Victoria is home to some fantastic and astoundingly free sights and attractions. From the obvious and iconic Victoria Inner Harbour to the obscure and recently discovered Avatar Grove and Canada's Gnarliest Tree. Some are easy and convenient and others require some adventurous searching to locate.
Avatar Grove and Canada's gnarliest tree is an amazing thing to see and finding it is half the fun. The cute little town of Port Renfrew, know for it's logging, amazing fishing and home of one of the trailheads to the world renowned West Coast Trail, is now reworking it's image to include this fantastic wonder. Dubbed Canada's gnarliest tree this mammoth cedar will surely leap from the unknown to the feature of millions of tourist photos in the coming days and years. Avatar Grove is a 50 hectare area of old growth forest it has shot to prominence in this part of the world and groups everywhere you look are embracing it as something to be saved, admired and loved. Not cut into lumber. The Victoria based Ancient Forest Alliance is at the forefront of rescuing and protecting Avatar Forest. They discovered, named and drove it into the world's eyes. Avatar Grove is slowly growing into a hiking destination. Wooden stars and a boardwalk is being constructed and seems to grow month to month. There is even a viewing platform for the gnarly tree at an ideal location to take in the view. Though Avatar Grove and Canada's gnarliest tree is a couple hours drive from Victoria, the drive is very scenic. The various sections/trailheads of the Juan de Fuca Trail are all easy stops on the way to Avatar Grove. East Sooke Park, Witty's Lagoon, Fort Rodd Hill and many more sights are also located along the way.
Why should you go to Avatar Grove in Port Renfrew?
The beautiful drive to Avatar Grove is very scenic. Port Renfrew is a cute little town at the edge of the West Coast Trail. Botanical Beach and other Juan de Fuca Trail sections make easy pit stops along the way. Avatar Grove is a beautiful, wild and remote forest of giant trees and the now famous, giant gnarly tree that has to be seen to be appreciated. It is quite a marvellous tree to see up close. You will find yourself circling it over and over trying to grasp how bizarre and enormous it is.
Victoria's Inner Harbour is the heart of this incredibly tourist oriented city. Surrounded by spectacular buildings, historical monuments and stunning totem poles, the Inner Harbour is a free Victoria attraction that takes hours to fully appreciate. From the two kilometre cement and granite causeway that skirts the harbour and then continues at both ends for much longer, to the various centuries old buildings. The British Columbia parliament buildings dominate one end of the Inner Harbour and you are free to wander much of this astonishingly old and ridiculously extravagant building. The beautiful Empress Hotel sits across from the Inner Harbour as well and along with being a luxury hotel, it is a free museum of sorts on its lower level. You can wander through the lower hallways that take you back over a century as you look at artifacts and hotel menus from the 1800's. If you exit the front of the Empress Hotel and cross to the Inner Harbour you will see the imposing and huge statue of Captain Cook. If you love history or have travelled to other places Cook travelled, you will recognize him immediately. Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Britain all share strikingly similar monuments to this wonderful explorer. Just a five minute walk from the Captain Cook statue past the Empress is the wonderful Royal BC Museum. This amazing museum houses a seemingly endless array of local history ranging from thousands of years ago to recent decades. No where else in the world will you find such a breathtaking collection of totem poles. The causeway continues in both directions. If you walk to the left (in the direction of the Parliament Buildings) and follow the waterfront you will connect to a beautiful trail that skirts the Inner Harbour for quite some distance. After about 30 minutes you will arrive at Fisherman's Wharf. This cute little marina is a world of its own with its permanent residents living in floating houses in Float Home Village. There are some great places there to get ice cream, and fresh from the ocean food. Picnic tables on the wharf are located right in the middle of the action. There is even a free, live show.. the Seal Cam, showing the big, fat and jolly harbour seals lurking below you. You can see it online here.. From Fisherman's Wharf you can continue walking along the waterfront for several more kilometres if you want. The next sight further along is the Ogden Point Breakwater. A giant cement walkway that takes you straight out into the crashing ocean all around.
Along the way seeing fishermen casting off from the walkway as well as scuba divers just a few metres away in this popular Victoria diving location. This is also the beginning of the beautiful Ocean Drive and Beacon Hill Park. From here you could literally walk for hours along the beach and breakwater, through fields of flowers, up to hilltop viewpoints and circle back to the Inner Harbour. Again, not really a hike, but a wonderfully long walk in this beautiful city.
Why should you walk around Victoria's Inner Harbour?
