Blog about hiking, fishing, whale watching, wine tasting, exploring downtown Victoria and so much more.

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.

A Day at the Aquarium

I couldn’t help but hold my breath as the doors hissed shut and the sounds of what I assumed were a submarine took over the small chamber. Above, the image of trees and sky began to blur and shimmer as we submerged below the surface. I was alone with my friend, but I could easily picture young kids being either completely enthralled, or completely horrified by this part of their visit. Personally, as a full-grown adult, I was unreasonably excited. After a brief introduction to the Salish Sea and another exaggerated hiss accompanied by some bubbles, the double doors opened on the other side and we walked into the aquarium.

Almost immediately, an employee in an aquarium-branded vest approached to give us a run down and then we were off! Like the rest of the kids in the aquarium, I wanted to see everything.  I, however, slowed down enough to read about the different kinds of animals and fully understand the displays, rather than just place my hands and face against the glass. There were plaques to flip, things to read and tons of other incredible information – all inspiring to get your act together and take better care of the world around us. Over 160 species reside in the 28 habitats, meaning you can try to spot upwards of 3,500 creatures during your visit. I did my best as I stuck my head under a clear bubble-ish depression in a tank that let me be “inside” the habitat as much as possible. Various curves and tubes gave you close up views of the beautiful fish that shimmered and swam by happily. The jellyfish aquarium is a natural favourite, as its bright blue background makes the acrobatic jellyfish vibrant and mesmerizing. Nudibranchs, sea stars, different sea-weeds, anenomes and nameless other animals were enticing to sit and watch.  Pressed for time (we arrived closer to closing than expected), I couldn’t spend too long at any section. That is, of course, until the Queen of the aquarium demanded my attention.

Syliva, the Giant Pacific Octopus, was busy releasing her suction cups one-by-one as we passed under her tank’s archway. She was absolutely stunning, and rumour had it was hardly ever out to play. We stood and watched as she made her way throughout her tank, enamored with her bright pink colour and intelligent, albeit alien, eyes. Nimbly, she ascended one side of her watery home, crossed the arch and descended again, leaving patterns on the glass with her white suction cups. Her bulbous head made ripples on delay as she made her movements through the water. It was so intriguing to see an octopus up close that I hardly noticed as a little hand latched on to mine and tugged. Shocked, I looked down to find a cute, bespectacled child trying to lead me to the other side of the aquarium. His grandma smiled at me, so off we went to play with the sea stars, sea cucumbers and other touchable creatures. The pools were his favourite, he informed me, as we let sand dollars rest on our hands. After the little boy had been fetched by his grandma, an incredibly informative kid wearing the employee branded vest walked my friend and I through the touching pools, handing us sea cucumbers to pet, and various sea stars. With a few words of encouragement, I slowly reached out a finger and stuck it straight into an anemone. You know, the shocking kind from Finding Nemo. To my delight, the “shock” came in the form of an incredible stickiness, rather than pain. Peeling my finger back carefully, the anemone retreated and I inspected my finger in amazement. It was still very much intact. The winning maneuver was having us stick our hands within the sharp bristles of an urchin, watching as it slowly squeezed and entrapped the finger in a “hug.” We were having so much fun in the touching tanks that when the closing announcement reached our ears, we had still missed an entire section of the aquarium!

Hustling out through a small door beside the submarine chamber, we paused for a quick moment to check out the shop. Cute stuffed animals featuring the critters we’d seen in the tanks, as well as plenty of other goods, all made in the Salish Sea Bioregion, filled the shelves. The Coast Salish indigenous art and jewellery were eye-catching, but I restrained myself and we stepped back outside into the real world. Rain threatened, which had been our driving cause to explore the aquarium – as far as rainy-day activities go, an aquarium should be in the top ten. We explored the rest of Sidney’s cute streets and shops before finally heading back to the car where we’d taken advantage of the free parking next to the pier. A stunning sunset, made decorative thanks to the clouds, was the finishing touch to our “underwater” adventure. As the colours kissed the surface, I felt more in touch with the ocean than normal. There’s nothing like diving into the wonders of the waters to make you realize how special it is to be by the sea.

