The summers in Victoria only seem to be getting warmer and lasting longer. So by mid-July when you’re melting in the heat but not quite daring enough to dip into the frigid ocean waters around Vancouver Island, a trip to a local lake is a must. But rather than swarm with hundreds of other families on the island’s best known beaches, why not check out a few lesser known spots? Each of these swimming holes is less than 45 minutes from downtown Victoria and boast water temperatures that even the littlest members of your family can enjoy.
1. Matheson Lake
Located in Metchosin, Matheson Lake is a sweet lake that is just steps from the parking lot. There is a 3.5km trail that loops the entire lake, but it’s a bit tricky in spots due to quite a bit up-and-down along exposed rock, so probably best for the 4 years+ crowd. The sandy beach can get quite busy on summer weekends, but its a great place to paddleboard, float on a floatie, or just splash around with your kids. The beach is quite shaded until midday when the sun pops up over the dense surrounding trees.
Best time of day: 12pm-late evening
Driving Time from Victoria: 40 minutes
2. Durrance Lake
Ok, so this one isn’t exactly a hidden gem. You’re likely to share the tiny beach with quite a few others…but the water is gloriously warm and the sandy beach is great for the kids. There are fallen logs that make great platforms for performing your best cannon ball and the small size of the lake makes it ideal for an exploratory paddle from cove to cove. The size of the beach keeps the crowds at bay, but it’s also a favorite with teenagers and college kids, so it’s best to arrive early have a picnic lunch and be heading home by mid-day. There are a handful of swimming spots, but our favorite is the beach at the far end of the lake. It’s a 10 minute walk from the parking lot with little ones or 5 if you’ve got bigger kids.
Best time of day: 9am-12pm
Driving Time from Victoria: 25 minutes
3. Sooke Potholes
The water at the Potholes is definitely the coldest of the list, but by mid-summer the swimming holes have usually had enough days warmed by the sun that they are tolerable. There is a shallow-watered, pebbly beach (Sand Pebble Beach) that is great for kids, but for the more adventurous, the Sooke Potholes are also known for cliff jumping, large flat rocks for sun-bathing, and deep pools for diving. The campground closed back in 2013 due to financial strain, but it still makes a great day-trip. Entrance to the Potholes is along the Galloping Goose trail, but being 45km from Victoria you can expect the ride to take you close to 3 hours (a bit less if you don’t have kids in tow!).
Best time of day: All Day
Driving Time from Victoria: 45 minutes