I’m Leslie (Les Talk!): an introvert (Less Talk!) who is also super gay (Lez Talk!), and loves to travel (More Travel)! Les Talk, More Travel is about local and international adventures for intrepid queers, lovers of the Pacific Northwest, and other interested humans!
Spending a couple of nights on Pender Island was the perfect local getaway from Victoria during COVID times!
We camped at Shingle Bay Campground, on North Pender, which is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, and is technically backcountry camping. I would say it’s somewhere between car camping and “backcountry”; the campground is only a couple minutes walk (0.24 km) down a hill from the parking lot, but it’s downhill – a steep one at that – so remember to think about carting your stuff back up! You’ll probably want to try for two trips from the car, rather than 5! For example, we only brought down the food and supplies we’d need for each day, and then brought a load up the next morning to exchange for whatever we’d need that day. Of course you can run up to grab things here and there; you’ll get your workout in!
There are no bears to worry about, but you’ll want to store food safely in a tub, in case of other hungry critters! There’s no potable water, so you’ll need to BYOW (you can always refill or buy elsewhere on the island), but there’s a pit toilet.
We were still a little sleepy when we rolled off the ferry, so we stopped for coffee and breakfast goodies at the Sturdies Bay Bakery and Cafe – they are just seconds from the ferry terminal, and their massive, famous cinnamon buns are delicious!
The first item on our gay agenda was to check out the Instafamous sand caves, but there was a sign by the road that leads out to them saying that they were closed. I assume this is to reduce crowds during COVID-19; we thought about trying to venture further, but decided not to be those jerks. It said it was closed, so that was that.
We kept driving to check out Lovers Leap Viewpoint in Bodega Ridge Provincial Park, which offers a nice view of nearby islands. It may not be worth the drive out just for the viewpoint (it’s small, and similar to the kind of views you get all over the Gulf Islands), but it’s pretty if you’re already heading out that way to do some hiking. We also made a quick stop at Tapovan Sri Chimnoy Peace Park, a set of forest hiking trails dedicated to an Indian spiritual leader and meditation teacher. We quickly discovered it was a bit of a climb, and since I hadn’t changed out of my Birkenstocks (#classiclesbian), we headed back to the car and decided to continue on our day’s true quest: the search for the perfect hammock spot.
Start at: the beginning of the Lochside Trail, at the Switch Bridge by Uptown Mall. You can also make your way to Borden and McKenzie, and hop on the trail there (follow the bike path north on Borden, towards Lochside Drive). From the start of the Lochside Trail at the Switch Bridge, this bike ride is about 48 km roundtrip, or just under an hour and a half each way, depending on your speed.
What will you see along the way?
The Lochside Trail will quickly have you feeling like you’re far from the city; soon after you cross McKenzie, you’ll start to pass farms! Depending on the time of year, many of them will have stands along the trail, so be sure to bring some cash and leave room in your saddle bags (or belly). You’ll meander along Lochside Drive through the upscale Cordova Bay neighbourhood, where you can check out the plants on landscaped lawns, and where gaps between homes give you glimpses of the ocean and mainland mountains.
Mattick’s Farm, about a half hour in and with plenty of shops, a Red Barn market, and a small restaurant, is a great place for a lunch break.
At times the path is peacefully tree-lined, and at others it’ll open up again as you ride between wide open farm fields. Keep an eye out for a couple of pigs, just past the model airpark (VRCMS Flying Field), and keep in mind that you may share the trail with riders on horseback from nearby stables and riding schools! (Also, keep an eye out for horse “manure” along the trail!)
After passing Michell’s Farm, the trail follows the highway for a bit, and eventually back past gorgeous ocean view homes, and ocean views themselves! As you approach Sidney, you’ll be biking along the sea; obviously it’s a super nice ride!
Destination: Sidney ‘By the Sea’, BC. Sidney is a town with a population of close to 12000, and a median age of 60. Maybe not the place to go for a wild night out, but a great spot for a day trip! There are lots of shops and restaurants. It’s especially known for its bookstores; there are 6 of them, which has given Sidney its ‘booktown’ nickname! Also known as ‘Sidney by the Sea’, it’s the right place to go for a stroll along the Waterfront Walkway, check out the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea (a non profit aquarium), pick up some fresh fish at Satellite Fish Co. market, or eat some that’s already been cooked at one of the waterfront restaurants.
The Sidney Bakery is really well-known and for good reason. It happened to be closed the day I visited, so I got to try some delicious squares at Quince Bakery instead! You can’t go too wrong with baked good, IMO 😉 Thirsty? Grab a drink at Victoria Distillers!
Want to extend your trip? If you still have energy/feeling in your legs, you may want to stop at Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse or Island View Beach along the way keep, or keep riding to the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay for trips further afield, like Vancouver or the Gulf Islands.
Details: how long, how far, how much will my bum hurt? If you’re a normal human, your bum will probably hurt a lot! That said, compared to most bike rides in and around Victoria, this trail is pretty much FLAT! From the start of the Lochside Trail at the Switch Bridge, this bike ride is about 48 km roundtrip, or about an hour and a half each way, depending on your speed. Remember to bring a full water bottle, as fountains along the way may be closed.
You can download a CRD Bike Map here, or pick one up at most tourism-related businesses.
