VICTORIA, BC – Single-propeller seaplanes barrel toward the British Columbia horizon in uneven waves every few moments. Water ferries double as taxis on Victoria’s Inner Harbor, shuttling tourists on a golf vacation to all points along the water’s perimeter. Small pleasure boats make their way out to sea for an afternoon of fun and sun in Victoria, BC.
Along the British Columbia coastline, runners and moms pushing strollers follow a paved path around the harbor. Tourists snap pictures of the jaw-dropping scenery: downtown Victoria on one side, the ocean on the other. This setting is the pulse, the lifeblood, of one of Canada’s coolest cities.
Welcome to Victoria on Vancouver Island, the capital of British Columbia.
Victoria is a big city – its regional population is more than 300,000 – with a small-town feel that is classic Canada, clean, green and relatively safe.
Victoria is considered not only Canada’s most walkable city, but residents of Victoria are also the fittest, according to government statistics. Victoria citizens love the outdoors. Vancouver Island’s temperate climate and dramatic natural landscapes, combining the mountains and the sea, make pursuits outdoors a natural way of life.
Come summer, golf plays just as big a part as cycling or hiking in Victoria, BC. Some of British Columbia’s best courses are less than a half hour from Victoria’s city center. Three of the best courses on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail – Bear Mountain Golf and Country Club, Arbutus Ridge Golf and Country Club and Olympic View Golf Club – call Victoria, BC home, along with another local favorite, Cordova Bay Golf Club. Combined, they add up to a fabulous foursome for players to book in their BC golf package.
Bear Mountain Resort, and its 1,300-acre real estate development, has grown from the vision of former pro hockey player Len Barrie, who is backed by a number of his NHL pals.
The Jack/Steve Nicklaus-designed Bear Mountain Golf and Country Club has a slope of 152, one of the highest in Canada. Even the Golden Bear himself took a mulligan during a visit earlier last year to Victoria, BC.
It’s a brutal test with mind-boggling elevation changes. Bunkers and wetland hazards cut through fairways, forcing players to navigate cautiously. The island green at the 152-yard 11th hole pays tribute to the 17th hole at the TPC of Sawgrass, home to the Players Championship.
Bear Mountain’s 19th hole, a 141-yard par-3 built to settle up bets, sits at the top of the property between the 14th and 15th holes, overlooking nearby Victoria, the Juan de Fuca Strait and beyond, Mount Baker and the Olympic Mountains in the state of Washington. Go ahead and play it just for thrills.
“This is a gorgeous pices of land for a golf course,” said Duke Bradford, a Canadian Rockies golf expert. “The people here won’t get tired of playing it. There are also some spectacular views.”
Few courses in BC, Canada can match the wow factor of Bear Mountain, but Olympic View Golf Club comes close. A 50-foot waterfall roars behind the 17th green, visible from the tee 417 yards away. The scene overshadows what is an amazing strategic layout with highlights at every turn. The 335-yard 12th plays mind games with players as water runs along the left side of a thin fairway. The par-5 18th climbs upward toward the clubhouse, where the views from the patio alone are worth the greens fee.
The 6,168-yard Arbutus Ridge Golf and Country Club has a docile start, but makes up for it with a worthy finishing stretch, beginning at the downhill par-4 12th hole. The peninsula green at the 214-yard 17th hole demands your best swing of the day.
Cordova Bay is a favorite of the locals because it’s playable and priced right. Play it first as a warm-up round, oe you’ll be disappointed. It just doesn’t have the personality of the other three in BC.
Golf Vacation in Style in Victoria, BC
Perhaps no other city in Canada offers a better combination of good, affordable golf and a downtown, with such style, such personality as Victoria. The British Columbia climate, which isn’t as wet as you might be led to believe, allows its courses to stay open year-round, another bonus to book a golf vacation to Victoria, BC.
Be sure to spend at least one night at a downtown property. It will allow you time to explore Victoria. Also make a point to play BC’s Bear Mountain. Neither picture nor words can put its star power into perspective. It might be one of the best mountain layouts in not only British Columbia, Canada but also all of North America.
Victoria’s Best Resorts and Spas
The Delta Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa welcomes guests with the best view of the inner harbor. It is on the opposite shores of Victoria’s downtown buildings and the capital, which are both vibrantly lit at night.
Across the harbor, the Victoria Regent Hotel wins high praise for its suites, perfectly suited for a foursome on a golf vacation, and its location on Wharf Street, just minutes from the downtown Victoria’s eateries, shopping and night life. The suites are big enough to call home, with comfortable living rooms and kitchens and balconies that overlook the harbor.
Twenty minutes outside the city, the 91-room Westin Bear Mountain Victoria Resort and Spa, which opened in May 2006, now overshadows the original 65-room “Fairways” lodge, which opened in 2004.
The new Westin, perched above the 18th green, exudes luxury with deluxe guest rooms and one- and two-bedroom suites, ranging from 465 to 2,490 square feet. The Sante Spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center and five restaurants, including the sushi bar Kuma Sushi, serve a growing community.
Teatime at the Fairmont Empress Hotel draws thousands of tourists each year. This hotel, designed by famous architect Francis Rattenbury, wins awards annually as one of Fairmont’s flagship properties.
Great Restaurants in Victoria
The choices in Victoria’s vibrant, bustling downtown are endless.
Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada. Fan Tan Alley, North American’s narrowest street, was once notorious for its opium dens and gambling houses, but now is lined with shops and restaurants serving authentic food.
The Swans Suite Hotel and Brewpub, a legendary haunt on Pandora Avenue, is known as Victoria’s Art Hotel for the more than 1,600 pieces of an eclectic collection hanging in its Wild Saffron Bistro, 29-suite hotel and pub. Hanging flowerpots decorate the exterior. Delicacies such as rack of lamb occupy the bistro’s menu. Swans Suite Hotel and Brewpub also brews its own beer and serves many wines native to Victoria, BC.
Away from the downtown Victoria, Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, a popular BC hangout for live music, offers a unique beer and chocolate combination. If you’re hankering for Italian, try Il Terrazzo Ristorante.
A golf vacation in Victoria, BC will be one of the greatest experiences of you golfing life. And it is a cool enough city to bring you wife along, letting her be entertained by the great dining and shopping options in the city while you are teeing off on a great BC, Canada golf course. If you must, meet up with her late night for drinks at one of Victoria’s excellent bars. Or come with just you buddies and paint the Victoria red after playing a few rounds.
Golf Canada’s West is the official golf course, tee time and golf packaging company of Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies. Call them at 877-323-3633. For additional information be sure to check out GolfTheRockies.net. For more BC and Alberta vacation and tourism information, please visit Banff National Park.com and Banff Travel.com.