While Victoria is mostly thought of as a coastal and harbour city, it’s also home to a number of fantastic bodies of freshwater for those who prefer a little less salt. Some lakes are just a short drive away, while others are worth the trek. Many of Victoria’s lakes are tucked into beautiful parks and offer tons of hiking, with a refreshing dip as a perfect reward for afterwards. In fact, there are too many lakes to list them all, but check out some of Victoria’s most refreshing and best bodies of freshwater.
Durrance Lake is tucked into the Mount Work Regional Park and is a favourite summer swimming hole that offers a 3km walking trail loop, as well as washroom facilities. Plenty of sandy spots dot the lake, making for enjoyable sunbathing perches, and the water is crystal and cool – perfect for a dip. The waters are also motor-free, meaning you’ll get a dose of peace and quiet during your lake getaway. The parking lot does offer easy access for car-top boats, however, so packing the kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards is an option. There’s even a small fishing pier, and turtles are often seen hanging out on the lake’s logs.
Tucked into the Saanich district of Victoria, Prospect Lake is a go-to for fishing, swimming and escaping the summer heat. With four different lake access points, two with carry-in boat launches and one with a proper launch, Prospect Lake is easy to get to, even with boats. There are a couple of bathrooms at the Whitehead Park and Echo Boat Launch locations, and the lake is stocked with up to 5,000 rainbow trout every year. Trails to jumping-in spots at the lake, a playground, dock and grassy areas make Prospect Lake a perfect place to spend the entire day.
Matheson Lake, which exists within its own 157-hectare regional park, is a delight during the summer, or any time of year, thanks to its large network of hiking trails. The Galloping Goose Regional Trail passes by, and the forested hills nearby possess nearly 7km of trails to explore. The lake itself is pristine and refreshing, with a healthy stock of catchable rainbow trout and a fantastic beach for sunbathing. If the beach is too crowded for your liking, you can swim out to the small Island, Ian Gillespie Island, in the middle of the lake to soak up some sun there instead.
Within the district of Langford lies Thetis Lake Regional Park. Thetis Lake is easily one of the most popular lakes for Victoria locals to spend the day, and for good reason. The park within which the lake lies is over 800-hectares in size, and is also a top hiking destination thanks to its spider-web of scenic trails that link the upper and lower lakes. The beach area of Thetis Lake is the top family destination for an afternoon of picnicking and fun in the sun. It has a launch-point for canoes and kayaks, and is the perfect spot to hop in the water. The lake is also stocked with catchable rainbow trout. Dogs are welcome too, and they have their own dog beach on one side of the lake. The best part about Thetis Lake is thanks to its numerous trails and large size: if the beach is full, you’ll be able to hike to different areas of the lake and find your own place to hangout for the day.
Located in Sooke, Kemp Lake is a serene paradise. Freshwater lilies add a dash of fairytale-like romance to the already scenic area. If you’re searching for a private getaway free from crowds and noise, Kemp Lake is the place to be. While there’s no parking lots, there is a small boat launch for kayaks and canoes only – no motorized boats are allowed on the lake. It’s an ideal spot to get some peace and quiet, head out for a paddle and soak up the sun. The lake even has some rainbow trout for those avid fishermen. The clear waters are idea for a swim and a trip out to Kemp Lake takes you far from the summer bustle and rush of Victoria’s other lakes.
Sharing a regional park with its neighbor, Beaver Lake, the two actually meet in the middle to make one large, refreshing body of water just outside of Victoria. Elk Lake is the summer go-to as the larger of the two lakes, and has three main parking areas, multiple beaches, picnic and washroom facilities, as well as a few boat launches. The lake is stocked for fishing and includes a fishing pier, as well as a concession stand. Areas around the lake also rent out sports gear. Home to the Victoria City Rowing Club and the Canadian Olympic Rowing Team, you can imagine that Elk Lake is a perfect place for a paddle. You can also get in some fantastic hikes, as there is a 10km loop that goes around both lakes, as well as numerous other trails that are even bicycle-friendly and horse-friendly.
The smaller of the two lakes in the Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park, Beaver Lake is just as beautiful and welcoming for a summer’s swim. Its shallow sandy beach is perfect for a picnic, for launching a canoe, or just for lying out in the sun after a swim. While Beaver Lake only has one parking lot, it stems off to many of the trails that lace their way through the regional park. The area includes a playground, washrooms, and an equestrian center and is a favourite for enjoying an afternoon’s picnic. The Nature Centre and off-leash dog area are also enticing for visitors to come enjoy Beaver Lake at the southern end of the park.
While technically its own village, Shawnigan Lake is just a short drive outside of Victoria and is a local’s summer getaway. Old Mill Park on the eastern side of the lake features a perfect swimming beach, and there are numerous smaller beaches scattered around the lake’s area, including an island in the south end. It’s a refreshing body of water offering volleyball courts, washroom facilities and boat launches at different areas, as well as a number of parks including the West Shawnigan Lake Provincial Park and the Shawnigan Wharf Park. The lake is large and offers plenty of different features depending on what you’re after for your city escape, so be sure to pick your destination wisely.