Archives

Visiting gardens in Victoria BC

December 30, 2015 by Martin Vernon

The many gardens of Victoria BC have led to the city being called the “Garden City” in the hype of some tourist publications. There’s some truth in the name though since the perfect gardening climate of southern Vancouver Island, its earlier British heritage, and its attractiveness to visitors have all resulted in some magnificent gardens being created for our pleasure. The Butchart Gardens comes to mind first but there are many other delightful gardens on a smaller scale. Visiting gardens in Victoria BC is best done by car to provide full flexibility but buses service most gardens.

The Butchart Gardens

55 acres of dramatic floral displays created in over 100 years draw crowds and superlatives. Some cynics may consider it to be rather a “Disney” garden but it’s hard to imagine anyone not being impressed. Open year-round, its five (yes!) seasons present the many themed gardens in full seasonal splendour: the famous Sunken Garden and the enchanting Japanese Garden are favourites. Summer visits might include enjoying concerts on the lawn and Saturday evening fireworks. Their summer and winter illuminations (“The Magic of Christmas”) are special delights.

Butterfly Gardens

Close to the Butchart Gardens is this tropical greenhouse jungle. Thousands of butterflies charm visitors, as do the flamingoes, small birds, koi and frogs.  Look out for the giant Atlas Moth.

The Gardens at HCP

Another garden on the Saanich Peninsula is the little known, and therefore quiet, Gardens at HCP (Horticultiral Centre of the Pacific). Over 30 themed gardens include the lovely Takata Garden with its adjoining Bonsai and Zen gardens.

Beacon Hill Park

Just south of downtown is “the jewel of Victoria”, 200 acres of varying park and gardens since 1882. Look out for the medieval-style stone bridge, the Children’s Farm and one of the tallest totem poles in the world. Lovely for a peaceful wander.

Finnerty Gardens

Near the south-west corner of the University of Victoria are a network of paths passing over 4,000 trees including over 1,500 rhododendrons and azaleas which create drama late April to early June.

Abkhazi Garden

Tucked away near Oak Bay is a small garden with a romantic story which will warm your heart.

Playfair Park

Visiting gardens in Victoria BC - Playfair Park

A special municipal park (photo above) hidden away in Saanich. Enjoy the rhodendrons in May and the long colourful perennial summer border.

Government House

The grounds of the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor, the Queen’s representative in British Columbia. A colourful cutting garden, rose garden and perennial flower beds set in the Rockland area of heritage homes.

Hatley Castle

West of Victoria are these Japanese, Rose and Italian gardens set in a 500 acre Edwardian estate with views to the distant Olympic Mountains.

Visiting gardens in Victoria BC is more than just a pleasure, it gives insights into the lives of so many who have helped make Victoria the lovely place it is today.

Saanich Peninsula

November 10, 2015 by Martin Vernon

The city of Victoria lies at the southern end of the Saanich Peninsula, a narrow 30 km (20 mile) north-south neck of land jutting out on the south eastern corner of Vancouver Island. At the north end of the Peninsula is Sidney, Victoria International Airport (YYJ) and the BC Ferries terminal. In between lies a pastoral land of rolling hills and scattered communities and attractions which should be explored on a visit to the Victoria area.

  • The Butchart Gardens is at Brentwood Bay on the west side of the Saanich Peninsula Relaxing at Beaver Lake on the Saanich Peninsula
  • Nearby is Butterfly Gardens, a tropical jungle delight
  • Stroll through the quiet the themed Gardens at HCP
  • The warm waters of Brentwood Bay are a good place for kayaking
  • Numerous provincial and regional parks for gentle strolls or tougher hikes: Gowlland Tod, Mount Work, John Dean Park, Mount Douglas
  • Or there’s the Lochside Trail down the easterly side of the peninsula, connecting with the Galloping Goose Trail
  • Walk around the freshwater lakes of Elk / Beaver Lake or Durrance Lake, a popular swimming spot
  • Stroll along coastal beaches at Cordova Bay or Patricia Bay with their driftwood and shells, or discover a quiet cove
  • Agriculture surrounds you, past and present. Even a lavender farm
  • Savour the flavours at wineries and farm stands with wines, fruit and local produce
  • Play a round of golf year-round on our many courses
  • Tackle a world-class climbing wall
  • Browse through the Sidney bookshops or the Thursday evening street market.
  • Also in Sidney: visit the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre or take a ferry trip to Sidney Spit.

