There's a picture-perfect seaside escape tucked away in Central Saanich behind Butchart Gardens.
Walk through Gowlland Tod Provincial Park's moss-covered firs on a trail that skirts a ravine where a shallow stream flows and emerge at Tod Inlet's secluded waters.
The tree-lined cove is accessible only by boat or by hiking the Tod Inlet or Tod Creek Trail - both start from Wallace Drive opposite Quarry Lake and take about 20 minutes to walk.
The trails are lined with surprising remnants of the area's industrial past - it's on the picturesque shores of Tod Inlet that B.C.'s first cement factory was built.
When limestone was discovered in the area at the turn of the 20th century, it brought a boom of industrial activity. The Butchart family owned the cement factory during its 20 years of production, which ended in 1921.
Filmmaker David Gray explored Tod Inlet's shores as a child in Saanich when his family would spend weekends anchored in the inlet. Gray and his brother found artifacts that didn't fit with the cement industry - Chinese pottery, pig teeth and odd coins.
Years later, he was still wondering who the items belonged to and why nobody seemed to know anything about them, so he decided to find out. "It was an interesting process of going from finding old stuff buried in the ground to finding information buried in the archives," Gray said.
Gray's two films, Searching for the Sikhs of Tod Inlet and Beyond the Gardens' Wall, focus on the hundreds of Sikh and Chinese workers who lived and worked on the shores of Tod Inlet during the cement-production years.
As you walk toward Tod Inlet, watch for some of the evidence of their presence, including a displaced fire hydrant and remains of the foreman's house.
During the summer, more information on Tod Inlet's past and ecological information can be found on the floating information booth set up by the non-profit SeaChange Marine Conservation Society.
Since it was protected as part of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park in 1995, the area's natural life has bounced back - bald eagles and purple martins now make Tod Inlet their home.
If you're an early riser, mornings are the best time to see the seals in the inlet, said Danielle New, who works on the SeaChange nature float.
While Gray now lives in Ontario, Tod Inlet remains a special place to him. "I've done a lot of travelling and it's still one of my favourite places in the world."
The Tod Inlet Trail is a wide, relatively flat trail for an easy walk. The Tod Creek Trail weaves its way around the stream through ferns and offers more challenging inclines. Don't stress about staying on the course for either one, though - they intertwine and end up in the same place.
Once you arrive at Tod Inlet, keep exploring - there are many hidden spots in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park waiting to be discovered to call your own.
TOD INLET FAST FACTS
Difficulty Rating: 1-2 (depending on which trail you take, it can be a casual walk or a hike up slight hills)
Highlights: Walk around the treelined cove and soak in the sun around the secluded waters. Keep your eye out for artifacts of the area's industrial and cultural past.
Time: 20 minutes to walk through the trails to reach Tod Inlet.
Facilities: Washrooms at Tod Inlet Nature Float
Location: Tod Inlet, Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, access off Wallace Drive near Benvenuto Avenue.
© Copyright 2013