SARMAC XI Setting
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. It is on the southern tip of 300-mile-long Vancouver Island, about 75 miles northwest of Seattle and a comparable distance south-southwest of the city of Vancouver. Vancouver Island made the New York Times’ list of the “Top 31 Places to Go in 2010” and Victoria was voted one of the world's most popular destinations by Travel & Leisure and by Condé Nast magazines. Trip Advisor's Traveller's Choice in 2010 rated Victoria as the #1 destination to visit in Canada.
Victoria is a tourist town in the best senses of the phrase – it is beautiful, it has lots of terrific restaurants, and there are many things to do within walking distance of the Conference Centre (e.g., whale watching, museums, the inner harbour, shops, the Parliament building, parks, etc.). With a population of about 350,000 and approximately 3.5 million visitors each year, Victoria is big enough to be fun and provide a wide range of services and resources, yet small enough to be easy to navigate and it is clean and safe.
As described above, Victoria and Vancouver Island have a great deal to offer conference attendees, tourists, hikers, and those with water sports interests. Popular local activities that may be booked before, during, or after SARMAC include whale-watching expeditions in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and around the San Juan Islands and water sports in the inner harbour such as kayaking or paddle boarding. There are boat tours in and around Victoria and the Gulf islands. There is also good hiking, sightseeing, kite-flying, bungee jumping, zip lining, and other pursuits to enjoy.
Whale-watching expeditions leave from the harbour directly in front of the Fairmont Empress (within 300 m) and water sport rental equipment (including wet or dry suits) is 6 blocks away (Ocean River Adventures). Whale watching usually involves 3-4 hours aboard a boat (ranging from zodiacs to cabin cruisers). The island scenery, Olympic and Cascade Mountains, and the orca whales simply should not be missed while you are here.
For whale watching there are seven companies departing from the harbour across the street. To take advantage of special discounts we have obtained for SARMAC attendees (20-30%), contact one of these two outfitters and specify that you are attending the SARMAC conference:
Prince of Whales Promo Code: SARMAC
SpringTide Whale Watching and Eco Tours: 1119 Wharf Street 800-70-3474 or 250-384-4444
For water sports in the inner harbour such as kayaking and paddle boarding, or day and sunset boat tours in and around the harbour or out to Oak Bay and Discovery Island, contact Ocean River Adventures (1824 Store Street). On the website, select the tour or activity you wish and hit the "book now" button, then enter sarmac into the PROMO code box. When this is done a 20% discount is applied to the price. It is a very simple and secure online booking system. Rentals do not need a booking as you just come in the shop as they have a huge fleet to get anyone on the water.
There are a great many other attractions in and around Victoria such as the world-famous Butchart Gardens (40 min drive or bus ride), the Royal BC Museum (200 m from the Empress), Robert Bateman Museum of Art (300 m from Empress) the Victoria Art Gallery (15-min drive), Craigdarroch Castle (15 min away), Beaconhill Park (500 m away) as well as the Pacific Ocean and Botanical Beach at Sooke and Port Renfrew (1-2 hours) for mountain, marine, and forest experiences. If you prefer non-aquatic sports like golf there are a number of very good courses nearby (Cordova Bay, Royal Colwood, Bear Mountain, and many others). This area is also well known as a bird-watcher’s paradise.
With online searching and assistance from the staff over at the Victoria Tourism Office (directly across the street from the Empress) you can often find discounts for individuals and groups on many activities, far too many for us to recommend to you. Finally, numerous bus as well as horse and carriage tours of the downtown and scenic Victoria can be booked at the hotel, through the tourism office, or online on your own.
Then, once you’ve had time to enjoy the conference and Victoria, consider renting a car and driving north on the Malahat Highway up to warm (for Canada) beaches in Parksville or the open Pacific ocean and surfing near the quaint fishing village of Tofino. This may be hard to believe but en route you can stop to enjoy one of many island wineries (primarily whites like Pinot Grigio). You will not be disappointed!
Victoria is situated in one of the prettiest spots on the planet. Southern Vancouver Island is criss-crossed with hiking trails, rimmed with rugged beaches, and studded with wineries. For further information about Victoria and Vancouver Island, visit www.hellobc.com/en-CA/RegionsCities/Victoria.htm .