Ideas for Your Family Staycation in Victoria

20 Tried and True Family Staycation Ideas for a Weekend of Non-Stop Family Fun

A family staycation in Victoria and south Vancouver Island is the perfect solution for families looking for a fun weekend trip while staying close to home. Bonus- because you don’t need to spend a lot of time on the road, you’ll be able to pack more into your trip!

Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is a historic city that exudes charm and character at every turn. There are lots of fun, interesting and educational things to do in Victoria to keep every member of the family entertained, whether they’re 8 or 80.

What Should I See in Victoria?

Victoria is full of top-rated attractions the whole family will enjoy such as:

  • Parks
  • Museums
  • Historic Building
  • Gardens
  • Unique attractions

At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, we know Victoria inside and out and our team of tour guides are always happy to offer suggestions that our guests will enjoy. Take a look at our list of tried and true family staycation activities in the Victoria area below for some inspiration.

Top 20 Family Friendly Things to Do in Victoria BC

1. Royal BC Museum and Archives  – Great for those rainy days, the Royal BC Museum, on Belleville Street, is full of interactive and interesting exhibitions to keep everyone happy. Feature exhibitions change annually, check the website for current exhibitions.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours from Royal BC Museum and Archives

Head west on Belleville St toward Government St. Destination will be on the left.

2. Beacon Hill Park and Farm – Over 150 acres of park in the heart of the city; including manicured flower beds, ponds, natural areas, playgrounds, spray parks, picnic shelters, a rose garden and more. Don’t miss a visit to the Children’s Farm, most famous for its daily goat run.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Beacon Hill Park and Farm

Head west on Southgate St toward BC-1 N. Turn right onto Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 N (signs for Trans Canada Highway). Turn left onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

3. Miniature World – With 85 dioramas and displays to discover including model railways, castles, outer space, historical, fictional and fantasy worlds; the whole family will be intrigued by this small but mighty attraction on Humboldt Street.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Miniature World

Head northwest on Humboldt St toward Gordon St. Turn left onto Government St. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

4. Fisherman’s Wharf – Take a stroll on the seawall around the harbour to Fisherman’s Wharf where you will find a waterfront hub of food kiosks, unique stores and a village of 33 colourful float-homes.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Fisherman’s Wharf

Head southeast on Erie St toward St Lawrence St. Continue onto St Lawrence St. Turn right onto Superior St. Turn left at the 2nd cross street onto Oswego St. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the right.

5. Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites – Enjoy exploring the hidden bunkers and gun turrets of this 19th century military barracks that was used during the second world war. A short stroll takes you to the Fisgard Lighthouse, the first lighthouse to be built on Canada’s west coast.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse

Take Ocean Blvd to Island Hwy/Old Island Hwy N. Continue on Island Hwy. Take Craigflower Rd to Belleville St in Victoria. Turn right onto Island Hwy/Old Island Hwy N. Turn right onto Island Hwy (signs for View Royal). Continue onto Craigflower Rd. Continue onto Skinner St. Continue onto Tyee Rd. Turn left onto Esquimalt Rd. Continue onto Johnson St. Turn right onto Wharf St. Turn right onto Government St. Turn right onto Belleville Destination will be on the left.

6. Victoria Bug Zoo – What kid doesn’t like creepy crawlies? This mini-zoo offers the chance to get close to tropical bugs of all shapes and sizes. Discover around 50 species including giant stick bugs, praying mantis, and glow in the dark scorpions!

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Victoria Bug Zoo

Head west on Courtney St toward Gordon St. Turn left onto Government St. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

7. Hatley Park National Historic Site – Part of Royal Roads University, your kids might recognise Hatley Castle and it’s garden from one of the Disney Descendants movies that have been filmed on-site. The delightful garden includes a rose garden and Japanese garden with a pond. Can you spot the resident Peacock?

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Hatley Park National Historic Site

Take College Dr and Serpentine Rd to Sooke Rd. Take Island Hwy and Craigflower Rd to Belleville St in Victoria. Turn right onto Sooke Rd. Continue onto Island Hwy/Old Island Hwy N. Turn right onto Island Hwy (signs for View Royal). Continue onto Craigflower Rd. Continue onto Skinner St. Continue onto Tyee Rd. Turn left onto Esquimalt Rd. Continue onto Johnson St. Turn right onto Wharf St. Turn right onto Government St. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

8. Tally-Ho Carriage Tours – Create lasting family memories on a traditional horse drawn carriage tour with Tally-Ho. City tours, with our entertaining guides, start outside the BC Legislature building on Belleville Street, or try the new Sea Cider Picnic Experience showcasing beautiful farmland on the Saanich Peninsula, award winning coffees and ciders, and freshly prepared gourmet picnics.

