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Cycling In Victoria BC: The Harbour To Farm Tour

Cycling in Victoria BC: The Harbour to Farm Tour

April is an awesome time for cycling in Victoria. While the rest of Canada is under snow advisories (at least some years) or even worse, still buried under many feet of snow, you can head off for a bike ride on an extensive network of flower-lined trails around the city and the surrounding area.

Cycling Victoria BC is a superb way to intimately visit the city as you get to experience it with all your senses. It’s especially lovely in spring when the city is filled with beautiful scents and flower gardens that are easy on the eyes.

Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
My day started at the Inn at Laurel Point (where I stayed) on Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Cycling Victoria BC – The Harbour to Farm Tour

If you are an out of town visitor to Victoria you can easily rent bikes and explore on your own.

But if you’re interested in learning the back stories and discovering areas even locals don’t know about, sign up for one of the four tours led by Bike Tours Victoria. I spent five delightful hours with owner Matt Oliver on his harbour to farm tour.

Even though I have cycled the full Lochside and Galloping Goose Trails, on this cycling trip I visited communities I’d never seen before. I also checked out one fabulous garden I’d never even heard of, ate lunch at the marvelous Charlotte and the Quail and for the first ride of the season I spent enough time on the bike to feel like I got some decent exercise. Cue the sore butt.

Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
Meeting up with my guide for the day at Market Square on Johnson Street

Matt tells me that his three hour tours are the most popular ones but anyone who does the harbour to farm tour is struck by the variety of landscapes and the garden-lunch combo. Little did I know when I started out what a treat the day would be.

The bike ride starts off on Johnson Street just steps from the Inner Harbour. With the recent opening of the Johnston Street Bridge (after 10 years and a full rebuild because of bad Chinese steel) it’s easy to access a viewpoint across the harbour.

It’s fun to watch all the comings and goings of ferries, sea planes and boat taxis.

Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
The Johnson Street Bridge in blue just opened at the end of March after 10 years of construction; with its opening bike lanes are even more accessible
Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
Second stop for the Victoria Inner Harbour view

The E & N Rail Trail

In no time we hooked up to the E & N Rail Trail – one that will ultimately be 17 kilometres in length and will connect Victoria with nearby Western communities.

We rode through Esquimalt, past dry-docks where cruise ships come in for week long repairs. Although some of the trail isn’t completed, sidewalks and local roads provide stopgap measures.

Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
Intersections are well-signed

What I particularly appreciated along the trails we rode were the large maps with a prominent YOU ARE HERE dot. I like to be oriented and have a sense of the route, even if I don’t actually have to think about it per se when I’m with a guide.

Lots of maps along the trail
Lots of maps along the trail

Ultimately Matt took me on a 30 kilometre loop. From Esquimalt we passed the popular Nest Cafe located next to the Galloping Goose in View Royal. If we didn’t have lunch plans I would have stopped for a coffee.

The Nest is well located on the Galloping Goose Trail
The Nest is well located on the Galloping Goose Trail

Biking the Galloping Goose Trail

The Galloping Goose Trail runs from the Johnston Street Bridge in downtown Victoria to north of Sooke Potholes Regional Park, a distance of some 55 kilometres.

We only followed a short section of it – some of it glorious and some rather awful, though only temporarily while they do roadwork on a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. Be prepared for a couple of kilometres of unavoidable noise and dust.

Glorious quiet sections along portions of the Galloping Goose Trail
Cycling in Victoria BC along glorious quiet sections of the Galloping Goose Trail
he section along Cloquitz Creek is very beautiful with lots of Garry oaks
The section along Cloquitz Creek is very beautiful with lots of Garry oaks

There were a few sections along the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails that had swaths of camas lilies in bloom. The bulbs themselves were an important foodstuff for the Native people. According to Wikipedia:

“After being harvested in the autumn, once the flowers have withered, the bulbs were pit-roasted or boiled. A pit-cooked camas bulb looks and tastes something like baked sweet potato, but sweeter, and with more crystalline fibers due to the presence of inulin in the bulbs. The eating of too many such baked bulbs – especially if undercooked – can cause excessive flatulence. When dried, the bulbs could be pounded into flour.”

I had to get off my bike to check out the camas lilies
I had to get off my bike to check out the camas lilies
Fields of daffodils as we approach the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific
Fields of daffodils as we approach the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific

A stop at Charlotte and the Quail

Even if you never go near a bike, still plan to visit the Gardens at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific AND include breakfast, lunch or coffee and desert at Charlotte and the Quail, the onsite restaurant.

You’ll find a short but inspired menu with unbelievably good food. (Their other restaurant – Nourish is located in Victoria.) I had the hummus with roasted carrots and grainy bread and oatmeal pancakes with a beet and apple compote, topped with whipped cream and bee pollen – a weird combo I know but I was in a state of complete bliss over my entire meal.

Had to try a drink with turmeric - the spice that's all the rage
Had to try a drink with turmeric – the spice that’s all the rage
Hummous to die for
Hummous to die for

The gardens at HCP, located only about eight kilometres from the famous Butchart Gardens, are open year round.

While the goals at HCP include research, conservation and lifelong learning, visitors can come simply to enjoy the variety of gardens including a Japanese garden with bonsai trees – some of which are 75 years old; a children’s garden, the Doris Page winter garden and a cutting garden to name a few.

Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
The main entrance to the 3.5 hectares of demonstration gardens
Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
Beautiful gardens at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific
Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
The gardens may be behind but in my books they looked lush
Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
Sculptural accents can be found throughout the gardens

Cycling in Victoria BC – The Lochside Trail

After lunch and a wander through the gardens it was back to biking. The goal was to backtrack a few kilometres, weave through the Royal Oak neighbourhood and pick up the Lochside Trail. It would ultimately deliver us back to our starting point.

The 29 kilometre Lochside Trail runs from the ferry terminal into downtown Victoria. It primarily weaves through the farm country of the Saanich Peninsula. As you get closer to Victoria there are several trestles to cross including the Swan Trestle which allows a glimpse into the beautiful marshland of Swan Lake.

Look for the street art featuring Queen Victoria on a bike after you pass the Switch Bridge.

Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
Cycling in Victoria BC on a pretty section of the Lochside Trail
Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
Street art featuring Queen Victoria
Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour
Cycling in Victoria BC across the Swan Trestle on the Lochside Trail

The five hour bike ride is done at a relaxed pace so there is plenty of time for photography stops or to hear Matt opine on points of interest. For visitors to Victoria a bike tour is a fabulous way to see the city and get off the tourist trail.

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Where to stay in Victoria

The Inn at Laurel Point with views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour is a great place to stay. I spent a few nights here and found it to be within walking distance of the major sightes.

If you’re looking for a self-catering option the Urban Den gets superb reviews.

For a bed and breakfast experience check out Marketa’s Bed & Breakfast – rated fabulous.

Further reading on things to do near Victoria

Click on the photo below to save to your Pinterest board.

Cycling Victoria: The Harbour to Farm Tour

A big thank you to Tourism Victoria for hosting my visit and to Matt for a fabulous bike tour. He’s #3 on Trip Advisor for things to do in Victoria so don’t just take my word for it. Lots of people agree that this is a great way to spend a day.

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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