Here is your ACN-Approved Healthy City Guide to the best vibrant living Victoria has to offer!
Victoria, BC is one of the top tourist destinations in Canada, and it is not hard to see why. The city’s natural charms exist in abundance, with a temperate year round climate, bustling inner harbour, gorgeous ocean walkways and ample green park space.
With an extensive supply of sustainable and locally sourced restaurants, farmer’s markets and grocers who specialize in organic food, the city has everything you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle at your fingertips. Victoria also hosts a multitude of yoga studios and eco-conscious hotels and spas, making it the ideal destination for a getaway that’s in line with a healthy lifestyle. The picturesque town of Sidney and Salt Spring Island are a convenient day trip away, with provincial parks, nature trails and outdoor sports readily available both within the city limits and in surrounding areas.
Where to Eat
Be Love. Be Love is hands down my favourite place to eat in Victoria. What is not to love about a restaurant that prides itself on serving ‘organic, local, plant based cuisine that is as delicious as it is nourishing and energizing’? All of the food served is wheat, dairy, gluten, and processed sugar-free, which makes it a delight for visitors who might be gluten sensitive or celiac. The menu shifts with the seasons, which means that local residents can look forward to a whole new selection of delectable delights every three months. Be Love is vegan friendly, and the certified organic free range eggs served at brunch can easily be substituted for tempeh). They use nuts extensively, so it would not be the best bet for someone with a nut allergy. The Medicinal Chai is a lovely staple on their extensive beverage and elixir menu, served with optional almond milk and honey.
Nourish. Nourish is a lovely local and sustainable restaurant, featuring a shifting seasonal menu of whole food goodness. Suitable for omnivores and plant lovers alike, the menu also features a daily selection of deserts and beverages (including house fermented kefir!) along with a lovely grab and go café.
Café Bliss. Café Bliss is the raw sister restaurant to Be Love. Café Bliss offers a seasonal menu, complete with mostly raw dishes and a couple of warm options. The menu hosts a seasonal selection of juices, warm and cool beverages, and snacks to take on the road. The dessert case is a definite highlight, with daily cashew cheesecake and bliss kisses among other delicious raw dessert options. Café Bliss also has a cookbook, Blissful, which is wonderful if something catches your fancy and you find you are unable to live without it once you get home.
Green Cuisine. Green Cuisine offers wholesome vegetarian fare, offered buffet style in the heart of Market Square. With a wide selection of dishes, including many dairy free options, there is something to please all plant based customers. Green Cuisine carries a line of cookbooks and house made products retailed at local grocers, including a delicious line of tempeh.
Rebar. A long time resident of Downtown Victoria, Rebar Modern Food boasts the tag line “Eat Really Well,” and if you make the decision to visit you will indeed do just that. Rebar offers a wide selection of classic dishes and beverages along with a changing selection of daily specials, which makes it a real find for a plant based foodie. Rebar also has a classic cookbook that offers a wide range of delicious dishes, many of which are staples on the menu.
Ingredients Café. Ingredients Café is well worth a visit, they feature an menu of delicious organic whole food dishes and snacks, alongside an extensive beverage menu. This drink menu includes elixirs, lattes, smoothies, juices and house brewed kombucha. Everything is prepared from scratch with a great deal of care, which makes for a lovely dining experience. A definite highlight is their house made almond coconut milk, paired with any one of their delicious lattes.
Kid Sister. Kid Sister is a seasonal shop that provides delicious small batch popsicles and ice cream, with dairy free and vegan options available. They are re-opening this year in a new location in the historic Fan Tan Alley.
Jusu. Just around the corner from Kid Sister, on Fisgard street is a lovely new organic juice bar called Jusu (with additional locations in Oak Bay and Cadboro Bay). With a wide selection of cold pressed juices, both made to order and pre-bottled, shots, mylks, smoothies, hot elixirs, “fuel” and bowls, there is a little something for everyone here.
