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Walk, Garden

Where to next on Vancouver Island: Garden Experience Hatley Castle in Victoria a National Historic Site

•  Easy
•  Victoria
Time:
1.5hrs
Length:
1km+

Activity:

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Accessibility:

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Garden Experience Hatley Castle in Victoria a National Historic Site

Hatley Castle Park may be the perfect garden experience on a shoestring budget! There is a long list of gardens to visit in Greater Victoria, but the Hatley Castle grounds stand out due to the tremendous garden landscape it offers for the grand ol’ price of parking.

About a twenty-minute drive from downtown Victoria, Hatley Castle is located on the grounds of Royal Roads Univeristy, looking out at the Esquimalt Lagoon in Colwood.

Although visitors are not permitted to enter the castle, Hatley Castle Park is definitely worth adding to your Vancouver Island Bucket List.

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Garden Experience Hatley Castle in Victoria a National Historic Site Photos:

Visit some of the most beautiful gardens in the world. We stoped at Hatley castle for the free gardens including the italian and Formal gardens, rose garden, Japanese gardens and the bog garden

  1. The gardens – Spring to fall, the gardens are some of the best in Canada, and every time I visit, I’m always amazed that admission is free.
  2. Photos of the exterior of the castle – this early 20th-century example of Gothic Revival architecture looks great from all angles surounded by lush gardens.
  3. Walk the Charlies Trail Loop – down to the Esquimalt Lagoon and return through the forest along the creek on Charlies Trail.

Wander up from the parking lot towards the back of the castle and make your way to the front entrance, where you can enjoy the great oak doors, elegant hedges, and gardens.

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.

A vibrant rose garden at Hatley Park, featuring a variety of colorful roses in bloom with a classic stone urn centerpiece, surrounded by lush greenery in the background

Following the narrow path through the gardens make sure you stop in the Rose Garden for the gorgeous scents and the stunning display of endless blooms will keep you there for a while. Down the hill a calming koi pond welcomes you in the Japanese garden after a leisurely walk through a rainforest backdrop.

Keep an eye out for a clever fish ladder assisting salmon to spawn in the fall. There are also many opportunities to sit under pergolas, stroll over bridges and pause at a gazebo.

A serene walking path on Charlie's Trail at Hatley Park, with a large, moss-covered fallen tree trunk sectioned into rounds alongside the trail, and a visitor with a backpack walking ahead, surrounded by the dense, green forest.

Other walking opportunities, including “Charlie’s Trail,” are on the east side of the castle. This trail takes you down to Esqualmalt lagoon.

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 Park is the perfect combo for history and horticulture, with plenty of grassy space for a picnic with 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.

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!

Tips and Suggestions

The best time to visit is spring and summer, but the castle looks great all year round.

Parking: There is a large parking lot $2 per hr or $8 for the day to park.

Weddings: The Italian Gardens are often closed on Weekends in the summer due to weddings.

Hours: Operational hours are 10 am to dusk

Restrooms: The Hatley Castle Gardens offers a lot, especially for the price (free). But public facilities are not readily available porta potties are available at the parking lot.

Food: There is no restaurant or food service within the castle or garden area.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are Dogs allowed?
Yes, but not in the fenced garden area.

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 are daily guided tours available during the summer.

What is admission?
The self-tour of the gardens is free. There are guided tours of the castle available during the summer if you are interested in viewing the interior.

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 unfamiliar with the area, we recommend using the All Trails App or something similar.

 

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Explore the Grounds at Hatley Castle

Map of Hatley Castle Gardens with labeled points of interest including Esquimalt Lagoon, Charlie's Trail, Hatley Castle, Italian Gardens, Rose Gardens, Japanese Gardens, and Fish Ladder, provided by vanislebucketlist.com."

Our favourite way to experience the grounds of Hatley Castle when visiting with friends and family:

From the parking lot, head towards the water.

1 – Esquimalt Lagoon

Walk past the university buildings, note the historical information on the outer walls of the buildings, walk out on the pier, and look out into Esquimalt Lagoon, where you can take in the view of the bird sanctuary and see the cars parked at the other side where they are visiting the popular beach.

2- Charlie’s Trail

Heading back up towards the castle on the 1.2km trail. The trail is Mostly flat and easy until you reach an incline and some steps towards the ends. The path follows along the creek, through the forest, weaving back and forth over bridges up to a small waterfall.

3- Hatley Castle

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.

4- Italian and Formal Gardens

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 rest of the gardens.

5- Rose Garden

Follow the signs across to the fenced rose garden. There are two gates for easy access and exit.

6- Japanese Gardens

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.

7- Fish ladder and Bog Garden

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 gazebo. There’s a lower exit straight to the parking lot, or feel free to wander around the gardens before returning to Hatley Castle.