The aquarium is located in Sidney, just twenty minutes outside of Victoria and is a great destination on its own. Check out the page on Sidney to make a day out of it!

To find the top things to do in Victoria, check out our page here.

For hours, information about parking, cost and more information about the aquarium itself, check out their website.

Photos and Article Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Unique Tours in Victoria BC

Victoria is a dynamic city with endless surprises around every corner. Thanks to its eclectic mix of things to do, there are plenty of unique tours to take while in the city. Not sure what to do during your visit? Check out the list of some of Victoria’s most special tours below to help you decide!

 

Photo by: Kevin Jacobson

Photo by: Kevin Jacobson

Ghost Tours

It might sound like a Halloween special, but ghost tours take place in Victoria all throughout the year. The city has plenty of history and more than a few haunted places, as well as a rumoured underground. If you’re curious about the city’s darkest secrets and want to see the spots they took place, a ghost tour might just be for you. You’ll explore the other side of some of Victoria’s most famous buildings like the Fairmont Empress and Parliament Buildings. Walking into certain downtown shops will never feel the same, and the alleyways of Chinatown might even feel a little closer, and darker, than before.

Check out our blog post about some of the most haunted places in Victoria.

 

Photo by: Jeffrey Neihart

Photo by: Jeffrey Neihart

Horse Drawn Carriage Tours

Speaking of history, nothing brings you back in time like a horse drawn carriage ride! Tours in classic carriages take you through the most charming and historic neighbourhoods of Victoria and around the downtown area. Tour guides in charge of the horses are dressed in classic attire and give great explanations of Victoria and the various areas you pass through. Sitting back to the sound of horses’ hooves as you explore Victoria is a unique and fantastic way to see the city. These tours are so popular, that they’re considered one of the top things to do in Victoria, B.C.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Food Tours

A food tour is a unique way to experience any city, but especially one like Victoria. As the Brunch Capital of Canada, and with the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America, food is an important aspect of the city. Not to mention, the areas surrounding Victoria are rich in terms of produce. Plenty of places are geared towards a farm-to-table experience, serving local products when they’re available. You’ll likely even get to explore a Farmer’s or Public Market to truly see the food end of Victoria like a local.

Learn more about artisan goods and local foods in our blog post!

 

Photo by: Rob Hyslop

Photo by: Rob Hyslop

Wine Tours

The nearby Cowichan Valley is a paradise of vineyards. While a wine tour might be old hat, doing one on Vancouver Island is a sweet and unexpected surprise. Wine tours will take guests from their hotels in Victoria out to the Cowichan Valley, where over 15 tasting rooms exist. You’ll be able to explore the vineyards, dig into tasty, locally sourced food and sample wines made from grapes grown right there. Some even stop at a local cidery for an added treat. There’s definitely nothing to whine about when visiting local wineries.

Check out Discover Vancouver Island’s list of vineyards to plan your line of attack in other towns, too!

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Distillery Tours

Even more unique than a wine tour is a distillery tour! With small batch gin, vodka and whiskey becoming a growing trend, Victoria rose to the head of the pack. Now, you can take tours of its distillery and sample their tasty products. They even have a deep indigo gin that changes to a lovely light pink when mixed with tonic.

 

Foraging Tours

The land of plenty strikes again with a unique tour that takes you out into the woods to find your food for yourself! Afterwards, you’ll get a cooking class to transform your finds into a delicious lunch. Mushrooms, and plenty of other naturally delicious plants and berries wait in the wilderness just outside of Victoria.

