E-town, as some Township of Esquimalt residents fondly refer to the town as, is an unexpected oasis located just west of Victoria’s core. With lots of public access to stunning seafronts, amazing cultural experiences throughout the year and a rich military history – there is something for everybody.
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With the Pacific Ocean to the east, south and west and the Gorge waterway to the north, the Township of Esquimalt is practically an island! The stunning panoramic views are endless. And public parks and greenspaces that take advantage of the breath-taking scenery are one of the reasons why exploring E-town should be on your list.
My three favourite parks and greenspaces in this region are Macaulay Point Park, Saxe Point Park and West Bay Walkway.
Macaulay Point is a now a 7.6-hectare multi purpose municipal park but it got its start as a Hudson Bay farm and later became part of Fort Macaulay. The rich military history can be seen in the bunkers, lookouts and defensive berms. These military ramparts give children a special place to play and pretend. In addition to the historic fort zone, there is a rock-climbing zone, a swimming and picnic area and off-leash dog walking area. The park can be accessed from Fleming Beach as well as Munro Street.
Saxe Point is another greenspace where the military history of the region is evident. During World War 2, a searchlight was installed as part of Canada’s shoreline defense. Stroll one of the many trails or enjoy a picnic lunch on the greenspace overlooking the beach all while enjoying spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains and Strait of Juan de Fuca. Depending on how busy it is, you may have to park and walk to get to the picnic area. For this reason (and the fact that it is insulated and holds everything you need) I highly recommend a picnic backpack. Mine is no longer available but this one is similar.
Accessed from Lower Head Street, the West Bay Walkway is a nearly 3 km fully accessible shoreline walking path and boardwalk that connects West Bay to the Songhees Walkway. The Songhees Walkway continues for approximately another 2km to Victoria’s downtown. The entire walkway is popular for running, strolling and commuting however cycling is not permitted.
When it comes to cultural experiences and family fun, the Township of Esquimalt has a long list of activities for you and your family to experience. Bullen Park, in the heart of town, is home to several community events including Buccaneer Days in May and Ribfest in September. Head over to Memorial Park (across from the new Town Square) for Music Fest (June to August), the Arts Festival in August and one of the best farmer’s markets in the region on Thursday evenings in the new Esquimalt Square.
Aeriosa – Dancing Trees by the Salish Sea was held for three consecutive years at Saxe Point, prior to COVID-19. This was such a unique performance, set against the stunning backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, I hope it becomes an event that residents and tourists can look forward to its return and that it becomes an annual event.
According to their FaceBook page, “Aeriosa is a vertical dance company that creates aerial choreography for buildings, theatres and natural landscapes.”
At Saxe Point, they combine graceful dance moves with athletic mountain climbing skills for an incredible performance, all while attached to cables that are fastened to the towering Douglas Fir trees.
And if you need more reasons to explore the Township of Esquimalt, bring the kids to the Adventure Park located beside the recreation centre on Fraser Street.
The park features a splash pad (open 10 am to 8 pm May to September), a children’s playground, an outdoor fitness circuit, picnic areas, washroom and change facilities.
Need some delicious fixings for your picnic lunch? Country Grocer is a locally-owned full service grocery store located in the heart of town where you’ll find fresh, local produce and products for every meal and snack. And just across the parking lot is one of my favourite bakeries in Greater Victoria – the Esquimalt Bakery. The friendly staff will help you choose from delicious breads (you’ve got to try the sourdough) and delectable desserts - we love the long john’s made with real cream and the jelly donuts.
Greater Victoria is home to Canada’s Pacific Naval Fleet located at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt, the second largest military base in Canada with over 12,000 acres and 1,500 buildings. With over 7,000 military and civilian personnel working on the base, it’s a big part of the town’s identity.
Tours of both the base and the Naval & Military Museum are available to the public or as part of a fully narrated tour package with a local guide.
I hope you’ve found more than one reason to visit the Township of Esquimalt and I look forward to meeting you in my travels.
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