Thunderbird Park - Royal BC Museum

See totem poles and an authentic First Nations house standing alongside heritage buildings in this park where history meets culture.

Come to Thunderbird Park to admire the art of carved totem poles and learn about the culture of British Columbia’s First Nations communities. Opened in 1941, the park is part of the Royal BC Museum. While at the park, visit two of the oldest buildings in British Columbia and explore museum exhibitions dedicated to human and natural history.

Start at the Kwakwaka’wakw heraldic pole. It stands in front of Wawadit'la, a painted wooden building also known as Mungo Martin House, named after a famous local carver. Nakapenkem, as the late chief was also known, modeled it after a house from an indigenous village in the northeast of Vancouver Island at Fort Rupert. The family has hereditary rights to Wawadit’la as a ceremonial meeting place.

Except for the heraldic pole, all the poles that you will see in the park are replicas carved by Mungo Martin and others. Take time to study the intricate carvings, including human figures, birds and bears. Go to the First Peoples Gallery inside the Royal BC Museum to see the original totem poles. Here, you’ll also find examples of the clothing and regalia of the Pacific Northeast Coast’s indigenous groups. Further museum exhibits showcase the region’s human and natural history.

While at the park, pass by Helmcken House. Built in 1852, it’s the oldest building in British Columbia that still stands on its original location. Step inside to find artifacts relating to 19th-century domestic arts and traditions. St Ann’s Schoolhouse building dates to the mid-1840s and became one of Victoria’s most important schools starting in 1858. It was moved to the park in 1974.

Situated in the Royal BC Museum complex, Thunderbird Park is a short walk from downtown Victoria. There are several pay-and-display parking lots nearby and public buses stop close to the museum’s main entrance. Thunderbird Park and the Royal BC Museum are open daily, except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.