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Victoria to Goldstream Provincial Park

Updated: Feb 6




The beautiful Craigdarroch Castle, a Victorian-era mansion, is easily accessible from the heart of Victoria via car or a leisurely stroll. Robert Dunsmuir, who immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1851, was the richest man in nineteenth century British Columbia. The story of the Dunsmuir family and their rise from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of wealth and power is complex and fascinating. Robert Dunsmuir began building the castle for his large family of 10 in the 1890s. A coal baron, he used the mines to fund the construction of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, ultimately ending in tragedy when Robert died in April 1889. Up until her death Joan Dunsmuir and her ten children called Craigdarroch home.


Their two sons, James, and Alexander finished building the castle for their mother. It’s impressive exterior is matched only by the lavishness of the interior including the stained-glass windows, which are the most extensive and impressive private collection of its kind in all of Canada.

In 1908, ten months after Joan's death, the castle and its contents were auctioned off. The Castle served as a public building for sixty years. After 25 years of service as a military hospital, the building was converted into Victoria College. The Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society, which owns the building, is responsible for its upkeep and care.


Hatley Castle and Royal Roads University


James Dunsmuir became both the Premier of British Columbia and later the Lieutenant Governor. The original Hatley Park house had been destroyed by fire in 1908 while the Dunsmuir’s were in England. Having amassed a huge fortune, James now turned his attention to the construction and planning of the new Hatley Castle for his family, and to which he intended to retire to upon completion. In 1910, he sold his coal rights and holdings in the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway belt, as well as all his business connections under the Dunsmuir name, for $11,000,000 (approximately $280,000,000 in present-day dollars). Then, he retired to his estate and hobbies. After his death at age 69 in 1920, his beautiful wife Laura continued to reside at Hatley Park with her daughter Eleanor until she passed away in August 1937. Eleanor passed away six months later.

The castle then had a fascinating history of uses. For the next three years, the estate was left in the hands of a caretaker. In November 1940, the Dominion Government purchased the property for $75,000 to establish a Naval Training Establishment.


During this time, over 600 volunteer reserve officers underwent training. The training of regular force naval cadets was then reinstated in Canada on 21 October 1942, and the spirit of the old Royal Naval College of Canada was reborn with the establishment of the Royal Canadian Naval College at Royal Roads. The College's name was changed to Royal Roads Military College in 1968. Enacted in 1975, the Royal Roads Military College Degree Act authorized the awarding of degrees. The first graduating class from Royal Roads was in May of 1977.


It was announced on 22 February 1994 that Royal Roads Military College would close the following year. With public support, the Province of British Columbia entered negotiations with the federal government of Canada to lease the university's property and facilities. The initiative was successful and Royal Roads University was established on 21 June 1995 and Royal Roads Military College ceased to exist on August 31, 1995. The facilities were transferred to Royal Roads University on September 1, 1995. It is now the administrative centre of Royal Roads University.

The formal gardens at Hatley castle are spectacular, drawing thousands of visitors to it's Japanese, Italian, and rose gardens annually. Once maintained by as many as 180 Chinese gardeners, the 650 acres are now cared for by a non-profit society. Hatley Castle is frequently used as a venue for weddings, other special events and numerous Hollywood Productions as a filming location.


Galloping Goose


The Galloping Goose on Vancouver Island is part of the Trans Canada Trail which traverses the Canadian landscape from coast to coast. The “Goose” and Peninsula Trails form one of the most picturesque trail systems in Canada.


Dedicated in 1989, the Galloping Goose Trail is named for a gawky and noisy gas railway-car which carried passengers between Victoria and Sooke in the 1920's. The first rail tracks were laid on island soil in 1893, with the opening of the Victoria and Sidney line. That was followed by the Vancouver Island section of the Canadian National Railway dedicated in 1911, and by B.C. Electric in 1913.


Built upon the abandoned rail beds and trestles of that railway legacy, the Galloping Goose and Peninsula Trails connect our transportation past with our transportation future.


