A nostalgic walk through the capital

Getting away from the harbor and exploring Victoria’s unique neighborhoods will give you a new appreciation for our provincial capital.

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Victoria’s Inner Harbor is one of a kind. The majestic Empress Hotel, the iconic Parliament Buildings and the colorful 19the the century buildings along Wharf Street form a stunning backdrop. And, naturally, it is where most of the city’s visitors go. But getting away from the harbor and exploring Victoria’s unique neighborhoods will give you a new appreciation for our provincial capital.

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With its gnarled oaks, rocky outcroppings, and brilliant ocean views, Victoria has a special place for me. I grew up here and every time I visit, I make a point of going down the same scenic drive. Despite a handful of faded green signs saying panoramic ride, this 20 km strip of road has no official name. To me, it’s just known as Unit.

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The 2.5 kilometer Ogden Point Breakwater is a popular place to walk.  It also features the Wall of Unity, created by First Nations artists.
The 2.5 kilometer Ogden Point Breakwater is a popular place to walk. It also features the Wall of Unity, created by First Nations artists. Photo by Ken Donohue

Get in your car (or hop on a bike) and head out of the tourist center. First, cruise through the quiet streets of James Bay, Victoria’s oldest neighbourhood, lined with eclectic heritage homes, bursting with color and history. Make Ogden Point your first stop, where you can enjoy a 1.5-mile ride along the breakwater. A great spot at any time of day, but when the sun goes down, people are drawn to the breakwater and surrounding beaches to witness the warm color of the day’s end.

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A short distance along Dallas Road is a sign marking Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway, and tucked away a block away is the Beacon Drive-In, a small restaurant that has been in business for more than 60 years. It is an institution in the city and a place I worked as a teenager. I remember lines of people lining up to buy ice cream on a warm summer night. In a world that seemingly needs something more picturesque, the Beacon Drive-In still delivers.

Before you continue on your journey, take some time to explore Beacon Hill Park. This 75-acre green space has long held historical and cultural significance for the people of Lekwungen and was formally converted into a park in 1882. With Garry oak meadows, trails, flower gardens, duck ponds, play areas for children, the park is the perfect place for a picnic. .

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A must-see in the park is the tallest freestanding totem pole in the world. Created from a single cedar tree by a team of carvers led by Mungo Martin, Kwakiutl tribal chief, the 127 feet story post it was erected in 1956.

Beacon Hill Park was formalized in 1882 when the province of British Columbia granted 75 hectares to the city of Victoria.
Beacon Hill Park was formalized in 1882 when the province of British Columbia granted 75 hectares to the city of Victoria. Photo by Ken Donohue

And be sure to take the trail to the top of Beacon Hill, once home to the navigational beacons for the many ships that navigated the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Here, and elsewhere along the way, you’ll get sweeping views across the strait to the towering snow-capped mountains of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. While these mountains provide an excellent view, they also form a rain shadow on southern Vancouver Island, giving Victoria its favorable climate and significantly less rainfall than other areas of BC’s southern coast.

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Further down Dallas Road, you’ll come to the historic Ross Bay Cemetery, where many of the city’s historical figures are buried, including world-renowned artist Emily Carr. Tours of the cemetery are offered, or you can explore the winding walkways on your own. bill. You may also see many deer, which have come to live in the cemetery.

Near Ross Bay is one of my favorite beaches and one of the most beautiful in the city. But it’s easy to get lost. Gonzales Beach is something of a secret, because this cozy crescent of sand cannot be seen from the road.

The terrace of the houses that line the cliff above the beach gives it an Italian coastal touch. Perched atop Gonzales Hill is the gleaming white Old Weather Observatory that can’t be missed. A quick drive down Dennison Road takes you up the hill to the observatory. There are nice views here, but for an even better view, continue a short distance along the narrow road to Walbran Park.

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“Wow! Wow! Wow,” I heard someone exclaim, as I approached the steps of a gazebo that was impressive in every direction. “Wow worth a wow,” I told him. Center to the west. Strait of Juan de Fuca in front of me, and to the east, Mt. Baker dazzled in the afternoon sun.

Heading back from Gonzales Hill, you come to the Oak Bay District, and in front of you is McNeill Bay. At the other end of the bay (when coming from downtown Victoria), there are two Adirondack chairs perched on a rocky outcrop. It is the perfect place to rest and reflect. And as you gaze out at the sea around you, know that these chairs have a colorful history of jealousy.

At McNeill Bay, you can enjoy the view from The Blue Chair or The Red Chair, which have a fantastic history.
At McNeill Bay, you can enjoy the view from The Blue Chair or The Red Chair, which have a fantastic history. Photo by Ken Donohue

First, there was only one blue chair. It had become known as ‘Old Blue’. Apparently, a man’s wife did not like the blue chair that she had previously built for a bride. Not knowing what to do with the chair and not wanting to throw it away, she left it on the rocks at McNeill Bay. People grew fond of the chair. But a storm destroyed it. Hearing how much the chair meant to the people, the original builder built another one, this one in red, and placed it back on the rocks. Someone else built a replica of the first chair.

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The Drive continues along Beach Drive and will soon reach Willows Beach. Like a reel of tape coming off its reel, this mile-long stretch of sand is one of the city’s most popular beaches and home to the annual Oak Bay Tea Party, which has been held for nearly 60 years.

You can drive a short distance or walk along Willows Beach to Cattle Point, so named because it was a cattle delivery place in the 19th century. Mt. Baker provides another postcard-like backdrop here, and the gnarly oak trees that seem to go on forever and the rocky outcroppings in Uplands Park make for an unforgettable ride.

Continue through the quiet neighborhood of Uplands, where you’ll pass stately homes and seaside mansions with envy. Beach Drive becomes Cadboro Bay Road, and when you reach Sinclair Road, turn left away from the ocean and up the hill to Victoria University.

Take the University Bypass and onto Cedar Hill Cross Road where unit ends at the top of Mount Tolmie. You can drive to the top of the 120-meter summit or hike the many trails, several of which will take you to the top. The reward is a panoramic view of Greater Victoria and the surrounding region.

I stayed for a while, never getting tired of looking down at Victoria. I looked toward the center, retracing the route I had just taken. Back in my car, I went down to the other side of Mount Tolmie and I can’t wait to visit Victoria again so I can do unit all over again.

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