Bountiful lifestyle just a flight away
Greater Victoria and surrounding towns a strong draw for Calgarians looking for fun
Its direct flight, weather, scenery and overall change of pace has made Greater Victoria a favourite landing spot for Calgary residents needing an escape.
Whether a long weekend getaway for young professionals or a part-time home for retirees, many Calgary residents are finding what they’re looking for in Victoria and its surrounding towns and communities. These nearby areas include Sidney, North Saanich, Saanichton, Brentwood Bay, Saanich, Sooke, Metchosin, Colwood and Langford.
“The market has been gaining traction this year,” says Geoff McLean, a Victoria realtor with Re/Max Camosun, adding there have been about 100 more sales per month this year compared to the same time in 2013. “There’s a lot of positive signs on the market overall here.”
When buying a second home, McLean says a popular choice is the area’s condo market. In fact, he says the two most expensive condos ever sold in Victoria were purchased by Calgarians.
“View is the big thing,” McLean says.
“View of the water, view of the mountains. They’re looking for walkability to downtown, where there are restaurants, boutique stores — the downtown area is still very quaint. It hasn’t been taken over by the major retailers.”
The homebuying dollar goes further in Victoria compared to just across the water in Vancouver.
“Vancouver is a really fragmented market — if you’re talking downtown, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, we’re about 40 per cent cheaper,” McLean says.
Outdoor recreation is another major draw for buyers wanting a place in or near Victoria.
“We have an incredible trail system all through the city,” says McLean. “There’s lots of activities here.”
Connecting with Victoria and through neighbouring centres is the Galloping Goose Trail. This hiking and biking trail is 151 hectares.
For sightseeing and photo opportunities, there’s Dallas Road. This path connects to Beacon Hill Park and sits along the Victoria waterfront.
There’s no shortage of cultural opportunities to experience in the area, including the Victoria Symphony, the Ballet Victoria Society, Belfry Theatre and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
About an 18-minute drive west of Victoria is the city of Langford. Its mayor, Stewart Young, says Langford has been a draw for Alberta home buyers.
“Langford is affordable,” Young says. “We’ve got different housing for everybody. We’ve got the affordable right up to the high-end homes with views of Victoria and the water.”
Langford’s golf courses — Bear Mountain, Royal Colwood and Olympic View — are all key draws for the area, Young adds.
“They bring a lot of people from Calgary out,” he says.
There’s also an extensive trail system and three lakes within a mile of Langford’s downtown.
“It’s kayaking, it’s canoeing, it’s swimming,” says Young, adding fishing is another popular activity. “It’s for getting out of your house and going to exercise. Most of the lakes link up with trails, so you don’t even have to get in your car to go there.”
For those with a taste for smaller town living, there’s Sooke. But don’t let its size (pop. 11,000) fool you, says Kerrie Reay, a councillor with the municipality.
“We offer a real range,” Reay says. A recent assessment says an average home in Sooke is about $374,000.
“We have the range right up to waterfront property for a couple of million dollars. So depending on what you want, we have a lot of opportunity, and we have a lot of area being developed.”
Buyers who place importance on the proximity to great dining will like Sooke, says Reay, adding there’s variety. This includes the Sooke Harbour House, which has won international hospitality industry awards.
“We’ve got the fine dining experience, and then we’ve got the momand-pop places,” Reay says. She adds, it’s not unusual for Sooke resi- dents who camp to just head down the road to Sooke Flats and Sooke Potholes Provincial Park.
“The Sooke Potholes is at the end of a 56-kilometre trail. It’s great for kids and for pets to walk on a nice Sunday morning.
Other communities of note in the Greater Victoria area include:
Sidney’s town slogan is “Sidney by the Sea” because of its spot on the southern end of Vancouver Island. But it’s also known as Canada’s only “booktown,” home to nine bookstores. Sidney is about a 20-minute drive north from downtown Victo- ria. For a taste of the area’s natural beauty, there’s the 400-hectare Sidney Spit Marine Park, part of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Arts are another key to the lifestyle in Sidney, which hosts annual events such as the ArtSea Festival and Sidney Fine Arts Show. Sidney is also home to an outdoor art gallery called the Sidney Seaside Sculpture Walk.
North Saanich is surrounded on three ends by ocean shoreline. It’s home to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal and Victoria International Airport. On land or water, there’s no shortage of things to do. North Saanich has five marinas and two golf courses, Glen Meadows Ardmore. There’s also 25 kilometres of walking trails, four waterfront parks and 26 developed parks. Another attraction is its bird sanctuary and an aviation museum.
Saanichton is a village on the Saanich Peninsula about 20 kilometres north of downtown Victoria. Nearby are several regional parks, including Coles Bay, HartlandMount Work, Francis/King, Horth Hill and Bear Hill. It’s also near the 174-hectare John Dean Provincial Park, which boasts Garry Oak trees and old Douglas firs.
Brentwood Bay is a community on the Saanich Inlet and noted as the backdrop for the Butchart Gardens. This is a show garden and
Saanich is the largest municipal district on Vancouver Island and is comprised of 18 communities. It was named after the First Nation people Saanich. The word translates to mean “emerging land.” The area has many freshwater lakes, including Beaver and Elk Lake Regional Park. They’re part of a 442-hectare regional park with four beaches and a 10-kilometre trail. Two of the beaches in Saanich are Cordova Beach and Cadboro Bay. Staying outdoors, Saanich has more than 100 kilometres of pathways.
Metchosin is a village about 20 kilometres west of Victoria. It has regional parks, including Witty’s Lagoon, Matheson Lake, Albert Head and Devonian. Another attraction is the area’s museums, such as Pioneer Museum and Metchosin School Museum. There’s also a church in town that was built in 1873. To test yourself over 18 holes, area golf courses include Olympic View and Metchosin.
Colwood is a bustling suburban community of more than 16,000 people about 10 kilometres from Victoria. It offers a rich arts scene and is home to the West Shore Community Arts Centre. Colwood boasts wide open spaces with Esquimalt Lagoon, Havenwood Park, Herm Williams Park, Latoria Creek Park, Lookout Lake Park, Oceanview Park and Colwood Creek Park. There’s also a tree-to-tree course that offers scrambling and climbing opportunities through a Douglas fir canopy at WildPlay Element Parks.
Kayaking on the inner-harbour in Victoria is one of the many activities Calgarians enjoy after taking the short flight to Vancouver Island.
Here’s a look at the sunrise in Saanich near Victoria. The great outdoors is a major draw for Calgarians looking for a getaway.
The paths along the inner-harbour in Victoria are populare with residents and tourists alike.
This is the Fresh Fish Market at Sidney in Greater Victoria. Sidney’s town slogan is “Sidney by the Sea” thanks to its spot on the southern end of Vancouver Island.