What about the Winter Whales?

Wondering if winter whale watching is a thing? Here on the west coast, it most definitely is. Thanks to a healthy population of resident whales, including humpback whales and orcas (killer whales), even a trip in the winter can be a success. While companies aren’t likely to guarantee whale sightings like they do in the summer, many charters still have a sighting success rate of over 75%! That means if spotting some of the ocean’s largest mammals was on your vacation bucket list, but you’re visiting in the dead of winter, you need not fret. Victoria’s whale watching tours are still running full swing and are ready to make that dream come true!

Most whale watching and wildlife tours last for about three hours, and depending on the charter you choose, can be in a comfortable cabin cruiser, or open and wild in a zodiac (yes, even in the winter). Either of these options in the winter will require you to dress warmly. Although you’ll have coverage if you opt for a cabin cruiser, when the whales are spotted, you’ll likely want to be on deck! Zodiac passengers are usually required to wear floater suits, which gives you an extra layer of coverage. You’ll definitely want toques and gloves though.

Although peak whale watching season is from May-October, there are definitely some benefits to enjoying a winter whale watching expedition. Not only are you likely to have the tour all to yourself, but prices are also cheaper than the going summer rate. The sighting rate is still pretty good, and if the sun suddenly comes out, inspiring you for a day on the water, you might be in luck with making a last-minute booking. Finally, you’ll be able to say you were out exploring the Salish Sea in the dead of winter! There’s something to be said about the peace and quiet of a tourist town in the off-season, and the beauty of Victoria from the water on a crisp winter’s day is unrivaled.

If winter whale watching doesn’t quite sound like your thing, the summer season is just a few months away! Hang in there, the flowers will be out in bloom soon enough.

Dogs in Victoria

Your dog is a huge part of your family, so why should they miss out on your family vacation? Anywhere in British Columbia is an ideal place to bring your dog on vacation, but Vancouver Island is definitely one of the top doggy destinations. There’s just so much to do! When visiting the Island, Victoria, B.C. is a natural first stop. So, how dog-friendly is the capital of British Columbia? Read on to find out where to stay, the top things to do with your dog and plenty of other tips to bringing your dog along on your vacation to Vancouver Island’s, Victoria B.C.

 

Accommodation

First things first – you’ll need a place to stay. There are plenty of dog-friendly accommodations in Victoria, so you should be able to find something that suits your style. From luxury hotels and resorts, to cozy cottages and simple vacation rentals, Victoria has it all for your dog.

Here are a few options to get you started:

Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel

Harbour Towers

Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa

Fairmont Empress

Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa

 

When booking your accommodation, be sure their pet policy fits your requirements! Many have an extra fee and some only allow smaller dogs!

 

Top Things to do in Victoria with your Dog

 

Visit a Restaurant with a Patio

During the summer, plenty of Victoria’s restaurants feature outdoor patios and a number of them are happy to have well-behaved dogs join you as your dinner date.

 

Enjoy a Water Taxi Ride

While up to the discretion of the driver that day, dogs are typically welcome on Victoria’s Water Taxis as long as they are pleasant and on a leash! Enjoy a beautiful water adventure with your pooch and take in the sights of Victoria. Why miss out on sight-seeing just because you’ve got your dog along for the ride?

 

Photo by: Tyler Ingram

Photo by: Tyler Ingram

Off-Leash Areas, Parks and Beaches

Dallas Road has a special spot just for dogs to run free next to the ocean, Elk/Beaver Lake is entirely leash-optional except in picnic areas during the summer, and French Beach is a dog heaven with plenty of driftwood sticks and beach to run. Victoria has tons of outdoor options and about 12 off-leash areas to let your pooch romp. What better way to take in the beauty of Victoria’s parks, beaches and trails? While some require leashes in particular areas, there’s typically a place to let them run free, too. After all, aren’t vacations in cities meant to be social?

 

Go Shopping

Downtown Victoria is a haven of sweet boutiques and other fantastic stores. While many aren’t pet-friendly, there are definitely shops that allow both you and your furry friend in to peruse. Chapters, Marks Work Warehouse, Canadian Tire and Capital Iron all encourage some accompaniment as you check out their goods. Better yet is when there’s a pet section, as you and your dog can leave happy with some goodies to show for your efforts.

There are also plenty of pet stores and “pet boutiques” that Victoria has to offer. If you’re in need of specialty foods, forgot your pup’s favourite treats, or just want to get them into the vacation “treat yourself” spirit, you’ll definitely find a place to do so.

 

Explore Victoria by Horse Drawn Carriage

One of Victoria’s most unique tours allows well-behaved and leashed dogs to enjoy. Explore the city by horse-drawn carriage – a magical way to see and learn about historic Victoria. What better way to spend time with your best friend than listening to the patter of horses’ hooves and exploring a brand-new place?

 

Visit the Famous Butchart Gardens

With the exception of the evening firework displays in the summer, your furry friend is allowed to join in on your exploration of the world famous Butchart Gardens. They’re not only one of Victoria’s top things to do, but the Butchart Gardens are like a giant park of beautiful, flower-lined pathways to walk your dog along.  While expected to be well-behaved and on leash (flower arrangements are delicate), they can take time to smell the roses by your side

 

Photo by: J Holland

Photo by: J Holland

Go Hiking

There are plenty of great hikes within Victoria, or just nearby. To tucker your dog out for the day, take to the trails and enjoy some fresh air! From Goldstream Provincial Park, to any of the city lookouts like Mount Douglas, or Mount Tolmie, there are some great areas to get your heart going and give your dog some exploration time.

