Saturday, December 13, 2008

Butterfly Gardens

On the way to Butchart Gardens, you will pass right by the Butterfly Gardens. Far to many people miss this great attraction. For just a minute fraction of the cost of a trip to Costa Rica, you can enjoy a tropical jungle experience right in greater Victoria. Just 20 minutes from downtown and you can immerse yourself in lush tropical plants, get up close and personal with tropical birds, fish, flamingos, and of course a host of butterflies. There are displays around the gardens and the whole place is very accessible. Don't forget to check out the incredible orchid display. Check out the video and then follow-up with a visit. This is a great indoor attraction and a great back-up plan if the weather goes bad.

Monday, December 8, 2008


If you follow my city tour it will bring you to the University of Victoria. The grounds at the University of Victoria are beautiful and a highlight of a campus tour certainly would be the Finnerty Gardens. The are lush year round and they explode with color in the spring which can begin as early as February and last through April. In the summer the garden is a lush as it will get. There are lawns to relax on or benches where you can sit and contemplate life. It is a wonderful garden with names of plants and flowers on signs. If you love gardens, you will like this one. The video will give you a bit of an idea what the garden is like.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cathedral Grove - MacMillan Provincial Park

Located between Parksville and Port Alberni and just after Cameron Lake is one of the most accessible stands of giant, old growth Douglas Fir in BC. They are located right next to the highway in MacMillan Provincial Park. The stand is called "Cathedral Grove". The pathways are gentle and accessible. It is a peaceful place and a location where you can get in touch with the awesomeness of nature. Some of these trees are over 800 years old. Enjoy the video.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Secret Sea Lion Cave Trail

When you travel west past Sooke, between Mystic Beach and Sombrio Beach there is a trail that leaves the Juan de Fuca Marine trail and drops down to the water where there is a land based Sea Lion Cave. The trail to the sea lion cave begins on the Highway to Port Renfrew on a forestry road. There is a bright yellow gate that marks the start of the trail. 2km down the trail you step off into the bush and begin a descent down to the water. It is rugged and has a bit of danger requiring you to be careful. When you get to the water there is a cave that sea lions use during the winter months. They begin leaving the area each spring around April or May. Enjoy the video.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Elk Lake - Summer Fun on a hot day!

A popular spot for locals on a hot summer day is Hamsterly Beach at Elk Lake. This is one of the finer Regional Parks and a great place to cool off, take in some sun, and just relax. The beach is sandy and the water is clean. Bring a picnic or enjoy the concession operated in the park. There are also food services nearby. I suggest that you get there about 10:30 am or 11:00 am to stake out your turf. There is shade if you like it. There are also picnic tables available. Have fun at Elk Lake.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


One of the best things to do in Victoria is to take a walk out onto the Breakwater on Dallas Road at the Port of Victoria. This half-mile concrete protection for the Inner Harbour allows you to walk strait out into the ocean which is about 110 feet deep at the end. You will see divers along the outside of the breakwater as it is an excellent dive site with great sea life. It is a reserve and divers cannot take anything from this dive site. You may see seals, sea lions, whales, countless sea just don't know what a visit into the ocean will surprise you with. It is a very special place. At low tides there is a beach next to the breakwater. There is also a dive shop and restaurant at the entrance to the breakwater. Locals use the breakwater to fish from as well. There are kelp beds along the breakwater and they are home to lots of fish. Enjoy this special place for outdoor activity. Enjoy the video. In the summer, as many as 4 cruise ships can be birthed at the port of Victoria which is right next to the breakwater. It looks like a small city when they are there. The restaurant has some good treats, give it a try also. It is quite the place in a storm. It is good to stay off the Breakwater when the wind is blowing strong.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Whitty's Lagoon Regional Park

Whitty's Lagoon is about 25 minutes from downtown Victoria in the community of Metchosin. This area is a bird sanctuary and there are two ways to get to the beach. You can park in the parking lot just of Metchosin Road and hike the 20 minutes down the trail, past the waterfalls and great scenery or you can go a bit further to Whitty's Lagoon Road and park at the end of the road and walk down the steps to the beach. The steps are steep and there are lots of them. You need to get to the area early in the day as it is very popular and parking is at a premium. This is a wonderful place to swim and sun tan on a warm summer day.
Enjoy the video.

