On a beautiful late December day, I made my most revent visit to French Beach Provincial Park. Located just 60km west of Victoria, it is the perfect day trip destination.
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We made a spontaneous decision to go – and it was still perfect – but with a bit of planning, we would have gathered wood for a fire and packed my picnic backpack (do you use one of these? I love the insulated section and it is so easy to carry) with more than just snacks.
As a visitor to the area, what you’ll notice first is a generous-sized parking lot with a wide, paved path that leads directly to the beach. Step out of the vehicle and you’ll be enveloped with the delicious smell of salty sea air and the sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing just metres away.
The park offers a nice strip of green grass with a handful of fire pits, perfect for setting up your picnic lunch. By the time we got there, all of the fire pits were already being used however had we wanted to use the facilities, I feel like we could have just asked a group and joined them. That’s a Canadian thing to do.
But instead, we headed right down to the sand and pebble beach to find ourselves a log where we settled in to watch the scenery and enjoy the day. My son and his friend started a 1.5-hour adventure exploring the coastline, hiking through the lush forests and relaxing on cliffs overlooking the ocean. I was quite content to admire all the shapes and colours of rocks and get my camera out to capture the glorious day.
Everybody hopes to see whales when they look out to the sea and in the spring and fall its quite possible to catch a glimpse of magnificent Gray whales as they pass by the park, migrating to and from their feeding grounds. Year round there are also pods of orca whales, otters, seals and sea lions that all travel in the area and can be seen from shore.
On my recent visit, I was entertained by a pod of sea lions. They first caught my attention when I heard them “barking” and to my amazement saw about 70 heads bobbing in the water. Once the “song” was over, they moved into the “dance” portion of the performance with many of them jumping and breaching the water. Over the course of about 30 minutes, they moved across the bay and thoroughly entertained those of us who watched from the shoreline.
When you visit French Beach, you may not see whales or pods of sea lions, but you will surely experience marvelous Mother Nature at her finest. Kids love exploring the coastline and playing on the various pieces of driftwood - the most famous being the gigantic old tree stump. It has been there as long as I can remember. Visiting this Provincial Park is an easy day trip from Victoria and one I recommend everyone fit into their itinerary. And if you don't have access to a vehicle, book a private guide and combine this stop with a trip to Port Renfrew.
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