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Spring Sensations

SpringVictoriaCarriageBlossom

Spring comes early here on the southern West Coast, and when it comes to celebrating its arrival, there’s nowhere better than the City of Gardens!

In fact, whether you prefer to walk, cycle, paddle, or just sit back and enjoy the ride, springtime in Victoria is a breeze…

By foot

Start your springtime visit with a pleasant stroll or bike ride through the  blossom-lined streets of downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods – a beautiful way to enjoy Victoria’s prettiest season.

From downtown, head west along Belleville to Dallas Road and Scenic Marine Drive or north up Wharf Street then over the Johnson Street Bridge to the West Song Walkway and the communities of Vic West and Esquimalt.

To escape the bustle of the city, the 10-kilometre loop trail around Elk and Beaver Lakes, about 15 minutes from downtown, is a popular spot for walkers and joggers for its flat terrain and charming rural scenery.

If a stroll around the links is more your speed, you’ll find opportunities to challenge every level of golfer, from championship courses like Olympic View, Bear Mountain and Cordova Bay to charming regional courses, including Prospect Lake and Metchosin.

 By Bike

Prefer two wheels to two feet? The popular Seaside Touring Route is a lovely way to take in Victoria’s long, picturesque waterfront through its most charming residential communities. (See Map 2, page 45) Along the way, you’ll also come across two of the most popular beaches for locals when the spring sun shines: Willows Beach in Oak Bay and Cadboro Bay Beach in Saanich.

Other popular cycling options include the Galloping Goose  Trail, which winds through Greater Victoria along a former railway line – ideal for a scenic tour or family excursion. Connect with the Lochside Trail and continue out through the rolling farmlands of the Saanich Peninsula. A variety of access points are available along the route.

 By Boat

Surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that boating is among the most popular pastimes for both locals and visitors alike. Explore Victoria’s wilder side with a marine wildlife tour from local specialists Prince of Whales, year-round operators who offer tours and up-close-and-personal views of the West Coast’s abundant marine life.

Paddling is an ideal way to explore the city’s amazing shoreline and waterways from a different vantage point. A variety of rental and tour operators are available or check with Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre at the harbour for more ideas.

Let someone else do the driving aboard a jaunty Victoria Harbour Ferry, offering both short hop trips and longer excursions around the Harbour or up the picturesque Gorge Waterway. Visiting in April? Check out Victoria Hippo Tours, exploring Victoria’s downtown sites and shoreline.

By carriage

A ride aboard Victoria Carriage Tours’ quaint horse-drawn carriages is a relaxing (and romantic) way to explore Victoria’s downtown streets, parks and neighbourhoods.

Come enjoy the ride!

Gorgeous Gardens

Known as the City of Gardens for good reason, taking in all the region’s public gardens could require a holiday all its own! While many of the gardens come into their true glory a little later, early spring brings its own beauty.

Near downtown, in the neighbourhood of Fairfield, history and horticulture come together beautifully in the stunning grounds of Abkhazi Garden, developed by Prince and Princess Abkhazi in 1946 with towering Garry oaks, spring-flowering rhododendrons, bulbs, perennials and more. Beacon Hill Park offers family-friendly gardens filled with early blooms, while for a stunning view over the city, be sure to stop by Government House in Rockland, where volunteers keep the large gardens looking lovely year-round.

A little farther outside the city is the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, Victoria’s “Garden for Gardeners” since 1979. Known by many as Glendale Gardens, the nine acres of spectacular demonstration gardens showcase more than 10,000 varieties of plants and also host the Pacific Horticulture College. Spaces include the Takata Japanese Garden, the recently added Bonsai Garden and the Doris Page Winter Garden.

Blossoms of every variety will be blooming at The Butchart Gardens, where bulbs, blooms and flowering trees bring early season colour to the city’s most famous gardens, a National Historic Site. The indoor Spring Prelude and historical exhibits continue to March 15, while children will be delighted to take a spin on the Rose Carousel. The only carousel on Vancouver Island, the menagerie includes 30 animals hand-picked by Robin Clarke, great-granddaughter of the gardens’ founder, Jennie Butchart. Youngsters can also have fun exploring with the Family Discovery Walk – stop by the Visitor Information Centre for details.

And if you need a hint of something a little warmer, visit the lush rainforest environment of the Saanich Peninsula’s Butterfly Gardens, WHERE Victoria’s Best New or Improved Attraction for 2012. In addition to beautiful, free-flying butterflies, the attraction includes tropical birds, turtles, fish and more, all in a tropical garden.

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