James Bay Parks
Above: Sundial Flower Garden in Beacon Hill Park.
By Robert Hawkes
Photos by Robert Hawkes
I suspect it would be hard to find any urban area in Canada that compares to the diverse wealth of parks that we enjoy here in James Bay. I wanted to take a look at both the well known ones and a few treasures that are less well known. I will use numbering from the attached map on James Bay Parks provided by the City of Victoria at https://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/residents/parks/our_parks/james-bay-parks.html. That website also includes a helpful chart indicating which parks have play equipment, washrooms, water views, etc.
Beacon Hill Park (#10)
Beacon Hill is of course our best known park, and with such large and diverse grounds it deserves every bit of that recognition. Even in the few years that I have lived in James Bay, I have visited the park many hundreds of times, yet each visit I notice something new. While you will want to spend time at the most popular spots in Beacon Hill Park, such as the walkways surrounding Good Acre Lake and the beautiful flower gardens in the central region, don't overlook visiting the less trodden paths in Beacon Hill Park as well. Among my favourite lesser known spots are the path that starts near the corner of Cook and Dallas and winds through the tall trees at the far corner of the park, and the path along the rocky outcropping at the end of the park nearest downtown ending at Southgate St. Also, don't forget to check out the history of the park through the murals at the kiosk near the bridge over the lake. As well as enjoying the natural settings, there are lots of things to do in Beacon Hill Park. For children there is a great play area and summer water play, as well as the petting zoo. Golfers of all ages and abilities can enjoy the putting park. We all can enjoy the strolls, benches, wildlife, gardens and picnic areas. You can even watch some cricket!
Holland Point Park (#43)
If looking for a walk with beautiful coastal views, then Holland Point Park is your spot. It has some of the very best places to sit and no lack of benches. Parts of the path are through open fields overlooking the outer coast, while others wind through thick bushes. While the main path is fairly level, there are numerous places you can go right down to water level. One branch of Holland Point Park joins up with Harrison Yacht Pond, an accessible and beautiful place to spend some time. The dual glass half full sculptures there rotate and are fun for children, and tables make this a nice place for a picnic. You can walk all the way along the outer coast path and join up with Beacon Hill Park. Do at least now and then leave the main route and go to Finlayson Point and sit in the bench at the very end. Dogs have an off leash area in the part of the park across Dallas from Beacon Hill Park. As you walk Holland Point park you can learn about the history and geology of the region through several cairns.
Irving Park (#44)
Centrally located at the corner of Menzies and Michigan, Irving Park with its towering trees is well known to most. It has a great play area for children, and the park is large enough that you can find a quiet corner to read a book. Don't overlook visiting the labyrinth at the far end of the Irving Park, and also reading about the history of the park on a plaque near the play area. You can readily combine a visit to this park with nearby shopping or a library visit.
Quadra Park (#47)
One of the smaller parks is Quadra Park, so named because of the bust of explorer Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra in the park. While this park is adjacent to busy Belleville St., it nevertheless offers a quiet refuge and nice place to spend a little time. The vegetation, both trees and flowers, make this park a beautiful place.
Belleville Street Green (#40)
Crossing Belleville St. you reach Belleville Street Green that starts the part of your walk along the inner harbour. The Japanese association friendship bell is in this well maintained park. The inner harbour is always full of activity from pleasure boats, water taxis, ferries, tour boats, seaplanes, and more.
Laurel Point Park (#41)
Farther along the inner harbour is Laurel Point Park. This park offers a front row seat on everything happening in the harbour, as well as a look across at both downtown and Victoria West. If you are fortunate you will see the new bridge being opened. This is also the location of one of the Signs of Lekwungen that honour the Coast Salish people. Fall leaves are beautiful from the large trees at Laurel Point. Your walk will take you past a picturesque marina on your way to Fisherman's Wharf.
Fisherman's Wharf Park (#42)
Fall is a great time to visit Fisherman's Wharf Park as most things are still open, but it is not as busy as it was in the summer. You can combine a walk along the house boats or the working side of the marina, explore the history of the area through informative displays, have a meal or treat, or enjoy a picnic overlooking the marina. There is an interesting play area here for children, as well as a field to play in, and the community herb garden.
MacDonald Park (#46)
At MacDonald Park the emphasis is on things to do. There are four huge ball fields, which also are used for soccer, rugby and other sports. A wonderful playground is shared with James Bay Community School, but outside school hours is open to everyone. This is a particularly active place after school each day. The park has mature trees on three of its borders, and while most spend their time at the playground or the playing fields, it is possible to also find quiet spots for reading or a picnic. On the far side of the park are community garden plots, interesting places to visit and see what your neighbours are growing. Given its location, this park is ideal for combining family play time with activities at the school or community centre.
Todd Park (#48) (Toddler Park)
Sometimes missed, but adjacent to the far end of MacDonald Park (across Montreal Street Alley) is the small Todd Park, also called James Bay Toddler Park. This park is ideal for toddlers, with play equipment intended for the younger set, and a nice sand area that usually has some shared toys donated by users. For safety this park is completely enclosed with a fence to prevent your toddler from dashing off into an unsafe area. Near to this park, but separate, are tennis courts.
Lewis Street Park (#45)
The final official park on our list is also the smallest, Lewis Street Park. Tucked between the end of Luxton Ave. and Lewis St., this little park includes trees, a swing set and a picnic table. Often you can have this park just to yourself, and it is a perfect place to spend a few minutes.
There are of course other areas not on the official list of James Bay parks but, nevertheless, park treasures that are in our midst. These would include the grounds at the legislature and at St. Ann's Academy National Historic Site, as well as the park across the street from South Park Family School. Thunderbird Park and the native plant garden are green spaces maintained by the Royal BC Museum. Cridge Park (#8) is also a Victoria park but just outside the official boundary of James Bay.
It is possible to combine several of the parks in one loop walk. In late spring I did a loop to deliberately visit all of the parks in one long walk. You can complete many of the 101 Things To Do In James Bay (see summer Beacon) during your park visits. I hope to see you at some of the incredible park areas that we all share in this amazing community.