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One of the best free spots to visit in Victoria. The Hatley gardens are a must, full of flowers depending on the season and the Great Lakes inside. It’s a great spot to visit alone or with family and kids.

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History of Hatley Park

Why would Vancouver Island have a grand castle with Japanese, Italian, and superb rose gardens? 

To display wealth and status for a grand retirement home. It turns out we can enjoy Hatley Castle’s grounds today thanks to James Dunsmuir, a coal baron and politician in the late 19th century.

James came from wealth as the son of Robert Dunsmuir, who built the first castle in Victoria, Craigdarroch Castle. Unfortunately, construction took longer than expected, and Robert Dunsmuir died before his mansion was completed.

A sepia-toned historic photo of Hatley Castle, a grand Edwardian mansion surrounded by dense forest, conveying an air of ancient majesty and serene isolation.

In 1907, James Dunsmuir purchased the property of Hatley Park from a farmer. In 1908, he hired the influential British Columbia architect Samuel Maclure to build his dream of a grand home and manicured estate. 

James Dunsmuir did not want to repeat the long-drawn-out construction problems his father faced with the Craigdarrach Castle, so he spared no expense and hired over a hundred builders to ensure a quick completion. It worked; construction of Hatley Castle took just 18 months. James moved into the lavash estate with his wife Laura and five of their ten children.

A serene Japanese Garden bridge arching over a reflective pond, surrounded by an assortment of vibrant maples and lush ferns, creating a picturesque harmony with nature.

With the home completed, the Dunsmuir family turned their focus to the grounds. Similar to the lavish castle, James wanted the gardens to showcase his wealth and status. The Japanese gardens were worked on throughout the 1910s, and the formal gardens to the west of the castle were built in 1913. James passed away in 1920 at the age of 68.

After James’s death, Laura kept involved in the social scene, using the grounds to host events and raising money for charitable projects until she passed away in 1937 at the age of 79. 

In 1940, the Department of National Defence purchased Hatley Park for $75,000. As WWII became the nation’s main focus, the grounds became HMCS Royal Roads, a junior naval officer training site.

1967 – the name was changed to Royal Roads Military College (RRMC)

1995 – After 54 years of serving as a military school, the final class of RRMC graduates, marking the end of an era.

1995 – Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada

1995 – Present – Royal Roads University opens its doors as a public university. The Department of National Defence still owns the property.

 

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Getting to Hatley Castle

Car:

Directions: Google Maps
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

Bike:
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.

Bus:
Royal Roads Grounds is located on a busy BC Transit Rout.
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.

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 heading to Esquimalt Lagoon. for a picnic or food truck and spending the afternoon at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse.

Gear Tips For Vancouver Island

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Hiking Backpack
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Ultralight and Watertight

When you’re gearing up for an outdoor adventure on Vancouver Island, the key is to dress in layers, no matter the season. The island’s weather can throw curveballs, with conditions varying significantly from the sheltered forests to the breezy coastlines.

For those cool winter escapades, your go-to should include quality rain gear, topped off with a cozy beanie or toque, and a pair of light gloves to keep the chill at bay.

Summer explorers, don’t be fooled by the warmer temps; that same waterproof shell that kept you dry in the winter will be your best friend against the cool ocean breezes.

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FAQ:

Are Dogs allowed?
Yes, but not in the fenced garden area.

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 are daily guided tours available during the summer.

What is admission?
The self-tour of the gardens is free. There are guided tours of the castle available during the summer if you are interested in viewing the interior.

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 unfamiliar with the area, we recommend using the All Trails App or something similar.

 

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Modified: April 2, 2024
Last Visit: December 4, 2023
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Thank you for visiting – I hope you found the information you were looking for at VIBL (Vancouver Island Bucket List) please continue to discover all of the great places that makes Vancouver Island so great! 

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Pack Out:
We love Vancouver Island and want to keep the natural beauty. Please respect the places you visit and pack out what you pack in and leave the area better than when you arrived. We all know how much trash can spoil an experience and the environment, so please help us keep it clean!

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Vancouver Island is a land of natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Please be aware of your surroundings and take the usual precautions for personal and wildlife safety.
Black bears, cougars and even wolves are common on Vancouver Island for more on Wildlife Safety Click Here 

Tide and Seasonal Safety:
Changing seasons and tides can have a drastic effect on most locations on Vancouver Island. Please be cautious as the information in this post may vary depending on the time of year and weather. Make sure to check for current weather and tide information before you make your journey! Click here for the tides in your area. 

Be aware of ocean currents before swimming, paddle boarding or kayaking.

Land Acknowledgement:
We would like to acknowledge the land we appreciate daily within the 50 First Nations that make up the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, and Kwakiutl–the first peoples of Vancouver Island .

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The information on this website should not be taken as accurate, complete or up-to-date. Please check and look into the information yourself. We do not assume any liabilities for the use of this information. It is unreasonable to rely solely upon the information from this website. 

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