9. Harbour Ferry ride – You can’t miss the bright, mini boats that zip around the Victoria harbour. Ride one as a water taxi or take a harbour tour. Look out for the water taxi ballet performed in the inner harbour every Sunday morning in the summer.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Victoria Harbour Ferry

Head west on Pandora Ave toward Broad St. Turn left onto Broad St. Turn left onto Johnson St. Turn right at the 1st cross street onto Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 S. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

10. Wildplay Victoria – A must-visit for families with a head for heights. Choose between classic and extreme treetop adventure courses, fly through the air on a zip line tour or try your hand at axe throwing.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Wildplay Victoria

Take WildPlay Victoria Rd to Island Hwy/Old Island Hwy N. Continue on Island Hwy. Take Craigflower Rd to Belleville St in Victoria. Turn right onto Island Hwy/Old Island Hwy N. Turn right onto Island Hwy (signs for View Royal). Continue onto Craigflower Rd. Continue onto Skinner St. Continue onto Tyee Rd. Turn left onto Esquimalt Rd. Continue onto Johnson St. Turn right onto Wharf St. Turn right onto Government St. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

11. Victoria Butterfly Gardens – A staycation doesn’t mean you can’t see exotic animals! See thousands of butterflies like the Giant Owl Butterfly which has a wingspan of 150mm and looks like an Owl’s face. Frogs, tortoises, iguanas, flamingos and tropical birds can also be found at this vibrant jungle experience located close to Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay, just north of Victoria.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Victoria Butterfly Gardens

Head northwest toward Keating Cross Rd. Turn right onto Keating Cross Rd. Merge onto Patricia Bay Hwy/BC-17. Continue to follow Patricia Bay Hwy. Patricia Bay Hwy turns right and becomes Belleville St/BC-17. Continue to follow Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

12. Craigdarroch Castle Historic House Museum – Built in the late 1800s, Craigdarroch is actually a Victorian mansion, which was built to reflect the wealth of its owner. Take a tour of the castle and visitor centre to find out more.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Craigdarroch Castle

Head east toward Joan Crescent. Turn right onto Joan Crescent. Turn right onto Rockland Ave. Turn left onto Cook St. Turn right onto Southgate St. Turn right onto Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 N (signs for Trans Canada Highway). Turn left onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

13. Wildlife and Whale Watching Tours – For your family staycation in Victoria, take to the water with a whale watching tour from downtown Victoria! Experience seeing and hearing seals, sea lions, porpoises and whales in their natural environment. Keep your eyes peeled for the pods of resident Orcas which live in local waters year round.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Prince of Whales – Whale Watching Adventures

Head southeast on Wharf St toward Government St. Turn right onto Government St. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

14. Butchart Gardens – Twenty minutes north of Victoria, these world famous gardens will wow every family member; with 55 acres of gardens to explore and the Rose Carousel, a favourite for kids of all ages.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Butchart Gardens

Follow Benvenuto Ave and Keating Cross Rd to Patricia Bay Hwy/BC-17. Continue on Patricia Bay Hwy to Victoria. Turn right onto Bay St. Turn left onto Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 S. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

15. The Maritime Museum of BC – Located on Humboldt Street; a great place to take the little pirates in your life. Learn to tie sailor knots in one of the interactive, hands on exhibits, that teach visitors about BC’s rich maritime heritage.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From The Maritime Museum of BC

Head south on Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 S. Turn right. Turn right toward Belleville St. Turn left toward Belleville St. Turn right toward Belleville St. Turn left toward Belleville St. Slight right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

16. Westshore Motorsports Park – Experience the roar of the engines at motor racing, stock car and big truck events which run on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer. 

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Westshore Motorsports Park

Head south on Hordon Rd toward Millstream Rd. Turn left onto Millstream Rd. Turn left onto the Trans Canada Highway/BC-1 S ramp to Victoria. Merge onto Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 S. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

17. Blenkinsop Adventure Mini Golf – A charming mini-golf course set in vibrant and colourful gardens. Open 7 days a week weather permitting. Winner has to buy everyone an ice-cream!

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Blenkinsop Adventure Mini Golf

Head west toward Blenkinsop Rd. Continue on Blenkinsop Rd. Take Cook St to Belleville St in Victoria. Turn left onto Blenkinsop Rd. Continue onto Maplewood Rd. Turn left onto Cook St. Turn right onto Caledonia Ave. Turn left onto Quadra St. Turn right onto Courtney St. Turn left at the 1st cross street onto Blanshard St/Patricia Bay Hwy/BC-17. Continue onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

18. Play at a local beach – Cadboro-Gyro Park is a local favourite thanks to its play area featuring the ‘Cadborosaurus’. Willows Beach has lots of sand for castle building, two parks, washrooms and views of Mount Baker.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Cadboro-Gyro Park

Head northwest on Sinclair Rd toward Beachview Pl. Continue on Cadboro Bay Rd. Take Fort St and Yates St to Belleville St in Victoria. Turn left onto Cadboro Bay Rd. Slight right to stay on Cadboro Bay Rd. Continue onto Fort St. Continue onto Yates St. Turn left onto Quadra St. Turn right onto Courtney St. Turn left at the 1st cross street onto Blanshard St/Patricia Bay Hwy/BC-17. Continue onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

19. Cool off with a yummy ice cream – Kid Sister Ice Cream in Chinatown’s FanTan alley serves up locally made ice-cream in waffle cones made on site. Beacon Drive in, at Beacon Hill Park whips up the best soft-serve in town. The only problem is choosing which flavour to try.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Kid Sister Ice Cream

Head north on Cook St toward Oxford St. Turn left onto Southgate St. Turn right onto Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 N (signs for Trans Canada Highway). Turn left onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Beacon Drive In Restaurant

Head southeast on Beacon St toward BC-1 N. Sharp left onto BC-1 N. Slight left onto Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 N (signs for Trans Canada Highway). Turn left onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.


