Last year, as a newcomer to the Island, I was advised to take advantage of Tourism Victoria’s Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown promotion as a way to get to know the region better.
Good advice, and $10 well spent. It made for an enjoyable day and it started me on my Vancouver Island journey of discovery that I anticipate will never end.
We shouldn’t take for granted the riches around us. We shouldn’t become so accustomed to the wonders that they become invisible to us. That’s why Tourism Victoria’s annual promotion, which has been going on for more than 40 years, makes good sense. It wakes us up to what’s here and reminds us why the Island is renowned worldwide for its beauty and character.
The tourism promotion runs from Feb. 28 to March 3, but a few days isn’t enough to take in all the participating sites. I made a long day of it last year and managed to get to only three places, but I came away with a checklist for subsequent explorations. I haven’t got to the end of that list because it keeps growing and because I keep going back to places that have become favourites.
When you have taken in the Royal B.C. Museum, Butchart Gardens, the legislature buildings and all of the other items on Tourism Victoria’s list, you’ve just started.
The array of choices in parks alone is almost bewildering. We live adjacent to Gowlland Todd Provincial Park and a few minutes away from Goldstream Provincial Park, Mount Work Regional Park and Lone Tree Hill Regional Park. Within a half-hour’s drive are a dozen more. The opportunities are almost endless for any kind of hike that matches capability and time.
Thinking I would visit all the parks in the region, I started to make a list and discovered more than 300 provincial, regional and municipal parks, almost every one of them a gem, even the ball diamonds and tot lots. You’re never more than a block or two away from a park in the capital region. When we take a drive, we try to allow for time to stop at parks along the way, but we haven’t made much of a dent in the list.
Another list we’re chipping away at is the abundance of historic sites. I have a weakness for historic churches and old warehouses that have been restored for modern use without losing their character. It will be a long time before I get to the end of the historic list.
How could anyone living here ever get bored? But just in case that happens, get in your car and aim it in almost any direction. If you’re lucky, you’ll get lost on a narrow road that winds through thick forest and brings you to a sweeping view of Juan de Fuca Strait.
You could end up at the Kinsol Trestle. A pleasant drive and an easy walk brings you to this spectacular restored rail bridge that’s part of the Cowichan Valley Trail.
Add to the adventure by returning by way of Mill Bay and the ferry to Brentwood Bay.
If you pack a lunch, your drive could take you to Port Renfrew. Come back home along the Pacific Marine Circle Route that will take you through Lake Cowichan and Duncan. You might have trouble getting as far as Port Renfrew, though, if you are susceptible to the temptations of beach parks and ocean views — there are too many to count.
Arm yourself with a little historical information and take a walk along Old Esquimalt Road. Head for Dallas Road and take the scenic seaside drive to Cordova Bay. Don’t hurry.
Have a picnic in any one of scores of waterfront parks in the region. Take a ferry to one of the neighbouring islands. Go see the murals of Chemainus and the totem poles of Duncan.
Greater Victoria is a tourist destination — more than three million visitors a year — for many good reasons. It’s a treat, every once in a while, to step aside from daily life and be one of those tourists, to see through new eyes the treasures this region offers.
© Copyright 2013