up of Swiss Raclette and pickled veggies, as well as the fresh-baked quiche comprised of zucchini, butter glazed shallots, and feta were my favourite savoury items, although really, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
Be sure to take a stroll through Chinatown’s famed Fun Tan Alley, located adjacent to the tea shop, where you can pick up some Canadian-made keepsakes before heading back to your hotel.
Sample a flight of craft brews
For those who enjoy a different kind of brewed beverage, stop at Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. — a great place to sip on a flight of beers and nosh on a freshly-baked soft pretzel while chilling with your partner.
Not only is this colourful craft beer tasting room a fun local hangout, offering sixteen craft brews on tap, and a lineup of small batch distilled spirits to whet your palate, but this hot spot has also put Canada on the malting map, with the country’s only barley malting plant, located on site. Ask one of the bartenders to fill you in on the history of the brewery as they fill up your glass — you may be surprised to learn how this beer business evolved from a basement startup to a thriving success.
Be sure to add the Black Magic Dark Ale — a dark, smooth, and creamy beer — and the Tiger Shark Citra Pale Ale — a zesty tropical treat — to your list of beer flight samples. Both are personal favourites.
Cozy up over a romantic dinner
Victoria’s newest dining destination, The Courtney Room, provides the perfect backdrop for a romantic last supper before heading home from a restful weekend with your sweetie.
Book a table in the upstairs fine dining area for a quiet rendezvous in a chic French bistro setting that offers a wide selection of fine wines (look for the glassed-in wine room), and award-winning cuisine (recently recognized as the #10 Best New Restaurant in Canada in the 2018 Best New Restaurant Awards).
Start with a side of the signature Potatoes Courtney, a rich appetizer of potatoes fried in duck fat with a house made onion dip. The main menu offers a variety of locally-sourced produce, fresh seafood, and house dry-aged meats. Our dish of choice was the Beef Tenderloin Oscar — a buttery steak topped with fresh dungeness crab, whipped bearnaise sauce, and pomme puree with wilted greens. Don’t forget to save room for dessert as there are a variety of decadent options to satisfy your sweet tooth.
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