20. Finish the day with fish and chips – Family staycations are hard work! When the gang gets hungry, it has to be fish and chips for supper.  Try The Fish Store at Fisherman’s Wharf for seafood favourites in a unique setting or Finn’s Seafood, Chops & Cocktails on Wharf Street; a popular seafood restaurant with a view of the inner harbour.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From The Fish Store

Head east toward St Lawrence St. Turn left onto St Lawrence St. Turn right onto Superior St. Turn left at the 2nd cross street onto Oswego St. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the right.

Getting to Tally-Ho Carriage Tours From Finn’s Seafood, Chops & Cocktails

Head south on Wharf St toward Bastion Square. Turn right. Take the stairs. Turn right. Take the stairs. Turn right onto Belleville St. Destination will be on the left.

Make Your Staycation Magical with a Tally-Ho Horse Drawn Carriage Tour

Tally-Ho tours have been operating in Victoria since 1903 and continue to offer a unique, carriage-side view of this beautiful city to locals and visitors alike.

A small, family run business; Tally-Ho offers a number of different options for city tours, from a short and sweet 15-minute ride to a personalized 90-minute deluxe experience.

For a more rural adventure on your staycation in Victoria, we offer tours near our farm in Saanichton, including wonderful scenery and delicious refreshments on the Sea Cider picnic experience. Tally-Ho also offers custom tours for that special occasion. Contact us to find out more or reserve a tour.


Victoria Heritage Tours for the History Buff

Step Back in Time and Enjoy Victoria’s Storied Past with a Horse-Drawn Heritage Tour

Victoria is the ideal setting for a heritage tour, as one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. British settlement in the city we know and love today began in 1843 and Victoria was declared the capital city on July 21, 1871. On that same day, British Columbia became the sixth province of the Dominion of Canada.

Today, Victoria is an exciting city that plays host to an incredible treasure trove of historical monuments. Some of the artifacts you’ll see on a heritage tour with Tally Ho are cemeteries, turn of the century gardens and even castles, like the famed Craigdarroch Castle.

Built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the peak of the coal mining era on Vancouver Island, Craigdarroch is a glimpse into the life of the Dunsmuir family in the 1890’s.

Victoria was the site of Canada’s first police force and Canada’s largest Chinatown. It was also a hotbed of activity during the gold rush and coal mining era and so much more. There are countless stories and legends to discover, all hidden among the streets and historic sites of this modern Canadian city.

Tally Ho Carriage Tours is Part of Victoria’s Heritage

At Tally-Ho Tours, we love being able to show our guests all sides of Victoria’s rich history. A large part of why we have such fun and informational tours is because we ARE a part of Victoria’s history. At Tally-Ho, we’ve been a fixture in downtown Victoria since the Gold Rush, and officially incorporated as Victoria’s original public transportation/tourism company in 1903.

Started by Anton Henderson, the original stagecoach tours started near where Mayfair Mall is located today (the old Tally-Ho bar was originally the Tally-Ho horse stable). Back then, a route from Mt. Tolmie to Victoria would have cost 15 cents and the stagecoaches were packed with people. By the 1940s there were 13 horse-drawn wagons operating, each requiring a set of 6 horses to transport the crowds of families and tourists.

Today’s private single-horse-drawn carriage tours are meant for 2-6 people for tourism and enjoyment only.

At Tally-Ho, we are dedicated to preserving Victoria’s heritage by providing a unique, educational and memorable experience. This is why every member of the Tally-Ho family works tirelessly to provide the best experience possible for all of our guests.

What Can You Expect to Learn About on a Heritage Tour of Victoria with Tally-Ho?

Our knowledgeable guides tend to be history lovers themselves and are highly trained in the history of Victoria. Each of our fully guided private tours are geared towards highlighting the fascinating history of downtown Victoria and the seaside of James Bay, Victoria’s oldest neighbourhood. Some featured landmarks throughout James Bay include the home of famed artist Emily Carr, Mile 0 and St. Ann’s Academy.

We don’t want to give too much away in advance! Just know that the alleys, squares and buildings built so long ago might contain modern businesses and restaurants now, but they hold countless sordid, fun and fascinating tales from times gone by.

Depending on the tour you choose, our professional and knowledgeable guides can tell you anything you wish to know about the area. From spooky ghost stories in October to tales of Victorian Christmases in December, legends from historic Chinatown and more, your wish is our command. Of course, each tour is predetermined with the major stories and popular highlights from Victoria’s past but our guests have often been surprised at the depth of knowledge that our friendly guides share.

What is The Most Popular Historic Tour?

By far our most popular tour for true history buffs is our Heritage Tour. During this 30-minute tour, your guide will regale you with tales from the lives of past and present Victorians as you travel through charming James Bay. As your horse’s hooves gently clip clop along the streets, you’ll learn all about the heritage district. Marvel at the stunning architecture and picturesque gardens before enjoying a short meander along the waterfront.

