Tasting Your Way Through Vancouver Island with a Local – My Top 10

Hello fellow travel enthusiasts, my name is Darcie Guarderas, Director of Business Development for Anderson Vacations. I am a resident of Vancouver Island and one of my favourite things to do is sample fabulous beverages and experience amazing produce from local culinary suppliers. Vancouver Island has over 2,600 working farms, so local fare is never far away.

Today, I’ll share my top 10 culinary favourites on the lower part of Vancouver Island. I’ll give you a small taste to whet your appetite. Now is the time to explore your own backyard and support the many amazing businesses within Canada.

1. Victoria & its foodie scene– the place to start your adventures. Victoria is an incredibly beautiful city, no matter the season. Iconic buildings surround the downtown harbour including the Fairmont Empress and the BC Legislative building. Flowers blanket the city parks and public spaces as well as the world famous Butchart Gardens (which we’ll chat about later) and there are an abundance of eateries, breweries and walkable hotels and attractions. Victoria is also the Craft Beer Hub of Canada with many local breweries all within walking distance.

2. Victoria Food Tours– The best way to get to know a city is a walking tour, especially a guided Foodie Walking Tour. I try to do a Foodie Tour in each new city I visit, and Victoria is up there with my favourites. You’re in the heart of the city, not only are you tasting, smelling and sampling wonderful food and wines – this tour is also rich with wonderful storytelling. The local producers and owners will talk to you about their unique tastings – not only how they are made, but the stories behind them.  The experience is much richer when you are hosted by a local guide, sharing the true meaning behind the flavours.

3. Butchart Gardens & High Tea– A must-see when visiting Victoria.  While most people visit the gardens in summertime, the off season can be just as rewarding.  With fabulous fall colours or the spectacular Christmas lights displays, the gardens delight year round. Butchart Gardens also offers a glorious high tea made with delicious local produce.From Cowichan Valley chicken, grapes and curry aioli to wild B.C. salmon, capers and red onion sandwiches or on the sweet side Raspberry macarons or Bergamut Chocolate truffles, this experience is sure to delight.

4. Fairmont Empress Hotel & Afternoon Tea– You will feel like you’re stepping back in time as you enjoy Afternoon Tea at the majestic Empress Hotel – a tradition that has been an important part of Victoria for 110 years. Satisfy your taste buds with fresh, locally sourced food (even honey from the beehives and lavender rooftop garden!), while relaxing to ambient, live piano playing in this grand hotel. This is truly a top-notch, elegant experience.

5. Abkhazi Gardens & its Moroccon Tea– If you’re looking for something really unique and different, Victoria’s  best kept secret is Abkhazi Gardens. While you can do a traditional tea here too, I prefer the Moroccan Tea Experience. Enjoy the tastes of Morocco with dried olives, roasted salads, a lamb tagine that was to die for and a wonderful dessert with blood oranges seasoned with cinnamon and honey. The history of the gardens holds a beautiful story behind it, which you can learn about on your visit.

6. Sooke & Dakini Tidal Wilds– Sooke, about an hour from Victoria, is home to a unique seaweed tour from Dakini Tidal Wilds. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but  as we wandered along the shore, we tasted about a dozen different seaweeds and it was fascinating!  The guide explains the different uses for seaweed. It is not only great to ingest but topically, it can be used in creams, or dried and tossed in your bathtub to create velvety smooth skin. A very unique experience.

7. Merridale Cidery & Distillery– Merridale is located in the heart of the Cowichan Valley and they house their very own orchard that you can explore on foot. Taste some of their ciders, gin, vodka or brandy and finish it off by dining at their on-site. I adore the chicken pot pie, with a splash of their very own cider!

8. Westholme Tea Farm & Gallery– They really do live up to their slogan “Make Tea an Experience”. This is truly Vancouver Island’s best kept secret. Many locals are not even aware it exists.  It’s located on a meadow, run by a lovely local couple who built the property.  You are welcomed by a blazing pot belly stove, that touches your heart with warmth the moment you walk in.  Margit, is an artisan who hand-builds slab pottery.  You can purchase lovely tea cups and teapots as well as a huge variety of teas, but there is no pressure to buy. All of the drink-ware for your tea experience of is made by Margit, with a choice of over 100 teas sourced from organic tea farms worldwide.

9. Morningstar Farm– Just outside of Parksville, close to Qualicum Beach, is  a quaint little farm called Morningstar Farm. Why is it different? – well it has the best blue cheese I’ve ever tasted!  Take a chunk home and enjoy with your favourite port and a sliver of sour granny smith apple.  You can thank me later!  What makes this place really special, is the fact that this little farm is completely automated.  The cows decide when they are read to be milked, and can walk into the milking room at their own device.  Following this, they often use the well placed brushes to enjoy a lovely “facial”. These really are the best kept cows and it is a really neat experience to see what is happening through their camera system. Locals often come to get their milk bottles refilled and Canada’s first milk-on-tap dispenser was installed here.

10. Coombs Old Country Market –Home to the world famous goats on a roof. You can spend a good couple of hours walking through the market to enjoy the many different types of food, imported from all over the world.  There is  also have a brand new donut shop, ice cream shop, a new food truck with Mexican cuisine and an Italian restaurant. Of course you must get a photograph of the goats on the roof, where they spend their days munching on the fresh green grass!

I do hope you have enjoyed this small taste of Vancouver Island.  We would love to show you more.  At Anderson Vacations, we are experts in this area and offer individual fully customized itineraries for self-drives as well as RV rentals. Please join me as I personally host our Delicious Vancouver Island Tour in October. It will be my pleasure to show you my very own backyard, Vancouver Island!

Our fully Escorted tour https://www.andersonvacation.com/trip/5-day-delicious-vancouver-island

FIT Tour https://www.andersonvacation.com/trip/9-day-vancouver-island-culinary-adventure

*If of interest, please contact us at info@tripmerchant.com to receive your member benefit/loyalty reward dollars, if booked.

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