Not exactly undisturbed, but not yet entirely discovered, Vancouver is an island treasure of outdoor adventure, and Victoria is its gateway. The city has been listed as one of the most livable in the world. It is one of the oldest in the Pacific Northwest, established in 1843. At the southern tip of Vancouver Island, it enjoys one of the mildest climates in Canada and is home to long, dry summers not found on another island at the fiftieth parallel.
Most importantly, just outside of city limits are the familiar Pacific Northwestern forests of Douglas fir and madrone, which are ranged by the Vancouver Island wolf, a species found nowhere else on the planet. The island's beaches host some of the best surf on the West Coast, and its mountainous interior holds vast stretches of old growth forest to explore and enjoy. Here are some of the best!
- Hatley Castle + Park: Built in 1906 for Lieutenant Governor James Dunsmuir, an influential politician who built the site in the style of Scottish barons. Magnificent architecture showcases magnificent vistas of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
- Butchart Gardens: The 55-acre botanical garden features more than 900 varieties of plant species from around the world. Over a century old, the park changes in small ways every season to alter its appearance.
- Beacon Hill Park: Offering walking paths, carvings created by First Nations peoples, and the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, among more regular beach attractions.
- Island View Beach: Lesser known, Island View offers calm waters and an east-facing view of Mount Baker and the Haro Strait. Come for birdwatching. The beach features a 47-site campground.
- Sooke Potholes: Swimming holes, waterfalls, and forest hikes among the arboreal giants are offered here, made all the better by the unique rock formations of the riverbed carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age. Watch for otters!
- Coast Trail, Aylard Farm to Beechey Head: part of East Sooke Regional Park, the Coast Trail is a 6-mile stretch that parallels the coast, and one of Victoria’s best day hike options. Views of the Olympic Peninsula abound, as does the avian wildlife and First Nation petroglyphs.
- Whiffen Spit: At Sooke Harbor, the spit offers a short, easy walk to a lighthouse. Well developed, it offers an ideal beach for walks and sunsets. It is also prime birdwatching habitat.
- Niagara Falls + Goldstream Trestle: A great half-day hike to a charming waterfall and trestle bridge above Niagara Creek Canyon. Views of Mount Finlayson.
- Mount Finlayson: Victoria’s counterpoint to Vancouver’s Grouse Grind is a killer ascent for the fitness minded—about 1,200 feet over 1.25 miles. Views, of course, are the reward, as is the sense of accomplishment.
- Witty’s Lagoon: Come for the beach, but stick around for the myriad other attractions: the bird life, apple trees that mature late in the summer, and waterfalls.