A lesser-known spot that is worth the visit for walking, gardens and a castle. It’s close to two more great stops to fill your day. Fort Rodd Hill and Esquimalt Lagoon.
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Hatley Castle may just be the perfect garden experience on a shoestring budget! There are a plethora of garden experiences available on Vancouver Island, but Hatley Castle stands out due to the tremendous garden landscape it offers, for the grand ol price of parking. ($1 per hour, or $8 for the entire day).
Japanese, Italian, and superb rose gardens are on display. Designated a National Historic site, Hatley castle is situated in convenient Colwood, BC. The castle and gardens were completed in 1908 by coal baron and politician James Dunsmuir. Today the castle grounds are open to the general public. Visiting the grounds is sure to be a win for your greenthumb family member, or maybe the blackthumb friend who just likes to admire what is possible!
Dunsmuir purchased Hatley Park from Roland Stuart, a gentleman farmer, in 1907. Stuart co-owned the property with Charles St. Aubyn Pearse, who gave the property its name; “Hatley” was the name of St. Aubyn Pearse’s ancestral home. In 1908, Dunsmuir hired influential British Columbia architect Samuel Maclure to realize his baronial dream of a grand home overlooking a forested estate, hunting grounds and working farm.
Today, a calming koi pond welcomes you in the Japanese garden after a leisurely walk through a rainforest backdrop. Stopping in the Rose garden is a must for the gorgeous scents alone but the stunning display of endless blooms will keep you there a while. Meander through the Italian garden with stunning stonework, perfect for capturing a sunny selfie. You may even catch brides and grooms wandering around the gardens on the weekends. Keep an eye out for a clever fish ladder assisting salmon to spawn in the fall. There are also lots of opportunities to sit under pergolas, stroll over bridges and pause at a gazebo.
Parallel to the castle in the east, are other walking opportunities, including “Charlie’s Trail,” where you can listen to audio about the history of the land and the surrounding floral and fauna. The story of Hatley Park begins with Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and Lekwungen (Songhees) families and ancestors. They made their home on these beautiful lands for thousands of years. At the right time of year you can catch a little waterfall in action and take in the relaxing sounds of birdsong. Treed walking trails provide relief from the sun on hot summer days.
Hatley Castle is the perfect combo for history and horticulture, with plenty of grassy space to bring along a picnic for the kids. Walk down from the parking lot to Esquimalt Lagoon to experience open-air, big sky and a fantastic view of the water. Please respect that dogs are not allowed within the gated garden areas.
Guided interior tours of Hatley Castle are on offer from May to September; prices are $22 and $14 for adults and children, respectively.
With all the Castle and gardens has to offer, it’s hard to imagine not adding this attraction to your Victoria area travel bucket list!
Are Dogs allowed?
Yes, but not in the fenced garden area on the main grounds.
What Movies and Shows were filmed at the castle?
Deadpool, X-men, Descendents, The Boy, Smallville, and Arrow to name a few.
Can I go inside the castle?
There’s a museum in the basement of the castle (currently closed due to renovations). The only other option to view the interior is a paid guided tour. ($22 per adult)
What is admission?
The self-tour of the gardens is free. There are guided tours of the castle available if you are interested in viewing the interior for $22 per adult.
Are drones allowed?
No, Hatley Castle is a Canadian National Historic Site requiring a special flight permit.
Can you walk from Hatley Castle to Esquimalt Lagoon?
Yes, it is possible to follow the trails around Esquimalt Lagoon, but if you are not familiar with the area, we recommend using the All Trails App or something similar.
Our favourite way to experience the grounds at Hatley Castle:
From the parking lot and head towards the water.
Walk past the university buildings, note the historical information on the outer walls, walk out on the pier, and view the bird sanctuary.
Heading back up towards the castle on the 1.2km trail. The trail is Mostly flat and easy until there is an incline and some steps towards the ends. Walk through larger trees along the creek, going back and forth over bridges up to a small waterfall.
Follow the road to the front of the castle. The entrance garden and stairs up to Roal Roads Univerity are stunning. Continue across the front of the castle to a small gate and booth. It is free to access the gardens; the booth is where they sell the castle tours.
Wonder around the magnificent Italian and formal gardens. You might want to head down the hill a bit to take some photos of the back of the castle, as this is the best opportunity to get the whole castle in your shot. At the top of the Italian Gardens (by the booth) is the trail to the other gardens
Follow the signs across to the fenced rose garden. There are two gates for easy access and exit.
Trails weave around the upper and lower Japanese gardens, with ponds, water wheels, benches and structures. Head all the way down to the bottom of the pond, and you will see a trail sign to the bog gardens.
It’s a short trail that takes you across a fish ladder for the spawning salmon in fall.
Follow the trail around the pond to a pergola, walking bridge and a gazebo. There’s a lower exit straight to the parking lot, or feel free to wander around the gardens heading back to Hatley Castle.
20 Minute Drive From Victoria,
Head west on Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 N
Take exit 10 toward View Royal/Colwood
Merge onto Burnside Rd W
Continue onto Island Hwy/Sooke Road
Turn left onto University Dr
Continue past the castle and the parking lot will be on your right-hand side
The Galloping Goose multi-use trail crosses Sooke Road and Univerity Drive. There are bike racks spread around the Campus. Closest to the castle would be in front of the Library, a couple of hundred yards past the front doors of the castle down College Drive or Grant Bike rack on Neptune Crescent.
Royal Roads Grounds is located on a busy route. Any one of these buses 39, 48, 51, 52, 55, 61, will get you within a 10 min walk.
Bus 43 goes right to the castle.
The best time to visit is spring and summer, but the castle looks great all year round.
There is a large parking lot $1 per hour to park.
Just Down the Road:
Fort Rodd Hill is in close proximity to two other great stops. For an exceptional day, we suggest visiting Hatley Castle in the morning, then head to Esquimalt Lagoon. for a picnic or food truck and spend the afternoon at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse.
The Italian Gardens are often closed on Weekends in the summer due to weddings.
Operational hours are 10 am to dusk
The Hatley Castle Gardens offers a lot, especially for the price (free). But public facilities are not redially available porta potties are available at the parking lot. Restrooms are usually available in the museum, but it’s currently closed due to renovations.
There is no restaurant or food service within the castle or garden area.
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