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

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.