 

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Hiking Tours

Victoria was blessed with a number of fantastic hiking trails and parks. Worried you’ll get lost along the way? Book a hiking tour! They allow you to explore some of the best trails Victoria has to offer with an experienced guide to make sure you know the way. Not only is it a great way to tackle trails you might not have attempted alone, but you’ll be getting in some exercise, your guide will be able to give you tidbits about the city along the way, and will be able to point you in the direction of other local hikes to take on. For some, a pitstop at a cidery post-hike is a must – you’ll have earned it.

Find out more of Victoria’s hikes and parks on our hiking pages.

 

While there are numerous other tours to enjoy in Victoria, such as whale watching and kayaking tours, these are some of the most unique to the area. Not only will you have a truly Victorian experience, but tacking on any of these adventures to your itinerary is a great way to enjoy the city even more.

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

Ten Reasons to Visit B.C. Wineries and Distilleries this Fall

Fall brings out feelings of cozy coats and scarves, crisp air, pumpkins and mugs of tea, or maybe even a dash of something stronger. Once the summer crowd has come and gone, it’s the perfect time to explore Victoria and the surrounding area’s wineries and distilleries. Visiting vineyards, indulging in wine tastings, sampling spiced distilled creations and basking in beautiful winery buildings while dressed in my fall best sounds more like the change of season than anything else. As if wine itself wasn’t enough, here are ten reasons to visit a winery, distillery, or both this fall.

 

Photo by: Keith Ewing

Photo by: Keith Ewing

  1. Less People

Like many businesses in touristic places such as Victoria, wineries thrive off of the summer crowd. Tasting rooms are filled with tour groups and sometimes, it can feel like all you get is the same pour and spiel as everyone else. Once those crowds disperse and the tours thin, wine tasting becomes a top activity for locals. Having the tasting room to yourself and being able to ask questions and take your time is a nice change from bumping elbows.

 

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

  1. Harvest Season

Depending on the season’s weather, you may be able to witness the wineries at their harvest time. Aside from grapes, plenty of the wineries in Victoria and the Cowichan Valley are located on farms, so you can enjoy the fall scene of gourds and other cornucopia-type veggies being harvested from the rows of fields. There’s nothing like a pile of pumpkins, or loaded apple trees in a brisk breeze on a beautiful fall day to get that autumn giddiness going.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

  1. New Wines

For some wineries, fall marks the time to release the wines! New labels, new varietals and new bottles take to the shelves. Even if the wines you’re tasting are a standard production at winery, it might be a wine new to you, which is just as exciting. The sampling of any new wine is a good wine in my books.

 

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

  1. Fall Foods

Plenty of wineries pride themselves on featuring a bistro or restaurant onsite. Considering the Island is such a haven of home-grown goods, most prepare scrumptious meals with the produce available from local farms. That means plenty of rich and comforting fall foods, which, by the way, are good for the soul.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

  1. Warmth

Warmth is really where distilleries come in, although a good bottle of wine can certainly keep you cozy as the weather turns brisk, too. However, nothing quite ignites that inner fire like a sampling of spirits. From gin and vodka to whiskey, Victoria’s distilleries have the kindling to spark that flame and keep it going straight through the winter.

 

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

  1. It’s not Pumpkin Spice

While I’ll admit to indulging joyfully in a pumpkin spice latte or two over the fall season, there are plenty of other fall flavors to get excited about. Take mulled wine for example. Realistically, I’d trade in my cups of Starbucks for a pot of the bubbly red stuff any day. The way to find the best recipes and the best wines for a heady, fall concoction is, of course, by going straight to the source. The only problem here is that the wines discovered in Victoria’s local wineries might just be too good to mix with other things.

 

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

  1. Get Holiday Ready

Already feeling the pressure of the holiday season to come? Want to show off to your family that yes, you really are doing alright as an adult? Visits to wineries and distilleries will have you set for the holiday season. Whether you’re getting ahead on your gift list, are planning the perfect holiday dinner, or want to create cocktails for cozy nights, beautiful bottles of wine or spirits are a perfect go-to. Plus, you technically get to sample all the gifts you buy first, how fun is that?

