Outdoor explorations for adventure-lovers

Southern Vancouver Island is build for adventurers

Welcome to the wild West Coast, where ocean meets mountains, forests were made for exploring, and touring is just as often done by kayak or bike.

For nature enthusiasts, a whale-watching tour is a must during a Victoria vacation.

While West Coast waters and shorelines are teaming with fascinating creatures, the true stars of a coastal wildlife adventure are the whales.

Several resident pods of orcas make their home in Victoria-area waters, not to mention numerous minke and humpback whales. Those embarking on this ultimate West Coast experience may also get to share in the excitement of seeing several calves recently born to residents pods.

In addition to the possibility of snapping some pretty memorable photos, there’s lots to learn from the on-board naturalists working with Victoria’s top whale watching companies.

From leaning about the habits and characteristics of these majestic creatures to the latest conservation efforts, learning is all part of the experience.

In addition to orcas, humpback whales are also being seen in increasing numbers. Because of their migratory nature, the best time to view humpbacks is from July to February, however sightings have been reported throughout the year.

Naturalists also share a wealth of knowledge about the many other species often spotted on a given trip.

Choose from two types of whale watching adventures, the speedy, open-air thrill of a Zodiac or the more relaxed approach of a cruiser. Both visit the same areas and travel at the same speed, but offer a different experience.

From one water adventure to another, pick up a paddle and see the city from an entirely new perspective. The varied ocean coastline and numerous lakes mean paddling is one the top pastimes for locals. Fortunately for visitors, rentals and tours are also easy to arrange in many locations around the Capital Region, from downtown’s Inner Harbour to Oak Bay and the far reaches of Sidney and Sooke.

The iconic Inner Harbour is ideal for a morning paddle, or venture to the Upper Harbour and the park-lined Gorge Waterway. Other popular paddling locations include the inlets and bays of Oak Bay and Saanich. From the Saanich Peninsula community of Brentwood Bay, explore Tod Inlet, a picturesque stretch of water between the Peninsula and the Malahat. Fresh-water paddles include Elk and Beaver Lakes in Saanich and in the West Shore community of View Royal, Thetis Lake. Both are about 15 minutes from downtown Victoria.

From open water to solid ground, two-wheel touring is a fantastic way to explore one of Canada’s most bike-friendly cities.

A regional treasure, the Galloping Goose and Lochside trail network will take you from the urban core to the south Island’s pastoral countryside and wild West Coast, 85 kilometres of accessible, picturesque trail along a former railway line – ideal for a scenic tour or a family excursion. The Galloping Goose, a 55k trail from Victoria to Sooke, is the first section of the Trans-Canada Trail. The Goose intersects with the Lochside Trail in Saanich, which ventures out through the rolling farmlands of the Saanich Peninsula.

Cyclists wanting to stick to the city can follow the Scenic Marine Drive, which starts downtown and winds along the picturesque waterfront of Fairfield, Oak Bay and Saanich. Head back to town, or connect with the Lochside Trail to continue out the Saanich Peninsula.

If trails are more your speed, mountain bike enthusiasts will find a variety of opportunities in the region, including mountain bike trails and a jump park at Bear Mountain Resort, and Hartland, on the Saanich Peninsula, with trail options for all levels of riders. For more information – and more locations – visit the South Island Mountain Bike Society online at simbs.com or check in with the Visitor Centre.

Other options for the adventure enthusiast? Take to the trees with AdrenaLine Zipline Adventures in Sooke, or checkout WildPlay, in the West Shore, about 20 minutes from downtown, where the Monkido Aerial Adventure has options for all ages.

Discover more at westcoasttraveller.com.

AdventureBritish ColumbiaCanadaFamily activitiesStaycation secretsThings to doTourismVictoria

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