British Columbia is one of the best places in Canada for nature lovers. In summer months, Vancouver Island is a very popular place, with downtown Victoria and surrounding region being a hub for exploring some of the province’s best beaches.
I’ve lived in and around downtown Victoria for twenty years, and I know some of the area’s best beaches and best places to visit. Whether you’re looking to visit tide pools at low tide, locate an ideal beach, or take in views of the Olympic Mountains, read on for some tips on finding the perfect place in Victoria BC.
Why is Victoria, British Columbia such a popular place?
Victoria is one of the best places in Canada for nature lovers. You can play in tide pools, walk on sandy beaches, and swim in a freshwater lake all in the same day! Downtown Victoria is surrounded by pristine ocean, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south, Haro Strait to the east, and views of the nearby Olympic Mountains.
Victoria and Vancouver Island have low average temperatures in summer months, and mild winters, making it a great place to visit year round. Downtown Victoria is a great place for shopping and entertainment, but also a short drive from some of Vancouver Island’s best beaches.
20 of the best beaches in Victoria BC
This long sandy beach is in the Victoria BC community of Oak Bay. Willows Beach is one of the most popular Victoria BC beaches with locals. It includes a change room and large grassy area. Willows Beach is an ideal beach for families as it often has calm water. Make sure to walk a short distance northwest to the boat launch area by Cattle Point for beautiful views toward Haro Strait and the Olympic Mountains.
Gonzales Bay is home to a soft sand crescent shaped beach. Views toward the Olympic Peninsula are breathtaking on a clear day. Gonzales Beach is a great spot for skimboarding or just relaxing along sandy shores, often protected from the wind. There are change rooms and a small parking lot at the west end of the beach.
Cordova Bay Beach
A short drive north of downtown Victoria will bring you to Cordova Bay Beach. This long sandy beach faces west along the Haro Strait, with views of nearby San Juan Island. Once you get onto Cordova Bay Road, you’ll find multiple beach access points. I like to use the small parking lot near the Beach House restaurant, unfortunately there are no change rooms. Cordova Bay Beach is one of the best beaches for a short walk along the Haro Strait.
If you’re looking to take a dip in a freshwater lake, Beaver Lake and Elk Lake Park are a great spot. Beaver Lake is not far from Cordova Bay Beach and a short drive north from downtown Victoria. The main beach at the south end of Beaver Lake is a popular spot for swimming. At its north end, Beaver Lake joins with Elk Lake, where there are picnic areas with change rooms, and a nice green space. If time permits, drive north from here to Island View Beach, it’s the perfect place to explore tide pools at low tide.
Esquimalt Lagoon Beach
This is one of the best beaches near Victoria, and a great place for distant views of downtown Victoria and the Olympic Mountains. Whether you visit Esquimalt lagoon beach at low tide or high tide, it’s always an ideal beach for a long beach walk. Nature lovers will appreciate the many different types of birds in the Esquimalt Lagoon.
A short distance from the University of Victoria, Cadboro-Gyro Park is a great place for a short walk. At low tide, this calm water bay is one of the city’s best beaches for young children. A large grassy area with picnic tables and a playground makes for a great lunch stop; nearby Cadboro Bay village has a few restaurants and a grocery store.
Island View Beach
Island View Beach is a great place for exploring tide pools at low tide. The views over Haro Strait and San Juan Island are amazing. The beach itself is just a short drive off highway 17, and a small parking lot marks the beginning of the park. Beware that there is little shade at Island View Beach, you can get pretty hot when visiting this long sandy beach in summer months.
Thetis Lake Regional Park
To the west of downtown Victoria lies a small freshwater lake that’s very popular with locals. This is a great place for a refreshing swim on a hot day. There is lots of parking at Thetis Lake Regional Park, and it’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the main beach where there are change rooms and plenty of picnic tables.
This is one of the most beautiful beaches on Vancouver Island. The drive west from downtown Victoria is a little bit long, and the narrow hiking trail to Mystic Beach is just over a mile long. You will be rewarded with a perfect beach, large trees, sweeping views of the Olympic peninsula, a waterfall, and if you’re lucky you’ll even see bald eagles. In summer months, this rocky beach is a popular place for beach fires and camping.
Dallas Road is definitely the best place to get views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. It is a short drive from downtown Victoria (in fact, you could even walk there from your downtown hotel). Dog walking along the Dallas Road pathway is a popular pastime for Victorians. You’ll see why when you visit this great place, lined with beautiful rocky beaches. Pack and extra layer of clothing, as even on a hot day, the breeze can be quite chilly.
The Gorge Waterway is a great place to escape to if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Victoria. It’s only a short drive from Victoria harbour. Cross over the Johnston Street Bridge and head toward Banfield Park, on Craigflower Road. Here you’ll find a large grassy area as well as some picnic tables. This is a great place to overlook the calm water of the Gorge Waterway, it’s also one of the best access points to the Selkirk Trestle. In the summer months, this is the perfect place to get close to the calm water of the Gorge Waterway, on a clear day, you’ll even get good views of the distant Olympic Mountains.
This is one of the best beaches for viewing San Juan Island. Arbutus Cove is a rocky beach, just a stone’s throw away from the University of Victoria and a short drive from Cadboro Bay Village. The beach has access points that are rather steep, but don’t worry, well maintained stairs will lead you down to this protected little cove and its ideal beach. Arbutus Cove is often less busy than the more popular Cadboro-Gyro Park. I would recommend visiting both on the same day, as they are a short distance apart, and not far from downtown Victoria.
I’ll admit, I almost didn’t include this one (since Long Beach is more than a four hour drive away), but it’s arguably one of the best beaches on Vancouver Island. In terms of long sandy beaches, it doesn’t get much better than this! Long Beach is one of the best places for surfing (and other water sports) on Vancouver Island. It’s also a popular place for nature lovers, and one of the best places to take a long beach walk on a hot day. This is the West Coast of Vancouver Island though, so beware of cold water!
While on your way to Long Beach, the sandy shores of Qualicum Beach is one of the best beaches for walking at low tide. This beach has change rooms, a small parking lot, and is considered to have the warmest waters on Vancouver Island. It’s a very popular tourist spot in summer months, and is well worth the stop.
This is the largest freshwater lake on the south of Vancouver Island. While Thetis Lake Regional Park is around 30 minutes closer to downtown Victoria, it’s well worth the short drive onward to Shawnigan Lake. This is the perfect place to spend a hot day. The majority of the beaches on Shawnigan Lake are sandy beaches. Consider visiting Old Mill Park or the government dock beach. Each has a small parking lot, and even a boat launch.
East Sooke Regional Park
In summer months, traffic on the south of Vancouver Island can get congested. On a hot day, a lot of the region’s sandy beaches will be pretty crowded. Vancouver Island is definitely a popular place, and you will encounter visitors from all around the world.
A few final tips for your visit to Victoria BC on friendly Vancouver Island
You’ll want to make sure you have a vehicle in order to visit some of the beautiful beaches further away from downtown Victoria. Many visitors to Victoria BC are on stopover on an Alaskan cruise and don’t venture far beyond the Inner Harbour. Exploring beyond downtown Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is a must. You will experience some of Vancouver Island’s best beaches by making the short drive to neighbouring regions.
Even if you visit Victoria BC on a hot day in the summer months, the weather can be chilly. The city is on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, surrounded by the Haro Strait and the Juan de Fuca Strait, making it quite windy. Make sure to pack some warm outer layers.
The residents of Victoria are really friendly, even by Canadian standards! Say hello to a local, ask them about the region’s beautiful beaches and best places to visit. No matter what, you’ll be glad you visited.