Our family moved to Victoria BC on Vancouver Island approx. 4 yrs ago. It was a big move… from the UK. Life changes, such as emigrating, often make you take a hard look at your life and your wants and needs.
Such a huge move also brought to the forefront our dreams of realizing our ‘ideal lifestyle’. Not riches or fame, but something more simple: We wanted out of the rat race, and a calmer pace. We were looking for a sense of accomplishment but also some contentment and peace in our lives. We wanted the ‘luxury’ of being able to enjoy our passions of writing, art and music… to create things, and to savor life. I expect that has a little to do with aging too! 😉 But a move can do that to you, or rather it seems to open your mind a little – and you start to question some things and realize you might want to change others…
So we visited Victoria on a vacation, not really knowing what to expect, and promptly fell madly in love with it. For me, it was the wild-looking beaches, with their scattered driftwood (great seats!) and wild animals, sparkling ocean set against the multi-toned snow topped mountains… I also loved that it had a decent – smallish, but not too small town. Compared to Vancouver, it is tiny, but it is bigger than, say, a ski village, and with a lot more soul and character.
We arrived in the Victoria Harbour by Float Plane (Harbour Air)…This is a plane that takes off from the water and lands on the water… This is such a fantastic experience, it is hard to describe, but in my opinion, it is the hands-down best way to first experience Victoria. You fly from the south section of YVR Vancouver Airport – and fly over the gulf islands, watching the ferry’s and boats as you go. You land smack in the middle of Downtown Victoria – in the harbour, with a view of the Legislature building and the landmark Empress Hotel.
Once we got a chance to look around Victoria and parts of the rest of the island, we were in awe. This is such a naturally beautiful, wild and wonderful place. Yes, the pace is slow here… much slower than we were/are used to… and it takes a while to shift gears to that pace. Although it has an abundance of restaurants and shops/malls, and some of the ‘big box stores’ – often a little out into the suburbs, Victoria is still a small town on a big island.
It is full of wildlife (whales, seals, otters, sealions, eagles, bears, cougars…. to name only a few…). We see deer chomping innocently on prized roses in our gardens, sitting on my deck I see Eagles overhead…. down at the beach we often spot seals and otters….. And once we even had a phone call from the local police station, warning parents that a cougar had been reported in the town, and to make sure small children didn’t walk home from school on their own (this is VERY rare!). Most of the four-legged wild animals (bar deer and rabbits) tend to stick to the countryside/out of town, but every now and then…there’s a bear cub up a telegraph pole on the local news! 😀
With a very mild climate, compared to the rest of Canada (we called it ‘cheating Canada’, in that it gets minimal snow and has a lovely long summer, fall and mild winter). It has less snow than the UK, in our experience so far! The island is closer to mainland US than mainland Canada – via ferry. We can see the US Olympic Mountains from the beach down the road.
As far as being vegan here – it is pretty amazing! For a small town, it has so many vegan or vegan-friendly places! Healthy grocery stores are all over too, which is so fantastic. We can get vegan cheese, butter, alternatives, organics, etc. all from the local ‘regular’ grocery store (I.e. not even a ‘Health Food Store’. Bike paths are all over (with more being built as I speak). I bike everywhere… Everything is pretty close – When you live in Victoria core, it feels like almost all places are approximately 15 minutes away!
So yes, we are pretty spoiled living here. I’ll share the restaurants we frequent or have visited at least once here, as well as a few others we have yet to experience.