Settled comfortably in your carriage guided by one of our gentle giant draft horses, you can let your imagination take you back in time. Imagine a simpler time, a slower pace and take a deep breath as history comes to life all around you.

A Historic Horse and Carriage Tour Makes a Perfect Gift for Your Favourite History Enthusiast

For a truly unique birthday gift, anniversary gift, or just-because gift, a gift certificate for a Tally-Ho Carriage Tour is a wonderful choice. Choose from our many popular city tours, from the 15-minute Short and Sweet Tour, to our 75-minute Grand Tour. You can even create your own Premier a-la-carte tour with our helpful team.

“Our tour guide driver was very friendly and knowledgeable of the heritage and history of Victoria. The ride was very safe and relaxing, and we felt very special and were treated like royalty. Highly recommended and well worth the price.”

-Morna, Niagara Falls, ON.

Are There Any New Victoria Heritage Tours Being Offered Outside of the City?

Yes, there are! For a limited time, our Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic Experience gives our guests the opportunity to learn about the past and present of nearby rural Saanichton. A charming farm community, Saanichton holds plenty of stories of its own which are shared during this extra special tour.

If you’re looking for things to do in Victoria, nothing beats a guided tour in the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. What better way to slip back in time than by enjoying the transportation that was mainstream hundreds of years ago? Our Victoria heritage tours are a fun experience for all ages and are always a popular choice for tourists and residents alike. To book your tour, contact Tally-Ho Carriage Tours at 1-866-383-5067 or email us at


Getting Engaged? 5 Reasons to Consider a Horse-Drawn Carriage

Consider a Horse and Buggy for your Once-In-A-Lifetime Wedding Proposal

When you’ve met the love of your life, you just know you want to spend every day with them, forever. You might find yourself looking at rings and thinking about how to propose without even realizing it. At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, we are always honoured to be a part of weddings, engagements and anniversaries. Nothing quite compares to the romance and allure of an intimate horse-drawn carriage ride through historic Victoria, BC. It’s a setting that is guaranteed to make your future fiancé say yes!

Top 5 Reasons to Consider a Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour for Your Wedding Proposal

1. A Horse and Buggy Tour is Elegant and Romantic

Cinderella and Prince Charming did it, Kate and William did it and you and your love can do it too.  With Tally-Ho Tours, you’ll feel like royalty as you take in the sights of downtown Victoria in an elegant, comfortable and well-appointed carriage, pulled by one of our handsome draft horses.

2. A Horse and Buggy Tour Can Be Intimate or a Public Declaration of Your Love

Some people dream of a big, public proposal. Others want that incredible life-changing moment to be private. Whichever side you and your intended fall on, we can make it work so your moment is absolutely perfect. Whether you choose to sweetly whisper in their ear or shout it out for all the world to hear, just let us know your preference.

3. A Horse and Buggy Tour Can Be Custom Designed

Whether you want your driver to follow one of our popular tour routes or you have something else in mind, Tally-Ho can accommodate. Whether you have a special place that holds happy memories for the two of you, or you want to stop for gelato to celebrate, we’ll work with you to design a memorable journey into engaged life.

4. Victoria is Home to Gorgeous Gardens and Scenery

Victoria is known as the Garden City for good reason. In full bloom, Victoria’s many public gardens are absolutely breathtaking. Or maybe you prefer ocean views? Whatever you’re picturing for your perfect proposal, Victoria is THE place to pop the question.

5. Tally-Ho Carriage Tours Will Take Care of the Details

When someone suspects a proposal may be coming, they might be looking for clues! Our staff can help keep them guessing by preparing your carriage with any special gifts you might want to bring along such as flowers, champagne or any other additions you’re planning for your very special tour. For special arrangements, just let us know at the time of booking and we can prepare your carriage with any special additions you’ve supplied in advance. At Tally-Ho, we’d be honoured to help you plan the proposal your future husband or wife has always dreamed of.


Choose Your Ideal Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour for Your Wedding Proposal

Not sure about a custom tour? We offer a variety of prearranged tour routes to choose from.

Short and Sweet- A sweet 15-minute tour allows you to enjoy a change of pace as you take in the sights of the parliament buildings and Victoria’s inner harbour.

Heritage Tour- A 30-minute tour through the James Bay residential district, this is a wonderful tour for history buffs.

Beacon Hill Park Tour- This 45-minute tour winds through beautiful Beacon Hill Park, providing an ideal stopping off point for a surprise proposal in the gardens or a favourite special spot.

Deluxe Tour- A full 60 minutes, this tour meanders through the gardens of Beacon Hill Park, through Victoria’s oldest neighbourhood of James Bay, and along the Salish Sea waterfront for a truly slowed-down, relaxed experience. A wonderful way to unwind after dinner at one of Victoria’s many romantic restaurants, this is one of our most popular tours.

Grand Tour- At 75 minutes, this is THE tour for experiencing the Salish Sea waterfront at its finest. You’ll both feel refreshed as you tour through Beacon Hill Park and enjoy the fresh sea air on a lengthy tour of the waterfront.

