Helm’s Inn – Information About Victoria BC Canada
Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia and consists of the municipalities of Oak Bay, Saanich, View Royal and Esquimalt with an overall population of 326,000. Passenger and vehicle ferries sailing between Victoria, Seattle, Bellingham and Port Angeles dock in Victoria’s Inner Harbour as well as many float planes and visiting boaters. Moorage can be found near the Canada Customs wharf. Also located in the Inner Harbour is the Tourism InfoCentre where hundreds of brochures, maps, etc. can be found as well as regularly scheduled whale watching or fishing charters, harbour cruises and nature safaris.
For those who prefer sightseeing on land, there is the Royal British Columbia Museum tracing the natural history of the province of British Columbia from pre-Ice Age to the present day. Also located at the Royal B.C. Museum is the National Geographic Theatre where you can experience the incredible world of IMAX.
Maritime history of the area is preserved in the Maritime Museum in Bastion Square. A great family attraction complete with pirates, shipwrecks, treasure maps and three floors of nautical exhibits.
Visit the Legislative Buildings and be sure to see them at night when they are outlined by thousands of tiny lights. Many specialty shops can be found along Government Street and Antique Row on Fort Street and several interesting and unusual shops are located in Victoria’s Chinatown along Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada. Market Square features over 40 different shops and restaurants on two levels around an inner courtyard.
Visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and other galleries displaying the works of local and internationally renowned artists. Government House on Rockland Avenue, east of downtown, is closed to the public; however, you may tour the gardens which have been maintained for over a hundred years. Also of interest are the many elegant mansions along Rockland Avenue, built in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Craigdarroch Castle, the 39-room mansion built by B.C.’s first millionaire, is open to the public for tours.
A short drive over the Johnson Street bridge leads to Esquimalt. This area features a naval museum, several historic military sites and a number of scenic walking paths. Originally established as a British Naval Base in 1865, modern Esquimalt has the second largest Canadian Forces Base in the country after Halifax, Nova Scotia.
James Bay, just south of downtown is bordered by water on three sides with Beacon Hill Park on the fourth. A short walk from Government Street, the park consists of acres of gardens, paths to wander and picnic areas, lakes ducks and a petting farm for children.
From here, take a scenic drive along Dallas Road to Beach Drive, through the Upland Estates, stopping at Cattle Point, and then on to Ten Mile Point.
Oak Bay, east of downtown, has a distinctly British personality with Tudor-style homes, impeccable landscaping, parks and a shopping sector known for its fine shops and tearooms. Willows Beach and the Oak Bay Marina are popular stops.
The District of Saanich, north of downtown encompasses several residential areas and recreational parks. One of the most popular is Mount Douglas Park which offers a birds eye view of the city from its drive-to summit. Swan Lake/Christmas Hill Nature Sancturary has two distinct ecological areas, walking trails and a floating boardwalk allowing visitors a close-up look at the lake’s ecosystem. To enjoy excellent public recreation facilities, visit the Saanich Commonwealth Place which offers a variety of programmes and services for all ages. The Olympic-sized pool has water slides, a wave pool, a dive tank, steam rooms and sauna.
Saanich is also the location of The University of Victoria and of the Centre Auditorium where the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra and Victoria Symphony Orchestra frequently perform. The Phoenix Theatres, are found here as well.
West of Victoria along the Island Highway you’ll find the West Shore Communities of View Royal, Colwood, Langford, Metchosin and Sooke. One of the best ways to explore this area is by cycling or hiking on the Galloping Goose Trail. Named after an old 1920’s passenger train and built along the former rail bed, this 70 kilometre (43 mile) linear park stretches from the Selkirk Trestle in downtown Victoria all the way to Leechtown, an abandoned mining town north of the Village of Sooke. The trail is accessible at numerous points along the route with two sections being the most popular. The first is the short distance between Roche Cove Regional Park, off Gillespie Road in Metchosin, and Matheson Lake Regional Park; the other, a section which leads to the Sooke Potholes, a series of rock pools along the Sooke River that are perfect for swimming.
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse are National Historic sites on 44 acres of wildflower meadows, wooded glens, and stretches of beach. Fort Rodd Hill frequently hosts weekend afternoon concerts by local and visiting military bands. Visit the gardens and castle at Hatley Park, now the location of Royal Roads University.
See the spawning salmon during the fall months at Goldstream Provincial Park, a truly spectacular sight which can be viewed from bridges and pathways along the river. Eagles make an annual stop in the park to feed on the salmon and can also be seen at this location. The biggest run of salmon is generally between late October and the end of November. A great place for the whole family any season, the Nature Hut at Goldstream features exhibits on salmon, eagles, and other area inhabitants. Often they offer guided hikes and nature walks. Visit Mill Hill Park for a spectacular view of Victoria and Esquimalt Harbours and Thetis Lake Regional Park, a family favourite with beaches, hiking trails and a playground area.
Metchosin is a predominantly rural area, crisscrossed by winding country roads and lovely parks such as Albert Head Lagoon Park and Devonian Regional Park. Both parks are nature sanctuaries with beaches and gentle trails. Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park is a beautiful lagoon ideally suited for picnics and bird watching. Matheson Lake Regional Park is a favorite for canoeing, swimming and hiking.