Diving in Victoria and Around Southern Vancouver Island
British Columbia is one of the world’s best dive destinations, and the waters around Victoria on Vancouver Island offer some of the most spectacular diving opportunities whether you’re a novice or expert, or whether it’s a shore dive, like Ogden Point, only minutes from downtown or heading out on a charter dive to wrecks, artificial reefs or diving with the sea lions at Race Rocks.
Southern Vancouver Island is known for its mild weather year round, lots of easily accessible shore dives, and interesting and challenging offshore sites.
The nutrient rich waters of the cold northwest Pacific Ocean offer an incredible variety of marine life, from colourful soft corals and anemones and massive cloud sponges to very large and curious sea lions. Explore underwater rock formations and you will find lots of fish, crab, shrimp and even the giant Pacific octopus or fierce looking but friendly wolf eels.
Rockfish, lingcod, and a multitude of small fish and invertebrates can be found loitering in giant forests of bull and feather boa kelp. California and Northern sea lions and their smaller cousins, the harbour seals, can often be seen lounging on rocky islets and beaches.
Dives for all levels of experience
Whether a novice or an expert, there is something for everyone around Victoria. Ogden Point Breakwater, is Victoria’s most accessible shore dive and is just minutes from downtown. It is also considered one of the best shore dives in Canada. This 800 meters (2,500ft) of stacked granite blocks and concrete provides divers with easy shore access and creates an ideal habitat for wolf eels, ling cod, octopus, Puget Sound king crab, swimming scallops and much, much more.
For the more experienced and adventurous, a boat accessible dive to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is one of Vancouver Island’s premiere dive locations. Race Rocks is home to the second oldest lighthouse on the west coast of Canada and is renowned for its nutrient rich, current swept waters (up to 8 knots). The shallow waters surrounding the islets are an undersea forest of thick undulating kelp, ideal for supporting all kinds of sea life, including Californian and Northern Sea Lions.
Wrecks and Artificial Reefs
In the waters just off Sidney, just 20 km (12 miles) north of Victoria, are home to the artificial reefs created by the 50’s era Canadian-Navy destroyer HMCS Mackenzie and the WWII era coastal freighter GB Church. The easy depth and mild currents of this abundant marine ecosystem make these shipwrecks a favourite of local divers. Near Chemainus there is a sunken Boeing 737, which was sunk in 2006 as an artificial reef.
Sidney’s downtown fishing pier is also a good spot for beginners, as it offers easy access and an artificial reef extending from the beach.
Victoria Dive Charters
Charters are perhaps one of the best ways to experience the best of Victoria dive sites. Dive boats based in Victoria, Sooke and Sidney will take divers to some of the local favourites such as; Race Rocks, Saanich Inlet, Swordfish Island and the wrecks and artificial reefs around Sidney. For a listing of local Dive Charter companies check our Victoria Dive Charters Post, by clicking this link. Click this link for a list of local Dive Shops.
Things to Consider When Diving Here
- The Pacific Ocean surround Victoria is cold, ranging from 8-12ºC or 46-53ºF, so a good wetsuit or drysuit will be necessary. The waters are generally the clearest during the fall and winter months.
- There are lots of local dive shops offering a full range of dive gear rentals. Proof of diver certification is required for all equipment rentals, air fills and dive charters.
- There are a lot of tidal currents around southern Vancouver Island and they can vary greatly. Check the local Tide & Current Tables before going diving. Dive shops and charter operators are your best source of information for up-to-date dive conditions and the best times to go.
Where to Dive Around Victoria and Southern Vancouver Island
There are an incredible number of places to dive around Victoria and Southern Vancouver Island, some of which have been mentioned in this post. However, check out this great website for a comprehensive list of places to dive around Victoria: Hundreds of Places to Dive Around Victoria