Friday, November 21, 2008

French Beach Provincial Park - a local favourite

If you travel west from Victoria just a short way past Sooke, you will come to one of the most popular beaches in this area. It is popular because it is huge and accessible. It only takes about 2 minutes to walk from the parking lot down a slight hill to the beach. There are a number of picnic tables and grassed areas for people to picnic or play. The beach is gravel at high tide and has wide expanses of sand at low tide. There are cliffs to the right as you enter the beach and a rocky area by the cliffs that has some tide pools to explore. There is a great campground next to the day use area if you want to stay for a while. It is a great place to visit. Check out the video.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Discovery Forest Centre Duncan BC

Travel north from Victoria 50 km to the community of Duncan. As you pass through Duncan, on the right you will notice the Discovery Forest Centre. This is a great place for families. There are some great displays that outline the history of foresty which was integral to this community for many years. There is also a fantastic steam train ride through the property. It passes a bird sanctuary and many displays as it winds its way through the property. There is a stop about half-way where you can get off the train and explore and then jump back on the train for the trip back to the station. Check this centre out, you will be glad you did.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quw' utsun' Cultural Centre Duncan BC

Travel north from Victoria about 1 hour and you will get to Duncan, the City of Totems. Just as you cross the silver bridge, turn left and travel to the Quw' utsun' Cultural Centre. This is a great day trip from Victoria and if you are looking for a great opportunity to soak in a little First Nation culture, this is as good a place as any. I was impressed with the buildings, the very friendly staff and especially the native dancers. This is something for the whole family. The cultural centre also has a great gift shop where you can find jewelry, crafts and the world famous Cowichan sweaters. Enjoy the video.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Kinsol Trestle

The Kinsol Trestle, also known as the Koksilah River Trestle, is a wooden rail trestle located on Vancouver Island, north of Victoria and just a bit north of Shawnigan Lake. Construction was finished in 1920. It is 38 metres (125 feet) high and 188m (614 ft) long, It the largest wooden trestle in the the British Commonwealth and among the highest railway trestles in the world.
It was built to connect Victoria to Nootka Sound, passing through Cowichan Lake and Port Alberni, in support of the lumber industry on Vancouver Island. It was named after the nearby Kinsol Station which, in turn, took its name from a nearby mining venture grandiosely named “King Solomon Mines”.
There is an effort to raise funds to rebuild the Trestle to make it safe and allow it to be an integral part of the Trans Canada Trail which currently is diverted around the Trestle. It is quite a site to see.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tide Pool Heaven - Botanical Beach

It takes approximately 2 hours to get to Port Renfrew from Victoria and then another 15 minutes to drive to Botanical Beach. When you get to the end of the road as you pass through town you will hit a stop sign. Turn right and you go to the government dock. Turn left and you go to Botanical Beach. There is pay parking at the park. Then you have about 20 minutes of a walk to the beach, but oh is it worth it. This is my second favourite spot on Vancouver Island. It is mystical and serene. The surf always seems to be on the move. At low tides (spring tides) a shelf of the ocean gets exposed and you can see tide pools everywhere. You just never know what you might find in those tide pools. One visit we found an octopus in about 4 inches of water. You have to check the tide charts if you are going. In the spring the low tides are at reasonable times of the day. Try to be on the beach an hour before and a hour after low tide. Always watch the waves to see what they are doing and how high they are striking the rocks. Be careful or you might get swept off the rocks. This is well worth a visit.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Sooke Potholes Regional Park

If you travel west from Victoria just before you reach Sooke you will see a sign that takes you 5km to the right to the Sooke Potholes Park. Just near the parking lot you will find a swimming hole that is very popular with locals with young children. To get to the actual potholes you will need to park and walk up the hill about 10 minutes and then hike down the hill to the potholes. The potholes are a series of cascading pools that are in the Sooke River. They have been a part of the regions fun for a very long time. Enjoy the video.

Up Close and Personal - Harbour Seals in Oak Bay

<If you are looking for something exciting to do travel to the Oak Bay Marina. For most of the year, there are a few harbour seals that call the fish table their home. When you head down the ramp to where the boats are docked, just below the ramp is a fish table. Anywhere from 3-5 seals generally hang out there looking for an easy meal. Since many buses stop there on their city tours, these seals have it pretty good. So good in fact that the only seem to eat herring. The Marina sell fish bait and for $2.00 you can buy a small pack of herring. The seals seem to love it. You are reminded that these are wild animals and not to hand feed them or you might get bit. The do, however act very tame. If you are ignoring any of them, the might let you know by slapping the water with one of their flippers. They are very cute and seem very gentlle. This is one of a few places in Victoria where you can see and experience wild life face to face. Bring your camera.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

China Beach Provincial Park

If you drive out past Sooke and Jordan River, just after you climb the steep hill past Jordan River you will shortly come to China Beach. Be sure to go to the day use area, NOT the campground. The campground is for use by hikers of the Juan de Fuca trail. This is a great beach with white sand and towering cliffs. It has a good and very interesting trail down to the water. The trail takes about 15 minutes from the parking lot. This is one of the most popular beaches along the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Enjoy the video.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mystic Beach and so it is!

