The SunBreak loves Victoria. There, we said it. Big sigh, batted eyelashes. Jay has been eating and drinking his way around: “A Voracious Journey to Victoria” and “Six Letters Spell Sensuality in Victoria,” and today we’re here to tell you how to do that while still getting those compliments on your toned calves.
Bicycling Victoria is the hot new tourist craze, and you don’t have to take our word for it, it’s right there in the Seattle Times, our local paper of record. Victoria is multi-modal, let’s be clear. You can be a hop-on on a bus, you can take those pint-sized “harbour ferry” tours, you can go by kayak, you can scooter past it all. You could spend the whole day on foot.
But a bicycle lets you cover a great deal of ground at a pace that’s still relaxing. You get to chat up locals when you get lost, and you can pull over to explore a side trail without people honking at you. It is $20 to bring your own bicycle on board theVictoria Clipper (space is at a premium) which makes Victoria’s bike rental rates very reasonable.
They average about $28 per day, and if the weather’s inviting, the selection of sizes may get picked over by midday. Luckily there are a few different options:CycleTreks (1000 Wharf Street), Cycle B.C. (685 Humboldt Street), Coastal Cycles(off the Galloping Goose Trail, 1-1610 Island Hwy), and Selkirk Station (also off the Goose, 80 Regatta Landing, kayak rentals, too). Cheapest are the used-bike anarcho-syndicalists, Recyclistas (25 Crease Ave), at $10 per day. Sports Rent (1950 Government Street) rents everything.
If you want to be absolutely sure, call ahead to reserve. Note also that Victoria requires you to wear a helmet on a bicycle. Rental places will throw helmets in, but if you’re finicky about your noggin, bring your own. If you have time, you can send off for four bike maps for just $10 from the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition. Most rental shops will have a tourist-style sheet that will inevitably lead you astray by leaving out streets.
Your four basic options are these: The Seaside touring route, where you follow mostly quiet roads along the water (you’ll be tempted to take that beachside multi-use path, but it’s for foot traffic, no bikes), the Galloping Goose (which forks off into the Lochside Trail) and the Interurban Trail. (Here’s a pdf of all of them.)
Galloping Goose is the longest, at 55 kilometers, or as we say here in the colonies, 34 miles. If you bike the whole route, you might want to stay overnight. For a good portion as you’re on the outskirts of Victoria, you ride along a busy highway, which is not that pleasant, but the views pick up at Portage Inlet.
The Lochside Trail, from Victoria to Swartz Bay, is 18 miles (29 km). You pass Swan Lake and a nature preserve (the trail leading in is a foot path only) fairly quickly. About seven miles in is Cordova Bay beach, on the ocean, which makes for fun out-and-back that still leaves you time to relax in Victoria.
The full Seaside route is 24 miles (40km), and is the most immediately scenic, ranging from beaches and expanses of ocean and sky to clusters of cottages and woods. It has a few hills (and a Mount Doug, if you care to summit), and it’s a fun half-day outing that, because it’s a loop, lands you right back in town.
You can’t mention biking without pointing out watering holes, and Victoria is happily well-provisioned on the microbrewery front. Spinnaker‘s is a gastro brewpub, which means that if you’re a sweaty cyclist, they will try to steer you upstairs to the taproom. They have a stout you should try. If you like that, they also advise you to try theKeepers Stout from Lighthouse Brewing Co. Not far from each other are Swan’s andCanoe. If you’re serious about pubcrawling, the Clipper people have a map of 21 establishments (pdf) you can check off.
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