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By Jane Cassie
For Travel Writers' Tales

Swanky yachts and regal schooners skim the sun-glinted waves below. Along with ocean-going kayaks, speedy dragon boats and other pleasure vessels they share the nautical scene. Framed by a rugged coastline and backed by powdered peaks, it's a setting that's picturesque to a fault and truly epitomizes the axiom, Super Natural British Columbia.

Photo 1 Float Plane ready for take off

Although there are plenty of ways to check out Victoria's scenic sites during this visit with my daughter, we enjoy a couple of the more adventuresome options-and this one comes with a bird's eye view.

After briefly surfing the Pacific, our DeHavilland Beaver rises to this occasion and over the next thirty minutes we share the sunny skies with soaring eagles. Cooper Air's aviator, Mick, doubles as an informative guide and while navigating the seaplane he provides a running commentary of the attractions below.

Photo 2 Overview of the inner harbour hub

"The promenade is a great place to check out the activities," he explains as we pass over the bustling hub. Although briefly interrupted by Johnson Street Bridge the walkway encircles the inner harbour where the colourful past integrates delightfully with the present. Streets are dressed with bouquets and Kabuki Kabs, Cinderella horse-drawn carriages, and double-decker buses whisk time-rich vacationers to internationally acclaimed tourist attractions.

Photo 3 Laurel Point Inn Snuggles up to a jetty perch

From our panoramic viewpoint we can visually trace the pedestrian causeway that leads to our temporary home away from home, the Laurel Point Inn. Snuggling up to her jetty perch she sparkles with contemporary sophistication and melds harmoniously with Victoria's Old World architecture.

Our flight veers to the west and Mick shares historical tidbits along the way. "Fisguard is the oldest lighthouse on the West Coast," he informs, while flying over Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Park. Although only accessible only from the sea during its prime time, we can see that Ocean Boulevard now winds its way around to this once vigilant beacon.

Photo 4 Edwardian-style Butchart Gardens

Clusters of verdant evergreens border shimmering lakes, and a few minutes to the north, the Edwardian-style Butchart Gardens comes into view. While sprawling over fifty palatial acres it hosts a number of theme gardens and provides a mantle of colour year round.

We putter over patchwork farmlands, grey winding highways, and golf greens speckled with undulating plateaus. The highlight for my daughter is when we hover over the University of Victoria, and visit from above, not on foot as she did a few years ago. "There aren't too many students who get to see their campus from this vantage point," Mick chuckles, "and as you can see, it's just a quick jaunt to the beach whenever the students need a break."

Photo 5 Victoria hugs up to the scenic shoreline

The strand of rocky shoreline is dotted with posh homes and washed continuously by gentle waves. Trillions of sparkles reflect off the sapphire waters and while buzzing closer to sea level we spot shimmering shadows, reminding us of the marine life that thrives just beneath.

In my mind's eye, I retrace the previous day's activity when Cuda Marine Adventures provided a similar encounter, but from an entirely different viewpoint.

Our covered vessel had plied effortlessly along this same coastal waterway and, although shielded from head winds and ocean spray, we enjoyed marine life sightings through surrounding windows. Frolicking porpoises played leapfrog as they rode in our wake, and teary-eyed seals joined stoic cormorants on the craggy Great Chain Island. During our three-hour cruise we were privy to a line up of first-rate performances and, with microbiology major Dave at the helm, we received the inside scoop on them all.

Photo 6 Whale Watching

The height of excitement came when the first signature dorsal fin sliced through the sapphire surface. "That's Ruffles," Dave announced without hesitation "He's about fifty-five years old, and Granny, his sister, is over ninety."

The majestic killer whales were like friends to our guide, but for us, their titles didn't matter. It was their splendour that tweaked our curiosity and activated our zoom lenses -the way a mother and calf arched in unison over the water's surface, then dipped beneath, like partially submerged water balloons -naturally spectacular!

Photo 7 Victoria bird's eye view

I shake myself out of the daydream just in time to get one last overview before our seaplane gently splashes down. Though our stay in Victoria is just about over, the little white aqua bus that transports us to the other side of the harbour reminds me that there is one last adventure in store -the scenic BC ferry ride that will take us back home.

Photo 8 BC Ferry ride back home


Where To Stay:
The Laurel Point Inn

How to Get There:
BC Ferries

Cooper Air

PHOTOS by Jane Cassie

1 Float Plane ready for take off
2 Overview of the inner harbour hub
3 Laurel Point Inn Snuggles up to a jetty perch
4 Edwardian-style Butchart Gardens
5 Victoria hugs up to the scenic shoreline
6 Whale Watching
7 Victoria bird's eye view
8 BC Ferry ride back home

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