When you brand yourself and your blog ‘The Tropical Canadian’ and then unexpectedly spend a year in the temperate, tepid backwater of Victoria, it’s hard to come up with anything to write that seems topical. Or interesting. The truth is, I’ve been pouting. It’s cold here. Life in Victoria is plain old boring (don’t give me that bullshit that only boring people are bored. I used to use that on my kids. Victoria may be pretty, but it’s an African violet on your grandma’s mantle. Dull, duller, and dullest). Did I mention it’s cold here?

So last week I decided to try a little something. I’m about adventure, and that can happen anywhere at any time. After a gloomy, cool, damp June we expected a week of sunshine, which I kicked off at a friend’s VERY tropical pool party. The party sparked a memory, a desire, and a plan – I had so much fun floating in that pool (in a FLAMINGO!) that I declared I’d spend a whole week exploring the lakes around Victoria, visiting a different lake each day. With a small break for the busy-ness (and crappy weather) of Canada Day, and one duplicate visit, here’s my breakdown of six lakes in eight days.

Yes, I’d still rather be swimming in the Caribbean, or the Mediterranean, or the Indian Ocean, or the South Pacific. But in the meantime, I am thankful to live where there is fresh clean water and green spaces preserved for the sharing.

LAKE WEEK IN REVIEW: (see the TL;DR version here)

Day 1: Elk Lake.

Elk Lake was my first stop in Lake Week because of it’s proximity. I’d been busy adult-ing throughout the day, and when I was finally ready to go to the lake I wanted to get there fast. It was a good start. Although the water of Elk Lake is not very clean (the beach is frequently closed to swimming in the summer due to swimmer’s itch from the water fowl feces – yes, that is gross), it is warmer than many Canadian lakes and has a decent beach. There’s also plentiful parking and a great level trail for those inclined to wander.

I spent most of an hour floating on the lake, listening to the chatter of nearby floating teen girls, watching couples come and go, and hearing the mostly-happy play of children. Elk Lake is a suburban family lake, with the park amenities that go along with that.

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Day 2: Prior Lake

Prior Lake is to Elk Lake as Woodstock is to Bible Camp. Victoria’s official (semi-official? unofficial but tolerated?) clothing-optional lake has one particular appeal to me – because it’s clothing optional it is quiet, peaceful and kid free. As fun as it is to hear children’s squeals and laughter, sometimes quiet conversations, the chirps of frogs in the water, and occasional fish splash is a great sound track. The water at Prior Lake is cool – not cold – and crystal clear. There’s barely a beach at Prior, but there’s a well-built dock that easily fits 20 or so bodies, and an air of friendly indifference. Everyone is welcome, and there’s friendly chat if you choose to engage and quiet understanding if you don’t. It may shock certain tender readers, but of the six lakes I visited last week, Prior is top two for future visits, though I will stick to earlier, less-busy daytimes. Crowds at a lake are bad enough; crowds at the naked lake are to be avoided.

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Day 3: Thetis Lake

Thetis is probably the best known and loved lake in Victoria, and that’s the reason it’s not my favourite. However, when three of my favourite ladies are going to be at the lake, and I get to splash with a cute and charming wee fishie, to Thetis I will go.

Thetis is particularly popular with groups of teenagers as it has a decent-sized (by Victoria standards) beach, cliffs for jumping, and little spots along the trail where groups of 7 can suddenly become a shy group of 2. It’s also accessible by bus or bike for those who can’t yet get mom’s car.

The gently-sloping beach is also popular with moms whose young kids are old enough to go out “not past your waist” or “not past the third handrail” or “not past the little island.”

The water at Thetis was both murky and cold on my first visit; I didn’t actually get all the way in the water because, as I may have mentioned before, I HATE BEING COLD.

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Day 4: Durrance Lake

I have frequently heard of Durrance Lake, but it turns out that the lake I was picturing doesn’t exist. What does exist though is a deep, clear, calm forest pool with a high sloping shoreline and miniature beach-like entries. I had somehow never been to Durrance before, and I will definitely be back.

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Day 5: Thetis, the revisiting

When you’re slightly bored on a Saturday and one of your favourite mermaids texts “we’re at Thetis; want to join us?” you get in the car before you even send a reply. On a truly sunny, if breezy, Saturday, Thetis is more blankets than sand, but in just a couple days the water temperature had risen – or my tolerance had risen – and the silt had cleared enough for me to get all the way in.
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Day 6: Beaver Lake

I can’t really swear that Elk and Beaver Lakes are entirely separate lakes. The trail around one includes both, and the parks are adjoined. There must be at least a canal that adjoins them. Regardless, the feel from one to the next is hugely different – Elk Lake sits in full sun with the beach on the north end sitting brightly, when the sun bothers to shine.

The main park section of Beaver Lake Park is more subtle. There’s still a decent though narrow beach, but the additional sloping grassy field, large playground, and multiple weeping willows provide a sense of individual spaces.

Like Elk Lake, the water of Beaver Lake is slightly warmer than expected, and it’s similarly prone to flushes of swimmer’s itch. Too bad, as it’s a really lovely park.

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Day 7: Prospect Lake

Prospect Lake is beautiful. More weeping willows, all kinds of shore flora, alive with fish and frogs. Although the main park at the north end has no real beach, like Prior it has a sturdy and well-maintained dock. I was feeling ill on the final day of Lake Week, so I didn’t even attempt to get in the water. I just sat in the sun, counted lily pads, watched two young sisters scoop fish out of the water with nets (they had more than 20 when I left. Lord knows what they were going to do with them), and experienced the peace and gratitude that only an hour at a shore can provide.

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TL;DR version

Lake Rank Water Temp Beach Park/Amenities
Beaver 3 tolerable long, narrow, ringed with grass running water (flush toilets), picnic areas, sports areas, trails, playground
Durrance 1 perfect mini-beaches in a forest outhouse, picnic area
Elk 6 tolerable wide, sandy, running water (flush toilets), picnic areas, sports areas, trails
Prior 1 perfect dock outhouse
Prospect 5 unknown dock outhouse, picnic area
Thetis 4 cold. so cold. really cold wide, sandy, running water (flush toilets & foot wash station), picnic areas
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