Not far from downtown Victoria is the community of Esquimalt where you’ll find the lovely and tranquil Esquimalt Gorge Park.
Esquimalt Gorge Park was first established as BC Electric Gorge Park in 1905, but as far back as the 1860s local settlers used this 11.65 hectare area for recreation.
In 1907, BC Electric officially opened Japanese Tea Gardens there, along with an amusement park and floating sampan tearoom. Sadly, the gardens were destroyed by anti-Japanese fervor in 1941.
The park’s popularity went into a decline until the 1950s when it was given to the Township of Esquimalt. It was upgraded through the generosity of the Kinsmen Club, after whom the park was named until 2006.
The Township of Esquimalt has taken the first steps in recreating North America’s oldest Japanese
Garden, the original Kishida/Takata Gardens. The refurbishing of the ornamental stream, the construction of a traditional Japanese bridge over it is now complete and a traditional Japanese entry gate has now being installed. These are small but very important steps in returning the spirit and soul of this important historical garden back to the community.
The gently rolling landscape of the park includes horticultural and forested areas. There are perennial borders, a rose garden, and many fine heritage trees, including a few hundred-year old umbrella pines. Benches are found along the waterway path, and picnic tables are scattered throughout the lawn areas. There is also a good sized playground for the kids.
Esquimalt’s Gorge Park is also home to the Gorge Waterway Nature House. The Gorge Waterway Nature House came to be through a partnership between local NGOs including World Fisheries Trust, the Township of Esquimalt and sponsorship by the Victoria Foundation. The Nature House, which opened on Ocean’s day (June 8) in 2008, provides students and visitors with a hands-on opportunity to explore the ecology of our area (specifically the area around the Gorge Waterway).
The Nature House is open every Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 4pm
There is a very large parking lot and the paths are all wheelchair accessable. There are 2 buildings with restroom facilities – one next to the Japanese Garden and the other in the Nature House building next to the playground.
The park is found on Tillicum Road just south of the Gorge Waterway. You can also enter on foot from Sioux Place, off Craigflower Road.