Walking Westsong Way on Victoria's Inner Harbour
There are so many amazing walks you can do around Victoria and yet it is one of the most obvious ones keeps drawing me back. That walk is the Westsong Way that follows along the edge of the harbour between the Johnson Street Bridge and Westbay Marina. This walk has it all, beautiful natural shoreline, amazing city views, boats and airplanes coming and going, and in the distance across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Olympic Mountains sitting stoically on the horizon.
I generally start this walk by the totem poles to the south of the Ocean Pointe Resort. Many may not know it, but the two poles here used to be part of what was during the Commonwealth Games, the tallest totem pole in the world, though due to concerns regarding safety it was dismantled into smaller pieces. Up on a rocky outcropping here is the base of a former tower (I think it was a water tower). This is an excellent viewpoint of the entire inner harbour from James Bay to the Johnson Street Bridge. I recently wrote about this stretch between the bridge and here in my post on the abundant and empty public spaces in the area.
After leaving the totems and the views of downtown, you will be heading west to reach the far end. The entire length is about two and a half kilometres, however the beauty of the walk makes it go by very quickly. The first section follows along the water next to the original Songhees condo projects from the 1980’s and 1990’s. While I am sure some will disagree, they may be the ugliest set of buildings in Victoria. The addition of a few more recent buildings behind them (The Shutters is my favourite!), is starting to dilute their impact. Partway through this section of the walk is the brand new and not quite complete Victoria International Marina. This marina has been designed to service some of the larger yachts that no longer fit along the other docks next to old town. While many long time Songhees residents protested the building of the marina, I think it looks great and more importantly is will bring some much needed commercial space to the area. As it is now, Spinnakers Pub is really the only commercial enterprise along the whole walk, which is unfortunate because I would love some options to grab a coffee or sit down somewhere and have a bowl of soup. There are plans for a pub and cafe in one of the two marina buildings and I have no doubt that they are going to be very popular.
As you move past the last of the po-mo Songhees condos you will round Lime Bay and pass by the aforementioned Spinnakers Brewpub. For beer enthusiasts, this is the actual birthplace of the modern craft brewery business not just in Victoria, but all of Canada. After this point the pathway narrows and becomes even more winding. If you happen to be going on this walk with kids there is an amazingly elaborate pirate ship built out of drift wood and other things that will keep the kids amused and is a great opportunity for some fun pictures.
Update: While I have not been down to see it directly, that amazing pirate ship for the kids is no longer. The storm of December 20th, 2018 has crushed it beyond repair. Jack Knox has put a great history of the piece up on the Times Colonist site. Hopefully the city will recognise the importance of a little magic and wonder and put something in its place, though it will likely never be replaced entirely.
Just before you reach the beautiful West Bay (As opposed to the end point of Westbay) you will pass a couple of small islets to your left. There used to be walkways over to them but they have been removed. The larger of the two is known as Coffin Island, though I am not aware of what the history is behind that (If you know, please put it in the comments below!). After you have rounded West Bay, the pathway widens for a bit and several large arbutus and garry oak trees hang overhead giving the area a very authentic Salish Sea feel. Not too much further along you will reach Westbay Marina, which much like Fisherman’s Wharf, is home to many houseboats. It is fun to walk along some of the docks and take in the unique way of living. Most importantly, here at the end of the trail is a water fountain and a washroom.
You can now turn around and head back which will let you have some great views of the city from a very different perspective. If you are not in the mood to walk all the way back you can walk the 200 metres up Head Street to Esquimalt Road and catch the Number 6 bus back downtown.
No matter how many times I walk this path, I still can’t help pulling out my camera and taking pictures. It is just simply beautiful. What are your favourite parts of the walk?