<Drive out from Victoria past Sooke and Jordan River. Just after you climb up the hill from Jordan River you will get to China Beach. Do not go into the camp ground but rather the day use area. Here you will find a trail to China Beach and another to Mystic Beach. Mystic Beach is a 2 km hike but oh so worth the trip. It is the most beautiful and spectacular of all the beaches along this coast. It has a white sandy beach, a waterfall cascading off a high cliff, beautifully carved limestone cliffs of amazing colors, and much more. There is a campground at one end of the beach for use by those hiking the Juan de Fuca marine trail. Enjoy the video.

Race Rocks Light Station near Victoria BC

<About 10 km west of Victoria along the Juan de Fuca Strait lies a small group of Islands which are just out of the mouth of Pedder Bay. The oldest lighthouse on the West Coast of Canada is at Race Rocks. The name was given to this small group of islands and rocks that sit in an area that has incredible current cause by tidal movement and is augmented by the fact that the water is only 30-60 feet deep near the Rocks. All the water that comes up Juan de Fuca Strait is pushed towards the surface as it hits these shallows and often you can see 10 foot standing waves where the current is the strongest. The Rocks are home to a large colony of sea lions during most of the fall, winter and spring. There are seals there as well as otters and lots of sea birds. If you are lucky enough to venture below the surface you will see sites that rival Butchart Gardens. Underwater life here is abudent and spectacular. There are wolf eels, sea lions and tons of anemones, soft corals, and much more. It is amazing. To get there, you will need to rent a boat from Pedder Bay. Don't go there is you are inexperienced with the ocean and tides, or hire someone to take you there.

Duncan Day Trip - Pacific Northwest Raptors

Pacific Northwest Raptors is a bird centre just north of Duncan BC that specializes in training and working with captive-bred birds of prey, training bird handlers and in educating the public about raptors. The centre is dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey and the centre is home to birds of prey such as falcons, bald eagles, owls and hawks. Many of the captive bred birds fly free daily and come back to their home at the centre. The only birds that are not released are those that are unable to hunt or fly for themselves. These birds have a permanent home and care at the centre. The centre also provides rehabilitation of injured raptors.
A highlight at the centre is the flying educational demonstrations. The show is exciting and you get close up and personal with the raptors. This is a great day trip from Victoria.

Uplands in Oak Bay, A Drive By Shooting!

In every city, there is a part of the city where the homes are elaborate and expensive to buy. In greater Victoria, there are a few of these communities. The oldest and most celebrated in the Uplands in the community of Oak Bay in the eastern part of Victoria. The municipality of Oak Bay has some of the highest property values in the region and the Uplands has some of the most expensive. If you want to spend between 6 and 20 million for a home, here is the place to do it. Some of the waterfront properties along Marine Drive are absolutely incredible. I could not get into these properties to do justice to the video, but the ones shown will give you a good idea of how beautiful the Uplands is. Enjoy.

Sombrio Beach - Rugged West Coast Beach

If you travel west from Sooke, there are a number of beautiful and rugged beaches that are great places to visit. One of the largest and most beautiful of the beaches is Sombrio. It used to be home to a group of homesteaders until it became a part of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Park. There is a campsite at the West end of the beach that is used by people hiking the Marine Trail. The Sombrio river dumps into the ocean right near the campsite and there is a small suspension bridge over the river near here. At the other end of the beach there is a good sized cave that most people can stand up in. It is best exposed at low tide. The beach is gravel and sand, more sand when the tide is out. The trail from the parking lot to the beach takes about 10 minutes and it is one of the easiest accesses to this beautiful marine park shoreline.

Salt Spring Island Saturday Market

Visitors to Vancouver Island often ask which of the Gulf Islands they should visit. The largest and most active of the Islands is Saltspring. It has the largest population and it is the only Island that has a significant town centre, Ganges. During the spring and summer months they hold a Saturday Market in the square by the ocean. It is quite large and has displays and booths with products for sale from crafts to garden vegetables. There are places where you can buy something to eat or drink. There is entertainment for your enjoyment. There are lots of nearby restaurants and shops to visit as well. Just up the road is Artspring, a community hall filled with the works of artists and artisans. The market draws a large crowd of locals and visitors and it is lots of fun.