Sooke Harbour House. Sooke Harbour House focuses on high-end cuisine that is local, natural and sustainable. It is so local that a large portion of the produce they use is grown in their own garden! They offer an a la carte and multi-course tasting menus that are truly an eco-conscious feast of the senses. The service is impeccable, and the restaurant is happy to accommodate all dietary requirements, be they vegan, gluten-free or otherwise. The 40 minute drive is well worth it for a truly special experience.
Cold Comfort. Cold Comfort is a fantastic ice cream shop located on North Park Street, in North Park Village. They have a strong focus on local and organic, featuring delicious ice creams by the pint, scoop or sandwich style. They do ice cream cakes to order, and offer a variety of wonderful vegan, gluten free and dairy free options.
No discussion of Victoria would be complete without introducing a couple of the wonderful local tea shops. Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British tradition, which definitely fits in amongst the British themed shops and colonial history of the city. Tea at the Empress is a tourist tradition, or you can check out a couple of other high quality options on offer.
Silk Road . Silk Road has been a Chinatown fixture since 1992. The teas are sourced directly from the supplier, with great care taken to ensure that they are organic and of the best quality. One of the things I absolutely love about Silk Road is the lack of both artificial and “natural” flavours. In one of their complimentary weekend tea workshops I learned that the black tea in the Sour Cherry blend is dried alongside sour cherries to impart the the cherry flavour, rather than adding additional flavouring after the fact. There is an extensive selection of teas to choose from, with endless possibilities.
Jaga Silk. For an authentic Japanese maccha experience, look no further than Jagga Silk. Nestled in the heart of Nootka Court, Jaga Silk is a lovely tea shop featuring farm direct single cultivar and blends of maccha (matcha). The menu includes sweet treats, lattes, with a house made nut milk option and of course straight up maccha, served at just the right temperature of course. My favourite way to enjoy the maccha experience is to order a Flyte, which includes a tasting of three different varieties of maccha.
Ingredients Market. Ingredients is full of products made by local suppliers, as well as organic produce, bulk items and personal care products. Owners Cindy and Deanna offer a 10% discount if you bring your own container for bulk items, and Cindy offers a wonderful series of cooking classes as part of her Food is Medicine series. It is possible to sign up for the entire series, or you can take a class as a one off if you are in town and looking for some healthy living inspiration.
Market on Yates/Market on Millstream. With an extensive selection of organic produce and local products, Market on Yates (and its sister store in Langford, Market on Millstream) offers a wonderful one stop shop for all of your healthy living needs.
Lifestyles Market. Lifestyles Market hosts two locations in Victoria, a main store on Douglas street and a smaller market in the heart of Cook Street Village. Lifestyles carries a wide range of foods, organic produce and supplements, along with personal care products and a cafe at their Douglas Street location. Lifestyles is a wonderful source for all things health related.
Mother Nature’s Market & Deli. Located in Cook Street Village, Mother Nature’s Market offers a wide selection of natural foods, produce and deli with both pre-packaged and made to order selections. With a strong focus on local and organic, Mother Nature’s Market is a great place to source healthy food options.
Hudson Market. The Hudson Market, located in the old Hudson Bay building, hosts a number of vendors, including The Grocer, Olive the Senses and Sutra, among others. It is a wonderful one stop shop, especially on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays when they host a local farmer’s market. Some of the highlights of the Day Vendors on these dates would include organic produce by Suntrio and Haliburton Community Organic farms and chocolate sourced by The Chocolate Project.
Seasonal Farmers Markets. Victoria boasts an extensive market season (May though October) with additional Christmas markets through the holidays. In addition to local artisans and farmers, the markets also feature local food trucks with wonderful, health conscious and delicious food options. The Moss Street Market, Oaklands Sunset Market, James Bay Market, Esquimalt Farmers Market, Sunday Market at Bastion Square, and the a bit further afield but most definitely worth attending Sidney Street Farmers Market are definite highlights.
The Good Planet Store. If you are running short on eco-friendly body care or travel items, The Good Planet store on Fort Street is a wonderful option.
