Illustration: Christiane Beauregard

The joke about Victoria is it’s the place you go to retire, but it’s actually pretty vibrant. Beyond the tourist side of the town, there’s quite a bit to discover: galleries, cafés, bars, things happening in the wee hours. The city is a mixture of tranquility and an exciting artistic spirit that undermines the traditional stereotype that it’s a stodgy old place.

There’s this fertile underground alternative art and music scene, and the artists all know each other. It’s a testament to the culture of the place that so many of those creative people choose to stay there.

That independent local spirit is very noticeable, and it’s probably part of why you’re so aware of the surrounding natural world when you’re in Victoria. The environment isn’t obscured by all kinds of big-box stores sitting in front of you. Nature is quite conspicuous, especially if you come from other places.

I got caught up in the beauty of that spot. The air is so perfectly fresh — smelling of the water, the sea. And it’s no secret that it has the mildest climate in Canada.

We’re fortunate to be building a strong, sophisticated, urban nation, but with a backdrop of a stunning, wild place. If you want to pick a snapshot of true Canadian beauty, Victoria’s a good place to start.

Famous Canadians and Canadian Geographic readers have shared their favourite places in our country on an interactive map. See it here.