You can cycle, walk, or ride a horse along this former rail line past some of B.C.’s finest scenery for nearly 60 km. From asphalt to rainforest to canyon... the Goose knows every landscape on Southern Vancouver Island. Starting in Victoria, it travels the back roads to Saanich. Then it winds through the urban setting of Esquimalt, Colwood, View Royal, and Langford. At Metchosin, the trail moves lazily past small farms surrounded by hills, steep, rocky slopes, and trails will lead you to the harbours of Witty’s Lagoon, Devonian Regional Park and Peddar Bay before ending at Sooke.


Esquimalt Lagoon


Take an excursion to the 2-km long “Spit” at the Esquimalt Lagoon. At this bird migratory paradise is where some serious birdwatching takes place. Scan overhead and listen for the crack of shells as gulls and crows drop shellfish down from above for their seafood supper.

Buffleheads, mergansers, mallards, and swans are just some of the birds you'll get to enjoy. High in the treetops bald eagles, kingfishers, and great blue herons stalk the shoreline. Observe the low shrubby vegetation on the lagoon side for sparrows, finches, peeps, and plovers. No two days will be the same for spotting unfamiliar avian. A few years ago, a mongolian plover was spotted here miles off it’s migration route. Looking back over the lagoon, you'll see some of the biggest douglas fir trees in all British Columbia. This area offers both fascinating aboriginal cultural sites and Ice Age geological formations.

Langford

Langford is a hub for outdoor recreation enthusiasts especially mountain bikers and cyclists. It’s home to the Jordie Lunn Bike Park, a one-of-a-kind mountain bike park that makes recreational cycling fun for cyclists of all ages and abilities. The park is free to use and is open 24/7 dusk to dawn! The park combines elements of dirt jumping, a pump track, skills area and a cyclocross and mountain bike trail network in one seamless platform. The Jordie Lunn Bike Park has been built to inspire the local community to come together in their love for fun and innovative sport.


Some of the best golf in the Pacific Northwest can be found right here. The region features three different golf courses, the most notable of which is the Bear Mountain Golf Resort, Canada's only 36-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed course.


Olympic View Golf Club located in a natural forest on the lush West Coast, and its course winds past two waterfalls and 12 lakes, with the snow-capped Olympic Mountains in the background.


The par-3 nine-hole Juan de Fuca Golf Course presents experienced players with the opportunity to hone their short game abilities, as it is flanked by seven water hazards. Beautiful fairways and greens complement the laid-back vibe to make this course ideal for novices and families.

Metchosin

Metchosin is a coastal community on the southern tip of western Vancouver Island. Archaeological evidence suggests a thriving population of First Nations people have lived here for thousands of years. The Spanish were the first Europeans to land in Metchosin at Pedder Bay, followed closely by Captain George Vancouver on his survey of the coastline in 1792.


As Victoria developed, it led more people to the area, and during the 1850’s several farms were established, the rolling land was discovered to be quite productive, and farmers grazed their cattle and sheep on the uplands. Access to Victoria was only possible on a narrow track and therefore most supplies were delivered by boat.

Nowadays, there are equestrian clubs and bridle trails for the many horse owners that choose to enjoy the beautiful, forested trails in the area. As well as two golf courses in proximity. Metchosin is an escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life!


Metchosin Day – The biggest community event in this municipality is a fun and free day for the entire family. Held annually every September, the first Sunday after Labour Day, there are events for all ages. A 5km run/walk followed by a pancake breakfast, lots of entertainment, a pet show and old-fashioned races like the three-legged race, egg and spoon race and more; hayrides, displays of horsemanship and other rural pleasures! The day is topped off by a succulent lamb and barbecue salmon dinner.

The Metchosin Farmers Market operates on Sundays May through October. The Metchosin Sheep Dog Trials and Clinic held annually in late July has been entertaining dog lovers since 1992.


The Stinking Fish Studio Tour is a self-guided tour located in one of the most beautiful coastal areas of Western Canada. Many artists and artisans have chosen to live and work here showcasing the very best studios in East Sooke and Metchosin. Come explore one of the richest “art trails” on Vancouver Island and meet the artists creating their impressionable work.


Metchosin is rich in regional parks and trails offering a variety of outdoor experiences, they include:

  • Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park – Within its 56 hectares lies a surprising variety of landscapes. Sitting Lady Falls which spills into the Lagoon. The beach trail skirts a salt marsh and a lovely sandy beach on a shallow bay perfect for swimming when the sun has warmed the incoming tide. This park is a favorite of local birdwatchers as it’s a natural resting spot for migrating birds before they attempt to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Nature Information Centre has displays explaining the natural and cultural history of Witty’s Lagoon, and interpretive programs are offered throughout the year.

