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Art & History On Wheels

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By: Barbara Edie

Victoria is a cyclist’s town, so what better way to explore the city’s art and culture than on a two-wheel tour to some of its most celebrated artistic destinations.   On a sunny afternoon, I hopped on a shiny green bicycle to ride n’ roll around downtown with a few other urban explorers, led by Matthew Oliver, who runs Bike Tours Victoria. Matt’s two-hour “Art and History” tour took happy riders to three distinct arts venues—both historic and hip—as well as an initial stop in Thunderbird Park for a short history lesson on the meaning of the Haida, Gitxsan and First Nations’ totem poles, as well a Long House, that have stood on this site in Victoria for almost 60 years.    From there we spun over to the stunning and modern Robert Bateman Centre for a private tour of the gallery and an unexpected bonus—Robert Bateman was in the gallery! The 85 year-old artist (who looks 20 years younger) was there visiting with his family to view his new exhibit called “Rover Boys,” and came over to say a quick “hello” to our group. After meeting the famous Canadian painter and naturalist, the gallery’s collection of abstract landscapes, breathtaking nature scenes, and singing birds (paintings accompanied by audio) took on added meaning.


Back on the bikes, we rode through James Bay to see the work of another legendary west coast artist, Emily Carr, and the house in which she was born at 207 Government St. Travelling with Matt gave us insider access to the grand, yellow Victorian-era home, as well as a short talk and lemonade served up by the lovely Emily Carr House curator, Jan Ross. Today, the site also hosts events and exhibits that celebrate artists other than Carr.   From James Bay, we headed along Government Street enjoying views of the harbour and The Empress Hotel before entering the melee of tourists and traffic at the city’s centre. However, as is the beauty of cycling we wove through it all smoothly and easily en route to the next cultural destination—a new contemporary art gallery at 546 Yates St. Huge colourful canvases of abstract and modern art lined the brick walls of Art Atelier 546, which opened in April to great success. The gallery showcases art by several local and B.C. artists, including works in acrylic, oil, and photography. Vancouver Island marine biologist and photographer Jackie Hildering, also known as the Marine Detective, is a particular favourite.

Bike Tours Victoria - Credit Dorothee Rembold -0022

A historic stop at the Emily Carr House on Government St., Victoria BC – Image: Dorothee Rembold/Tourism Victoria

One afternoon, two wheels, and one charming tour guide, combined to create the perfect way to take in a few of Victoria’s highlights via its favourite mode of transportation. Art, history, and cycling—what’s not to love?   If you’re looking for a fun, easy way to roll through this historic city and discover the best it has to offer, visit and ride on.


Matt Oliver - sharing totem history - Dorothee Rembold/Tourism Victoria

Matt Oliver – sharing totem history – Dorothee Rembold/Tourism Victoria

Barbara Edie

Barbara Edie is a best-selling author, writer, and explorer, who loves to uncover (and reveal) the best a city, neighbourhood, or back alley has to offer. If you have any Victoria secrets you’d like to share, please contact her at





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