As a long-time home to First Nations, the provincial capital, a former Hudson’s Bay fort and one-time supply stop for those chasing gold rush dreams, Greater Victoria boasts many museums and heritage sites that reflect its eclectic past. Here are a few we love to explore…
1. Located in a national historic district, the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum charts the rich history of the naval base at Esquimalt. Designed by Victoria architect John Teague, the museum buildings were built in the late 19th century and were used as a military hospital. Discover exhibits exploring n four distinct military groups that have made an impact on Canada’s history and left a lasting heritage: Canada’s Navy on the West Coast; the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC); the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS); the West Coast Defences.
2. At the turn of the 20th century, Craigdarroch Castle represented the epitome of high society in Victoria. Built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who became BC’s first millionaire, Craigdarroch was his ultimate status symbol, although he died just prior to its completion in 1889. Now a museum, Craigdarroch Castle has been wonderfully restored and is a remarkable example of superb craftsmanship. Page 42
3. BC’s most renowned artist and author was born in Emily Carr House, steps from the harbour in James Bay, in 1871. Open through September 30, the house has been furnished and decorated as it would have been during Emily’s childhood, and several pieces of her early sculpture and pottery are on display. Page 42
4. Fort Rodd Hill, now a National Historic Site along with the neighbouring Fisgard Lighthouse, was built in the 1890s to protect the Royal Navy Base at Esquimalt. Now visitors can explore three coast artillery gun batteries, barracks, searchlight emplacements and other historic buildings on the shores of Esquimalt Harbour. As the first lighthouse built on Canada’s West Coast, Fisgard Lighthouse dates from 1860. Exhibits inside tell fascinating stories of the lighthouse keepers who have stood watch and shipwrecks along the rugged coastline. Page 42
5. Now the campus of Royal Roads University, Hatley Castle National Historic Site was originally the private residence of James Dunsmuir, whose father built Craigdarroch Castle. The beautiful gardens and surrounding parkland are wonderful for a leisurely stroll, while in the castle basement a small museum presents the long and varied history of the castle. Page 42
6. Discover the rich and varied history of West Coast maritime history – everything from pirates to the BC Ferries – at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. A favourite with children and adults, the museum also includes several hands-on exhibits and a life-size crow’s nest. The museum is housed in Victoria’s former courthouse, and on the third floor you’ll find a faithful reproduction of the courtroom of Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, BC’s “hanging judge.” Page 43
7. Open through September 15, Point Ellice House is an historic Italianate home overlooking the scenic Gorge Waterway. Acquired by Gold Rush magistrate and commissioner George O’Reilly and enjoyed for many years by the O’Reilly family, the property is home to beautiful heritage gardens and the family home, where you’ll discover an impressive collection of Victoriana, still in its original location. Tea service available (reservations recommended). Page 43
8. One of the most visited museums in Canada, the Royal BC Museum presents the natural and human history of the province in fascinating fashion. Must-sees include the refurbished Natural History Gallery, the First Peoples Gallery, and the re-creation of a Gold Rush-era street. Also on-site is Helmcken House, built in 1852 for prominent Victorian Dr. John Helmcken and the original schoolhouse from St. Ann’s Academy.
9. Older than the BC Legislature and once the centre for Catholic education and worship in Victoria, the magnificent St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site features a beautifully restored chapel, auditorium and grounds, open to the public for self-guided tours; guided tours are available by reservation for groups of 10 or more. Page 43
10. Sidney and the Saanich Peninsula are home to several delightful museums worth exploring, including the Sidney Museum (250-655-6355 or www.sidneymuseum.ca) and the BC Aviation Museum (250-655-3300 or www.bcam.net), located near the Victoria International Airport. Operated by the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society, Heritage Acres is a 29-acre property with several restored buildings, a variety of historic agricultural equipment, and a museum. September 13 and 14 bring the annual Harvest Fall Fair, a favourite with local families for its traditional celebration of local agriculture. (Page 42)