If your trip to Victoria has you stuck in the city centre, Beacon Hill Park is just minutes from the downtown. It is a pleasant mix of landscaping and wilderness in an area rich in history. First reserved as a park in the 1850s, it has been owned by the City of Victoria since 1882. It was first landscaped by noted Scottish gardener and landscape architect John Blair — one of the reasons for the English- style gardens that grace much of the park to this day. A selection of other historic tidbits:
- A Songhees fortified village was located at Finlayson Point at about 950 AD, and was occupied on and off for the next 500 years. House platforms can still be seen, though much of it, including a defensive trench, has been destroyed by development. Another defensive site was located at Holland Point.
- A graveyard located on Beacon Hill was named Meeachan, meaning “fat man lying on his back.” Over the years, including as late as the 1970s, the cairns were removed by park staff to make it easier to mow the grass. Four of the burial cairns were reconstructed in 1986 by arranging scattered boulders.
- Beacon Hill was equipped with navigation beacons in the 1840s. The intent was to warn mariners of the dangers around Brochie Ledge, located just offshore.
- As early as 1858 Beacon Hill was being used for horse racing; the track is now Circle Drive. Cricket was the other common sport of the day at the park, and remains so with the cricket ground still in use.
- Threat of war with Russia prompted the military to use the hill in the 1870s. Batteries were constructed at Finlayson Point, Holland Point and Beacon Hill in 1878. Two 64-pound guns were kept in service at Finlayson Point until 1892.
- Beacon Hill is Kilometre Zero of the 21,000 km Trans Canada Trail. The Kilometre Zero marker is near Clover Point. You can dip your foot in the ocean there to either start or end your cross-country trek, with the other trailhead at St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Picnic areas and day use: Playgrounds, tennis courts, benches, a petting zoo—there are a multitude of ways to while away a day here.
Short walks: The rose garden, Rose Lake and Fountain Lake make ideal places for a picturesque stroll. The waterfront is linked by trails through Holland, Beacon Hill and Clover Point parks and offers views and fresh ocean air. Steep stairwells provide access to the rough beach.