The Cole Island to Esquimalt Lagoon paddle is an excellent 1/2 day trip which can take a couple of hours or half a day or more depending on how much you would like to explore. When you consider that this route encompasses a migratory bird sanctuary, beautiful natural areas, many interesting historical sites and a busy, working naval harbor.
Historic Cole Island is located in Esquimalt Harbour on the west coast of British Columbia. Because of its close proximity to Victoria, BCs capital city, the island is easily accessed by boat. The Royal Navy considered Cole Island strategically important as an ammunition depot as early as 1859. Eventually, 16 solid structures occupied the site. Five of the original structures remain.
In June 2006, Cole Island was officially recognized as a national historic site. It was designated part of a “National Historic District” by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The district is considered to be the “most complete site of Royal Naval activity and infrastructure in the Commonwealth”.
Cole Island is a peaceful place where visitors are welcome to come and enjoy the site located in the quiet waters at the end of Esquimalt Harbour. The island is open from sun-up to sun-down. Please heed warning signs and make sure you pack your garbage out!
is a coast artillery fort built in the late 1890s to defend Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base. The Fort includes three gun batteries, underground magazines, command posts, guardhouses, barracks and searchlight emplacements. There are numerous interpretive signs and audio-visual stations, as well as period furnished rooms and friendly, knowledgeable staff. Visitors can explore gun batteries and underground magazines built a century ago, as well as searchlight emplacements, command posts...and much more.
Depending upon the tide there will be one island, and none to several small gravel bars, on the lagoon side of the bridge. These are regular lounging spots for gulls and should also be carefully scoped out for shorebirds. Mew Gulls and Glaucous-winged Gulls are frequent loungers but check the flocks carefully because birders have reported Heermann's, Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, California and even Western Gulls from this site. In the Spring watch for large orange bills and dark heads as small flocks of Caspian Terns may also rest on the bars. Shorebirds in season include Black Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, Western and Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black and (rarely) Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, dowitcher, Semi-palmated Plover, yellowlegs, and Killdeer.