… there really is something for everyone!

You’ll see some unique aspects of life here such as local distinctive trees: the Arbutus with its rust-coloured peeling trunks and the twisted branches of the Garry Oak, both growing on rocky ground. Driving around the Saanich Peninsula you become aware that Coast Salish people lived here, and still do on reserves mostly overlooking the Saanich Inlet on the west; the Tsartlip, Tsawaout, Tseycum and Pauquachin first nations. Their names can be confusing but so can others, with such municipalities as Saanich, Central Saanich and North Saanich, and the roads named Saanich Road, Central Saanich Road, East Saanich Road and West Saanich Road. But you can’t go too far wrong on this little self-contained strip of land.

 

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.

 

 

Artists and Artisans Shows and Tours

October 20, 2015 by Martin Vernon

Walking through an art show this past weekend reminded me how blessed we are in the Victoria BC with so much fine art. Artists and artisans shows and tours are held frequently, and galleries and markets present a wide range of artworks. What struck us most was the sheer high quality from nearly 300 artists at the juried Sidney Fine Art Show (see an award winner below). Yes, we have the big names like Robert Bateman but there are hundreds of leading artists in their differing fields.There’s something about the lifestyle on the West coast that draws those of an artistic mindset.

To discover these you can take three geographically-based tours which are appreciated on relaxed self-guided routes.Artists and Artisans Shows and Tours - Victoria BC - Deborah Tilby

  • The Stinking Fish Studio Tour is held every July throughout Metchosin, west of Victoria. Juried artists present paintings and photographs, pottery and sculpture, woodworking and printmaking, creative fibres and jewellery at over 20 studios.
  • The Saanich Peninsula Studio Tour takes place on 24th and 25th October 2015 at 18 studios on the Saanich Peninsula just north of Victoria BC.
  • Visit 28 artisans on Salt Spring Island on their self-guided studio tour on a day trip from Victoria.

In August Arts and Music in the Gardens at HCP showcases 60 local artists in a delightful setting.

The Stinking Fish artists have a fall show on 14th and 15th November 2015 at the West Mont Montessori School, 4075 Metchosin Road near Witty’s Lagoon.

Downtown VIctoria has galleries presenting west coast and aboriginal art,traditional and contemporary. Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are certainly well-endowed with talent.

Victoria kayaking

September 10, 2015 by Martin Vernon

The coastline of southern Vancouver Island stands out as one of its most remarkable features, ie one that is most remarked upon. Wrapping itself around Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula it is both beautiful and restful, a long length of inspiration and recreation. The frustration is one of access since heavily wooded areas or stretches of houses intervene. There are occasional beach access points so that you can stroll along the rugged coast for varying distances but the best way to enjoy it must be from the vantage point of the sea itself.

This is borne out by views from the ferries as you pass through the Gulf Islands – but wouldn’t you like to get close to explore its coves and beaches? Victoria kayaking - kayak rentals and toursThe answer is to rent a kayak for a few hours. Numerous Victoria kayaking companies, scattered around the area, offer kayak rentals and tours, with or without a guide. Some have canoes too or paddle boards.Try near downtown at Fisherman’s Wharf (Kelp Reef), the Gorge (Victoria Kayak or Ocean River) or Esquimalt (Victoria Waterfront Tours), Oak Bay (Blackfish), Sidney (A Paddle in the Park) or Sooke (Rush Adventures). For me, kayaking in Victoria is all about exploring the tranquil areas of natural beauty so my favourite place is Brentwood Bay (I happen to appreciate the calm, warmer waters too) – Pacifica Paddle Sports operate here as well as at Canoe Cove.

