Once a rugged outpost, the serene and surprisingly balmy city of Victoria, British Columbia, is an island home to bicycle trails, whale pods and Native American culture.
Author Melissa Nix
VICTORIA IS QUIET. ALMOST TOO QUIET. Stand near the grandiose Parliament building at the Inner Harbor, and it’s impossible to imagine that this perfectly mannered island city was once a rough-and-tumble gold mining hub, a sprawling carnival of disorder populated by industrious native Inuit and Métis traders, miners, Chinese opium smugglers, thieves and all manner of accompanying riff raff .
But today, all that remains of those times are the First Nations, descendants of the area’s original tribal inhabitants. The carnival is gone, replaced by a town as charming and peaceful as it was once restless. As for the riff raff, let’s just say they retired. In fact, of today’s 78,000 resident Victorians, a disproportionately large number are seniors, drawn by the region’s remarkably mild weather, which allows for year-round gardening and golf. Some call Victoria “the Boca of Canada,” but anyone who expects swarms of battery-powered Rascal scooters and blue-hairs lining up for the early-bird special will be surprised. The city exudes youthful energy. Cyclists, kayakers and avid joggers abound. And if there is an early-bird special to be found, chances are it’s made with organic, locally grown produce.
Victoria still retains some of its frontier town DNA. Sure, the tempo is a touch more subdued, but First Nations people remain an integral part of Victoria’s community and cultural life, and the area’s roots can be seen in its raw, breathtaking surroundings: the jagged Olympic Mountains, the dramatic Strait of Juan de Fuca and the rolling Pacific beyond. There are still pioneers here; they’re just better fed and far more civilized.