The Coast Collective Arts Centre opened its summer show last week. Destination Victoria: Small Local Treasures features small works by Island artists and craftspeople. Each work celebrates the region, its land- and seascapes, and uniquely local experiences.
The show perfectly reflects the centre.
Coast Collective resides in historic Pendray House on the shores of Esquimalt Lagoon, and combines a taste of the region’s history with a quietly spectacular setting. It is, itself, a local treasure.
A 20-minute drive from Pendray House — if there’s no traffic — the Royal B.C. Museum recently launched its newest book, Treasures of the Royal British Columbia Museum and Archives.
With essays and photographs of some key artifacts and specimens from the provincial collections, the book explores the museum’s underlying philosophy and shares stories and information about the featured treasures.
As treasure seems to be this summer’s theme, here are a few of my favourite Victoria treasures, combined into three multi-treasure adventures.
Many treasures in Colwood
If you’re heading to the Coast Collective Arts Centre, consider spending the day in the area. The centre’s grounds include gardens, as well as seashore. They also connect to the Royal Roads trail system, which can lead you to Hatley Castle and its gardens and grounds — all of which are local treasures.
Travel in the other direction and Ocean Boulevard provides views of the castle and Pendray House and opportunities to birdwatch along Esquimalt Lagoon on one side, and pounding surf and views to the Olympic Mountains and Victoria on the other side.
A short drive to the east, Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse national historic sites provide more spectacular views, local military and maritime history, and a glimpse of the activities within busy Esquimalt Harbour.
Cycling, hiking, old growth and the universe
Until the line’s closure in 1924, a B.C. Electric tram gave Victorians access to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, which opened atop Observatory Hill in 1918. Today, you can’t ride the rails to the foot of the hill, but you can walk and cycle the Interurban Rail Trail.
The road that winds up the hill passes through some of the last untouched old-growth Douglas fir forest on the Saanich Peninsula.
These woods and the Garry oak meadows on the drier exposures are home to rare and endangered species. These include certain trefoils and sanicles among the plants and, for reptile lovers, the sharp-tailed snake.
The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory crowns this treasure. From here, Canadian astronomers discovered the size and rotation speed of the Milky Way in the 1920s, and the design of its telescope served as a model for other observatories around the world.
Much of Observatory Hill falls under federal jurisdiction.
These days, access is controlled and limited. However, volunteers from the local chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada guide public stargazing on the hill on some Saturday nights in the coming weeks. Join a star party on Aug. 8 and 29, and Sept. 12, from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Public waterfront and garden treasures
Treasure-seekers can walk along and above Juan de Fuca Strait for four uninterrupted kilometres, from Ogden Point to Hollywood Crescent, along Dallas Road.
The route offers opportunities to people-, bird-, whale-, boat- and — occasionally — submarine-watch, as well as explore the waterfront’s geology. For example, at Holland Point across from Beacon Hill Park, Jurassic-aged magma appears as dark blobs and streaks amidst lighter-coloured rock in the cliffs over the shore.
Because the clifftop viewpoints along Dallas Road have drawn people for 150 years, treasure-seekers with metal detectors have uncovered old coins and lost jewelry from the area.
If treasure-seekers keep walking eastward, they can wend their way along Hollywood Crescent first to Gonzales Bay Beach, then to the Chinese cemetery at Harling Point.
From there, they can climb to the historic Gonzales Observatory and Walbran Point Park, then down to Fairfield Road to have tea or lunch at Abkhazi Garden, a jewel of a property with its own lovely story.
The region has many more treasures than I can include here, of course. What are some of yours? Email me to let me know.