Government House, located on the traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, is not only the office and official residence of the Lieutenant Governor but also a significant historical and ceremonial site for British Columbians. It has been a central figure in British Columbia’s history since 1865.
- First Residence (Cary Castle, 1859): Originally built in 1859, it became the residence of the Governor of Vancouver Island six years later.
- Entry into Confederation (1871): With British Columbia’s entry into Confederation, Cary Castle was designated as Government House.
- Reconstruction and Fires: The first Government House was destroyed by fire in 1899. Renowned architects Francis Rattenbury and Samuel Maclure designed a new house, which opened in 1903. This building served until it too was destroyed by fire in 1957.
- Current Structure: The current Government House, closely mirroring the previous design, was opened in 1959. Additions like the Conservatory in the 1960s and a swimming pool in 1978 have been made over the years.
Role as a Host: The Lieutenant Governor has hosted distinguished visitors here, including members of the Royal Family, international royalty, heads of state, and other honored guests of British Columbia.
- Historical Significance: Government House is not just an official residence but also a ceremonial home representing all British Columbians.
- Cultural Heritage: The location is significant, being on the traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.
- Scavenger Hunt: The free Scavenger Hunt map provides an interactive and educational way to explore the estate, making it a unique experience.
- Year-Round Access: The fact that the grounds are open every day of the year, from dawn to dusk, makes it a reliable destination for visitors anytime.
- Pet-Friendly: The policy of allowing dogs on leashes makes it a pet-friendly destination.
Free Tours at Government House
- Overview: Government House offers guided tours to the public, providing insights into the residence of the Lieutenant Governor and the ceremonial home of all British Columbians. These tours cover the history, points of interest, art, and architecture of the House.
- Registration and Schedule: Tours are free, but space is limited. Visitors must register in advance. Pre-registration is required and can be done up to two weeks ahead of the selected date.
- Details: The Friends of Government House Gardens Society offers guided walking tours of the gardens. These tours provide detailed information about the landscape, trees, unique plants, history, and the volunteer efforts in maintaining the 20+ gardens on the estate.
- Booking: Tour details, cost, and booking information are available on the Government House website (see below).
Private Group Tours:
- For Whom: These tours are available for non-profit, community, or academic organizations, such as schools, during weekdays.
- Booking and Restrictions: Tours are subject to availability and can be booked through a form on the website. No organization may sell tickets or access to these private group tours.
Accessibility: The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk, throughout the year.
Cost: Visiting the grounds and gardens is free of charge.
Activity: Visitors can download a free Scavenger Hunt map, offering a fun and educational way to explore the estate.
- A 20-minute walk or five-minute drive from downtown Victoria.
- Free parking available onsite.
- Accessible by bus (Victoria Regional Transit routes 11 and 14).
More details here: https://ltgov.bc.ca/getting-here/