On the Island, Life's a Beach!

Written on 06/16/2021
Island Dog Blog

Chillin’ on Cordova Bay Beach

What an awful start to our new life on Vancouver Island. We’ve lived here a month, and only been to the beach almost EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!

Tucker loves the beach and while he’s sampled many of the lake and river variety in our landlocked days, he’s now discovering the intriguing new world of the ocean beach. And he’s lapping it up (literally – the first thing he does when he gets into any kind of water is take a huge drink).

At Ambleside beach in West Vancouver

Tucker’s first ocean experience was en route to the Island in February 2021. We stopped off at the popular Ambleside Park dog beach in West Vancouver, which boasts stunning views of the famous Lions Gate Bridge that connects North Vancouver with the downtown core. As he entered the water, true to form, Tucker’s first order of business was to take a nice, big gulp. He’s used to fresh water, so we were a little worried that he might be caught off-guard by the salty kind and choke or splutter, but he didn’t – instead, he took another big drink, and another, and another, until we yelled at him to stop because too much salt water’s not good for him. He didn’t go in deep enough to swim, instead opting to plod around the shallows. After a brief dip and sniff around the shoreline, that was that.

Fast-forward to the present and we’ve settled on the scenic Saanich Peninsula, with a wealth of beautiful beaches to choose from. In fact, we’re so spoilt for choice here that we’ve barely ventured further afield!

So, with Tucker reveling in his new coastal lifestyle, we thought we’d share some of our favourite neighbourhood beach spots with you!

Tucker in a driftwood structure at Island View beach
In the driftwood at Island View

Island View Beach A 10-minute drive from our place, Island View is our ‘local’ and perfect for after work adventures, so we’re there at least a few times a week. On the peninsula’s eastern shore, a few minutes’ drive from the Patricia Bay Highway, Island View is a great spot for dogs. They can enjoy the significant stretch of sandy/pebbly beach and adjacent paved trail off-leash from mid-September to the end of May (during summer months dogs are restricted to the trail and must be on-leash). The beach is bordered by a generous deposit of driftwood which is fun to climb or sit on to watch your furry friend play. A moderately-paced loop from the southernmost parking lot up the trail and back down the beach takes about 45 minutes, or if you prefer to amble around at Tucker speed, you can easily spend an hour or two here. This is a popular spot and can get pretty busy, especially on warm sunny days.

Coles Bay Regional Park Beach On the opposite side of the peninsula, north of Brentwood Bay lies the small but charming Coles Bay Regional Park. A short, easy forest trail leads to the secluded beach, with inviting views of the bay and Saanich Inlet. It’s much more peaceful here, which is a welcome break from some of the busier beaches. Consistent with most regional parks in the area, dogs can go off-leash if kept under control. Bring shoes as it’s a rough, pebbly surface – if your dog has delicate paws, booties may be in order – and while there are large, smooth rocks for sitting on further up the beach, the tidal zone consists of smaller rocks covered in rough barnacles, so it’s not really one for bare feet. You can see lots of different shellfish on the beach, including a variety of clams and large oysters, so be aware if your dog is a scavenger like Tucker!


A beautiful day at Cordova Bay!

Cordova Bay Beach At the base of the peninsula on the eastern shore, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Victoria, Cordova Bay is a beach-lovers beach. Rough pebbles give way to a wide stretch of soft golden sand at the south end, making it ideal for barefoot walks, paddling, and if your canine companion will allow it, sunbathing. Dogs can roam freely between September 1 and April 30, but are not permitted in the summer months. There are several easy access points along the Cordova Bay Road and adjacent side streets, where you can leave your car and make the short walk down to the beach. On a bright sunny day, it’s a postcard-worthy view (take a look at our Insta if you don’t believe us!) with the sparkling blue ocean and cool green forest of Mount Douglas Park which encloses the bay to the south. If you fancy a bite to eat and a great view, the Beach House restaurant, located just off the beach, offers a range of tasty fare, drinks and sweet treats, as well as the all-important dog-friendly patio (obviously you can’t take them inside!).

McKenzie Bight (Gowlland Tod Provincial Park) Located in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, McKenzie Bight is worth the moderately challenging 3.5km hike (total, not each way!) to its intriguing rocky beach. Dogs are welcome in the park year-round, but must be kept on-leash both on the trails and the beach, which is advisable regardless due to the uneven surfaces and steep drop-offs. Home to a diverse shellfish population, this is a popular spot for collecting clams, mussels, and oysters, which also makes it a busy one. The parking lot is fairly small and fills quickly, but you can also park along the road. There are a couple of trail options to access the Bight – the winding, forested Cascade Trail is peaceful and pretty with the charming Cascade Falls along the way, but includes steep steps down and uneven terrain which may not be suitable for all visitors, whether two or four-legged. If you choose to come back via this route, be prepared for a challenging uphill hike. For this reason, we’d recommend taking the wider gravel McKenzie Bight Trail back up, which offers a more gradual incline (for those like me who struggle with hills). Keep an eye on your furry friend as the beach is also home crabs, starfish, and other sea life.

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