Sea Cider Picnic Experience- For a limited time only, we’re also offering the truly special Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic Experience. As far as intimate and unique tours go, this would be an amazing choice for any soon-to-be engaged couple!

Offered on Sundays only until the end of September, you’ll tour through the quaint farming community of Saanichton and learn about the history of the area. You’ll arrive at Sea Cider farm, where you’ll have the chance to sample award-winning locally produced ciders and enjoy a gourmet picnic supplied by Truffles Catering Co.

Including everything from grilled seasonal vegetables to Parisienne macarons, the menu is designed to accommodate all tastes and dietary needs. After lunch, you can choose your favourite ciders to take home to continue your celebration! For the final leg of the tour, you’ll enjoy a relaxed ride through Longview Farm, with gorgeous ocean views to complement the pastoral setting.  

Jayne F left us this lovely review on TripAdvisor after her son’s wedding on May 1 2021:

“My son booked a surprise horse and carriage for his wife to pick them up yesterday after their small wedding of ten people yesterday at St. Anne’s Academy. Donna was so pleasant to deal with and bent over backwards to make sure this was a special ride for the happy couple. 

Spot the Clydesdale arrived at the academy looking so splendid with his show ribbons and black patent reins. His tail had even been carefully braided in the shape of a heart! A “just married” sign on the back of the carriage was the icing on the cake! A wonderful “covid friendly” ride for a memorable way of celebrating their marriage! THANK YOU!!”

As a small, family-owned and operated business, we know how important it is to get your marriage started off on the best foot (hoof?) possible. With our relaxed tour itineraries, options to customize your tour or even design your own, and entertaining and friendly guides, we know that your proposal with Tally-Ho Tours will be a memory that you and your loved one will cherish forever.

Getting engaged soon? As experts in providing premium, romantic horse-drawn tours in the Victoria, BC area since 1903, we’ve been a part of many love stories over the years. We’d love to be part of yours! To reserve your tour or inquire about a custom tour for your engagement, please call us at 250-514-9257 or send an email to

Our Draft Horses – The Care and Keeping of Our Happy Herd

How We Keep Our Draft Horses Emotionally and Physically Healthy

At Tally-To Carriage Tours, our herd of gorgeous horses are the heart of our success as a wholesome tourism company. Bred to work, our horses thrive on the company and interaction they receive, which is evident in their friendly, laid-back dispositions. The horses are viewed as partners and as members of our family, and everyone who works with them is committed to ensuring they’re in the best of health. This means they receive the best training, are mentally healthy and happy and are bonded with their drivers and trainers. We love our horses and they love us right back.

The History of the Draft Horse

Breeds like Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons and Shire horses are known as Draft (or Draught) Horses. Born and bred from a long lineage of working horses, these guys are docile, confident and they love to work. A draft horse can very easily pull vehicles that are six times their weight while only using about 20% of their full strength.

Originating from ancient warhorses, their reputation as gentle giants has made draft horses the top choice for providing transportation and doing farm work for centuries. This long partnership has also led to innate trust among horses and their people. It’s been found that Draft horses that do not have a purpose or a specific role to fulfill exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety. These guys are social animals and they also love to have a dependable routine.  At Tally-Ho, our herd of sixteen draft horses consists of Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons, Shires and a Suffolk Punch: all happy, calm horses that thrive on having a job to do.

The Tally-Ho Horses at Work

At Tally-Ho, our trusted drivers and trainer provide our horse companions with the very best tools they need to be able to do their job safely and well. Every horse is given a frequent health check and watched closely for any sign of illness or fatigue. Just like humans, if a horse is not up to a shift of pulling carriages, they are not expected to work. The care team is trained to be able to easily tell if a horse is not feeling their best. This could be indicated by posture and signs of stress or agitation. All horses have easy access to food and water and are carefully monitored during inclement or hot weather.

Pre-Shift Check

At the beginning of every shift, our horses are fed and groomed before being transported to downtown Victoria. Both horse and carriage are thoroughly checked over with a pre-trip check to make sure the horse is in good spirits and mentally / physically ready for the shift. Taking this time to connect with our horses creates a bond that lasts throughout the shift. This bonding time also helps the horse to feel even more calm and sociable towards guests.

Communicating with the Horses

Because humans and draft horses have been working side by side for over 6,000 years, our drivers and horses feel at home with one another. Each horse knows his or her name and forms a special bond with their co-worker (driver) and can be easily guided by hearing their name followed by a standard command. For example, to go faster, the horse must hear their name, e.g. “Sarge” then the command, e.g.  “step up” after a pause. This creates clear communication between horse and driver, maintaining a calm and relaxed environment. The same vocabulary is used for all the horses to prevent any confusion or misunderstanding.

Our horses trust their co-workers implicitly and can only be touched by guests when and if the horse is relaxed and open to the interaction. Because draft horses are so friendly, this is rarely an issue. Horses do get treats from the public from time to time. If the driver allows it and it’s safe for that particular horse to eat, they get to enjoy it for “dessert.”

To keep the job light and breezy, we also have the horses walk, rather than trot. Constant trotting can create a lot of wear and tear on a horses’ joints. The goal is to be as gentle and kind to our horses as we can be, both at work and at home.

