Docked inside British Columbia's former Supreme Court building in Bastion Square, the Maritime Museum of BC provides visitors with a bridge to the province's past through an affluent collection of nautical and legal treasures. More than 35,000 unique artifacts—plus 40,000 photographs—join forces to ferry eyes through history, including exhibits that showcase notable pirates, explorers, heritage vessels, and shipwrecks.
A fleet of three iconic sailboats has also dropped anchor beneath the museum's roof, and despite its age and creaky joints from years of playing pond hockey, the oldest operating birdcage elevator in North America still totes guests from floor to floor. Aside from its seafaring trove, the museum also runs public and school programs on topics such as immigration, pirates, women at sea, and the Canadian Coast Guard.
The Whale Museum’s exhibits illustrate the natural history of marine mammals, placing special emphasis on the three orca pods that frolic in San Juan waters from May through September. Visitors can watch a looped 30-minute video on Pacific Northwest whales, or listen to the songs of various species in the Whale Phone Booth, which doubles as a superhero transformation chamber. Members enjoy discounts on educational programs and 10 percent off at the museum store.
Craigdarroch Castle was built between 1887 and 1890 as a home for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune in coal and wanted to show off his wealth and importance to the surrounding country. The stately mansion has since transformed into a military hospital in 1919, a Victoria College dormitory in 1921, and now a renovated historical site owned and operated by the Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society. The castle retains its original 11th- and 12th-century-inspired Romanesque characteristics, such as a cylindrical tower with a conical cap and frames ornamented with 33 original stained-glass windows. Formerly a 28-acre estate, the present day 1.75-acre grounds house a 20,000-square-foot interior boasting 39 lavish rooms accurately furnished in 1890–1900 period wares, an 87-stair ascent to a tower overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains, and a fireproof underground rec room for the Dunsmuir’s pet dragon.