Victoria's Inner Harbour is lively, fun and wonderfully scenic. The causeway along the waterfront is impeccably designed to be relaxing and beautiful. Everywhere you look you find a relaxing seat with a beautiful view. Coffee shops, tea shops, pubs and stores are numerous and you can walk the area every day for a year and still spot something new and amazing to see.
is astonishingly beautiful and incredibly interesting as a tourist attraction in Victoria that most never see. This fact is amazing as it is wonderful and unquestionably, or at least arguably, as good or better than any other attraction around. And at $3.90, for everything you see, it is almost free. You can crawl all over all the real pre-World War I era defensive structures and even play with and all but fire a genuine World War II Anti-Aircraft Gun... which astonishingly is in the parking lot. Fort Rodd Hill has so much to see it spills onto the parking lot. What unbelievable place! Though you could make your way through at a rushed pace in about 30 minutes, expect to take over two hours at a moderate pace as there is such an astonishingly huge amount to see. Real fortifications from a century ago as if frozen in time. Thick cement walls that indestructible. Gun slits in the metre thick walls that you can peer through as though you had to defend the fort yourself. Some buildings even have sound effects as you walk in. The enormous anti-ship guns are still in place. These monstrous barrels pointing out to sea as if still looking for invading ships to fire upon. About the only drawback to Fort Rodd Hill is that you can't bring your dog with you, but this is for a pretty amazing reason. Once in a while you will spot deer roaming the grounds, so allowing dogs in the park would cause quite a disturbance.
Why should you go to Fort Rodd Hill?
Fort Rodd Hill has an astounding collection of historic buildings and World War I era recreations. The location of the park is beautiful as well with its sweeping ocean views. You can even wander down to the beach and walk along the shoreline to Fisguard Lighthouse. Fisguard Lighthouse is like a full scale museum in its own right. Recreations, sound and video recreate the effect of being in this lighthouse as it was a century ago. If you enjoy a beautiful ocean-side park on a sunny day, expect to take an hour or two. If you love history, and in particular war history, you will be happy for hours.
SALMON SPAWNING VIDEO>> are beautiful and shouldn't be missed on a trip to Victoria. Huge coastal rainforest trees everywhere. An impressively golden river, an abandoned gold mine and one of the highest mountains in Victoria. As soon as you leave your car you can feel the wonderful forest alive around you. Trails run all over the park, but the takes you up to beautiful views of Victoria. It's a relaxing trail that only gets a bit steeper and challenging near the end. The summit of Mount Finlayson is about an hour from from the parking lot, it's a very accessible way to hike in Victoria. Across the highway there is still more to this beautiful park. Abandoned gold mine tunnels dot the hillside and a breathtaking train trestle is just a short hike away.
Why should you go to Goldstream Provincial Park?
Goldstream Park is a great look at a BC Coastal Rainforest. The air always feels slightly damp and cool, even in August. The forest cover is so thick and deep and everywhere you look there is water. Creeks, waterfalls and further down the park you even come to the ocean. The yearly salmon run is quite a sight to see and Mount Finlayson is a challenging, though short climb to fantastic views.
Mystic Falls and Mystic Beach are located near the start of the Juan de Fuca Trail. From the China Beach trailhead, Mystic Beach is just a short and very scenic 2 kilometres. The Juan de Fuca Trail is an incredible part of . All along the 47km length there are convenient access points. It's wild, and beautiful, and varied, and deep in the wild rainforest of the coast. From the beautiful flowers of Victoria to the wild and majestic forest of the Juan de Fuca Trail, the drive just to get to it is beautiful. There are four main trailheads for the Juan de Fuca trail. From Victoria China Beach is 70km, Sombrio Beach 95km, Parkinson Creek 100km and Botanical Beach 110km. The trail can of course be hiked from either end or in parts. Starting at and timing the tides correctly allows for a great way to start the trek as you can see the first five or so kilometres at the wonderful beach level. With the various access points to the Juan de Fuca Trail, you can do several day trips and never walk the same section twice. All the sections are quite distinct from the rest. Some trails are wild and overgrown, others are focussed on amazing tidal pools, and still other sections are centred around wide, sweeping beaches. You can even find good surfing at Sombrio Beach.
Why should you go to Mystic Falls on the Juan de Fuca Trail?
Well laid out and organized sections of wilderness hiking. You can hike the entire 47 kilometre length at once or over several days via the different trailheads. Each section is wonderfully different. Suspension bridges, waterfalls, deep wilderness, tidal pools and endless, beautiful ocean views make the Juan de Fuca Trail an amazing place to hike.