10 Best Beaches in Victoria, BC
Authors Michael and Lana Law visit Victoria regularly, it's one of their favorite cities in Canada.
The city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island has the enviable geographical position of being surrounded by beautiful beaches on three sides. This makes for ideal beach-going conditions: if it's windy or rough on one side, just head to the other side to find calm water. If the winds shift, don't sweat it, a majority of the beaches within the city limits are a short drive from one another.
Victoria's best beaches come in all shapes and sizes, from wide-open stretches facing the brunt of the ocean's wrath to calm, protected bays surrounded by towering headlands. All beaches have one thing in common: cold water. Although the blue-colored water may appear Caribbean-like in its appearance, the temperature when you dip your toe in will shock you. On average, the water temperature is about eight degrees Celsius in the winter and tops out at 13 degrees Celsius in the summer.
That said, don't be deterred from heading to Victoria's wonderful beaches — you'll find plenty of other activities on and off the water. These include on-water activities like stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and kitesurfing. Off-water activities like peaceful shoreline walks, sunbathing, sandcastle building, and constructing a driftwood fort are other possibilities. Building beach fires is a tradition in British Columbia, but they are not allowed in the greater Victoria area.
Some parks have green space back from the water's edge, and it's here that you'll usually find large trees shading picnic tables, washrooms, and occasionally playgrounds. Dogs are welcome at the beach all year long with varying hours. From September 1st through April 30th, they have 24-hour access; however, from May 1st through August 31st, they are only allowed on the beach in the morning until 9am.
Find the perfect stretch of sand with our list of the best beaches in Victoria.
1. Cordova Bay
Cordova Bay Beach is a delightful long stretch of sand with big views out over the Haro Strait towards San Juan Island. The beach runs for kilometers north and southwards and is great for long walks by the seashore.
The beach is fairly wide and pebbly with a few sandy spots. Unlike some of the other Victoria beaches, Cordova is fully exposed to the weather and winds coming off the water. Dress accordingly; sometimes you'll get four seasons in a day, especially in the spring.
Just back from the beach is the wonderful Beach House Restaurant. This Cordova Bay institution has wind-protected decks and enjoys an enviable position right at the seashore. Snag a table outside in the summer, relax over a fine meal, and take in the action on the beach.
Although the beach is called Cordova Bay, various access points with different names take you to alternate areas of the same beach. These are Agate Park, McMorran Park, and Gloria Beach Access. All accesses are off Cordova Bay Road.
2. Esquimalt Lagoon
A long stretch of sand separates the ocean from Esquimalt Lagoon. This is one of the best beaches in Victoria for walking, as the beach is generally fairly level, and it runs for many kilometers. The views here are sublime. Views take in the snowcapped Olympic Mountains off in the distance.
The beach is wide and level with a mix of sand and pebbles, and copious quantities of driftwood line the beach. This is a popular beach, and you'll likely see lots of people around; however, the area is so large, you'll still feel like you have your own patch of sand to yourself. Parking is plentiful, and many people like to sit in their cars here in winter to soak up the view, protected from the elements.
Unlike all the other top beaches in Victoria, the Esquimalt Lagoon beach is a narrow strip of sand backed by calm water in behind. It's this area that draws birds from around the world, and in their wake, birders with their binoculars and cameras. Even a walk down the beach on the ocean side will be filled with all kinds of wading shoreline birds looking for a tasty marine snack. Species to watch out for include western sandpipers; black-bellied plovers; horned grebes; and always the star of the show, the multicolored harlequin ducks.
3. Gonzales Beach
Gonzales Beach is a curving arc of sand that is set deep between two headlands. Protected from the ocean's fury on three sides, this bay is generally calm, and the waters warm up ever so slightly for swimming.
Not keen on a maximum summer water temperature of 13 degrees Celsius? Fortunately, the beach is also a good spot for sunbathing. Luxury homes line the rocky shoreline, and just behind the beach is a small terraced park with picnic tables and washrooms.
Owing to its protected location, this beach lends itself to stand up paddleboarding or kayaking. A long, gradual concrete path winds its way in a zigzag pattern down to the beach, making hauling your gear fairly easy. It's a pleasant paddle along the shoreline past the homes on the cliffsides. Also, be sure to check out the rocks on the east end of Gonzales Bay for sea life.
Gonzales Beach is located in the Oak Bay neighborhood; a very small parking lot is available, but you'll likely end up parking on Ross Street, Richmond Ave, or Crescent Road.
4. Spiral Beach (Clover Point)
Although not a beach for swimming, Spiral Beach is a feast for the senses and a popular place due to its location, below Dallas Road. The beach itself is rocky with driftwood, which makes walking at any time other than low tide, a tricky proposition. Fortunately, a walkway runs just back from the water in certain sections, and a nice loop can be completed to and from Clover Point.
Descend at Clover Point and walk back towards downtown along the water, accessing the stairs near Cook Street, return to Clover Point by walking back along the bluff. Alternatively, grab lunch in Cook Street Village, then do the loop in reverse.
Generally a windy spot, this beach attracts kiteboarders and windsurfers to its offshore environs. A perfect side-on wind blows here in the summer in the afternoons, and the colorful kites and windsurfers make for great entertainment and photos.
