Galloping Goose Trail

October 30, 2015 by Martin Vernon

Galloping Goose? An interesting image arises in the mind! However it is a reality here on southern Vancouver Island. The Galloping Goose Trail is the major link in a series of connected trails that contribute much to recreation in the Victoria area. To discover the origins of the trail and its name we need to step back in time.

In 1864, gold was discovered in the Leech River north of Sooke. Within a year over 1,000 mines were dug but the excitement rapidly died as did Leechtown. However the rail link remains, connecting the ghost town to Victoria. Disappointingly, we can not try our hand at gold-panning where Leechtown once sat since it is closed off. But we can enjoy 55 kilometres (34 miles) of a lovely open trail route where trains once ran. Between 1922 and 1931 there was a gas-powered car named, you’ve guessed it, the Galloping Goose.

This photo of distant joggers on the Galloping Goose Trail was taken near Roche Cove in East Sooke, one of our favourite stretches. The Galloping Goose Trail near Roche Cove, East SookeScenes vary along the trail but you’re rarely far from the occasional walking party such as our little group, cyclists and occasionally horseback riders. The western half is the most beautiful but its route through Victoria and westerly suburbs makes it easy for many to take some exercise and fresh air.

The route begins right downtown in Victoria, at the Johnson Street Bridge. For the first quarter of its length the trail is paved but then softer surfaces continue. The route passes by Thetis Lake (accessed at Six Mile Road) and soon the urban setting opens out to the woodlands and small farms of Metchosin. It becomes more forested towards Sooke, passing by Matheson Lake and Roche Cove at Gillespie Road (good access points) before passing close to Sooke Potholes with water views across the Sooke Basin. Towards the end, admire the engineering of the Charters Creek and Todd Creek trestle bridges.

The Galloping Goose Trail, which runs East-West, connects with the Lochside Trail, which runs North-South, in Saanich north of downtown Victoria. Its 29km (18 mile) route also follows an earlier railway track near the east coast of the Saanich Peninsula beyond Sidney to Swartz Bay (BC Ferries terminal).

These hiking trails, and others, contribute much to our life. We are most fortunate to have them on our doorstep.



Exploring parks near Sooke

March 20, 2015 by Martin Vernon

Last summer, some friends from the UK visited us briefly in Victoria. They like gentle hiking and wanted to get a sense of the natural beauty here on southern Vancouver Island so we spent an enjoyable day exploring parks near Sooke.

Sooke is just a 45 minute drive west from downtown Victoria. Once the suburbs are left behind it’s a pretty drive through pastoral Metchosin towards Sooke. We took Highway 14 but there is a more delightful semi-coastal route along Metchosin Road and Rocky Point Road. Either way, the first stop is to wander along the spit at the Esquimalt Lagoon Bird Sanctuary by Fisgard Lighthouse.

Going along Hwy 14 you’ll pass the 17 Mile House pub (yes, 17 miles from downtown Victoria) Roche Cove, East Sooke, Vancouver Islandand very soon afterwards you turn left at gps 48.393493, -123.629089 onto Gillespie Road, signposted for East Sooke. After a short drive you’ll see the road becomes a bridge over Roche Cove (photo on right) with a parking area before it (gps 48.372687, -123.632694) where there’s as flat a walk as you could hope for: a disused railway track! The 55km / 34 mile long Galloping Goose trail runs from Victoria to beyond Sooke, the route of a railway line built over 100 years ago. Enjoy a peaceful walk along it for a while following Roche Cove before heading back to your car.

Next stop is East Sooke Provincial Park – continue along Gillespie Road into the East Sooke peninsula until you reach a T junction at East Sooke Road where you go left until you turn right on Becher Bay Road at gps 48.340081, -123.631685. The road ends in the lands and orchards of former Aylands Farm, where old meadows combine with natural West coast beauty.  You can select several paths from the park map – our favourite is a coastal one with pleasing views to the Olympic Mountains but it is a bit rugged at times though without climbs.

The last place on our wandering tour is Sooke Potholes (photo below), a ravine of deep potholes in the river bed created during the Ice Age. Return to Hwy 14 and turn left (west) towards the little town of Sooke. Just after you pass Edward Milne Community School take a right turn at Sooke River Road. You will reach several parking areas to access the river and these deep sinkholes which are a popular, though cold, swimming spot in fast-running water. You’ll also see a folly, a partly built stone lodge overlooking the Sooke River. Then either drive west into Sooke or head back to Victoria.

Exploring parks near Sooke - Sooke Potholes

Variety is the Spice of Life

December 30, 2014 by Martin Vernon

If, as they say, variety is the spice of life then Victoria is a hot spot. I have been struck by the immense variety of things to see and do in this part of Vancouver Island. If you are thinking of visiting Victoria BC in 2015 you’ll find this array of information helpful for your planning.

For convenience, let’s divide them into:
– things to see, ie the attractions of Victoria, and
– things to do, ie the activities.

Things to see in Victoria

Not all are in the downtown area so it’s good to have use of a car.

The Inner Harbour – strolling the causeway next to the moored boats is always a pleasure. Here you’ll see the Royal BC Museum, a fascinating must-see top-quality museum, with an IMAX theatre too. You can tour the neighbouring BC Parliament Buildings and visit the harbourside Robert Bateman Centre with its collection of wildlife art. The Maritime Museum of BC in Bastion Square presents our rich nautical heritage.

Take a bus or horse-drawn carriage tour for an informative introduction to Victoria or a guided tour on foot. Hop on a harbour ferry or taxi to explore the Inner Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf.

The best shopping is in the streets running off Government Street as far north as Chinatown.

East of downtown is baronial 19th century Craigdarroch Castle with its restored Victoria interior.