Victoria BC Inner Harbour Experience

The centre of all activity in Victoria is our beautiful and quaint Inner Harbour. It is a working harbour. Every month over 2000 float planes come and go from the Harbour. Daily sailings of the Coho Ferry to Port Angeles and the Clipper Ferries to Seattle also leave from the Inner Harbour. Tourists flood the area when the come in on these transportation modes. In the spring and summer months buskers entertain and artists and artisans sell their products under umbrellas along the causeay. There is a government dock covering much of the East side of the harbour so there are always lots of water craft tied up and some very fancy yachts. Celbrities from around the world visit our tiny port. The harbour ferries come and go as do the many whale watching charters, wildlife charter, fishing charters and tour operators.There is even more activity when you go above the causeway. There are historic plaques along government street above the causeway. Check them out. Right across the street is the BC Legislative building and kitty-corner is the Provincial Museum and Imax Theatre. Just to the north of the Inner Harbour is "Old Towne" and tons of shopping. Enjoy our inner Harbour.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Goldstream Park Salmon Spawn

If you are in Victoria in October or November one of the places you should visit is Goldstream Provincial Park. The Goldstream River is home to an annual salmon spawn. The river is teeming with fish and gulls are there to feast on the dead and dying fish. When the spawn is fully on the bald eagles come in droves also to feed on the fish. There is an eagle cam in the Nature House on the estuary and you can zoom in on the eagles as they feast. The park is beautiful in with fall colors and the salmon spawn phenomena is really something to see. The nature house has tons of information and displays, so be sure to take it in. Admission is by donation. The main parking lot has pay parking but you can also park on the side of the highway or across the road next to the bridge for free. The park is very buy during the salmon spawn, especially on weekends.

Butchart Gardens World Class Attraction

Just 20 minutes from downtown Victoria is a true world-class tourist attraction. Butchart Gardens is incredibly beautiful and very professionally operated. The facility is very capable on handling the large crowds that visit the gardens throughout the year. Even the parking lot is highly organized and efficiently operated. There is a gift shop, several places to eat, and during the summer months, every Saturday there is an exceptional fireworks show. In December everyyear, the gardens are lighted with thousands of Christmas lights. It is quite a spectacle. The gardens are made up of a series of different gardens from the beautiful grotto to the Japenese or Italian gardens. It just does not get any better than this. There is a large fountain on one of the lakes in the gardens that can be seen in the attached video. It is beautiful in the day and also at night, so you might want to go in the afternoon and stay into the evening until dark. Butchart Gardens in undoubtedly the best attraction and most popular attraction in Victoria British Columbia Canada.

3-Hour Sail - An Ocean Tour

There is a sailboat anchored in the Inner Harbour with a sign on it that says, 3-hour sail! No, this is not a trip to Gilliagan's Island but it is a lot of fun. You will get a "crow's nest" view of all the happenings in the Inner Harbour as you travel out to Juan de Fuca Strait and back into the Harbour. Then under sail, you will travel down the coast and see what takes place in Juan de Fuca Strait and you will see the spectacular Olympic Mountains in Washington State. On the way back in, we had great views of Mount Baker towering over Victoria. It was a lot of fun as you will see on the video. The quiet and peacefulness of a sail in the straits is just a wonderful experience. The boat, Thane, is made of recycled materials and it is a replica of a historic sailboat. The sails are a rusty red in color and you may see the boat in the strait if you check. This tour is highly recommended.

The Malahat Drive Scenic Tour

If you drive north of Victoria towards Duncan, you will have to travel over the Malahat Drive. It starts just on the outskirts of Langford, a city in and on the Western Shore of greater Victoria. The first place you come to is Goldstream Provincial Park. It is a right turn and well signed. It is a beautiful park. In the summer it is green and lush. The Goldstream River runs into Saanich Inlet a large fjord that lies between the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria and the Malahat. There is a large estuary at the end of Saanich Inlet. There is a nature house on the estuary that tells much about the Park and the great salmon runs that occur in October and November each year. As the salmon start to die after they spawn, the eagles and gulls move in for the feast. It is not uncommon to see 40 or more eagles in one visit. There is an eagle cam in the nature house that you can manipulate to view the eagles.

When you drive further up the Malahat there are a few viewpoints worth visiting. The best one is at "split rock" at the top of the Malahat. The highway was cut through the rocks and a large chunk of rock is between the highway and the lookover. It is beautiful as you will see from the attached video.

If you are going back into Victoria, you can pull off the highway to the right as you get back to Goldstream and take the short trail into Little Niagara Falls. It is especially spectacular in the winter when the water is really running, or the falls are frozen. You can also access the falls by walking through the tunnel under the highway from the Park, if the water flow is not too significant.

The fall colors in October are incredible. This park also has some significant old growth trees some of which are located in the parking lot.

Queen Victoria Tours Victoria Best

This video clip was done as an entry in a local film contest. It was our first attempt at a short movie. It shows the very best of sites and things to do in and around Victoria British Columbia Canada. It takes a look at the four world-class attractions: Butchart Gardens, Whale Watching, the Provincial Museum & Imax Theatre and the incredible environmental ambiance of Victoria and southern Vancouver Island. You will see whales close up, sea lions from underwater and much more. Check it out.