  • Devonian Regional Park – This small wildlife sanctuary is tucked between farms and features mixed woodlands and a winding creek, leading to Sherwood Pond, where you will find migratory birds resting up along their journey. Forested trails lead to a stony beach at Parry Bay, and tides permitting, you can hike three kilometres eastwards down the beach to Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park.

  • Albert Head Lagoon Regional Park – This small lagoon is protected as a wildlife sanctuary for the many species of migrating birds that stop here. There is an easy trail to the beach and a picnic area.

  • Matheson Lake Regional Park – 156.97 hectares providing hiking trails swimming and fishing. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, and the sandy beach and picnic area is the perfect spot for a dip on a hot summer day. The Galloping Goose Trail passes through the park on its way to Sooke and nearby Roche Cove Regional Park.

Sooke

The Sooke area is a true outdoor recreation playground. A popular destination among outdoor enthusiasts is Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. For a fun-filled day with plenty of opportunities for a picnic on rugged shorelines, the potholes is where you’ll find nature at it’s most pristine form, with trails, rocky cliffs, and swimming holes just waiting for you to have a cool dip after a day of hiking and adventure. China Beach is a stunning hike with amazing views with a hidden waterfall. Squeaky Point where you can see petroglyphs carved into the rocks from hundreds of years ago. Enjoy activities such as birdwatching, hiking, tall timber forests, golf courses, nature trails, accessible trails, nature preserves, wildlife watching, and golfing. Adventure sports enthusiasts will get a thrill from a day of whale watching in a fast zodiac, zip-lining or deep-sea fishing.

The hiking is 2nd to none in this area. You can walk flat paved areas or trek down wide gravelled pathways lined with huge old-growth trees. In the fall and early winter months, use the platforms on the riverside trails to watch for salmon in the river. And keep an eye out for bald eagles who love the easy salmon feasts. Don’t miss the stump so large you can climb right in and take a photo!


There are moderately challenging routes with access to Goldstream Niagara Falls. This 47.5m tall waterfall more than holds its own in the scenery department. Here you’ll discover a tunnel under the highway and it’s large enough to walk through all year round, except during extremely heavy rains. Hike down a lovely creekside trail and keep an eye out for tiny caves, tall fir trees and giant banana slugs. When the water levels are low during late summer, the waterfall may be nothing more than a trickle. You can take a refreshing swim at the bottom of the waterfall or in the winter months, the waterfall is in full flow creating a tremendous amount of full-throttle


Goldstream Provincial Park

Goldstream Provincial Park is a temperate rainforest that is well worth a visit for the salmon habitat and bald eagle populations. Every fall millions of Pacific salmon fight their way up the streams, creeks and rivers of the Pacific northwest working their way back to the their home pools where they were originally spawned. Here, they will spawn a new generation of salmon then die.


In the Goldstream River, the salmon will usually appear about mid-October, and may be seen for about nine weeks. The dates varying from year to year. There are five varieties of Pacific salmon but at Goldstream, it is the Chum salmon that is most prevalent. However, you may also see some Coho and Chinook salmon, as well as Steelhead and Cutthroat trout.


There is more to see than just the spawning salmon though. Many opportunists come to the rivers although you may not see them from the park. Seals and sea lions will arrive in Saanich Inlet to try and intercept the salmon as they approach the estuary. Bears love to take advantage of a good salmon run too, although bear sightings in Goldstream Park are not that common.


Of course, racoons and river otters will show up to take their share. Cutthroat trout move in from the ocean to feast on the roe. You may see the American Dipper a small wren like bird, flitting around on the rocks and plunging into the water to find some eggs. Gulls show up in large numbers to feast on the dead and dying salmon. Later in the year as the salmon run diminishes, Bald Eagles will show-up in large numbers to gorge on the salmon carcasses. Not a sight for the squeamish though!


Freedom Adventure Bus Society is based in Saanichton, BC and lies within the territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples represented by the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations and the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples represented by the Tsartlip, Pauquachin, Tsawout, Tseycum and Malahat Nations.


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