Why Victoria, BC Does Not Exemplify Canadian Weather

No, even Canadians elsewhere don’t live in igloos or skate to work.

Photo by Jon Garrison on Unsplash

Most of Canada has mild springs, hot summers, colourful autumns, and brutally cold and snowy winters. The spring is very short with crocus, yellow daffodils, and bright tulips finally adding colour after a very long white winter. Summers are hot and humid with thunderstorms booming and lighting up the night sky. The fall is a long time of brightly coloured leaves, bonfires, harvest, Hallowe’en, and Thanksgiving. Winter is the point of no return. It stretches infinitely towards the horizon. On the coldest days the sky is as blue as it can be. On days when the snow is falling heavily from a pale grey sky, the trees look beautiful because they’re laden with snow. People are happy because the white snow reflects the sunlight, and the world is bright. Laden with winter hats, gloves, scarves, and heavy coats, it’s fun to ski or toboggan but not so fun to have to shovel the driveway and sidewalk. As someone who moved to Victoria from the cold part of the country, I can say that it’s nice to get all four distinct seasons. The winters wear on people though, and anyone who can retire out west to the milder climate do so. Even the homeless drift west, and even end up on the island.

Victoria is the warmest part of Canada

Victoria is on the southern most tip of Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia. It is farther south than Vancouver on the mainland, and consequently warmer. Vancouver gets double the amount of rainfall that Victoria does. This is because Vancouver is in the rain shadow of the coastal mountains. It rains heavier in Vancouver but then the winds carry away the clouds leaving it sunny. In Victoria my mother used to ask me if it was raining. It’s quite often more of a Scotch mist or drizzle. Constantly dull and dismal. It’s windier in Victoria too because of being on an island.

Victoria has always been considered a place for “the newlywed or the nearly dead”. People from the rest of Canada with the harsh winters, have flocked here upon retirement if they could afford to.

Spring on the island

In Victoria we get extremely long springs when our landscape is covered with as many blooming flowers, bushes, and trees as anywhere else in the world. We’re particularly well known for all our Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and many of our downtown streets are lined with cherry blossoms. In late spring those streets look like they are covered in pink snow.

Summer, aka drought season on the island

When my parents first moved to Victoria, they were told you didn’t need air conditioning in Victoria. That’s not true any more. Or for the rest of the world it seems. Wildfires are breaking out with the record breaking extreme heat waves around the world causing droughts. But since I’ve been here the last two decades it seemed like there was a summer drought every year. They finally increased the water reservoir but it hasn’t kept up. We need a bigger one to capture the winter rains. While we’ve been sweltering in temperatures of the 80s and 90 degrees Fahrenheit here, my friends in southern California have had to deal with over 100 degrees. As one said, nothing grows when it’s that hot.

A friend grew up in Victoria but prefers to live in Ottawa. He likes that in Ontario the summer nights are warm. In Victoria summer nights are cool. He likes being able to wander around and do stuff in the warm evenings. I find that it’s much easier to sleep at night if it’s cool.

Mud coloured disappointing autumn on the island

No bright fall colours. Some people, who don’t know better, will argue that leaves change colour here in fall. I’ll allow that there are small amounts of red and orange to be found. BUT if you’ve ever been east, and seen autumn done right, then you’ll agree that the season is totally missing here.

At least the pumpkins are still a jolly bright orange colour. Just after Hallowe’en people sit their jack o’lanterns on logs along the road through Mount Doug Park.

No, not winter. RAINY season.

In what elsewhere is called fall or autumn, in Victoria it’s the beginning of the rainy season. It can last from October through April. We live in the Pacific Northwest Rain Forest.

The very first winter I was here it was extremely wet and windy. The wind was a surprise. No one warns newcomers about how dark and miserable rainy season can be. Many residents here suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s a type of depression that’s tied to the seasons. Some people say that special lights can help alleviate that. I haven’t tried so I have no first hand experience. I’m outside a great deal so nature calms me, and I benefit from when it’s sunny out.

Victoria sometimes gets hit by a cold front with freezing temperatures, and snow. During one cold snap there were frozen water fountains. Butchart Gardens has an outdoor skating rink in winter but I don’t know how they manage to keep the ice frozen.

Observations about Victoria

One of the really good things about Victoria’s mild climate is that you can have a year round vegetable garden. You still have to plan your crops, and pick ones that don’t mind colder weather but it’s doable.

When choosing an area to live in, it’s good to know that Victoria has micro-climates. Some areas are warmer than others depending on proximity to water, hills, and mountains, and how protected they are. When it does snow you can see that some areas get more than others.

I’m happy to be living here. I’ve become too softened to be able to endure a true Canadian winter. There’s an assumption that Canadians are one with the snow and ice but it’s more a question of putting up with winter. When I was growing up in the snowiest city in Canada, I never knew there was a milder alternative.

I followed my parents out here. My dad hollered up the stairwell in New Brunswick to my mother “Are you a gambler?”. She said “Sure”. and they moved to Vancouver Island. It probably gave him a few more decades of life. He’d been a heavy smoker but quit when he suffered from angina. He wanted away from having to shovel the snow off the driveway and walkways. I’ll never move east.