Image: Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University, Colwood, BC Credit: Jerry Meaden, Flickr
The City of Victoria is one of British Columbia’s – and the world’s – hottest tourist attractions. People flock to this West Coast gem with a British twist for its mild weather, beautiful gardens and old-world charm. It is well-known for its many cultural events, restaurants, Chinatown, and charming shopping districts. For locals, however, the cost and availability of housing in the city have become prohibitive, which has led to rapid expansion and improvements in other parts of Victoria’s Capital Regional District, or CRD.
One of the fastest growing areas in the CRD is the West Shore, also known as the Western Communities. Largely dismissed as a “redneck” area in the 90s and earlier, the new millennium has seen the West Shore rebuild and rebrand itself as a vibrant, growing residential hub for young workers and families. New shopping areas are springing up all the time, offering everything from malls, big box stores, retail and fast food chains to fine dining, boutiques, and artisan shops. As the West Shore is a newer area to be developed, it is still interspersed with and surrounded by plenty of green space with beautiful parks, trails and beaches.
If you are travelling Vancouver Island by RV, we encourage you to make the West Shore one of your stops! We’ve put together a list of our favourite places to stay, play, eat and explore in this lesser-known part of Victoria & area.
Pedder Bay RV Resort & Marina
For a top-of-the-line camping experience, consider Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina. This friendly, well-maintained resort is located just 40 minutes from downtown Victoria, on the shore of stunning Pedder Bay in the community of Metchosin. Enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of the area against a backdrop of the Olympic Mountain Range and the Race Rocks Marine Reserve. Explore the surrounding parkland with a network of local trails. RV sites are fully serviced, with some right on the waterfront, and some pull-through lots are available. Visitors rave about the clean, modern facilities and friendly, helpful staff.
Goldstream Provincial Park
This provincial park and campground is chock full of coastal beauty – the cedars and firs of the temperate rainforest; the clear, salmon-bearing stream; the spray of the Upper Goldstream Falls on ferns; majestic Mount Finlayson; the educational Nature House… you may not want to leave this beautiful place! The campground is clean and well-maintained, with flush toilets and free hot showers available to campers. While there are no full-service sites in the campground, the sani-station is available to use for $5 per discharge during the high season.
My Chosen Cafe
This rustic Metchosin eatery has been a local favourite since 1987. If you’re looking for hearty homestyle fare in a cozy, unpretentious environment, you’ll want to make a stop here! Specializing in a wide assortment of unique, tasty burgers (such as the Lamb Burger, Cajun Chicken Burger and Mushroom Jack Burger), classic sandwiches (like the Hot Roast Beef, Toasted Shrimp and Monte Cristo), and all-day breakfast, the menu will make it tough to leave room for dessert! Try your best though… otherwise, you’ll miss out on a slice of fresh pie or cake from the restaurant’s bakery, the Sugar Shack.
House of Boateng
If you’re looking to try something a little more upscale (but still casual), we recommend House of Boateng. In the heart of Langford, this classy, modern venue serves local food with a West African & Caribbean fusion flair. Enjoy a refreshing cocktail and snacks on the patio or dinner from the chef’s seasonal tasting menu. If you’re a morning person (or awake any time before 3 pm), you can stop by for a Caesar and brunch, featuring menu items such as Harissa Grilled Halloumi Crepe, Banana Bread French Toast and Crab Benny.
Travel back to the early 1900s at Hatley Park National Historic Site, located on the lush green grounds of Royal Roads University. You may recognize the building’s distinctive facade from the X-Men movie series and other shows such as Smallville and Descendants. Commissioned in 1908 by coal baron James Dunsmuir, the castle and estate were purchased by the Canadian Government in 1940 and repurposed as the Royal Canadian Naval College at Royal Roads. Today, Royal Roads continues business as a non-military university, preserving the building, lavish furnishings, and surrounding gardens as a museum open to all. The interior of the castle is accessible by guided tour only. Visit the website for more details.
Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse
Military buffs of all ages will be sure to enjoy this fascinating and well-preserved piece of WWI & WWII history. Kids will enjoy climbing the old batteries and exploring underground bunkers and magazines. Adults will learn about the history of the fortress, which was on active duty from 1895 to 1956, and the fascinating personal stories of soldiers and their families. Afterwards, take a walk down the path to the beach and tour the Fisgard Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the Canadian West Coast.
On a hot day, there’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in the clear, cold waters of a river. This beloved swimming spot has been a favourite escape for CRD residents for decades – since long before it was made into a park, and the only access to the potholes was technically by trespassing. (1.5 kilometres up the trail, you can still see the foundations of a failed resort that was partially constructed – then abandoned – in the 80s.) When you park in the lot at the bottom of the park and start up the trail, you’ll find several beautiful swim spots: shallow pools for the kids, and further up, the deeper “potholes” surrounded by worn river rock. The sounds of the eddies and waterfalls combined with the song of birds and the wind in the surrounding rainforest will leave you feeling peaceful and refreshed. The park also offers an RV-friendly campground in the high season, although there is no hydro, dumping station or showers.
WildPlay Elements Park
The City of Colwood boasts one of the most exciting outdoor adventures on the Island – a place where you and your kids can really monkey around! This thrilling tree-to-tree adventure course lets you zip, crawl and climb through the rainforest canopy, testing your courage and agility on a variety of aerial challenges. Before you begin your course, the friendly WildPlay staff will give you a safety lesson on the ground to get you comfortable using the ziplines and the continuous belay system. For your little monkeys, there’s a kids’ course that’s just the right height for shorter arms and legs. Adults can choose between WildPlay Classic, or WildPlay Extreme with its extra-high, extra heart-pumping challenges. If you want more, you can also sign up for axe-throwing, a zipline tour, or the 40-ft “what’s to fear” bungee jump!
City Centre Park
If it’s raining and the kids are bored, City Centre Park is a great place to spend the day indoors. There’s an excellent bowling alley where you can vie for 10-pin supremacy, and a PlayZone where kids 1-12 years old can run, crawl and slide through a massive indoor play structure. There’s even a toddlers’ area for the under-3 crowd. (Make sure your kids arrive wearing socks – no shoes or bare feet are allowed.) There’s also an ice rink with drop-in skating on Sundays 3 – 4:20 pm, and a pirate-themed mini-golf course for when the sun comes back out. If you’re hungry after your adventures, you can grab a bite to eat at the City Centre Grille, a sports bar with big-screen TVs and a wall of vintage arcade games.
Get some exercise and “the ultimate natural high” at the Malahat Skywalk, a spectacular gentle spiral ramp that takes you 32 meters in the air. At the top, you’ll enjoy spectacular views in every direction, out over the forest canopy and beyond to Finlayson Arm, The Saanich Peninsula, Mount Baker and the Coast Mountains. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of eagles, falcons and other raptors soaring above the firs. If you’re brave, you can take a walk on the 900 sq ft Adventure Net suspended across at the very top of the SkyWalk tower. When it’s time to come back down, you have the option to descend via a thrilling 64-ft enclosed spiral slide! The Skywalk is safe and accessible for kids, wheelchairs and strollers. Malahat Skywalk is one of the CRD’s newest attractions, built by the local Malahat First Nation to help visitors discover and appreciate the beauty of their traditional territory.