Vegan/Vegetarian eateries in Victoria BC:
- Green Cuisine 560 Johnson St #5, Market Square, Victoria BC
Our daughter’s absolute hands-down favourite place to eat on the island! Green’s is a kind of buffet set-up, where you make your own plate up, and are charged on the weight of your plate. I LOVE this idea also… as so often, I cannot make my mind up when faced with so many options (hey – we vegans are used to one or two options, if we’re lucky usually!)… so I get to try a little of each here…Heaven! They have different ‘mains’ each day (you can usually check their website to see what is offered that day – usually 4 or 5 options, such as tofu curry, or tempeh in peanut sauce, or a cheese pie, or…. They also have things like falafels, samosas, potato wedges, etc., as well as a huge selection of salads and dressings, vegetables and fruits. Fussy eater vegan daughter actually tries out different/new things here (hallelujah!) as well, which is a giant bonus! She is also addicted to the bread/focaccia bread. They sell ice cream, deserts, etc. too. I’ve heard many people rave about their soups, but I have never had space to eat any yet (too many other temptations in the buffet!). It is found at the north end of town – in Market Square (go down the stairs to the lower section). The décor is nothing fancy, but it is comfortable and welcoming and there is plenty of room (although it IS very popular, esp. at prime times). If you are on a budget, and can approximate weight well, this is a great choice too! If you are vegan and in Victoria – please make sure you drop in to this place! 🙂
- BeLove 1019 Blanshard St. Victoria
Everyone loves BeLove… Everyone! Even my non-vegan friends recommend we meet up here for lunch/dinner/catchup. There catch line is ‘Pure Nourishment’. And it is. They do AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS rice bowls… raw food, I believe they still serve eggs as an option for Sunday Brunch. I’ve had the Bliss Bowl or Green Bowl previously, and have had to swap with other half, to try his bowl… as it was equally appealing and delicious. We have taken fussy tween daughter here before, and they have a Buddha Bowl with rice or quinoa and your little one can choose from the available greens/vegetables. There are sandwiches, snacks also, and raw and cooked offerings. Always busy/popular, this place. They also do a Sunday Brunch, where they currently offer eggs too, for the non-fully vegan or vegetarians out there. Do not miss this place if you are in town.
Lotus Pond: 617 Johnson St, Victoria BC
I have been here numerous times with colleagues, but weirdly, not experienced it yet with family… although my daughter has been with her friend’s family! We must rectify that! This place is very low-key and has a buffet lunch, and happy hour prices later in the afternoon. Mock meats are in abundance, but you can also skip these and eat many of the other options, soups, spring rolls, tofu, rice, etc. So much to choose from and really tasty too! We do order delivery sometimes, so I think I will test the family out with a few new items from here tonight – great idea! 🙂
Rawthentic Eatery: 108-4440 West Saanich Rd (plus another location in Courtenay)
I have not yet eaten here, but my Other Half has and he loves it. His vegetarian co-worker also eats there, and even my non-veg co-workers have raved about it… It is not too close to my home or work, otherwise I would definitely have popped in by now. Lots of raw food – wraps, zucchini noodles, etc. Will update when I DO visit. 🙂 Wraps, bowls, salads and smoothies.. with quite a good selection, by the look of it!
Venus Sophia 540 Fisgard St. Chinatown, Victoria BC
Just on the edge of Chinatown, this is more a vegetarian café, and tea shop than a vegan one, but they do have some vegan options, and their tea parties do look like quite an amazing experience. Quaint old English style crockery and dinnerware. We have yet to visit this one…
Vegan Hippie Chick: 1034 Fort St, Victoria BC
This place is new, and we have not yet tried it out… as it always seems to be something I consider on a Sunday, and they are closed on that day…doh! Appears to be more comfort food… but this is something that can really be handy now and then for a vegan family with kids… or even taking daughter and her friends… though we have no problem taking friends to Green’s either, tbh. I just checked out their (very pink!) menu – and it has some good options… Certainly for a Saturday brunch, I am thinking… Will update this when we have visited.
Café Bliss: 556 Pandora Ave, Victoria BC
Nice little café on Pandora, with many raw food options, and quite a lot of deserts to choose from. Friendly staff too. Offers lots of juice and smoothie options, live food, vegan raw pizza, salads, etc. I have had a rice bowl here, and daughter had a kid’s cracker and veggie option (pick own raw fruit/veg, such as carrots, apple, etc.) which is great. We haven’t been here for quite a while, as daughter usually wrestles me into Green’s instead, when we are in town together… but must make a plan to go back in.
