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The best of Victoria’s favourites

We asked you to vote for your favourite people, places and businesses in our Readers’ Choice Awards. Here are some of the winners. Best scenery on a B.C.

We asked you to vote for your favourite people, places and businesses in our Readers’ Choice Awards. Here are some of the winners. 

Best scenery on a B.C. Ferries route

Winner: Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen — What’s not to like? A leisurely cruise through some of the most scenic islands on the West Coast accompanied by the smell of the sea and the sound of seagulls. If you’re lucky, you get to see a pod of whales, as well.

Finalist: Inside Passage from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert — A 16-hour excursion through unspoiled wilderness and fjord-like scenery. Retire to your private cabin, choose between two restaurants or just watch the panorama unfold hour after hour.

Finalist: Mill Bay Ferry — Driving from Victoria to Mill Bay is certainly faster, but if you truly want to live on island time, take the 20-minute ferry ride instead. B.C. Ferries calls the Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay route, which began in 1924, “The Island’s Most Beautiful Shortcut.”

Best beach

Winner: Willows Beach — On summer days it is hard to see the sand for the tanned bodies sprawled on the beach. The shallow, protected bay is a magnet for children either frolicking in the water under watchful eyes or making sand castles to the sky. In the winter months, walkers enjoy the solitude against the backdrop of the majestic peaks of the Olympic Peninsula across the strait.

Finalist: Esquimalt Lagoon — A walk along the lagoon in the winter can be bracing, when storms arrive from the Pacific. In fair or foul weather, the lagoon is an excellent place to start on a journey of discovery to nearby Fort Rodd Hill, Royal Roads University or all manner of birds visiting a national migratory bird sanctuary.

Finalist: Island View Beach — Located on the eastern side of the Saanich Peninsula, Island View Beach offers several kilometres of sandy beach, camping and thousands of years of history. The area has long been inhabited by the Coast Salish peoples (the Tsawout First Nation still has a reserve on the northern end of the beach). A public campground is open during the summer months. The beach ecosystem (beach, dune and marsh land) plays an important role for migratory birds in the area.

Best dog park

Winner: Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park — You might have cast the vote, but your four-legged pal probably would have chosen the park as their favourite anyway. The more than 10 kilometres of off-leash trails (except for some areas in the summer) are well maintained, with full facilities for two-legged companions. The park is shared with joggers, wildlife, the equestrian crowd, an annual triathlon race, anglers, and Olympic and recreational rowers all year round.

Finalist: Clover Point — If you throw a Frisbee, the dog will surely come. With its wide-open fields, a majestic backdrop of mountains in the background and space for children to fly their kites, Clover Point has it all. When the urge to chase a ball is passed, Fido can explore the beach or frolic in the waves.

Finalist: Dallas Road — Starting from Ogden Point and all the way to Ross Bay Cemetery, Dallas Road makes for an ultimate dog-walk route. One could possibly complete the whole distance without setting foot on a paved road (winter high tides might impede some parts). A large section is off-leash, with four and two-legged walkers peacefully co-existing. There are also areas where dog-lovers congregate, in all times of the day and in all weather, for opportunities to socialize and chase each other (are we still talking about dogs here?).

Best park

Winner: Beacon Hill Park — This 75-hectare public park has been a popular meeting place for generations of Victorians since 1882. It is home to a flock of friendly peacocks (they have been known to stop traffic), hectares of manicured and natural grounds, a petting zoo, a bandshell and hundreds of hungry ducks. Walk among majestic trees or take a walk up to the lookout to see a commanding view of the sea and mountains beyond.

Finalist: Sooke Potholes Provincial Park — Nature carved out a series of rock pools (whimsically called potholes) 15,000 years ago. In recent years the pools, fed by the Sooke River, have become a popular spot for locals and visitors to gather to swim and dive into every summer. The park is also an ideal place to view the annual salmon-spawning run.

Finalist: Thetis Lake Park — This regional conservation area, established in 1958, was Canada’s first nature sanctuary. While it has public beaches, picnic and marked trails for the legions of people it welcomes year round, it still manages to retain pockets of wildflowers nestled in Garry oak ecosystems and forests of Douglas fir for the enjoyment of visitors yet to come.

Best picnic spot

Winner: Beacon Hill Park — The world can be a busy place. A visit to Beacon Hill Park can be the antidote. What better way to decompress and re-energize than spend an hour (or two) sharing a meal at the park. You might have come alone, but if you take your meal in certain places of the park, you will have feathered company in no time. There are benches, tables for some but acres of grass for others. In the spring, people can sit among daffodils or camas; in the fall, some shy people create privacy by making a clearing among the tall grass.

Finalist: East Sooke Regional Park — If communicating with nature is your goal, you don’t have to search farther than East Sooke Regional Park, with more than 1,400 hectares of forest, marsh and field connected by 50 kilometres of trails. You can find a deserted beach, explore a rocky bay for tidal pools or sit back to enjoy an unfettered view of the Juan de Fuca Strait or Olympic Mountains in the distance.

Finalist: Island View Beach Regional Park — To build up an appetite, you can take a circle route around the park. Head north down the beach and take one of the access trails through the foredunes (sand dunes on the side closest to the sea). Return by way of the inland trail through an old salt marsh and backdunes before stopping for a snack at the picnic area.

Best place to hike

Winner: East Sooke Regional Park — This is a recreation area with something for everyone. There are a total of 50 kilometres of marked trails, including a rugged 10-kilometre Coast Trail. Walk through a coastal forest, marsh and old farm fields and logging roads, from the sea shore to the top of hills. The park has suggested trails for people to follow, or embark on a day of self-discovery. Accessible toilets are usually found at the trailhead, along with shelters and picnic areas.

