I wanted to thank trip advisor posters for all the great Victoria information. This forum helped us decide to go to Victoria in the first place and helped us choose what activities to participate in. We just got back from a seven night stay in Victoria We had great weather: a few sunny days in the low 70s, one cloudy windy day in the low 70s, and two sunny days in the 80s.
We rented two, two bedroom condos at the Worldmark Victoria from a couple from Arizona who own lots of Worldmark points (more than they can use). We were very happy with the Worldmark -- great views of in the inner harbor from our balconies, right next to Fisherman's Warf. A little bit of a hike, but it was really a nice walk downtown over to the Empress the BC Museum, etc. The condos were lovely, and I loved having the full kitchen, washer and dryer, etc. and the space for the price of a hotel room. Feel free to email me if you want the name and email address of the couple we rented from. They were great to deal with.
Because it was so close, we ended up eating at Barb's (right a Fisherman's Warf a couple of times). We thought the food was very tasty -- better than seven years ago when we last ate there, so we would recommend stopping there. I disagree with the opinion that Barb's has gone downhill.
Prices in Victoria in general seemed higher than resort prices in the US by about 20% // not totally out of line or anything, but higher from groceries to meals out to prices for tours, etc. With the condo, though, and having a few meals in, etc. it was no problem to do everything we wanted to do and stay within our vacation budget.
We did two Whale watching trips -- both open air rather than enclosed boats. For both we chose non-Zodiac options that would be a little less bumpy. The first trip was on the Wildcat Catamaran. They visited the resident pod and the two pods who visit the area frequentsly (the J/K/L pods) who are all currently hanging out together. We got to see breaching and lots of tail flapping. The Orcas were having a great time. The naturalist on board was so enthusiastic too. He's studying for a PHD and does reaseach on whales in the winter. It was a great trip, and our favorite of the two. Note: On any of the trips you don't get to get that close to the whales -- on occaision they swim up close to the boat, but not that often and not on every trip. You best bet to get really close to an Orca is the dine with Shamu experience at Sea World in Orlando. We also went with Eagle Wing on the Scarab boats. On this trip we visited the transient pods who weren't as entertaining as the resident pods. They are quieter as they eat mammals and need to sneak up on them. This was a great tour too, and we learned a lot from the naturalist on board also. Sometimes, I understand, with the transient pods you actually see then tossing porpoises around and eat. We didn't get to see this though. I really don't think you could go wrong with any of the whale watching companies.
For my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, we did the 5:15 p.m. tea at the Empress. I thought it was wonderful. I agree with what I read in Frommer's that "Yes it's expensive and touristy, but do it anyway". The service was impeccable, the food was unusual for us and so delicious, and this was definately one of the highlights of our trip.
We wanted to get outside of Victoria for one day, so went to the Sooke potholes -- a very pretty swimming hole area / nature area -- sort of reminds me of Colorado -- although the forest has differnt trees and then did the zip line tour nearby. If you've done zip lines in other places like Costa Rica, Central America, etc. I'd probably skip this. But it was fun and a highlight for the teenagers in our group who hadn't been on a zipline before.
Other activities (Some in our group went to see the Birds of Prey demonstration out of town rather than do a second whale watching trip, and they really enjoyed that.) We also did a meal in China town, the BC museum on the cloudy day, the greyline bus city highlights tour (I always like doing a general tour to get the layout of the area and a little history), toured the castle (I'd recommend this if you have time), and stopped at Minature World. I wasn't expecting much from Miniture World, but it was really impressive.
All in all, we were really happy with the vacation --it was a big hit with my whole family.