Yoga and Fitness
Photo: One Yoga Victoria of yogi Katie Thacker
Fernwood Yoga Den. Located in the heart of Fernwood, the Fernwood Yoga Den offers an extensive selection of classes for all levels, in addition to workshops and kids yoga. The studio environment is welcoming and inclusive. A portion of the profits earned go to support their Vision Programming classes for students who would not otherwise be able to afford classes and the studio also offers trauma sensitive yoga to women in the community.
Hemma Yoga & Acupuncture. Hemma Yoga offers a wide range of classes and workshops, facilitated in a relaxing and meditative studio space. The class levels are clearly marked on the schedule, which helps easily accommodate students of varying levels of experience.
Moksana. Moksana is located in the heart of downtown, in Fan Tan Alley. They offer a wide range of class levels and styles, including Aerial, Kundalini, Restorative, Yin, and Yoga Nidra styles. Moksana also offers a variety of weekend workshops.
One Yoga. One Yoga Victoria is a Vinyasa studio located in the heart of James Bay. They offer a variety of different levels and are supporters of Yoga for Youth, a non-profit dedicated to bringing yoga to youth of all ages.
Rush Adventures Sooke. If outdoor adventure is your physical movement of choice, look no further than Rush Adventures. They offer a variety of different activities, including kayak tours, paddle board rentals, electric bike tours and even paddle board yoga. Sooke is a 40 minute drive from Victoria, but the gorgeous natural environment and abundance of fun activities make it well worth the additional effort.
Sapphire Day Spa. I was gifted with a visit to the Sapphire Day Spa for my birthday last year, and it was hands down the best spa experience I have had to date. Tucked away on View Street in Downtown Victoria, the spa offers an impressive array of Ayurvedic-themed services and uses a lovely array of eco-friendly products, whose labels live up to their non-toxic claims. I appreciated the calm and soothing spa environment, as well as the staff, who provided excellent customer service.
Float House. The Float House is a floatation therapy studio, featuring a bright and modern aesthetic located in downtown Victoria. They feature 5 float rooms with sensory deprivation tanks, in-room showers and heated floors. Aside from the float experience itself, which is incredibly relaxing, the studio also hosts a massage room and open reception space, complete with tea, filtered water and a gorgeous living wall. It is well worth a visit, as the experience is truly unique.
The Parkside Spa. Located in the LEED-certified Parkside Hotel, the Parkside Spa is very much in line with the eco-conscious and sustainable focus of the hotel itself. The spa hosts a variety of different services, including monthly specials, which take place in a very calm and relaxing environment.
The Spa at Delta Ocean Pointe Resort. The spa at the Delta Ocean Point is simple and elegant, and has the distinction of having been voted “Best in Victoria” consistently by local residents. Their product lines are eco-friendly and they host a range of different services (including monthly specials).
Beacon Hill Park. Beacon Hill Park features 200 acres of green space, including several ponds, bike and walking pathways, play areas for kids and the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. Peacocks roam throughout the park, providing good company for the plethora of ducks and other birds that frequent the ponds. Outdoor movies are featured during summer months, and the peaceful tranquility of the park makes it hard to believe that you are still in the city. The park pathways connect to Dallas Road, which makes for a lovely walk along the water to get to Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
Fisherman’s Wharf. If you take Dallas Road into the city, you will find yourself walking by Fisherman’s Wharf along the way. If you are coming from downtown, you can follow the pathway that winds along the inner harbour, or take one of the frequent water taxis over, waving at the float planes as you go. Fisherman’s Wharf features colourful float homes, food kiosks, and the departure point for Marine Adventure Tours. Eagle Wing Tours is an eco-friendly tour company that boasts extensive recycling and a neutral carbon footprint, in addition to following guidelines for responsible marine wildlife viewing.
Inner Harbour. Victoria’s Inner Harbour has been beautifully developed, with extensive pathways, food kiosks, market stalls, buskers, water taxi tours and festivals throughout the year. During the summer months a section of the board walk hosts the Ship Point Night Market, featuring many local artists and vendors.