5. Cadboro-Gyro Park
One of the largest beach and park combos in Victoria is at Cadboro Bay Beach and Gyro Park. This park has one of the best beaches for families in Victoria. Both the beach and the park have extensive things to do for kids that are sure to entertain them for hours.
The beach runs from the northeast to the southwest roughly in the shape of a mushroom head for about a kilometer. The best part of the beach is near Gyro Park, which makes visiting both areas easy. Beachgoers will enjoy generally calm and protected waters, with small waves and pebbly shorelines with patches of sand sections. Driftwood near the back of the beach is plentiful and fun for kids to create wooden forts, or for parents to erect wind blocks.
Gyro Park may be where you end up spending more of your time, especially if you have kids. Extensive playground areas have unique play structures including an octopus, salmon, a shipwreck, and even a sea serpent known locally as Cadborosaurus. In addition to the play structures, a zipline and traditional swings are available.
At the southern end of the beach is the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, where regular races take place throughout the summer.
6. Island View Beach
If you love long, uninterrupted stretches of beach and crave a bit of solitude, Island View Beach is the place to go. The 25-minute drive north of downtown Victoria is a worthwhile investment in time for the rewards of open spaces and few people around.
At low tide, you'll be able to walk for many kilometers, even right out to Cordova Spit if you are truly adventurous. If you prefer level ground, a loop trail of approximately three kilometers runs just back from the beach.
Offshore, you'll have views across the Haro Strait of Darcy Island, Sidney Island, San Juan Island in the USA, and the sand-colored bluffs of James Island. The beach is pebbly, with some sand and a significant amount of driftwood at the back, just perfect for leaning against and contemplating life.
Seasonal beachside camping is available here each summer, with tent sites a stone's throw from the water. This is true beachfront camping - you'll be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves and woken each morning by the sun rising over the ocean.
7. Willows Beach
Incredible views across the Haro Strait to the looming Mount Bachelor, and the Olympic Mountains greet you at Willow Beach. Facing southwest, this beach has the most impressive views of all the beaches in Victoria on a clear day.
Willows beach is one of the few beaches in Victoria that has a large green space behind, just perfect for throwing a football or playing a bit of Frisbee. Families will love the large lawns, perfect for setting up a picnic and letting small children run around. Washrooms are on the north side of the green space; a small teahouse operates seasonally right at the water's edge.
The beach itself has soft sand and stretches for approximately one kilometer in a gentle arc. At low tide, the smooth sand emerges, and beach walking is a popular pastime. Just back from the beach is a walkway and Esplanade Drive, good options for when the water is high or rough.
Willows Beach has a decent-sized parking lot located right at the water's edge making unloading gear to the grassy area or the beach a breeze.
8. Arbutus Cove
One of the lesser-known beaches in Victoria, Arbutus Cove also has one of the most spectacular settings. Set between two headlands below high cliffs full of Arbutus trees, this is a calm and quiet place. Not a spot for those with mobility issues, the beach is reached via a walkway and then a significant number of stairs.
The effort of getting here is rewarded - there's a good chance you'll have the place to yourself. The beach has soft sand but can be rocky at the water's edge. You'll find significant driftwood at the back. The bookends of the large headlands on either end make this a very protected spot. Other beaches may be windblown and cold, but Arbutus Cove will be cozy and quiet.
Parking is quite limited here, so if the lot is full, try accessing the beach from the south end at Hollydene Park off Hollydene Place.
9. Thetis Lake
The Main and West beaches at Thetis Lake are unlike all the other beaches listed here because they are freshwater beaches. Another bonus of swimming here is that the water is almost always calm and gets warm, unlike the bone-chilling waters of the Salish Sea.
At the Main Beach, a very shallow approach and sandy shoreline make this one of the best beaches in Victoria for families with small children. Just back from this beach are picnic tables, washrooms, a changing area, and drinking water. Bike racks are nearby.
West Beach is smaller and less busy; washrooms and bike racks are located here but no changerooms.
The park has several parking lots. Be sure to skip the first one you come to, and take the road that leads right up to the lake. This way you'll avoid having to haul all your beach gear up the hill to the lake.
10. Witty's Beach
If you are looking for a beach that's more rural than urban and don't mind a little bit of a drive, Witty's Beach is the place for you. It's a spectacular beach backed by towering forests, where the only sounds you'll hear are the birds and the crash of the surf.
The beach is a hot spot for driftwood. The pieces that wash up here are spectacular in both size and shape.
Witty's Beach is best enjoyed at low tide when the water recedes and huge sand flats emerge. At high tide, the beach is merely a small patch of sand in front of the driftwood piles.
The views from the beach of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains on a sunny day are sublime. Witty's Beach is one of the few beaches where swimming can be considered somewhat pleasant. The shallowness of the water and the brown sand combine on sunny days to bring the temperature to a bearable level.
Accessing the beach requires a bit of effort. A 1.2-kilometer trail winds its way down through the forest to the beach. The trail is well maintained, but if you are planning on bringing lots of beach gear, bear in mind that it's roughly 15 minutes of carrying each way.