Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle is one of the two “castles” in Victoria built by the Dunsmuir family. (The other is Hatley Castle, west of Victoria). Though only 100+ years old these Scottish baronial mansions are full of character.

Craigdarroch Castle was built in the late 1880s on a hilltop overlooking Victoria by Robert Dunsmuir who had acquired great wealth, albeit at the expense of his exploited employees, in his mining and railway empire. We find this unacceptable but we can not visit his baronial castle without some appreciation of the gem created for our pleasure. The sumptuous carved woodwork and 32 stained glass windows alone stun us.

The castle had a chequered history after the death of his family members but today The Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society opens its door for us to enjoy the superb restorations. Now a National Historic Site of Canada. Allow at least an hour for a tour of its 39 rooms and do make use of the nineteen audio guides.

Victoria BC tourism map

What to see, where to eat, what to do, where to stay and how to get there? All vital questions which this Victoria BC tourism map will help to answer.

The map shows Victoria and Saanich Peninsula attractions, recreational activities, restaurants, wineries and other tourism related businesses, and, of course, accommodations. (Victoria is on the southern end of the Saanich Peninsula, the area where you’ll be enjoying your vacation in this beautiful area.)

The map is part of an informative website about Victoria BC tourism. Click on these links to prepare for your visit:

  • Attractions so often guests remark as they leave “We wish we were staying longer. Theres so much to do here”. This page has information and links to downtown attractions, Victoria area attractions, gardens, wineries, and recreation on land and on water.
  • The Butchart Gardens – since this is the place you really should visit we’ve dedicated a web page to these magnificent gardens. Allow sufficient time to explore the varied gardens and enjoy its activities.
  • There are videos about aspects of Victoria and Vancouver Island.
  • Local tourism businesses are listed answering some of those What to see, Where to eat and What to do questions.
  • and lastly, that Victoria BC tourism map. Zoom in and out, click on the icons for more information.

 

Our Greater Victoria bed and breakfasts are located conveniently for your explorations of Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula. We look forward to welcoming you to a memorable stay.

North Saanich Flavour Trail

The North Saanich Flavour Trail Festival is a very pleasant annual event exploring the roads less travelled on the Saanich Peninsula.

Each year the North Saanich Flavour Trail takes place at 15 or more venues from in late August. Think of a pub crawl where the pubs are farms, markets, vineyards, bakeries, garden centres and the like.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this self-guided tour last year using their mapNorth Saanich Flavour Trail map and information on the Flavour Trail Festival website. You’ll be delighted by the quiet rural charm of the back roads in this northern part of the Saanich Peninsula, just a short drive from bustling Victoria.

Watch sheep dogs at work herding (or should I say flocking?) sheep, smell 30 varieties of lavender, sample local wines, learn about fruit trees (some you’ve never heard of), meet the horses and other animals at a stables, and be deluged with fresh fruit and vegetables at every turn. Such a variety of tasty fresh food!

We also enjoyed the sense of community; meeting the locals proudly sharing the produce of their land and learning more about this lovely area blessed by its fine climate in a lovely natural setting.

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A tasty visit to Victoria

Have a tasty visit to Victoria! Your visit should satisfy all the senses: seeing the sights, smelling the roses at the Butchart Gardens, hearing killer whales on a whale-watching boat hydrophone,  touching camera buttons; but what about taste?

Its an oft-quoted statistic that Victoria has more restaurants per capita than anywhere in North America except San Francisco, but let’s ignore quantity and focus on quality.

Yesterday evening my wife and I went with friends to a where we had not dined for several years. The meal was excellent but what struck us most was the new emphases on the menu: healthy, local foods. This is the trend here these days so embrace it and enjoy! The previous day we had visited two farm markets where the same message was tastefully (pun intended) presented: foods are locally grown, distributed and enjoyed. Economic sustainability and environmental responsibility in action.

Southern Vancouver Island’s climate and terrain enables an unusually wide range of agricultural goodies to be grown; fruit and vegetables, berries and grapes (thus wine), meats and prepared local foods – an overflowing cornucopia. In August the North Saanich Flavour Trail Festival is a good opportunity to discover these.

To enjoy these tastes to the full and make your visit to Victoria even more fulfilling, try these:

  • Ignore the chain restaurants and dine at an independent restaurant whose owners and staff are offering the very best of Vancouver Island produce.
  • Visit local wineries, enjoy a tasting or three and purchase our local wines (whites are particularly good here).
  • Tour farm markets and farm stands on the Saanich Peninsula – the producers will proudly share their wares. Pick up a some fresh fruit for your travels.

Your bed and breakfasts hosts will be glad to guide you with further information to help you enjoy a tasty visit to Victoria.

Hiking trails on the Saanich Peninsula

Hiking trails on the Saanich Peninsula can be arduous or can be a relaxed stroll, but all offer lovely views in the natural settings of southern Vancouver Island.

We’d like to suggest some favourite walks, all a short drive from our bed and breakfasts. The Saanich Peninsula is only 30 km / 20 miles north (Sidney) to south (Victoria) so you can include several activities in a day without spending much time driving. The three parks below all provide everything from easy walks to rugged or lengthy hiking trails.

