Arriving at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal is always exciting: it means we’ve made it! Driving over 1000 km from central Alberta, catching the first hint that we are near the ocean is most often not through site nor sound, but scent. With car windows only partially down, the salt-laden, organic smell of ocean air usually becomes apparent well before we actually see the water. With heightened anticipation, my kids and I know (having done this trip a few times before) that we are close to our destination. One of the prettiest cities in Canada – and perhaps the world – Victoria lies on Vancouver Island just across the strait. But first, the funnest part of travelling this route, we drive aboard one of BC Ferries’ massive auto and passenger carrying boats.
Crossing the Strait
The ride across the Strait of Georgia takes about an hour and a half. At this point, the trip to Vancouver Island has turned from a journey to a ride. In the belly of these ocean-going beasts are hundreds of cars, RVS, and large semi trucks carrying all sorts of cargo to the Island. Yet, these massive vessels pass incredibly close to the small islands between which we carve a path to get to Vancouver Island itself.
Victoria’s Inner Harbour
Having made it to Vancouver Island, we immediately make our way to Victoria itself. With the Empress Hotel, Provincial Legislature, restaurants, marina, and many other attractions, the Inner Harbour – located right in downtown Victoria – is always a bustling centre of activity. Having arrived in late August, the weather is still warm, there is much activity about, and we simply enjoy strolling.
Oak Bay Marina
No trip to Victoria is complete without a visit to some of Oak Bay Marina’s inhabitants: the seals! At the marina’s shop, a small bag of frozen salmon pieces can be purchased for $3. My kids and I always make a point to see the seals, who know EXACTLY what they are doing, splashing with their front flippers to get our attention as they spot us carrying the little plastic bags across the pier.
The breakwater at Ogden Point juts out into the water like a giant arm protecting those who enter the harbour, providing a shelter from the waves for the many boats entering and leaving this busy port. Large cruise ships often tower over the docks while fishermen push out into the strait in tiny, aluminum boats looking for their next big catch. Walking the breakwater to its end on this late summer evening, we are lucky this time to not be battered by the often present high winds. Reaching twilight on this our first day in Victoria, we gather around the small lighthouse beacon which both warns sea-going travellers of its looming presence, and beckons them safely home.