You want to check out one of the Southern Gulf Islands but you only have one day to spare… is that enough time? Obviously, the more time on a peaceful island the better, but you can absolutely do a lot on Saturna in a short time. I recently took a solo day trip there, and had about about 6 hours to spend between ferry trips.
There are lots of options for Saturna. I’ll give you a sample itinerary, based on how I spent my day, with suggestions for alternatives (i.e. for packing more into your day than I did)!
Start at: the beginning of the Lochside Trail, at the Switch Bridge by Uptown Mall. You can also make your way to Borden and McKenzie, and hop on the trail there (follow the bike path north on Borden, towards Lochside Drive). From the start of the Lochside Trail at the Switch Bridge, this bike ride is about 34 km roundtrip, or about an hour each way, depending on your speed.
Not every bike ride has to have a boozy reward at the end… but you have to admit, it’s nice when it does! Cycling the Lochside Trail to Sea Cider is probably my favourite bike ride close to Victoria. It’s flat, the changing scenery is interesting, and… you already know it… cider! Delicious, local, organically-grown, refreshing cider.
Start at: the beginning of the Lochside Trail, at the Switch Bridge by Uptown Mall. You can also make your way to Borden and McKenzie, and hop on the trail there (follow the bike path north on Borden, towards Lochside Drive). From the start of the Lochside Trail at the Switch Bridge, this bike ride is about 38 km roundtrip, or just over an hour each way, depending on your speed.
What will you see along the way? The Lochside Trail will quickly have you feeling like you’re far from the city; soon after you cross McKenzie, you’ll start to pass farms! Depending on the time of year, many of them will have stands along the trail, so be sure to bring some cash and leave room in your saddle bags (or belly). You’ll meander along Lochside Drive through the upscale Cordova Bay neighbourhood, where you can check out the plants on landscaped lawns, and where gaps between homes give you glimpses of the ocean and mainland mountains.
Naxos is the largest and most fertile island in Greeces Cyclades, and it’s home to dozens of traditional villages. Many of these villages are known for something unique, like olive oil from the surrounding groves, or architecture left over from the Byzantine era.
Partway through our week-long stay on Naxos, we rented an ATV to zoom up into the mountains and visit some of the villages. You could easily spend more time in one or several of the villages; all of the ones we visited would have been charming and relaxing places to stay a few days. Because our time on Naxos was beach-focused (since it came at the end of a month of constantly moving around Iceland, Scotland, Kos, Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini), a day trip worked best for us. If you also have limited time, one day is perfect to get a glimpse of village life. If you don’t want to rent a car/ATV, you can choose one village and take the bus (more rides during high season, grab a copy of the schedule in Naxos Chora).
While we’re on the topic of social distancing… let’s talk about how to stay out of the crowds in Oia, Santorini, one of the most crowded places I’ve ever been to! With all the day trippers coming in from Fira (on the other side of the island) and off cruise ships to check an Oia sunset off their bucket lists, staying on this end of Santorini can feel a little intense. Oia is small, which means that the narrow pedestrian streets fill up quickly. Step out to grab a bite in the middle of the day, or – you brave soul – around sunset time, and you’ll be jostled along in a steady stream of tourists. When you do venture out to watch the sunset, you’ll be competing for space with thousands of other photo-hungry visitors who also want to enjoy the view without a stranger’s head in their romantic pictures.
If you’re daydreaming about a trip and have some flexibility in when you can take a vacation, I would imagine that shoulder season would be the ideal time to go. If, like me, you have to travel during high season, you can absolutely have a good experience!
We managed to stay in Oia in August AND love our time on Santorini. I did find the crowds stressful, but we found ways to either avoid or embrace them. Here are some suggestions for staying out of the stampede in Oia:
Throwback post! In July 2009, I was living in a tiny, rural town along the Murray River in South Australia, working a citrus-packing job at a large shed. Some of my hostelmates and I were on the arvo shift (arvo = afternoon = 4:30 pm – 1:30 am), working 6 nights a week, so life was weird! After a couple months there, I decided to “update my resume” with some of the skills I picked up at the factory:
What is it? Packing basically consists of hand-packing fruit into boxes (or occasionally bags for Woolworths). After being sorted, citrus fruits come flying down into bins we pack out of. The way the fruits are arranged in the box depends on the count, displayed on a small screen above the bin. Sometimes we have to weigh the boxes, which usually means lining up in front of the scale holding 14.5-15.1 kilos of fruit. All quite riveting, I know! It can get exciting though, when we switch from oranges to lemons or tangelos! I’ve even been able to take home the occasional bag of limes or grapefruits.
Skills: * Multitasking: It takes a bit of effort to master the art of packing while imagining you are doing something infinitely more interesting (i.e. anything else). It’s also important to make sure that your hands are moving at the same speed as usual when chatting to the person next to you, in case the supervisor is lurking nearby. * Time management: If a bin looks like it’s almost empty when I start packing, I work slowly. Otherwise, I’ll have to be creative coming up with ways to look busy when I’m finished packing. On the other hand, if a bin is ridiculously full, I pack quickly to avoid being stuck in the same place all night. * Space management: It’s tough to squeeze obese oranges into a box, but even harder when the pack is loose and I’m trying to hold onto 14 oranges at once while setting the next layer on top. *Ability to slow/stop time: Yeah I’m pretty sure time has actually stopped a couple of times!
Best part: Sometimes we pretend to smuggle the fruit out, Mission Impossible-style, even though we can just ask and take it home!