Top 3 things to do in a short port call in Victoria BC

Looking for something fun to do on your short evening port call in Victoria BC during your Alaska cruise? Confused about your options for this short time in port? You’re not alone!

I’ve spent lots of time in Victoria over my life as my Mom’s grandparents were from there and we have close family ties to Victoria. I also help people plan their trips to Alaska, including cruises as well as travels around Washington and British Columbia, so you know that I can help you make the most of your few hours in port.

I’ve included only my top three suggestions for a short evening port call in Victoria because it’s only a few hours and you don’t need a million ideas! If you’re lucky enough to have an all day port call in Victoria as a few itineraries do, then check out my Victoria day trip ideas.

I recommend choosing just one of these activities since that’s all you’re really have time for. There’s definitely something for everyone here between visiting world famous Butchart Gardens, or exploring town on your own or going for a sunset walk along the coast of Vancouver Island.

A colorful Orca sculpture in Victoria's inner harbor, with boats and the parliament building in the background on a sunny summer day
Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Why do Alaska cruises stop in Victoria?

Alaska cruises that are going round trip from Seattle stop in Victoria, BC to meet the requirements of the Passenger Vessel Services Act, an 1886 law which requires ships that are flagged outside the United States to stop in foreign ports when going between US ports.

Victoria is a convenient and beautiful stop in Canada the night before the ship returns to Seattle. There are some ships that have longer port calls in Victoria and if you’re lucky enough to have more time in this beautiful town you’ll have time to do more exploring.

Where do cruise ships dock in Victoria, BC?

Large cruise ships making a port call in Victoria dock at Ogden Point. Ogden Point is located right next to the breakwater that protects the entrance to Victoria’s Inner Harbour and downtown area. It’s about a mile and a half walk to the Empress Hotel, a well known landmark in downtown Victoria’s lovely Inner Harbour. It is also adjacent to a walking path along the Strait of Juan de Fuca with views of Washington’s Olympic Mountains.

Is Victoria walkable from the cruise ship dock?

Yes! However, it depends on how far you like to walk. The Empress Hotel is about 1.5 miles from the cruise ship dock, walking through the James Bay Neighborhood. There is also a shuttle that gives rides to the downtown area from the dock when ships are in port.

Fisherman’s Wharf Park is just under a mile away and has great views of Victoria’s colorful houseboats and some great fish and chips nearby. You can also take the harbour ferry (a tiny passenger only boat) around the harbour for a fun diy tour.

There is a gorgeous walking path along Dallas Road (to your right as you exit the cruise terminal) that is an ideal spot if you’re rather go for a scenic walk along the water than explore the town.

Top 3 things to do during a short port call in Victoria

Keep in mind that this article is very specific to making the most of a short, evening port call in Victoria as part of an Alaska cruise. Your ship will offer several other excellent shore excursions. I recommend Butchart Gardens if you are booking a tour through the ship because it’s so unique to Victoria and hard to get to on your own.

Whale watching is a very popular activity in Victoria, which is well known around the Pacific Northwest for its opportunities to see Orca (Killer) whales. If you are on an Alaska cruise and only doing one whale watching excursion, I recommend doing that in Juneau or Sitka. However if seeing whales is one of your top priorities for your trip, then you can do it in Victoria too! If you choose to do whale watching here, make sure to book it through the ship since this is a short port call and in the evening.

Afternoon tea is another popular tradition in Victoria, generally it is not available to the public in the evening but if your ship is offering a shore excursion that offers this and you want to experience it, go for it!

Butchart Gardens

A view from above of Butchart Gardens sunken garden in Victoria BC. There is a flagstone path with a few people on it, flowering cherry trees and tulips below with a forested hillside in the distance
The sunken garden at Butchart Gardens with spring flowers

Butchart Gardens is a gorgeous collection of gardens established in the early 20th century. A National Historic Site of Canada, it has wowed visitors for more than 100 years. Butchart Gardens is an absolute must see for anyone even remotely interested in flowers or history. Honestly, even if you’re not that into gardens, it’s hard not to be impressed by this one!

Butchart Gardens is beautiful throughout the cruise ship season, with spring flowers such as tulips, daffodils, rhodedendrons and azaleas in the first part of the cruise season and then roses and summer annuals coming in mid to late summer.

Bright yellow daffodils and tulips fill the frame with a green hedge visible behind it
Spring is really my favorite season here (April and May) but the summer flowers are also gorgeous

It’s light in the evenings in Victoria until 9pm in May, June and July and around 8pm in August. The gardens also have lights and fireworks displays after dark.

If you do want to go to Butchart Gardens on your short port call in Victoria, I highly recommend booking this on board your ship or in advance through your cruise line. It’s difficult to get there on your own since it’s about a half hour drive from town.

Take the shuttle to explore Government Street and the Inner Harbour

a shopping street with red umbrellas and historic buildings and shops
Government Street in downtown Victoria is home to historic buildings, shopping and pubs

You can walk to the Inner Harbour and the shops on Government Street in about a mile and a half from the cruise port. There is also a shuttle available to take you back and forth if you don’t want to walk.

Government Street has many fun shops including Murchies tea, Munros Books, Rogers Chocolates and plenty of gifts and clothing stores. There are also several pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating nearby. Many shops stay open late on evenings when ships are in town.

In addition to shopping or grabbing a bite to eat or drink, walking around the Inner Harbour takes you through all the action of a busy harbor including ships, ferries, sailboats and float planes. You can also check out the famous Empress Hotel and the photogenic British Columbia House of Parliament along with the abundance of flowers all over the place. All the buildings are lighted at night.

The British Columbia Parliament building at night with white lights outlining the building
British Columbia Parliament buildings

Go for a walk along scenic Dallas Road

Starting a Vancouver Island road trip on Dallas Road in Victoria. There are green bushes in the foreground and the blue water of the Strait of Juan De Fuca in the background. There are distant mountains on the Olympic Peninsula across the water
View of the Strait of Juan de Fuca across to the Olympic Mountains in Washington State from Beacon Hill Park, just above Dallas Road near the cruise port at Ogden Point

If you’re looking to get out and explore but want to focus more on getting some exercise and amazing scenery along with a spectacular sunset spot, then walking along Dallas Road is for you!

Leaving the cruise ship terminal, head to your right and pick up the trail that goes for miles along the shoreline. The trail is wide, mostly flat and paved. You can also walk out onto the breakwater.

If you’d like to get a bit of elevation gain in, head up into Beacon Hill Park for a bit of hill walking as well as even more impressive views.

The sunset is spectacular from along here on clear days. Sunset in May is about 8:30pm, June about 9:30pm, July about 9pm, August about 8pm and September about 7:30pm. Consult your phone for exact times as it varies depending on exactly when you’re there during the month.

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!