 

Photo by: Alex Cantoni

Photo by: Alex Cantoni

  1. Fall Vibes

Imagine walking up a gravel driveway as a brisk wind catches your scarf and ruffles your hair. Surrounding you are rolling hills riddled with lush vines made heavy with ripe grapes. Beyond are fields with twists of pumpkins being pulled and picked. Trees with coloured leaves send orange spirals to the grown. Inside the large front doors is a beautiful room with round casks and stunning wooden tables and bars. Sips of perfect wines await with fresh cheese on the side. Anticipation sits on your tongue. Could it be? The perfect fall scene? Yes, and that’s why visiting wineries during the off season is the best – they get you set with that beloved, cozy fall vibe.

 

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

  1. It’s Good for Rainy Days

West coast falls and winters are notoriously rainy, but guess what? Tasting rooms are indoors. That makes wine and spirit sampling a perfect, rainy day activity. While you may not have the chance to wander the property and check out the vines (if you forgot your umbrella), you’ll be able to cozy on in with samples of the nature’s nectar, and maybe even tuck into a hearty fall meal if the winery has an onsite restaurant.

 

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

  1. You Don’t Have to Drive

Wine tasting may sound great, but what about driving to different wineries after you’ve already sampled at a few? Booking a wine tour is definitely the solution. With less crowds, you are likely to be able to snag a last-minute booking, and some companies may even have lower rates for the off season. All you have to do is kick back in those fall boots and sip the day away at multiple top wineries in the area. Sounds like the perfect autumn day to me!

So, if you needed all ten reasons to convince you that winery and distillery exploration is a must for the fall, there you have it! Convinced? Excellent, because Vancouver Island has plenty of amazing wineries and distilleries to explore. It’ll take you all season to see them all!

 

For more on wine tasting and wineries, take a peek at our wineries page.

For the top things to do in Victoria, B.C., cruise our list of things you can’t miss here.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Whale Watching in Victoria

Imagine zipping along the ocean in a zodiac when suddenly, the boat slows down. A couple hundred meters ahead, you watch the massive outline of a whale’s tail break the surface before dipping down into the depths of the ocean. Above, eagles are screeching and soaring and you’ve just waved goodbye to your new sea lion friends as you headed out farther into the Pacific. Whale watching and wilderness excursions are a top activity out of Victoria B.C. – below are a few key points to keep in mind while you plan your day on the ocean!

Best Time to Go:

Technically, whales can be seen at any time out of Victoria. A steady population of Transient Orcas mean they’re around all year. That being said, May – November is considered “peak season” and is when companies have a higher success rate at spotting whales. Depending on the day and season, you can also spot Gray, Minke and Humpback Whales, along with Seals, Sea Lions and Porpoises.

What to Wear:

Zipping around on the ocean can get pretty nippy, even on a hot summer’s day. Be prepared and dress in layers. Flat, close-toed shoes are the way to go when you’re working on getting your sea legs as well. Be prepared with sunscreen and sunglasses, too.

What to Bring:

Be sure to bring along a camera or video camera (with straps!) and, depending on your tour departure, some snacks and drinks for along the way. Bring along some extra layers if you tend to get cold and don’t forget the sunscreen on a sunny day.

What to Expect:

Expectations may vary depending on the time of year and company you book with, but below are some of the most common features of any Whale Watching excursion out of Victoria:

  • 3-4 hour long tours
  • Skilled Guides and Captains at driving the boat safely and locating whales.
  • Do not expect to approach closer than 100m to the whales.
  • Within 400m, the boat will slow down to less than 7knots to reduce the impact of the boat on the marine mammals.
  • Guidelines are part of the Be Whale Wise Guidelines and are to help reduce impact of the vessel on marine mammals.
  • Expect to see not only whales, but also plenty of other marine life along the way!
  • Each type of boat will provide a different kind of experience.
  • Sea sickness is a rare occurrence – if you’re worried about it, take your favorite motion sickness medication beforehand
  • Expect to share the boat with others on the tour

Good Things to Know:

Finally, before you go, there are a number of questions you may want to ask the company so that you can be full prepared for your day!

