Earlier this month we suggested that taking the Pacific Marine Circle Route of Southern Vancouver Island might make a great overnight trip this summer. This route takes you from downtown Victoria to Sooke, and then on to Port Renfrew, before heading overland to the Cowichan Valley and eventually back again to Victoria.
However, for those of you who want to experience the wild West Coast of Vancouver Island, but don’t have time to take an overnight trip along the Circle Route (or even up to Tofino and Long Beach), Victoria’s bedroom communities of the Westshore and Sooke offer plenty of heritage attraction.
Formerly known as the Western Communities, West Shore is located about 15 minutes west of Victoria by car along the Trans-Canada Highway. Its shorelines looks out across to the anchorage at CFB Esquimalt, and the military has played a strong role in the history of this area.
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites
Visiting Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites is a great way to spend a summer afternoon in Victoria. Originally constructed to guard the Royal Navy’s fleet in the North Pacific, today Fort Rodd Hill features restored building, bunkers, tunnels and gun emplacements to store, as well as grassy areas and woods that are perfect for a picnic. Originally built in 1860, Fisgard Lighthouse is situated at the end of a rocky spit perfect for beachcombing and even whale-watching.
There are stunning views of the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, as well as frequent ship and boating traffic. It’s a great way to experience the wildness of the West Coast in a heritage setting.
Hatley Castle National Historic Site
Located just a short distance west of Fort Rodd Hill, Hatley Castle National Historic Site is also another heritage attraction with naval routes. Originally constructed by James Dunsmuir, son of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir (who first built Craigdarroch Castle, just outside downtown Victoria), Hatley Castle eventually became a military college, and has even starred in several X-Men movies. With its stunning architecture and ornate interior, Hatley Castle features a glimpse into the opulent past of the Dunsmuir family. Now home to Royal Roads University, the castle is also surrounded by beautiful gardens and forest walks. The grounds end at the sheltered waters of Esquimalt Lagoon, a perfect place to watch birds travelling along the Pacific Flyway.