If you like parks, nature and beaches, most of these can be enjoyed for free in Victoria. Here are some of the great ones.
Thetis Lake Regional Park near Langford is 833 hectares of Garry oak and Douglas fir forest surrounding Thetis Lake. This is a great place to hike, swim, fish or canoe.
Beacon Hill Park right in the heart of the city of Victoria is a gem of gardens, walking and jogging trails, playing fields and a petting zoo. A large rocky knoll overlooks the ocean, its grassy slopes alive with camas and wildflowers in the spring. Garry oaks and evergreen trees are abundant throughout the park. One grove of trees supports a large Great Blue Heron nesting colony. The numerous peacocks that frequent the petting zoo are in constant competition for the females (although I’m pretty sure that this bunch enjoys performing for humans as well as they are particularly active at opening time).
Originally part of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Beacon Hill Park was established by James Douglas while head of the HBC west of the Rockies. However, the HBC continued to sell off land belonging to the park and nearby residents regularly chopped down park trees for firewood.
In 1881, a park trust was established and the park was given to the City of Victoria, but this didn’t stop the developers from coveting the land. Restrictions of the trust were challenged in court twice with Supreme Court Judge Begbie ruling in favour of the park in 1884 and B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wilson, in 1898.
Developers have continued to plague the park over the years with a proposed replica of the Parthenon in 1909, a museum in 1964, a space age treehouse in 1966 and countless proposals for restaurants and teahouses. Defenders of the park have prevailed so far; let’s hope they continue to do so.
Galloping Goose & Lochside Trails are both built on old rail lines. The Lochside Trail starts in Sidney near the ferry in Swartz Bay and goes to Saanich where it connects with the Galloping Goose Trail. The Galloping Goose Trail is 55 kilometres long and goes all the way from Victoria to Sooke. Both trails are multi-use so cycling, walking, running and horseback riding are all permitted.
Kayaking is easily done in Victoria’s protected harbour and along the Gorge. You just need to look out for the float planes landing and taking off. It’s fun to check out the houseboats and go from one side of the harbour to the other. For those who don’t mind a few waves, there is a lot of coastline. However, when going out of sheltered areas, you should carry all the necessary safety equipment, and be aware of tides, currents and rocks. It’s wise to go with other people when heading out on the open water.