Renting a kayak for a couple of hours gives new close-up insights into our coastline. Two weeks ago I had a delightful family morning, kayaking in Brentwood Bay with my daughter and her boyfriend. It was sooo relaxing. My daughter was a little apprehensive at first but the sheer pleasure took over as we paddled around interesting moored boats, went up to the dock at The Butchart Gardens, then followed the shore of Tod Inlet to the old jetty with its birdhouses and nature centre. Wildlife was evident above and below as we passed slowly by the tree-lined shores. Although a few muscles were not rested, our minds were totally tranquil. Bliss!

 

 

The two faces of Sidney BC

June 20, 2015 by Martin Vernon

For many years I considered Sidney to be a quiet seaside town full of seniors, having a pleasant ocean-side walk and plenty of bookshops but where the greatest excitement was dodging electric scooters. While there’s some truth in all this I had failed to see that there are two faces of Sidney BC.

Sidney BC

The town of Sidney is near the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula, close to Victoria International Airport¬† (YYJ) and the BC Ferries and Washington State Ferries terminals, 30 minutes from downtown Victoria. It’s true that its population of 12,000 is dominated by seniors but it is a thriving self-contained friendly community that offers interesting attractions for visitors.

Enjoy a walk along the 2.5 km (1.5 mile) waterfront walkway passing the fishing pier and small fish market, looking across to Sidney Island from the Sculpture Walk. A concert or play may take place at the bandshell. Yards away is the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. It is not surprising that you can enjoy whale-watching, kayaking, fishing and boating here but there’s also lawn bowling or a bowling lane. Beacon Avenue and side streets has all the shopping services you’re likely to need, punctuated by numerous bookstores in Canada’s only Booktown.

All this, set within a calm relaxing atmosphere is what you’d expect in a town with so many retired people. But the best aspect of Sidney is experienced on summer evenings.

Sidney Street Market

My favourite street market in the Victoria area is enjoyed on Thursday evenings, May to August at the Sidney Street Market. The sleepy town bursts into life as Beacon Avenue, the main street, is lined with booths and packed with crowds of happy people of all ages. Artisans predominate, with food and good musicians adding to the mix. It is a joy!

Sidney Days, during the Canada Day (1st July) weekend celebrates with happy faces at the parade, build-a-boat competition and fireworks. If your visit is at other dates there are special Sidney BC annual events.

Sidney is also handy as a venue of a British Columbia Tourism Information Centre.

Our rural past comes alive

June 10, 2015 by Martin Vernon

Heritage Acres is just that, acres of heritage. It’s a place of fascination for most of us as we experience the past coming alive. In this case, it is the rural past when the Saanich Peninsula was forested with isolated communities and homesteads.

The Saanich Historical Artifacts Society have collected steam engines, agricultural machinery and Heritage Acres on the Saanich Peninsulaartifacts from the past all lovingly restored and demonstrated. A highlight has to be a tour of Heritage Acres on the small gauge railway. See demonstrations at the blacksmith’s shop. View the saw mill and carpentry shop, the waterwheel from the old quarry at the Butchart Gardens. Other buildings include a school house, a tiny chapel and a boat house overlooking the pond. Over 35 tractors and working steam engines spanning the past century are in use periodically.

The Summer Fair at Heritage Acres on 20th and 21st June 2015 (Father’s Day weekend) is one of several summer events when the past comes alive here. Our agricultural past can be enjoyed adjoining Hwy 17 (Patricia Bay Highway) just south of Island View Road – easy access if you’ve a car or horse and buggy.


»
Like on Facebook
Share on Google+
Pin on Pinterest