Boun­ti­ful life­style just a flight away

Greater Vic­to­ria and sur­round­ing towns a strong draw for Cal­gar­i­ans look­ing for fun

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - JOSH SKAPIN

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.

Pho­tos: Tourism Vic­to­ria

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.

Pho­tos: Tourism Vic­to­ria

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.

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