Victoria waters provide a paradise for boaters

Angus Matthews has agreed to share some of the favourite spots he’s found in the more than 40 years he’s plied the waters around Victoria

A pair of sailboats anchor in Cadboro Bay. The islands found off the southeastern part of Vancouver Island hold some of the best spots for boaters on Canada’s West Coast

A pair of sailboats anchor in Cadboro Bay. The islands found off the southeastern part of Vancouver Island hold some of the best spots for boaters on Canada’s West Coast

In a city surrounded by water, knowing where to find the best spots to spend a day on the water is more than just a good idea, it’s a necessity.

To help some of those not yet familiar with the local waters, Angus Matthews has agreed to share some of the favourite spots he’s found in the more than 40 years he’s plied the waters around Victoria.

“The idea that you can escape from a city in 20 minutes, It’s pretty unusual for you to be able to do that,” said Matthews. “From literally the moment you leave shore, you’re in a different head space.”

He points to the wildlife found along the waters as the thing that makes the area so special.

“It really is astonishing. I don’t go a summer without seeing killer whales five or six times. The bird life is amazing. It’s one of the very few ecosystems we see animals returning to.”

On the western shores of the Capital Regional District, the Spit at Sooke and Race Rocks have become popular spots with boaters. The Whiffen Spit  is sandwiched between the protected Sooke Basin and the open waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait. Matthews said one of his favourite things to do is to anchor behind the spit and row ashore for lunch at the Sooke Harbour House. “It’s the ying and yang of small boating.”

Race Rocks is a marine ecological reserve at the eastern entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Located at a narrow part of the strait in Canada’s southernmost point in the Pacific, the area covers three square kilometres of ocean, rocks and reefs, with the historic Race Rocks Lighthouse located nearby.

“People cannot go ashore there and can’t fish there, but it is an ecological reserve and the bird life and marine mammals, especially in the fall, is incredible,” said Matthews.

Heading eastward, boaters can make their way to Victoria’s magnificent Inner Harbour. “It’s kind of fun to think of moving your entertaining to different locations, and the Inner Harbour is a fantastic one,” he said, adding there are several docks operated by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. “It’s a great setting. It’s quieter at night in the Inner Harbour than most people would think.”

As you reach the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island you’ll come across Trial Islands, and ecological reserve that you can see from the Victoria Golf Course in Oak Bay. Also found in the area are the Chatham Islands and Discovery Island

“They are sort of the turning point where the ocean becomes quite different, not always placid but certainly much calmer,” said Matthews, adding you can get swells coming in off the Pacific as far in as Race Rocks. “The ride from Trial Islands to the Inner Harbour can actually be the roughest part of any trip.”

While Matthews said there are a couple of spectacular beaches found on the Chatham Islands, they are part of the Songhees and Esquimalt reserve and permission is needed to go ashore.

“Having said that, the beach in the channel [at Chatham] is probably one of the greatest secrets on the coast. It is truly astonishing,” he said. “The frustrating thing with the Salish Sea is you look ashore from your boat and say, ‘Oh what a beautiful white sand beach.’ And you go stand on it and cut your feet to ribbons because it’s white shell.”

Farther up the coast you’ll find D’Arcy Island.

“The southern bay on D’Arcy Island is great anchorage. It’s got a wonderful beach that looks like it belongs on the west coast of the island.”

The island used to be a leper colony, and Matthews said it is a great spot for a hike as you can make your way around the entire island comfortably in a few hours.

To the north of D’Arcy is Sidney Island, with the northern half of the island part of the Gulf Islands National Park.

“This is the most amazing park on the West Coast and nobody knows that it’s there. It’s a whole combination of little bits and pieces of property on all of the southern Gulf Islands,” said Matthews, adding a foot passenger ferry operates in the summer months from Sidney Wharf.

Another of Matthews’ favourite stops is Russell Island at the mouth of Fulford Harbour, also part of the Gulf Islands National Park.

“Ten years ago I wouldn’t have told you about Russell Island but the secret is out,” said Matthews. “Secret places aren’t so secret anymore.”

He said nearby Portland Island is great kayaking territory. The island was originally given to Princess Margaret during a Royal visit in 1958.

“I think she forgot about it for quite a while,” said Matthews, adding the princess eventually gave the island back to the people of British Columbia.

He said the island has a great trail around it, and you are able to cover the whole island in a three- or four-hour hike. Matthews suggests keeping an eye out for the clearing where a horse racing track used to be located. “It was some mad Englishman’s idea of something to bring to the colonies.”

Another highlight for boaters is dropping anchor in Tod Inlet on a Saturday night to watch the fireworks from Butchart Gardens.

More great facilities for boaters can be found at Beaumont Park on Pender Island. “There’s a good beach there and a really great hike. You can hike up Mount Norman and see this most amazing view of the whole of the Gulf Islands.”

He said more nice spots can be found around Saturna, with Tumbo Island along the southeast corner of Saturna.

“The tide there is some of the fastest tide in this part of the coast, so you want to time it so you’re travelling with it, especially if you’re in a kayak because you’re going nowhere if you’re fighting it.”

Tumbo Island is another part of Gulf Islands National Park.

 

“For all these lands to be set aside on these islands, we’re really lucky to have them and they’re really well managed by Parks.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Coastal Airline flights 8P1543 on Feb. 22 and 8P1538 on Feb. 24 had cased of COVID-19 onboard, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. (Pacific Coastal Airlines photo)
Two flights between Kelowna and Victoria report COVID-19 exposures

Pacific Coastal Airlines flights on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 affected

Organizers say some 100 vehicles rallied against plans by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Victoria to sell 40 acres of its 98-acre property in Metchosin. (Barb Sawatsky/Submitted)
Proposed subdivision of green space in Metchosin draws 100 vehicles in protest

Plans for land owned by Boys Girls Club of Greater Victoria affects entire region, say residents

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in workplace accident at Gold River logging site

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19

Ladysmith’s famous Festival of Lights decorations are still up as of March 1, 2021. (Cole Schisler photo)
PHOTOS: It’s still looking a lot like Christmas in Ladysmith

Festival of Lights volunteers cannot remove the holiday roof top displays due to COVID-19

Most Read