F ew coastlines in Canada can boast year-round paddling, but one such place is Vancouver Island and the historic provincial capital nestled in its southern tip. Victoria is among the most paddler-friendly—and cyclist-friendly, pedestrian-friendly and, well, just friendly—small cities in the world. “Most visitors stroll the waterfront walkway and comment on how pretty a city it is,” writes The Wild Coast guidebook author, John Kimantas. “Little do they know how much better it gets on the water.”
Whether it’s urban paddling with a uniquely Victorian charm—watching horse-drawn carriages and double-decker buses ply the flower-filled streets, or taking afternoon tea post-paddle at the grand Empress Hotel—picnicking at a historic lighthouse, or venturing offshore to the wild Trial Islands, you might need a whole year just to see everything the City of Gardens has to offer.
Where to Go
If you Want to go guided
With nearly four decades of experience in Victoria, Ocean River Sports (www.oceanriver.com) leads kayak and paddleboard tours of the Harbour and surrounding waterways, as well as a popular, shuttle boat-assisted exploration of Discovery and Chatham islands.
Spend the day kayaking and hiking around this wild and scenic archipelago, watching for resident seals, sea lions and whales.
If you’re Into lighthouses
Launch from Fleming Bay for a half-day tour to the scenic picnicking beaches at Fort Rodd Hill and adjacent Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site. Built in 1860, this stately light station was the first on Canada’s west coast and is now open to the public.
If you Want to paddle and dine
Weave your way past the sailboats, seaplanes, fishing boats and ferries of Victoria’s beautiful-but-bustling Inner Harbour. Not dressed for tea? For fish ‘n’ chips with a twist, grab a seat at funky Red Fish Blue Fish, which serves up sustainably sourced seafood from a cargo container-turned-kitchen on the Broughton Street Pier. Victoria Kayak (www.victoriakayak.com) rents boats and runs harbor tours from the adjacent docks.
If you’re Looking for wildlife
For sightings of river otters, harbor seals, eagles and herons, explore the leafy, park-lined Gorge Waterway that snakes north from Victoria’s Upper Harbour.
Approach Tillicum Narrows—where the channel squeezes to just 30 feet wide—at slack tide to avoid impassable tidal rapids.
Victoria has been named the most romantic city in Canada and one of the 15 friendliest cities in the world. | Photo: Destination BC/Reuben Krabbe