In and Around Esquimalt
Esquimalt is one of 11 municipalities that make up the area known as Victoria, B.C. Esquimalt is just west of the downtown core, and is like an island, within an island, but in reality, it's a peninsula that is almost completely surrounded by water. Its borders are View Royal to the northwest, the Gorge inlet to the north, Victoria on the east, and the Juan de Fuca Strait in the south. Esquimalt's population is about 17,000, and covers an area of 7 sq.km. The Canadian Forces Pacific Fleet is based here, at CFB Esquimalt, which covers a further 41 sq.km., directly west of the municipality's core, and forms part of the Capital Regional District.
The municipality of Esquimalt, Victoria's hidden gem, is one of the first areas to be settled in Victoria, so has a rich history.
There are convenient shops in the main Esquimalt Plaza, just a 5 minute walk from your B & B, and the Esquimalt Recreation Centre and Archie Browning skating rink/convention centre are in that same block. Cafes, and small restaurants dot the area, as well as award-winning pharmacies and medical centres, and all the other things you should need while on your trip are just a 6 minute drive into the downtown Victoria core.
The word Esquimalt is a transliteration of "Ess-whoy-malth," a phrase usually translated as "place of the shoaling waters." The First Nations people of this area, now known as the Esquimalt Nation, settled in this area approximately 400 years before the arrival of Europeans. In 1843, when the Hudson's Bay Company was looking for a new location for its western base of operations, Sir James Douglas liked Esquimalt Harbour, but decided that there were just too many trees to make the area suitable for the location for a fort site.
Though the fort became situated at the mouth of the Gorge Inlet, and was called Fort Victoria, Douglas continued to use the Esquimalt Harbour for a port for ships to load and offload passengers and supplies. When the British naval ship, HMS Thetis arrived in 1852, the sailors built a trail through the forest, making the link from the Esquimalt to Victoria harbours, and Fort Victoria. This trail, now called Old Esquimalt Road, has some beautiful historic houses gracing its edges.
The Hudson's Bay Company wanted to try its hand at farming, and the Puget Sound Agricultural Company came in to develop the land: between 1850 to the mid 1860's, much of Esquimalt was farmland. For whatever reasons, the farms were unsuccessful, and the land sold off in small parcels. We do have remnants of that era however, with the Craigflower farmhouse and the Craigflower School still standing as heritage sites, open for educational tours. Other Esquimalt heritage sites are protected through heritage designation.
Three hospital buildings were
constructed in 1855, to treat casualties of the Crimean War, and from
there, people started to settle around the naval installation near the
water's edge. By 1858, with the discovery of gold on the Fraser River,
a huge influx of people, who came to buy permits and supplies at Fort
Victoria before heading to the mainland, created an opportunity for other
businesses. A few shops opened up, others settled in the area, and thus
began the area's first building boom. The British Royal Navy decided
to relocate its Pacific fleet from Chile, to the Esquimalt harbour, in
1865. By 1887, a military base was located at what is now called Work
Though the British Royal Navy had left the area by 1905, the new Royal Canadian Navy replaced it in 1910. The region began to be dominated by naval life and shipbuilding, and after World War 1, it became one of Canada's major shipbuilding capitals. Today, Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt (CFB Esquimalt) is home to Maritime Forces Pacific.
Dayliner at Niagara Canyon, and Johnson St. Bridge.
Photos copyright Pat & David Othen. For train photos on Vancouver Island and elsewhere, click http://www.othen.go.to
Meanwhile, the First Nations people continue to thrive here, in the two groups of Esquimalt Nation, and Songhees Nation, in close proximity to one another in the northwest area nearing View Royal.
The E and N Railway, which is the Esquimalt to Nanaimo line, was laid down in 1887, right through the heart of Esquimalt, and for many decades has been the track for the "Dayliner".
Plans are underway for further development and in the near future, Esquimalt will have part of the walking/cycling trail running alongside the train tracks. Many are hoping for revitalization of the rail line, so that its full potential can be realized. For the latest updates, check the Island Corridor Foundation site.
Esquimalt is known for its many spectacular green spaces; we probably have more parkspace in this municipality than in any of the others in Victoria's Capital Regional District. There are too many parks to list here, but if you check the Esquimalt municipality site for greenways and open spaces, waterways and beach access, and sports fields you will have an idea of the area which will bring you refreshment and joy. A wonderful walking routes map, that includes tips on active and healthy living, and active aging, can be downloaded from here.
Very close to Cottage Pirouette B & B is Fleming Beach and Macaulay Point, and even if you only go for a jog or a walk, you will be impressed with the activity there. Rock-climbers (otherwise known as boldering) flock to this area to practise their skills. Sports fisherpeople head out of the docks at the ramp there, and the seals check out their catch when they come back. As an off-leash area, many dog-walkers are out enjoying the gorgeous views of the Juan de Fuca Strait, the Western Communities, and the Olympic Mountains to the south in Washington State.
If you want a little fitness time while in Victoria, be sure to bring along your running shoes. Your host, Lorraine leads a few classes at Esquimalt Recreation Centre, one of the best health facilities in Victoria! There are also excellent running trails in the neighbourhood.