 

Tips

  • Bring Poop Bags

Plenty of parks provide these, but it’s always handy to have a few with you at all times. The sidewalk outside a store you’ve popped into is not an ideal place for your pup to leave its business.

  • Vets in the Area

Be aware of what vet clinics in the area and perhaps have one in mind should anything happen to your dog – with Victoria being such a pet-friendly city, there are tons of dog owners around and sometimes the dogs don’t get along. There are also plenty of accidents that could happen (like anywhere), so knowing where to take them if something does makes you that much more prepared.

  • Follow Pet Policies

Whether it’s your accommodation provider, or for a tour you’re interested in, it’s important to comply to their pet policies! That way, people can continue to enjoy their vacations accompanied by their best friends, and everyone will be safe and happy.

  • Traveling with B.C. Ferries

B.C. Ferries allows pets on most of their sailing routes, but be aware you may need to stay on deck in the pet area on the car deck, which can get chilly, or in your vehicle. Dogs will be expected to be on leash, too.

  • Research Other Options

Do you really want to go whale watching, but your dog isn’t allowed on the boat, or to be left alone at your accommodation? Victoria is a large city, with plenty of pet owners, meaning there are also plenty of pet services. Book your dog in for a haircut, find a dog walker, or get a pet sitter for the afternoon. That way, your dog isn’t spending your vacation alone, and you can enjoy some of the things you two can’t do together. Just do your research beforehand and pick a service you feel comfortable with.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

5 Man-Powered Water Activities to do in Victoria

Oceanside and riddled with various freshwater features as well, Victoria is a go-to destination to experience numerous activities on the water. From exhilarating adventures to a casual float and paddle, below are 5 of the multitude of water-based activities to be found in Victoria, BC.

1. Diving

Vancouver Island has been rated one of the top cold-water diving destinations in the world. Rich kelp-forests with playful otters, scores of salmon and numerous nudibranchs are just the beginning of the stunning and intriguing wildlife that live beneath the waves. As you stroll the Ogden Point Breakwater, more often than not bubbles ascend to the surface from a diver’s tank. There are plenty of dive schools in Victoria and Sidney, as well as charters that will take you out to all the hotspots. Plenty of man-made reefs are available to discover, and you can even explore plane crashes and nearby wrecks.

2. Kayaking

This adventure is pretty much a given for a coastal city. Taking a peek at Victoria from the water offers an incredibly unique vantage point. Aside from seeing the intriguing heritage buildings from afar, there are also the Gulf Islands nearby that offer plenty of paddling exploration. Kayaking can be as relaxing or energetic as you desire, and plenty of sea life lives around the harbour and islands. You’ll no doubt meet a lot of “locals” along the way in the form of seals, sea lions, marine birds, and if you’re lucky, whales at a distance.

3. SUP Boarding

The balanced art of SUP Boarding is another awesome water-based activity to give a go while visiting the city. A paddle through the Harbour is a fun way to check out the boats up close and the buildings from a distance, as well as putting your balance to the test. Once you have the hang of it, scooting around the area is a breeze. You can even do a mini booze-cruise via paddleboard, making pit stops at a couple water-accessed pubs. Alternatively, if freshwater and no audience is a bit more your style, SUP Boards are a great thing to take to the lakes to explore the shoreline.

4. Thetis Lake

Located just outside of the city in Langford, Thetis Lake is a perfect city escape. Besides the two main lakes, Upper and Lower Thetis Lake, the 834-hectare park boasts multi-purpose trails for hiking, horseback riding and biking. The lakes themselves each have a boat launch, sandy beaches to lounge on, picnic areas and change rooms. Hot summer days sometimes mean a crowded beach, but the lake itself is usually relatively empty and open for a serene float. There are also a few cliff-jumping spots that are a local favourite, although it’s important to be aware that there is no lifeguard on duty. Be sure to check out the area before jumping and try to go where you’ve seen others jump before you.

5. Sooke Potholes

Naturally carved into the bedrock of the Sooke River are the Sooke Potholes, another local favourite and bustling summer destination. Unique due to their splendid curve and stunning aqua-green colour, the drive out of the city to spend the day here is a worthy cause. Explore the sets of cascading waterfalls in the park and find a swimming hole to call your own for the afternoon. With about 5km of swimming areas that consume plenty of the pools, you should have no trouble staking claim to a slice of rock. Again, cliff-jumping is a common activity, but be wary with your selection of jump location.

Summers on the coast are calling with these water-based activities, so dive in! Getting to know the variety of activities the city has to offer, all while keeping cool is just one of the unreal advantages of spending some time in Victoria.

GOLDSTREAM: THE EPITOME OF “PNW”

Christmas seems to sneak up a little bit earlier every year. November 1st? Get those Christmas lights out, it’s just under 2 MONTHS away! Now, with Christmas just a few days out, those of us who still find ourselves muttering, “Bah humbug”.