Vegan friendly (i.e. not fully vegan/vegetarian, but have some good options)
- Rebar 50 Bastion Square, Victoria
This place used to be fully vegetarian, but added fish on to the menu a few years ago. Still has an amazing array of vegan options here… and the atmosphere is pretty great too. They have some wonderful rice dishes I have tried out, and other half often opts for the monk’s curry, I have had the super bowl (heaps of veggies and tofu) as well as sometimes opting for a simple salad with their delicious dressings. There are many egg breakfast dishes too, for the vegetarians, rather than vegans, as well as poutine for the Canadian vegetarians out there (cheese curd). Informal, deserts available.
- Mole – Breakfast/Brunch 554 Pandora Avenue
Love this place for breakfast or brunch… it has a great mix of food and offers soy and almond milk, tofu scrambles and the pesto potatoes are vegan also. Gluten free alts also. I usually opt for the tofu scramble with the pesto potatoes and toast. Daughter has toast, jam, potatoes, and fruit bowl. Other half is more adventurous and either has an egg breakfast mix (he still eats eggs) or has a vegan burger or wrap. This place is very popular in the Summer months, so expect a wait at times – but you can pop into the coffee shop next door and grab a drink whilst you wait – just let your host know.
Tibetan Kitchen: 680 Broughton Street, Victoria BC
This place is lovely and intimate…very cute… Tucked away on a side st. just off Douglas. They have vegetarian and vegan options, and the staff are always accommodating and polite. We usually have a curry with bread and rice… always super-delicious. If you asked for very mild, they honor that, which is great for children.
Little Thai: Numerous locations: Cook St, Shelbourne, Royal Oak, Victoria BC
We usually would order delivery/takeout from here… have not dined in. Their menu offers vegan selections, which is great. I usually opt for the yellow curry (even still delicious when eating the leftovers cold the next day!), other half eats green curry and sometimes Panang or another one… Unfortunately neither spring rolls nor tofu starter are vegan (but kudos to the owners/servers for being knowledgeable on what it means to be vegan – for this we are grateful!) 🙂 Food is great, staff are v friendly.
Famoso: 128 – 560 Johnson St, Victoria BC
Great family restaurant that you can enjoy with or without non-vegans! We eat in or take out/delivery and it is always good. They have Daiya cheese as an option, which is great for our family. I sometimes just skip cheese altogether and have a small version of the pizza with a side salad (Napoli is delicious!). Daughter has a plain margherita with daiya instead, and Other Half has a gluten free veggie combo… with Daiya sub. He swears it is the best gluten free crust he has had so far (bar home made, of course!) 😉
The Joint Pizzeria: 1219 Wharf St, Victoria BC
Serves lots of vegan alternatives, as well as gluten-free, including daiya cheese, mock meats, etc. Small place on Wharf St, close to harbour. They now do delivery, which we might have to try out one day soon.
The Livet: 201-804 Broughton Street, Victoria BC
This is an nice upscale Tapas kind of restaurant, across from the theatre. Went there sans family, with work crowd. Added as they have The Vegan Experience as one of their offerings. Didn’t get fireworks with the ‘experience’, but the dish was really nice – it was a salad and risotto with veggies. Not huge, as more tapas-style. I split it with a friend, as it was pretty pricey, and added olives as a side too. I would probably not consider taking vegan family there, due to not many kid-friendly choices, and it could be a little costly to order things that didn’t get eaten. Opens at 5pm. Friendly, fun staff.
John’s Place: 723 Pandora Ave., Victoria BC
A breakfast/’brunch kind of diner kind of place. Have taken non-veg family to this place, to get the Canadian Diner Breakfast/Brunch experience, before. I see they have now added on a few vegan options, which is great: The Ragin Vegan Burrito, and Spock’s Vegan Wrap, amongst others! Previously, my daughter and I have both had a bagel or toast, fruit bowl to share (they are big!) and home fries/hash browns (same thing in Victoria = cubes of potato usually lightly fried). Other half has some egg breakfast thing… (not fully vegan…yet!). My mother (not vegan/veggie at all) ordered a pancake, and it was HUGE! Relaxed family diner-type atmosphere.
OK – so will add more over time, as there are new places opening up here frequently… we are so blessed to live here and have these options for dining out, in addition to making our own vegan food…
If you are visiting, check out Tourism Victoria for more information about Victoria, the island, events and discount vouchers.