  • What type of boat?
  • Are there washrooms on board?
  • Are there snacks/beverages available?
  • When do the trips leave?
  • How much earlier should you arrive at the area of departure?
  • Are floater suits available/do you need to wear one?
  • Is there a hydrophone on board to listen to the whales?
  • Is there a Whale sighting guarantee?

For many, spying these humble giants in their natural environment is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is always humbling and mind blowing to see their tails disappear below the waves or hear the spray and see the mist of the whales along the horizon. Follow these guidelines and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, there’s so much to see out there!

Laurissa Cebryk

Kayaking

With nearly 3500km of coastline and hundreds of lakes, steams and rivers, paddling is a prime activity in Victoria. Not only does it allow a close up on the multitude of marine life that calls the coast home, but kayaking also gives a unique outlook on Victoria. It’s a fantastic way to take advantage of an aspect that makes the place so special in the first place. In fact, Victoria and the West Coast of British Columbia have been rated as one of the best kayaking destinations in the world. Stunning by virtue of its unique and rugged coast, it’ll be tough to disagree after the first trip out there. The nearby Gulf and Discovery Islands create a near endless expanse of territory to explore and each expedition is a brand new adventure.

First time paddlers can rest assured that most kayaking companies do tours geared towards beginners. They go over technique and water safety before departure, and the paddling routes are do-able by almost anyone. Most tours start off at or near the Inner Harbour, granting an unparalleled viewpoint of the cityscape of Victoria from the water. Most tours pack in plenty of educational breaks and sightseeing stops, so there’s no need to worry about getting tired out there.Those who are perpetually in the water and have a handle on what they are doing can book longer tours and even overnighters, or simply find a place that will rent out gear.

Kayaks are quite stable boats, typically made of fiberglass or polyethylene. Light and with double ended paddles, they’re cut smoothly and easily through the water. As far as exercising goes, this is a pretty painless option. Pack a friend into a double for added entertainment and test out communication and coordination. Waterways in Victoria are quite sheltered, which is why it’s such a fantastic place to paddle. The Gulf and Discovery Islands, the Gorge Waterway and Inner Harbour are the highlights, but there are plenty of lakes, streams and rivers to explore if freshwater is preferred.

As far as gearing up goes, athletic clothing is the best bet. Strapped sandals or waterproof shoes, lots of sunscreen, lipbalm, a hat and sunglasses for those sunny days are also a good call. Chances of ending up completely soaked are small, but paddles tend to dribble.

Witty’s Lagoon

Some might say Witty’s Lagoon is a pretty well kept secret just outside of Victoria on Metchosin Road. With a bit of sunshine finally gracing the as-of-late grey horizon, I was more than excited to take up the opportunity to explore.

I was taken aback at just how beautiful the area really was! Sitting Lady Falls is easily accessed and takes no more than 15 minutes along the soft, forest trail to find. The viewpoint gives you an excellent vantage point from which you can watch it tumble gracefully into the lagoon below. Branching left takes you through a network of trails to explore, while branching right snakes you along to the beach where there are convenient bathrooms and picnic tables. As I looked at the map before entering the trails, I thought, “Man, this place must be dog heaven.” Neither I, nor the plethora of dogs met along the way were disappointed. Once on the beach, every last ounce of sand and grass was fair game for the happy dogs that bounded around the area as I ate my picnic lunch in the sun.

Since my afternoon had started later than expected while waiting for the sun to come out to play, my day’s exploration had to be cut a bit short. However, with the 5km of trails promised by the map that go through various terrain and lead you to stumble upon numerous, beautiful west coast sights, it’s pretty much a guarantee I’ll be back sometime soon. I have the feeling that the glorious beach and cascading waterfall are just the tip of the iceberg this little green emerald of a park has to offer.

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”.