Lakes & Beaches in Victoria
The stony beaches below the Dallas Road walkway are tremendous for walking in the wind, with kites and hang gliders soaring overhead. These beaches are also a treasure trove for beachcombers, who find driftwood in all its convoluted shapes and tidal pools at low tide.
Willows is a long, broad stretch of white sand, just a block off Beach Drive near Dalhousie Street in Oak Bay. Its shallow, protected waters are a safe and ideal place for kids to burn off energy, and the beach is a popular place to launch kayaks. A well-equipped and shaded playground is right next to the beach, as is a large open area bordered by big shady elms that appeals to frisbee players. In summer, the volunteer-run Oak Bay Tea Room provides simple sustenance. The beach affords views across Haro Strait to the Olympic Mountains and the white cone of the dormant volcano, Mount Baker.
Frequented by kayakers, windsurfers, canoeists, sunbathers and people walking their dogs (restricted in summer), Cadboro Bay Beach sprawls behind Cadboro Bay Village and Gyro Park. The open grassy parkland is home to an assortment of concrete sea creatures, including a giant blue octopus and the mysterious sea serpent "Caddy," said to frequent these waters. Dubbed "Cadborosaurus" by Victoria newspaper editor, Archie Willis, after a sighting here in the early 1930s, this seafaring cousin of the Loch Ness Monster is reputed to be a large snake-like creature, five to 15 metres long.
Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park
Situated just 10 kilometres north of downtown off the Patricia Bay Highway (Highway 17), this 442-hectare park offers an exceptional diversity of recreational opportunities and is understandably one of the most popular parks in the Capital Regional District. There are four beaches, 15 kilometres of trails, the Elk Lake Rowing Centre, an equestrian centre, boat launches, fishing pier, day-use facilities, playground and concession stands.
Elk and Beaver lakes are used by swimmers, windsurfers, sailors, water skiers, fishers and rowers. The park is also the home base for the Canadian national rowing team. Some park trails are designated multi-use for hikers, cyclists and horse riders, while others are for hiking only. An excellent 10-kilometre walking and bridle trail through forest, fields and wetlands circles the lake. Beaches, picnic areas and a fishing pier are all accessible for people with walking disabilities.
Thetis Lake Regional Park
As one of Victoria's best-loved swimming destinations, Thetis Lake is renowned for its clear, clean water. The upper and lower lakes are just one part of the 635-hectare park that contains forest, cliffs, hills and swamplands, making it a popular destination for hiking and horseback riding, as well as for swimmers, anglers and paddlers. For panoramic views of the lakes and surrounding hills, follow the more challenging trails up Seymour or Scafe hills. Just 20 minutes from downtown off of Highway 1 on Six Mile Road, this regional conservation area was established as Canada's first nature sanctuary in 1958. Thetis Lake has seasonal lifeguards on the main beach, a picnic area and concession. Pay parking.
Created 15,000 years ago by glacial action and the subsequent lodging of boulders, the smooth and polished pools and potholes in the sandstone bedrock of the Sooke River have made this place one of the area's most popular summer swimming destinations. Picnic tables line the river next to the parking area, with the potholes just steps beyond. Other facilities are fairly basic limited to parking and toilets. The seven-hectare Sooke Potholes Provincial Park is five kilometres north of Highway 14 on Sooke River Road. A day-use parking fee of $3 ($1 an hour) per vehicle is in effect year-round. The Land Conservancy operates a campground on the site.