The Horses at Home

Our happy horses have a short commute of 25 minutes to and from Hidden Acres Farm before and after every shift. There, they enjoy a lush pasture and complete privacy in their horse paddock with their herd of humans, cats, dogs, ponies and our retired carriage horses. The horses love to play and they are positively spoiled by their trainers and caregivers. At the end of their shift, they’re immediately brought home to their relaxed and private farm for treats, social time, and a well-deserved rest.

The Horse’s Diet and Nutrition

draft horses the care and keeping of our happy herd

Draft horses weigh a ton (about 1800 pounds on average) and eat a ton too. In a single year, our herd of working horses eat 400 tons of a specially created high-quality feed. This consists of haylage crop plus 36,000 pounds of supplementary grains. The supplements are designed by feed specialists to be tailored to each horse’s individual nutritional needs. The supplements given to each horse varies by age, body weight, workload and physical condition. They’re also given gallons of clean water around the clock, to ensure proper hydration.

The Horses’ Veterinary Care and Hoof Care

The Tally-Ho horses receive personalized care that goes far beyond basic horse care. Our horses have an entire team of specialists tending to their every health need. They receive routine treatments like deworming and shots. A veterinarian closely monitors each horse’s individual requirements, body condition score and any weight loss or changes. Any specific needs are tended to immediately. The herd also receives specialized dental care, as well as adjustments by equine chiropractors and treatments by equine massage therapists. The horses sometimes like to snooze during these treatments, which are designed to ensure optimal muscle and joint health, but the horses regard it as more of a spa experience. 

As any equestrian or horse owner knows, a horse’s hooves must be kept in tip-top shape. Farriers visit weekly and by appointment to provide pedicures to the herd, where each horse is carefully examined for hoof health. This includes providing custom-made shoes for each horse, checking for proper gait and balance to ensure long-lasting joint and muscle health. Above all, we work hard to ensure that the horses are happy and comfortable in their shoes.

The Horse’s Retirement

The Tally-Ho draft horses in our herd range from 9 to the mid-twenties (the normal lifespan for draft horses). Our horses retire generally between the ages of 19 and 25, depending on their physical and mental conditions. After retirement, our senior horses enjoy many happy years as beloved pets on Hidden Acres Farm, with many living well into their thirties due to the gentle nature of the work they perform and their overall care.

How You Can Help Take Care of the Tally-Ho Horses

The Covid-19 pandemic has had quite the effect on the tourism industry. Having to shut down and reduce tour hours has meant a dramatic decrease in funding for the care and keeping of our beautiful horses. To help ensure that the horses continue to get all the spa treatments and specialized diets they require to be happy and healthy, you can now sponsor a horse of your choice. 

To sponsor a horse, just choose your favourite, choose a package and know that your generous contribution will go to ensuring that the Tally-Ho horses receive all the veterinarian care, shelter, food and tools they need.

Proper care and keeping of our horses is essential for providing the best experience with Tally-Ho Carriage Tours. After all, our equine friends are the stars of the show. Serving downtown Victoria for over 115 years, and now serving the Saanich Peninsula, we welcome you to join us for an old-fashioned horse and carriage tour. 

This summer, we’re offering our exclusive Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic experience, a beautiful countryside carriage tour through Central Saanich, complemented with a delectable picnic lunch, organic coffee and a tasting of award-winning, organic ciders. We have also created our new Tally-Ho Farm Tour, providing guests an exclusive opportunity to meet the horses up close and learn about their daily care.  Reservations for all tours are recommended. Contact us by phone or email to book your tour today!


The Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic Experience

Enjoy a Private Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride and Gourmet Picnic in the Heart of Rural Saanichton

The Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic Experience is designed to awaken all your senses. Escape the city and turn back time with a relaxed afternoon exploring the very best of the Saanich Peninsula. Available for a limited time only (April to late September) this unique open-air horse-drawn carriage ride is presented by Tally-Ho Carriage Tours and features delectable treats from Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, Fresh Cup Roastery Café and Truffles Catering.

Whether you’re planning a romantic date, an afternoon with your closest friends, or a family outing, this private horse-drawn carriage ride and picnic is a quiet sightseeing alternative that tops any gift list.

 “It was a once in a lifetime experience. If you’ve never done it, try this one out. It was a lovely, lovely time.

-Janice C. Tripadvisor

fresh cup roastery cafe coffee

During this unforgettable weekend tour, you’ll take in the endless fields and ocean views of Central Saanich. Your handsome horse will lead your open-air carriage through the pastoral countryside as your professional, fun-loving tour guide educates you on the rich history of the area. 

Sink into the plush seats of your carriage as you sip a freshly roasted coffee from Fresh Cup Roastery Cafe (If coffee isn’t your first choice, you can easily select another beverage). Fresh Cup uses only farmer-direct organic beans and their in-house roasting process ensures only the best quality cup of coffee possible. Along with the cider, picnic and the company, our guests have raved about Fresh Cup’s delicious coffee selection.

Lunch at Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse

After the first segment of your private carriage tour, you’ll arrive at Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse. Stretch your legs as you’re shown to your picnic table and get ready for a scrumptious tasting and gourmet lunch. There, you’ll enjoy awe-inspiring views of the Sea Cider organic apple and fruit tree orchard, as well as the sweeping Pacific Ocean. Also a beloved wedding venue, Sea Cider provides a stunning backdrop for your afternoon out.

