Although you can spend days on end exploring Victoria itself, there are plenty of nearby destinations worth checking out. So, if you’re spending more than a few days on the Island, consider using Victoria as a home base to head out on any one of these 5 great day trips you can make from the city!
Cowichan Valley, consisting of several towns, has plenty of surprises waiting to be discovered. Not only is Duncan home to one of the best Farmer’s Markets in the province, the area is also known for its plethora of wineries and amazing slow-food scene. This comes as no surprise considering the word Cowichan means “warm lands.” Depending on how far into the Valley you want to venture, you’ll only need to spend about 45 minutes on the road from Victoria. Visit the iconic murals in the quaint town of Chemainus and catch a show at the theatre, or head to Cowichan Lake to try out wakeboarding. There’s enough in the area to keep you busy for an entire day.
Salt Spring Island
The largest and most visited of the Southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring is only a 45-minute ferry ride away from Swartz Bay. Take the drive from Victoria to Sidney where you can enjoy a stroll on the Bevan Pier before crossing over to the artsy island. A handful of plentiful Farmer’s Markets and amazing artisan goods give those who love to shop plenty to talk about. Nature lovers need not worry though, between paddling, cycling and hiking, there are more than enough activities to keep you coming back a few days in a row. You may just want to forego your Victoria hotel for a tent or cabin and stay the weekend. For a packed day, drive to Cowichan Valley first, and take the ferry to Salt Spring from there, or vise versa.
At the end of the incredibly scenic Highway 14 sits the quaint town of Port Renfrew. It’s about a two-hour drive away from Victoria. Lacking cellphone service, but with plenty of classic West Coast features to indulge in, Port Renfrew draws a huge outdoorsy crowd looking to cast of the ties of constant connection. Along the way are stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Olympic Mountain range, and nearby are the incredible Avatar Grove and Botanical Beach. So, although the drive only takes two hours if you do it in one shot, there are enough sites along the way that you could take all day. Aside from Sooke, where the main driving journey begins, you’ll see Jordan River, pass by Mystic Beach, China Beach, Sandcut Beach, Sombrio and a even few Provincial Parks to boot.
The Kinsol Trestle Bridge
An hour’s drive outside of Victoria you can witness a major historical site. The Kinsol Trestle Bridge is located along the Cowichan Valley Trail route. Although eight other trestle bridges exist along the same trail, the Kinsol Trestle takes the cake for largest and most scenic. At 44m tall and 187m in length, it is one of the tallest freestanding timber rail trestle structures in the world. It stretches above the Koksilah River and is only a 1.2km hike from the parking lot. Even better, the trail is wheelchair accessible and is mostly flat. Originally, the trestle bridge was built as part of a line for the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway, which was later taken over by the Canadian National Railways. The Kinsol Trestle was completed in 1920 as part of the Galloping Goose rail line and ran for 59 years. After the last train crossed in 1979, the trestle was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Taken under the wing of the CRDV, rehabilitation of the bridge lasted from 1999 to 2010. When the bridge opened again in 2011, it was fully refurbished as a recreational trail. Today, it is a major highlight for tourists in the area. You can always pay the Kinsole Trestle Bridge a visit before hitting up the wineries of the Cowichan Valley.
Sidney/Sidney Spit Provinical Park
Sidney-by-the-Sea is a quaint feature on the Saanich Peninsula, about twenty minutes away from downtown Victoria. Although the town’s small size is deceptive, there is enough to do in Sidney to take up an entire day or more. If spirits are your thing, pay a visit to the distillery. Next door is an intriguing aquarium fit with touching pools and interactive exhibits, and plenty of whale watching charters depart from the harbour each day. Those in search of a bit more adventure can rent kayaks and head on over Sidney Spit Provincial Park, where numerous hiking trails await. If you’re worried about paddling there, a small passenger ferry also makes the short crossing. Once on the spit, bird watchers should take a wander to the lagoon – it’s a hotspot to spy some west coast shore birds. If you’re out on a summer Thursday, be sure to come back to town in time to visit the night market – it’s one of the best on the Island.
Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk