Google+ Nature close-ups with island adventures in Victoria | Travel & Happiness I by Jenn Smith Nelson

Nature close-ups with island adventures in Victoria

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I have a confession.

I had never been to Victoria prior to a recent trip in June. What’s even more shocking is that I frequent British Columbia, and knew that it would be an amazing place to visit thanks to recommendations from my travel colleagues and friends at home. Thankfully, I can now say, it definitely lived up to the hype!

Beyond the charm of rhododendron-lined streets, vibrant and youthful city vibes, and the many craft breweries that dot the island, Victoria has much to offer the nature lover and adventure seeker.

A typical flower lined street in Oak Bay.

Where to stay

I’d highly recommend a stay at the luxurious boutique property, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel or the historic Fairmont Empress. Both offer great proximity to the water. Also be sure to check out as there are many other great places to stay while visiting Victoria.

Here are five adventures I experienced that showcase Victoria’s lush forests, surrounding waterways and wildlife. 

1. Paddle time

Kayaking is the perfect way to take in sea and bird life and alternate views of the city, while getting in a little exercise too. Head to Oak Bay Marina for a guided kayak tour with seasoned outfitter, Ocean River Sports. After a quick briefing, you’ll be set to explore Victoria’s world-class waterways.

Does it get more peaceful than this?

Keep an eye out for oystercatchers, Rhinoceros ocelots, bald eagles, river otters and harbour seals. While on the bicycle of the waterway, you’ll enjoy serene paddling that winds through underground kelp forests and around nutrient rich islands.

Adorable harbour seals can be spotted while on the water.

2. Forest feels

Get in touch with all your senses by trying Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. No swimsuit required! This practice involves living in the moment and drenching oneself in natural surroundings. Though it’s often done hiking in the forest (I visited Thetis Lake), it’s less about exercise and more about embracing intangible moments.

Have you ever tasted sap? Maybe it’s time to try!

While meandering, use all your senses. Reach out and touch the bark of a tree – maybe sample some sap. Stop and inhale. What scents can you pick up – wild roses, perhaps? Do you hear the wind or the chirp of a squirrel?

This meditative process and acts of awareness will root you into nature. While the practice is soul nourishing, it also has associated health benefits such as (unsurprisingly) stress reduction, and the ability to relax.

Go ahead, hug a tree! It feels as good as it looks!

Outfitters such as The Natural Connection can guide you, however it’s easy to do on your own.

3. Snorkel with seals

Over 300 harbour seals call the Gulf Islands home, so why not invite yourself for a good old game of snorkel hide and seek? If you are playful and curious, this species may just be your soul mate.

Snorkelling for seals

Lucky snorkelers can catch a close-up glimpse of seals frolicking (read: checking you out) while you float along their turf. PJ’s Island & Subsea Retreat in North Saanich will help you suit up in head to toe gear, and then take you out via zodiac. This is a great option for those who aren’t comfortable diving.

Let’s play spot the seal in the kelp.

And if the seals don’t feel like playing (some days, they don’t!), don’t despair as beauty surrounds. Bright marine life such as jellyfish, starfish and anemones can be spotted on rocks and in and around the flowing bull kelp.

Ocean beauty in the form of plant life.

4. Cruise for whales

With Victoria’s waters home to three resident pods of Orcas (killer whales), chances are high you will spot at least one of these beautiful creatures! The best way to get up close and personal, is via a cruise. Whale sightings are guaranteed during peak season, May 15 – Oct 31, with Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours!


Pack binoculars or your camera, and scour the waters for blows, tail flips and breeches. Expect to learn about the whales, their behaviour and the eco-system that sustains them. You may also see Humpback, Minke and Grey Whales, Stellar and California Sea Lions, too.

A colony of sea lions spotted from the boat.

5. Blooms galore

World-famous, The Butchart Gardens hardly require an introduction. However the inspiring, serene stretch of blossoming, flora gorgeousness definitely deserves a spot on this list.

Even on a rainy day, the colour of The Butchart Gardens shines through.

“With a former quarry for her backyard, Jennie Butchart envisioned a grandiose garden in its place, transforming the property for her family—and visitors—for generations to come.” ~

And come, they have. The fifty acres of lush gardens, now over 100 years old, have become a year-round oasis. Recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada, they feature over a million plants in over 900 varieties! Saying it’s a sight to see is a complete understatement.

Exquisite blossoms can be found around every corner.

Any you’d add to the list? Let me know! I’d love to visit Victoria again soon.

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