Finalist: Goldstream Provincial Park — Few cities can claim to have an old-growth temperate rain forest just minutes from downtown. The 380-hectare unspoiled wilderness park boasts majestic trees, a salmon-spawning river and a waterfall. Trails run from wheelchair-accessible to strenuous. Walk through abandoned gold-digging sites or our very own Niagara Falls, which cascades 47.5 metres down a rock face.

Finalist: Mount Finlayson — Located in Goldstream Provincial Park, it is one of the highest points in Greater Victoria. Walk through a forest made up of 600-year-old Douglas firs or admire the arbutus, Canada’s only broad-leafed evergreen, found exclusively on Vancouver Island and southwest coast of British Columbia.

Best seaside walk

Winner: Dallas Road/Ogden Point — There are great seaside walks around Greater Victoria, but a walk along Dallas Road culminating at the tip of the breakwater at Ogden Point is an exceptional experience for residents and visitors alike. Regardless of the time of the year and the weather, the bracing sea air and unsurpassed vista is sure to rejuvenate mind and body. The new railings means more peace of mind for young and old alike.

Finalist: Esquimalt Lagoon — The sheltered saltwater lagoon is a birders paradise, with resident shorebirds and waterfowl, such as glaucous-winged gulls joined by visitors such as black oystercatchers, western sandpipers, cormorants and others. The land around the lagoon includes some of the largest Douglas fir trees in the province, wetlands and Garry oak woodlands.

Finalist: Willows Beach/Cattle Point — Site of the Oak Bay Tea Party and acres of bronzed bodies in the summer and the opportunity to enjoy in peaceful solitude when the temperature drops. A walk north along the beach from the seasonal tea room leads to Cattle Point, a popular site for anglers to launch their boats, and Uplands Park.

B.C. premier you miss the most

Winner: Dave Barrett — He was the 26th premier of British Columbia, in power between 1972 and 1975. Born in Vancouver, Barrett was known for his public speaking and was first elected to the legislature in 1960. Barrett led the NDP to its first provincial victory in the 1972 election. In his time in office, his government reformed the welfare system and banned corporal punishment in schools. He was elected member of Parliament in 1998. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of British Columbia. He lives in Victoria.

Finalist: Bill Bennett — Bennett led the B.C. Social Credit Party in 1973 and was elected premier in 1975. He went on to win two more elections to leave behind an era of political domination in the province that would last until 1991. During his time in office he built a legacy of achievements, from Expo 86 to the Coquihalla Highway. He received the Order of British Columbia in 2007. He died in 2015 at the age of 83.

Finalist: Mike Harcourt — Harcourt was the 30th premier of the province between 1991 and 1996. Before that, he was the mayor of Vancouver from 1980 to 1986. He was first elected to the Legislature in 1986 and leader of the NDP the following year. He led his party to power in 1991 and resigned as premier in 1996.

Hardest-working MLA

Winner: Carole James — James has served the community she grew up in, raised her children in and continues to live in. She is currently minister of finance and deputy premier. She has served in the community for more than 25 years, first serving as president of the B.C. School Trustees Association in 1995. She was elected to the Greater Victoria School Board from 1990 to 2001. She was first elected as an NDP MLA in 2005 and has repeated her feat in 2009, 2013 and 2017. When in opposition, she served as the opposition spokesperson for finance and as opposition critic for children and family development.

Finalist: Andrew Weaver — A scientist before becoming a politician, Weaver is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. In 2008, he was appointed to the Order of British Columbia. He was first elected in 2013. He coaches soccer and was instrumental in the creation of the school-based Weather Station Network, which involved the installation of weather stations at schools throughout Vancouver Island.

Finalist: John Horgan — The current premier of British Columbia, Horgan was first elected to the Legislature in 2005 as MLA for Juan de Fuca, and has been re-elected three times, most recently for the new riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca in 2017. He became leader of the B.C. NDP in 2014 and, since his party’s win in the last election, is the 36th premier of the province.

Most inspirational Olympic athlete from the Island

Winner: Silken Laumann — Laumann might have won all sorts of medals for her prowess on the water, but she won the nation’s heart leading up to the 1992 Summer Olympics. She was one of the favourites to capture a gold medal — until she was involved in a collision in a boat. Despite serious injuries, five operations and three weeks in the hospital, Laumann trained with a vengeance — with the whole country looking on. For her efforts, she won a bronze medal — but to the country she won gold.

In recognition of her courage, she was selected to carry the Canadian flag in the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. She was subsequently named Canadian of the Year by the Canadian Club. She was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and was awarded the Thomas Keller Medal the following year. She lives in Victoria.

Finalist: Ryan Cochrane — The Victoria native burst on the world stage when he competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics where he won the bronze medal in the 1,500-metre freestyle. It was the first time a Canadian received a medal for the event in 88 years and the first Olympic medal for a Canadian swimmer since the 1996 Summer Olympics. He followed it up with a silver medal at the Summer Olympics in London four years later. In 2016, he was made co-captain of the Canadian Olympic team. He retired this year.

Finalist: Simon Whitfield — In a triathlon, an athlete must excel in three continuous endurance disciplines — swimming, cycling and running. Whitfield, who began pursuing the sport seriously when he was only 15, won the first gold medal in the sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics. He competed again in 2004 but it was the 2008 Olympics that saw him thrust into world consciousness with a sprint in the last kilometre of the race that propelled him to within five seconds of the gold medal. A bike crash put him out of contention at the 2012 London Olympics and he retired a year later. He spends his time in Victoria and on Salt Spring Island.