Life's a beach in Victoria
With the hot summer weather finally upon us, there is one question both Victoria visitors and locals are asking: Where's the beach?
Lucky for us - being an island and all - we have amazing beaches of all kinds, shapes and sizes and in every direction; pebble beaches, rocky beaches, sandy beaches, beaches by the ocean, beaches on lakes and beaches on rivers.
Here is our round-up of the best places to soak up the sun, swim, skim board and tube in and around Victoria, BC.
Durrance Lake - A popular spot for fishing, floating and hiking. There isn't a lot of space to put down your towel here (it can also get fairly busy and crowded in the summer), but the lake's small size makes it not too cold and perfect for floating.
Elk/Beaver Lake - A great spot for families, with opportunities for boating, canoeing and swimming. There are lots of lake access points and parking spots around the two lakes, as well as bathroom facilities, water fountains, a playground and a concession stand in the summer.
Thetis Lake - Thetis is a very popular spot in the summer for families and teens; you might have to arrive early in the day to get a parking spot, as the main parking lot can fill up pretty fast.
This is a great spot for floating and fishing and there is an excellent trail that circles the lake with many areas to access the water, aside from the main beach. Please note that as tempting as it may look, NO cliff jumping is permitted.
Matheson Lake - While not quite as close to Victoria as the other lakes, Matheson is a great place to spend an especially hot day.
The water is slightly colder here but perfect for floating in, and because it's a bit more out of the way, it's far less busy.
There is a main beach that is great for families and a few areas along the water's edge to lay your towel and hop in the water for a swim.
Witty's Lagoon - This sandy stretch of beach is a summer paradise. Bring your family, pack a picnic and spend the day exploring tide pools, skim boarding, swimming in the shallow and warm ocean water when the tide is out and hiking the Beach Trail.
Esquimalt Lagoon - Park your car right next to the beach, set up your towel against the driftwood next to the ocean and go for a walk along the 3 kilometre-or-so stretch of pebbly beach.
Check out the bird sanctuary on the other side of the lagoon and the amazing view of downtown Victoria - you might even be able to spot a few cruise ships coming in to Ogden Point!
Willows Beach - With a playground, large grassy field and soft white sand, Willows is a great place to bring your family for the day.
Set up a volleyball net on the grass for a game, explore the rocky tide pools or just soak up the sun on the soft, sandy beach.
Island View Beach - About a 30-minute drive from Victoria, Island View is a long stretch of sandy/pebbly beach perfect for swimming, exploring and picnicking. If you're looking for a beach on the ocean that is a little less crowded, Island View is worth the drive.
Cowichan River - Tubing down the Cowichan River is an island summer tradition, and can be as exciting or relaxing as you want it to be.
Bring your own inner tube, rent one or go with a guided group and head to one of the river access points to begin your journey.
Be sure to research where you should enter the river before you go; some access points take you down extremely dangerous sections of the river with fast rapids and sharp rocks, so use discretion when you decide where to enter.
Also, please note that NO alcohol is permitted on the river.
Sooke Potholes - Almost a 45-minute drive from Victoria, the Potholes are a local favourite and well worth the journey to get there.
The Potholes themselves are deep holes in the riverbed rock of the Sooke River, carved out by the cold, green-blue water rushing down from the Sooke Hills.
There are several water access points along the river, with the most family-friendly part near the main parking lot. Hike along the river and check out the view or find a marked beach access point and go for a dip - be forewarned, though; the water is freezing!
Also, please be aware that even though the Potholes appear to be deep, there is absolutely NO cliff jumping permitted.
West Coast Beaches (out past Sooke)
French Beach - Although it may not be the best beach for swimming (the water is pretty chilly!), French Beach makes a great family day trip.
Being a provincial park, French Beach has some great amenities such as picnic tables, washroom facilities and a playground.
Go hiking, explore the park or just relax on the beach and stare out into the Pacific; you might even spot some whales swimming by!
China Beach - A little further past French Beach is China Beach, another great provincial park with similar features as French Beach.
This is a great spot for picnics, and is also the starting access point for the Juan De Fuca Trail and Mystic Beach.
Mystic Beach - Just 2 kilometres in on the Juan De Fuca Trail, Mystic Beach is worth the hike. Follow the trail through the forest, over a suspension bridge and down stairs carved into a huge fallen tree to the sandy, secluded beach.
Stand under the waterfall trickling down from a huge rock face right on the beach or swing on the rope swing out over the water - this a must-visit beach on Vancouver Island!
Sandcut Beach - A hidden island gem, Sandcut Beach made the shortlist in 2008 for Sunset Magazine's top ten secret beaches in the world.
Park on the side of West Coast Road and follow a short trail down through dense rainforest and old-growth tree stumps (someone has placed smooth beach stones into the ancient logger cut marks in the trees, so the tree stumps look like they have eyes, a nose and a mouth - cool and kind of eerie at the same time!).
Check out the misty waterfall spilling onto the beach, tide pools and perfectly smooth and round beach pebbles and stones. Another must-visit beach on Vancouver Island!