Relax in charming Beacon Hill Park with its old-style stone bridge and its petting zoo. The temperate climate of southern Vancouver Island is perfect for gardens; two of the most popular are The Gardens at HCP and, of course, The Butchart Gardens whose 55 dramatic acres are generally considered the top attraction in British Columbia. Nearby you’ll discover 3,000 butterflies and moths in the tropical jungle at Butterfly Gardens.

The Saanich Peninsula vineyards and wineries offer samplings and excellent souvenir opportunities. Buy a bottle to enjoy at your Victoria B&B in the evening.

Discover the importance of Fisgard Lighthouse to mariners and see the gun batteries at Fort Rodd Hill. These are west of Victoria close to Hatley Castle which was built in 1908 and set in lovely gardens.

Our small communities have their own character – visit the “book town” Sidney-by-the-Sea, or drive to Sooke on the rugged west coast.

– For further information view this summary of attractions with a Victoria BC map.

Inner Harbour Victoria BC The Butchart Gardens - Sunken Garden


Things to do in Victoria

It’s so beautiful here: the parks, lakes and beaches cry out to be explored. Take a look at some hiking trails, from easy to moderately challenging. Favourites include Elk / Beaver Lake and Gowlland Tod, and to the west East Sooke and Sooke Potholes parks. Get out and about to discover the natural beauty.

Play golf year-round on over a dozen courses.

Marine recreation is important to the locals (I’m often surprised at how many people own boats) so plan to join them: kayak along the shoreline such as in calm Brentwood Bay or the ocean, take a fishing charter or go scuba diving, discover how sailing tours are sooo relaxing AND don’t forget memorable whale-watching.

Clamber up walls in the world-class Boulders Climbing Gym, or try zip-lining.

Walk or cycle along trails such as the 55km Galloping Goose Trail. There’s horseback riding too.

After all that it’s easy to justify indulging in afternoon tea at one of several venues.

–  –  –

The phrase “variety is the spice of life” was coined by the poet William Cowper some 250 years ago. He was a lover of his natural surroundings and would, I feel, appreciate the beauty of southern Vancouver Island.


Go West young man

April 30, 2013 by Martin Vernon

Most people would consider Victoria to be about as far west as one can go but residents here consider Sooke to be the west. In fact, the suburbs of Victoria en route to Sooke are called the Western Communities

In 1865, after the American Civil War, author Horace Greeley encouraged soldiers to “Go West young man”, ie head west and colonise the country. Now arrivals to Victoria are mostly transcient: killer whales, geese and tourists.

Guests at our Victoria B&Bs soon discover that the Victoria area is compact with a great deal to see and do within a short drive. We recommend you rent a car so that you can enjoy all that Victoria offers since there is much more to Victoria than the downtown Inner Harbour.

Sooke and SW Vancouver Island

Sooke is just 45 minutes from downtown Victoria. We do not suggest you merely drive to the little centre of Sooke and return since you’ll be disappointed. But if you add some of these itinerary stops along the way you will have a delightful, memorable day. Your innkeepers can help you prepare the route if you are not pre-prepared.

Hatley Castle

Hatley Castle was built in 1908 by the same family responsible for Craigdarroch Castle. The gardens are particularly enjoyable, once with over 100 gardeners. Compare the Japanese Garden with that in The Butchart Gardens, designed by the same man. GPS: lat 48.4393656, long  -123.47697260000001.

Hatley Castle

Hatley Castle

Fisgard Lighthouse and Fort Rodd Hill

Nearby is this two for one visit. Fort Rodd Hill was established in the 1890s to protect the Esquimalt Naval Base (from whom, one wonders?) and is now a pleasing parkland with gun batteries and assorted military buildings remaining. You then walk down to Fisgard Lighthouse, with the lighthouse in the foreground and Olympic Peninsula rising beyond it. It was built in response to the hundreds of wrecks which occurred along the south western Vancouver Island coastline, “The Graveyard of the Pacific”. The now non-functioning lighthouse houses an exhibit about the life of a lighthouse. GPS lat 48.427085, long -123.46162600000002. You can then walk or drive aling the spit enclosing Esquimalt Lagoon.

Fisgard Lighthouse

Fisgard Lighthouse

Witty’s Lagoon

Follow Metchosin Road to Witty’s Lagoon with its enclosed beaches. Do note that the lagoon changes character significantly with the tides; sand dunes appear when the tide is out. Look for the Sitting Lady waterfall. GPS: lat 48.382005, long -123.53784999999999.

East Sooke Regional Park

You will get an excellent feel for the natural beauty of the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island. East Sooke Regional Park has numerous coastal trails accessed at three places. If you park at Aylands Farm your trail may take you to petroglyths. GPS: lat 48.4284396, long 48.4284396.

East Sooke Regional Park

East Sooke Regional Park

Sooke Potholes

Return to the Sooke Road, Hwy 14, and go west (what else?). If you drive east you will encounter a centre for zip-lining – great fun flying through the trees. Take a right along Sooke River Road for the Sooke Potholes. These deep sinkholes are a popular, though cold, swimming spot in fast-running water. The Galloping Goose trail runs nearby, from Victoria to beyond Sooke – we’ll doubtless talk about this in a future blog post. Look for the ambitious remains of a partly built stone lodge overlooking the Sooke River. GPS: lat 48.4284396, long -123.71239200000002.

Sooke Potholes

Sooke Potholes


Sooke at last! Just beyond the little town, with lunch stop-offs, you turn left onto Whiffin Spit Road to walk along Whiffin Spit. GPS: lat 48.3583483, long 48.3583483.

That’s the end of our Sooke tour but you could consider omitting most of the above places and simply continue your drive past Sooke along the west coast to French Beach, China Beach and more, but that’s another story.

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