Sea Cider farm and ciderhouse

“We were fortunate enough to have a beautiful sunny day and the luxury of a Tally-Ho carriage ride to Sea Cider, where we sat in the sun and enjoyed a tasting and a delicious picnic lunch. It was a perfect moment out of time and so lovely to slow down and enjoy the views with the background sounds of hooves. I felt safe and the Covid protocols were excellent. I hope Tally-Ho continues to think out of the box and offer these kinds of excursions next year.”

Denise T- Tripadvisor

Your service will present you with a tasting flight of six of the most popular cider flavours. When you (inevitably!) discover a favourite cider, you can take advantage of an exclusive 20% discount on Sea Cider products of your choice to enjoy later.

In business since 2007, Sea Cider has developed quite a following across North America. Today Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse produces over 7,000 cases of traditional (and award-winning!) organic artisan ciders.

Sea Cider’s products are created as an homage to a creative blend of history and politics. As an example, newest in the collection is Temperance Bonnie – a non-alcoholic blend of organic apples and blackberries, inspired by Dr. Bonnie Henry. 

From Sea Cider: “Our Temperance Series reminds us to find balance, and that wellness involves both self-care and caring for others. This approach is exemplified by Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s first female Provincial Health Officer.” Partial proceeds from this Temperance series cider supports Canadian wellness programs. 

The Tally-Ho Sea Cider Picnic Experience: Enjoy a Decadent Lunch from Truffles Catering Company

For lunch, you’ll receive a gourmet picnic box. This is no typical picnic. Thoughtfully curated by Truffles Catering, a local favourite in Victoria for over 30 years, your picnic box will include a locally sourced and freshly prepared lunch with the perfect balance of sweet and savoury elements.Tally-Ho and Truffles Catering picnic box

Our guests will have selected their picnic choice at check out, along with any notes on allergies. Due to the farm-to-plate nature of the menu selections, the picnic menu is subject to change, but Tally-Ho Carriage Tours and Truffles Catering work hard to ensure a delicious meal that delights all your senses. 

From Rossdown Farms chicken and bacon jam pinwheels, to tomato coriander salad and delectable cranberry-marzipan scone served with rich Devonshire cream and local honey for dessert (see our complete menu to make your selections,) we take great pride in the quality of meals accompanying our horse-drawn carriage tour experience.

Ending Your Tally-Ho Carriage Ride

For the final leg of your tranquil ride, sit back and bask in the sunshine as your carriage gently rolls through the scenic fields of Longview Farm. As the largest certified organic farm on Vancouver Island, the pastoral views are breathtaking and complemented with the stunning ocean views and historical sights that South Vancouver Island is known for. 

tally ho sea cider tour - group of four-min

“The whole experience was so relaxing we didn’t want it to end. What a great idea, during these times, to offer such a tour. It was lovely going through the farming areas, as well as residential, and some ocean views thrown in there just to make the day perfect. I highly recommend this tour! I will be doing it again!

– Merle B, Tripadvisor

The Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic Experience is an excursion we’re very proud to offer. As a Victoria horse-drawn carriage tour operator for 118 years, we know you’ll absolutely love your journey with us. Whether you’re planning for romance or good old-fashioned family fun, our beautiful horses and knowledgeable guides will make your experience unforgettable! Located in downtown Victoria, and now Central Saanich, BC, we offer a variety of tour options, from short and sweet to longer custom tours designed for your anniversary, wedding or corporate function. Email or call toll-free at 1-866-383-5067 to reserve your carriage ride or inquire about prices for custom carriage tours.

Farrier Fridays – Trimming

This week in our Farrier Friday instalment, featuring Major and Trace, we check out the first steps in the shoeing process, removing the old shoe and trimming the foot. Will tells us what they are looking for when trimming the hoof and we get a look at Majors ENORMOUS size 12 shoe!


Horses and Bits

What is a bit? A bit is the component of a horses tack that connects with their mouths. In addition to verbal direction the bit works in combination with the bridle and reins and allows the driver/rider to communicate with their horse letting them know which way to go, when to slow down and when to stop.

We closely monitor which bit is most comfortable and appropriate for each horse: horses will move towards softer settings as they develop their skills and confidence.  The concept is that by respecting the horses’ mouths we will help create more sensitivity to the bit, and reward that progress by using a milder bit.  This helps ensure that in the event of an emergency it does not take excessive force on the bit to try to apply your horse’s “brakes”.

All of our horses here at Tallyho go through extensive training that allows for the use of minimal pressure being used by drivers which keeps both horse and driver happy. Below is a video of Sarge, one of our Clydesdales ready and waiting to receive his bit and get out the gates to his adoring fans! If you watch closely, you will see that Sarge lowers his head and opens his mouth before his bridle even gets to him.

Horses and Heat

Victoria has an ideal climate for carriage horses. According to the City of Victoria, we have “a very low humidity ratio and almost constant offshore breezes which keep summer days from becoming too hot”.