Elk Lake and Beaver Lake Regional Park

It’s likely that you’ll have driven by this largest lake here, in the centre of the Saanich Peninsula flanking Hwy 17 which connects BC Ferries and Victoria International Airport to Victoria.

The whole lake (two in one since they are connected) has a flat 10km / 6 mile path around its waters edge. Apart from a short section by the highway it is an excellent wide cedar path. I enjoy the variety encountered from the open sunny east side to the cedar woodland of the eastern bank. Walking the full circuit will take 2.5 hours or so, assuming you are relaxing and enjoying the scenery (look out for old rail tracks in the SW corner). Alternatively, just walk a short distance and return to your car.

Its principal access for parking is at the southern end reached from delightful little Beaver Lake Road. Nearby is the Victoria City Rowing Club where the Canadian national team train. Hamsterly Beach, at the northern end, is popular with families for swimming.

Mount Douglas Park

Mount Douglas Park is just south of Cordova Bay on the east side of the peninsula. Here you take a short walk or a steep haul up the hill from the bottom parking lot: your choice. Either way, you are rewarded with a splendid 360 degree view of the Saanich Peninsula Victoria to the south and the Gulf Islands to the east.  I confess to always driving to the small parking area at the top and then taking the short walk up to the summit. Mt Doug, as the locals call it, is a good choice for the beginning of your visit to Victoria since you’ll see everything in its context.

Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

For variety Gowlland Tod can not be bettered, with 25 km of hiking trails, from a stroll to the quiet waters of Tod Inlet to stiff rugged climbs up to vantage points over Finlayson Arm.

Tod-Inlet-walk

Above is our favourite family walk, from Wallace Road to the jetty of the old cement factory adjoining the Butchart Gardens (you can peek through fence to see the Ross Fountain). It’s an easy walk and delightful throughout, from old growth forest to flats near the inlet where boats moor and seabirds nest in boxes on jetty posts.

For a greater range of hikes the best parking spot is the McKenzie Bight access off Willis Point Road for the walk down Cascade Trail to the waters at McKenzie Bight or to climb up Timberman Trail. Views are memorable.

West coast sailing adventures

West Coast sailing adventures can be the most memorable part of a visit to Vancouver Island. Darren Tomlin is one of our Victoria B&B innkeepers who offers something very special to his guests and to anyone else visiting Vancouver Island on sailing trips on his elegant 37′ sail boat Desiderata. You’ll enjoy pure relaxation plus the joys of sailing and the challenges of fishing.

From the moorings at Sidney you’ll sail to the island of Sidney Spit and explore protected coves, drop the anchor to relax and watch local wildlife. You might see killer whales but certainly can expect to view seals, porpoises, herons, eagles and other marine life. Darren has fishing rods and crab traps on board so that his sailing guests can land a catch or two.

After informing you about safety procedure Darren will introduce his crew (you!) to sailing including how to hoist the sails and spinnaker and work the deck. You’ll learn a little about tides and currents and about navigation with charts and GPS.

Appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages are provided. Book your West Coast sailing adventures with Darren for $99 per person. Fun and relaxation are guaranteed on this memorable trip.

Swiftsure International Yacht Race

The Swiftsure International Yacht Race is a series of yacht races from Victoria BC on the last weekend of May that has been drawing crowds to view the off-shore spectacle since 1930.

The race Starts and ends in Victoria BC, being called the Swiftsure International Yacht Race because the courses run to midpoints in U.S. waters. In its eighty years the race has evolved into nine races sailed over four courses in the Juan de Fuca Strait.

Crews race to the Swiftsure Lightship and back in courses of up to 140 nautical miles with winning times for the longest course often under 24 hours, largely dependant on the weather. If winds are poor crews have named it “Driftsure” yet one year 130 boats were blown out of the race soon after the start.

There can be plenty of drama. At the start one year a heavy tide pushed most boats back two miles and at the midpoint a boat hit the lightship when turning around it. Boats have been grounded at Race Rocks in fog. A finish saw a boat cross the line stern first after it lost its main masts just before the line, and one year a single second decided the winning yacht.

So set sail for Victoria this May!

Victoria tourism website

Old friends from the UK emailed me a couple of days ago confirming that they will visit us this year. They asked what there is to do in Victoria and could we recommend a Victoria tourism website. Needless to say, I sent them useful website links.

Our group of bed and breakfasts has a website which will give my friends much food for thought. Victoria attractions listed on the site include something for everyone:

  • From Canadas oldest China Town to the latest IMAX film,
  • From urban shopping to beach strolling,
  • From horse-drawn carriage tours to whale-watching tours,
  • From formal gardens to wild natural parks,
  • From wineries to restaurants,
  • Eight short award-winning videos.

Our bed and breakfasts are located on the Saanich Peninsula. This is just 30km / 20 mile long, from Victoria in the south to Sidney in the north. Here you’ll find the most popular Victoria attraction of them all, the Butchart Gardens.

 

So, here is a three part plan of action to help you prepare for a visit to southern Vancouver Island using this Victoria tourism website:-
1. Take a look at a map to get a sense of the scale and locations.
2. Browse through our website, especially the attractions page.
3. Book your Victoria bed and breakfast and ask your hosts any outstanding questions to make your trip the best it can be.