Royal BC Museum. The Royal BC Museum is an impressive building sandwiched between the historic Fairmont Empress and the Parliament Buildings, within view of the Inner Harbour. It hosts multiple floors with a mix of permanent and temporary exhibits. The museum facilitates a Distinguished Lecture Series for adults, and the building also has an Imax theatre, featuring nature films that are a great option for kids.
Robert Bateman Centre. Located in the historic Steamship Terminal, The Robert Bateman Centre features art exhibits by the renowned wildlife painter and conservationist, in addition to hosting exhibits by visiting artists and public events.
Chinatown. Victoria hosts the oldest Chinatown in Canada. Rich in history, the ornate gate at the intersection of Fisgard and Government streets marks the entryway into the main street of Chinatown. Fisgard also features the entry way to Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada. The Chinese Public School is still fully operational, and is located further up the block towards Douglas Street. Chinatown Walks make up part of the tours offered by Discover the Past. Their tours also include Discovery Walks and Ghost Walks.
Galloping Goose Trail. The Galloping Goose Trail is a visually stunning 60 km long trail that extends from the Johnson Street Bridge all the way to Leechtown, north of the Sooke Pothole Regional Park. The Pedaler is one of many bike rental facilities in Victoria.
British Columbia Parliament Buildings. The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are an impressive fixture in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Tours are available using the link above.
Craigdarroch Castle. Now a National Historic Site, the Craigdarroch Castle gives an interesting perspective on the early history of Victoria.
Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre is a bit of a drive from Downtown Victoria, but if you have kids it is well worth the effort. Out of town visitors can access Sidney via public transit (bus). The aquarium is not huge, but there are lots of great interactive exhibits and interesting displays exclusively featuring local marine life – including a touch tank! Walking around Sidney afterwards is a lovely way to cap off the day, there are several nice parks for kids and regular bus service runs between downtown Victoria and downtown Sidney.
Where To Stay
Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe. Located just across the Johnson Street Bridge from Victoria, the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe boasts breath taking views of Victoria’s inner harbour. The hotel faces onto a walkway that follows the shoreline to the Galloping Goose trail. The guest rooms are newly renovated, and the hotel features a solarium pool and cedar sauna. We found the hotel to be very family friendly, and really appreciated their hotel-wide no smoking policy.
Parkside Hotel & Spa. The Parkside Hotel is located steps away from everything downtown Victoria has to offer. In addition to its close proximity, the Parkside also has the distinction of being a completely sustainable hotel. The atrium in the entrance lobby hosts a gorgeous array of plants and water fixtures and each room comes with a kitchenette or full kitchen, which makes preparing your own meals a convenient option. As an extra added bonus, the hotel features its own movie theatre for guests!
Inn at Laurel Point. Located on the inner harbour, within walking distance of Fisherman’s Wharf, the Inn at Laurel Point is carbon neutral and a founding member of the Victoria Sustainable Tourism Alliance. The hotel boasts pet-friendly rooms, a kid-friendly environment (complete with board games) and a glass-encased indoor pool.
Fairmont Empress. The Fairmont Empress is a local landmark, designed by Francis Rattenbury and designated a National Historic Site. It is worth visiting for the extensive history and grandeur alone! The hotel faces the inner harbour, offering gorgeous views of the ocean, and is steps away from all of the amenities downtown Victoria has to offer.
Sooke Harbour House. Located 40 minute outside of Victoria, the Sooke Harbour House is a beautiful resort featuring 28 individually decorated guest rooms and an award winning restaurant (profiled in ‘where to eat’). Peaceful and tranquil, the Sooke Harbour House featuring gorgeous natural surroundings and infrared saunas. It is the perfect location for a weekend getaway or to celebrate a special occasion (which my husband and I know from first hand experience!).
Are you from Victoria? Taken your own healthy adventures here? What did we miss? What are your favourite health spots?