Tally-Ho’s sightseeing stand is ideally located next to the inner harbour, where the breezes can reach us, and where the horses are provided shade from boulevard trees during the hottest parts of the day. In the hotter summer months, horses are given daily electrolytes and offered soaked feed to ensure they are optimizing their hydration. We make sure they always have access to water, give them frequent rests between tours and we also give cold water hosings to make sure they are keeping cool as cucumbers!

But doesn’t the pavement burn there feet!? No, horses do not have nerve endings or blood supply on the bottom of their hoofs. This is why they are able to have their hoofs picked and shoed without any pain. In addition all of our horses have shoes on, which adds an extra layer of elevation from the pavement.

They do not tend to suffer from muscle or heat stress due to the light work they perform (only using about 20% of their actual pulling capacity, and keeping to a walk). Tally-Ho has never had a horse suffer from heat stress.

However, despite all these favourable conditions all of our staff here at Tally-Ho are all trained in recognizing any possible signs of heat stress and how to properly respond. Signs of heat stress can include:

  • Restlessness, lethargy or depression
  • A heart rate of 80 or more that does not return to normal after several minutes of rest
  • An erratic heart beat
  • A respiratory rate of 30 or more that does not return to normal after several minutes of rest
  • Sweating that is either excessive or ceases altogether
  • Body temperature in excess of 103 °Fahrenheit that does not decrease with several minutes of rest
  • Excessive salivation or redness of the tongue and mouth area
  • Muscle spasms, stumbling gait or collapse

Horses have natural, built in heat-reduction capabilities. “As the body temperature climbs and adrenaline levels increase, sweat glands respond by producing a hypertonic (highly concentrated) salt solution that coats the hair. Under normal circumstances horses cool by evaporative cooling and convection. The movement of air over their body is paramount to both of these mechanisms.

  •  Evaporative cooling: The sweat coats the hairs and as air flows over them it pulls the moisture and the heat off the horse.
  • Convection: Blood vessels near the skin dilate and allow the transfer of heat from the blood into the air.

Once their body temperature reaches greater than 42C, the respiratory system kicks in to help “blow off” some of the extra body heat (approximately 15% of the body heat can be dissipated via respiration).”1

The most common measure used to indicate when caution should be used in working a horse is the Horse Heat Index which all staff members are also trained to reference.

Farrier Friday

Happy Friday everyone!

Here on our blog we will be doing a new feature over the next few Fridays called Farrier Friday. These posts will talk a bit about foot care, proper fitting shoes, and answer questions like “does shoeing hurt the horse?”, we’ll even show you the massive size difference between the foot size of saddle horse vs draft horses! Accompanying our posts are videos featuring our amazing Farriers, Will Clinging and Rowan.

If you’ve ever seen a horse being shod you might wonder “doesn’t it hurt the horse?!”, in today’s video Will answers that age-old question while trimming up the foot of our pal Sampson.



To learn more about how we came to work with Will and a bit more about him, check out our previous post linked below.

As the Snow Falls…

Here in beautiful Victoria, BC, we see snow about once a year.  Being on the West Coast our snow is often heavy, wet, and becomes icy quickly. 

As snow falls, Hidden Acres Farm becomes a winter wonderland.  A gorgeous scene with snow-covered trees, Tally-Ho’s majestic draft horses munching happily on their hay, and dogs running wild while creating snow trails.  We keep this peacefulness in mind as we work around the clock to maintain the herd’s health in cold weather. 

While draft horses are able to withstand cold better than lighter breeds (they have a “lower relative body surface area per unit of weightʺ[1]), the majority of Tally-Ho’s horses are blanketed to provide a bit more energy conservation; and our older horses are set up to lounge in the shelter of the barn.  The above photo shows a few of our horses (Titan, Tony and Max) that are not outfitted in blankets.  Simply put: these boys love to shred blankets!  If a horse destroys every blanket we put on them, eventually our logical brains catch up and we realize this will become a daily game for them.  Instead, these horses naturally develop their own warm, woolly winter coats.  Our 30+ years of experience consistently shows that the horses will always choose their natural environment over our human-created methods, preferring to be with their herd-mates in the open air, despite cold weather.

On the farm, our amazing our team of people work in the freezing temperatures to ensure the horses are cared for!  It is important that the herd continue to have free-choice, high quality feed; receive their daily grain supplements; and have access to water.  The reality: pipes freeze, water troughs freeze over; machinery ices over; tree branches lean or fall on fence lines; etc.  It’s almost comical to watch us humans bumbling around the farm shuttling hundreds of buckets of water, losing our footing around as we put out grain, and creatively finding ways to de-ice, well, everything. 

During snowy conditions in Victoria we keep safety as a top priority and purposefully halt all downtown carriage operations.  Extreme cold can be hard on the horsesˊ lungs when they are working; and our roads become dangerous.  Not only do we not want to risk trucking the horses into town, we don’t want to risk their (or the public’s) safety around vehicles that could be slipping on our streets. 

As the snow falls, enjoy the serenity, and while you are out braving the elements to ensure your animals are safe and happy, remember…

“To love a great horse is to touch something beyond words.ʺ

-Samuel Riddle
(owner of the great Man o’ War and Triple Crown winner, War Admiral)