Canada is well-known for its natural beauty, from the thunderous magnificence of Niagara Falls to the sheer vastness of the Rocky Mountains, and so much more.
Here on Vancouver Island, on Canada's west coast, one thing we pride ourselves on is the amount of natural beauty that surrounds us on a daily basis. For those of us who grow up here, enjoying the outdoors and staying active is a way of life, and what better way to spend your time than taking advantage of the wide range of outdoor and indoor activities and sports that Victoria and Vancouver Island have to offer?
Read on to discover ten sports and activities you can try during your time on our peaceful island.
Not only is this wonderful outdoor activity a great way to exercise, but it is also free due to the various outdoor tennis courts that can be found all around Greater Victoria. From Beacon Hill Park to Copley Park and everywhere in between, most parks across the city have tennis courts that can be used anytime you feel like playing.
Too cold or rainy to go outside? No problem! Many of Victoria’s numerous recreation centres, such as Oak Bay Rec Centre and Cedar Hill Rec Centre, have indoor courts that can be used at reasonable rates. What are you waiting for?
Much like tennis, Victoria has many outdoor basketball courts for everyone to enjoy. Full courts and half-courts exist all across the city, perhaps none better than the court in front of Crystal Pool near downtown, only a 15-minute walk from our Global Village Victoria school.
All you need is a ball to play this game, and with all the friends you’ll be making during your studies here, putting together a team should be a piece of cake. But what about all the rain you’ve been hearing about? Once again, the various recreation centres across the city have got your back.
When you think of Canada, swimming isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. But Canadians love to swim and so should you. In the summer, locals love to flock to the many lakes peppered around southern Vancouver Island such as Durrance Lake, Sooke Potholes or Thetis Lake, all of which are just a bus ride away.
In the colder months (and let’s be honest—there are many!), try swimming indoors at Esquimalt Rec Centre, Oak Bay Rec Center, Commonwealth Pool or any of the other dozen or so swimming pools across the city.
Prefer to be out on the open water instead of in it? Kayaking is probably the option for you. Try renting a kayak and paddling around Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour, or take a bus out to the Gorge Waterway and enjoy the natural scenic beauty of Victoria.
While this is best enjoyed in the warmer months of May to September, die-hard kayakers can be found out on the water all year round. If you‘ve never tried this before, there are several places that offer rentals and even lessons for the inexperienced.
Feel like getting outdoors but sports aren’t your thing? Then hiking is probably the activity for you.
Without a doubt, one of the most popular hiking spots for locals and visitors alike is Goldstream Provincial Park. A 30- to 40-minute bus ride from downtown, this is a golden opportunity to see nature at its finest.
Thetis Lake is also a nice spot to hike as are Beaver/Elk Lake, Mt. Doug, Mt. Tolmie and various others.
For those looking for a bigger challenge, the Juan de Fuca Trail and the West Coast trail offer extreme hiking adventures. Beginner hikers be warned: these are not for the unfit.
What could be more Canadian than going to an ice rink? (Well, skating on a frozen pond would probably qualify!)
Come drop in at any of the recreation centres around town and do your best figure-skating impression, and then stay to watch a youth hockey game.
“But I don’t know how to skate,” I hear you say. Most of the ice rinks, from Pearkes Arena to the Save-On Foods Memorial Arena, have skating walkers that can help you master this Canadian rite of passage.
7. Roof-top volleyball
Sure, you’ve played volleyball before…but have you ever played volleyball on a roof-top? Only moments from Global Village Victoria, the Strathcona Hotel rooftop sand volleyball courts are the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon or early evening.
And the best part? You can order food and buckets of beer and enjoy them right there on the sidelines as you watch your friends make fools of themselves. Note that because reservations for the court are necessary and because it does cost a little bit of money, this is best enjoyed in larger groups. Start telling your friends now!
8. Indoor rock-climbing
A somewhat recent addition to Victoria’s growing list of activities, indoor rock-climbing is a great way to experience the adrenaline rush of real rock-climbing without all the obvious risks. Of course, that's not to say you shouldn't exercise caution, but with all the safety harnesses in place and the excellent staff who can show you the ropes, the risks are certainly minimized.
At least two of these adventure facilities can be found right in downtown Victoria. Not only is this a great way to exercise, but it's also a great way to spend a rainy afternoon when most of the outdoor activities are proving difficult to do. Happy climbing!
If you've never heard of zip-lining, stop what you're doing right now and immediately Google it. It's okay, I'll wait… Okay, awesome, right?
If you've always wanted to swing through the air like Spiderman but aren't quite into the whole getting bit by a radioactive spider thing, try one of two zip-line adventure places that are both only a 30 to 45-minute bus ride from downtown Victoria.
This is the perfect chance to be surrounded by beautiful British Columbia's magical forests and natural beauty while at the same time zipping through the air at speeds you never thought possible. And how cool are those photos going to look on Instagram?
If the first nine suggestions above seemed too tame, then this one should almost certainly fulfill the daredevil in you.
Although not technically in Victoria, bungee-jumping can be found at Wildplay Elements Park located about an hour’s drive north of Victoria, just south of the city of Nanaimo.
Choose from either the traditional bungee-jump suspended upside down by your feet or the slightly less scary swing version. Either way, you'll swing above the Nanaimo River and be left with an exhilarating experience that you'll never forget. As a bonus, stick around afterward and go for a ride on their zip-line park and kill two birds with one stone.
Whether it’s adventure, exercise, fun or just the great outdoors that you're looking for, Victoria has a wide array of activities for you to try, some of which are even free. And if any of these suggestions don't tickle your fancy, feel free to try out any of the following activities in and around Victoria instead:
- Soccer: Grab a ball, find some friends and hit up any of the dozens of soccer fields and parks throughout the city.
- Billiards: More of an indoor, nighttime type of person? Why not try Peacocks Billiards for some pool, ping pong, darts or even foosball. And guess what? They serve alcohol, baby.
- Paddle-boarding: Put on a wetsuit and head down to Dallas Road, where you'll find plenty of water sport enthusiasts paddling away in the summer months.
- Baseball: You'll need a glove, a ball and a bat, and then go find a school or a park and try America's favourite pastime.
- Paintball: Hop on the bus and head out to East Sooke to try some paintball with your friends. Whether it's capture the flag or just an all-out war, this is an experience you'll never forget.
- Cycling: Go rent a bike or perhaps ask your home-stay family if you can borrow theirs. Either way, Victoria's many bike trails offer lovers of the outdoors a great excuse to spend the day with the wind blowing in their face.
- Frisbee: All you need is a frisbee to do this one. Then go find a park or field anywhere across the city.
- Golf: Certainly not the cheapest activity on this list, but there are many courses to choose from, both 9-hole and 18-hole, public and private. Of course, you could just try out the driving range and work on your swing instead.
More interested in shopping than doing sports? Check out our Guide to the best shopping spots in Victoria here.