A city of 326,000 residents, is the capital city of British Columbia, and is known as Canada's Best Blooming City. Victoria sits on the south tip of Vancouver Island off the west coast of British Columbia. Enjoy double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, and a formal afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. Springtime finds streets lined with blossoming trees, flowers never ending, and meticulously well-kept gardens. Victoria is a mecca for adventurers attracted by the many outdoor activities available. Visit the Royal BC Museum and learn about the natural history of Vancouver Island and the province of British Columbia, and also experience the IMAX at the museum. Discover the BC's sea-faring history at the Maritime Museum of BC. Tour the heritage houses such as: - Craiglfower Farmhouse and Schoolhouse, Helmcken House, Carr House, and Point Ellice House... just to mention a few. Take a free tour of the Legislative Buildings, and at night, view the domed buildings outlined by 3,333 tiny lights. Visit the Beacon Hill Park, and the Crystal Garden. Poke through many specialty shops, look for tea merchants, chocolatiers, antiques, art, china, books, tiny shops (the world's tiniest store is here), and Chinatown, the oldest and most exquisite in North America. Victoria offers a wide variety of excellent commodations.
Spend a day on the beach at Cadboro Bay, Mt. Douglas Beach, Shoal Bay, Cordova Bay, Willows Beach or Gonzales Bay. View Victoria and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Mt. Douglas Park, Beacon Hill Park, Gonzales Hill Regional Park, Mount Tolmie and Trafalgar Park. Walk, bike or drive along Marine Drive. Walk or cycle along the 100 km (60 mi) of the paved Galloping Goose trail, linking more than 7 parks and accessible from 27 points. Stroll along Harbour Walkway and West Song Way.
Prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the late 1700s, the Victoria area was home to several communities of Coast Salish peoples, including the Songish (Songhees). The Spanish, British and Americans took up the exploration of the northwest coast of North America in earnest in the 1770s. Spanish sailors visited Esquimalt harbour (within the modern Capital Regional District) in 1790 and again in 1792. Founded by James Douglas in 1843 as Fort Camosun (after the "camosack", a type of wild lily native to southern Vancouver Island), a Hudson's Bay Company post, the settlement was later called Fort Victoria. The Songhees established a village across the harbour from the fort. The Songhees' village was later moved north of Esquimalt. When Vancouver Island became a crown colony, a town was laid out on the site and made the capital of the colony. With the discovery of gold on the British Columbia mainland in 1858, Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting centre for miners on their way to the Cariboo gold fields. In 1866 when the island was politically united with the mainland, Victoria remained the capital of the colony and became the provincial capital in 1871.
Victoria was incorporated as a city in 1862. In 1865 Esquimalt was made the North Pacific home of the Royal Navy, and remains Canada's west coast naval base.
Victoria's Inner Harbour with the Provincial Legislature in the background.In 1886, with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus on Burrard Inlet, Victoria's position as the commercial centre of British Columbia was irrevocably lost to the City of Vancouver. The city subsequently began cultivating an image of genteel civility within its natural setting, an image aided by the impressions of visitors such as Rudyard Kipling, the opening of the popular Butchart Gardens in 1904 and the construction of the Empress Hotel by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908. Robert Dunsmuir, a leading industrialist whose interests included coal mines and a railway on Vancouver Island, constructed Craigdarroch Castle in the Rockland area, near the official residence of the province's lieutenant-governor. His son James Dunsmuir became premier and subsequently lieutenant-governor of the province and built his own grand residence at Hatley Park (used for several decades as a military college, now Royal Roads University) in the present City of Colwood.
A real estate and development boom ended just before the World War I, leaving Victoria with a large stock of Edwardian public, commercial and residential structures that have greatly contributed to the City's character. A number of municipalities surrounding Victoria were incorporated during this period, including the Township of Esquimalt, the District of Oak Bay and several municipalities on the Saanich peninsula. Since World War II Victoria has seen relatively steady growth, becoming home to two major universities. Since the 1980s the western suburbs have been incorporated as new municipalities, such as the City of Colwood and the City of Langford. The thirteen municipal governments within the Capital Regional District afford the residents a great deal of local autonomy, although there are periodic calls for amalgamation.
Victoria's climate is temperate, with daily temperatures rarely rising above 30 °C (86 °F) or falling below 0 °C (32 °F). In January, the average daily high and low temperatures are 7.0 °C (44.6 °F) and 3 °C (37.4 °F), respectively. In July, Victoria enjoys the moderating effects of the Pacific Ocean, averaging a daily high of 19.8 °C (67.6 °F) and low of 11.3 °C (52.3 °F). The record daily high temperature was 35.3 °C (95.5 °F) on July 23, 2004, and the record daily low temperature was -15.6 °C (3.9 °F) on January 28, 1950.
Victoria experiences a moderately wet winter, but suffers from drought-like conditions during the summer. The average January precipitation is 94.3 mm (3.71 inches), compared to just 14.0 mm (0.5 inches) in July. In January, Victoria receives an average of 15.2 cm (6.1 inches) of snow, a figure skewed by the record-breaking Great Blizzard of 1996, when the city was buried under 120 cm (4 feet) of snow, receiving 64.5 cm (25.8 inches) in just one day. Generally speaking, however, snow is an uncommon occurrence even in the coldest months, and is usually limited to one or two brief dustings per year.
Victoria's equable climate has also added to its reputation as the "City of Gardens". With its mild temperatures and plentiful sunshine (2193.3 hours per year), Victoria boasts gardens that are home to many plant species rarely found elsewhere in Canada. Several species of palms, eucalyptus, and certain varieties of bananas can be seen growing throughout the area's gardens.
Due to its Mediterranean-like climate, Southern Vancouver Island is also home to many rare native plants found nowhere else in Canada, including Quercus garryana (Garry oak), Arctostaphylos columbiana (Hairy manzanita), and Canada's only broadleaf evergreen tree, Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone). Many of these endangered species exist here at the northern end of their range, and are found as far south as Central and Southern California, and even parts of Mexico.
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