Race Rocks Ecological Reserve
Comprising jagged rocks, reef, and ocean, this protected ecological reserve showcases a wide range of Pacific marine wildlife. Nutrient-rich tidal flows support an assortment of plants and animals, from sponges and sea stars to sea lions, seals, and killer whales, while a rocky islet hosts a historic 19th-century lighthouse.
The diversity of marine life at Race Rocks makes it a prime wildlife-viewing location. Conservation efforts mean that sightseers are not able to explore the land area but they can tour the surrounding waters by boat.
Join a marine wildlife-viewing boat tour departing from Victoria and cruise around the reserve, where you might encounter various seal, sea lion, bird, and whale species. For a more in-depth look at the underwater environment, go diving or snorkeling instead. In addition to the rich underwater marine life, you may also see debris from the many vessels that met their fate against these craggy rocks.
Things to know before you go
- Tidal currents can be strong at Race Rocks and proper precautions should be taken by divers: it’s best to go during slack tide and with a guide.
- Fishing is not allowed within the reserve.
- Dress warm as it’s typically several degrees colder here than it is on land.
How to get there
Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is off the south coast of Vancouver Island, about 11 nautical miles from Victoria near the US border. The reserve can only be accessed by boat, with wildlife-watching cruises making regular trips here during the summer season.
When to get there
If you plan on diving, spring and fall typically offer the best visibility. April through October is the best time for whale-watching at Race Rocks.
Wildlife at Race Rocks
The sheer variety of species at Race Rocks is astounding, given its relatively modest size—the reserve covers an area of just 618 acres (251 hectares). The rocks are a common nesting ground for gulls, oystercatchers, and pigeon guillemots, as well as a home for harbor and elephant seals, and Steller and California sea lions. River otters can be seen floating near the shoreline. Orcas, gray whales, and porpoises also frequent these waters.
- Victoria Chinatown
- Old Town Victoria
- Government Street
- Victoria Bug Zoo
- Miniature World
- Victoria Inner Harbour
- Fairmont Empress Hotel
- Bateman Foundation Gallery of Nature
- British Columbia Parliament Buildings
- Royal British Columbia Museum
- Fisherman's Wharf
- Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
- Emily Carr House
- Fort Street
- Craigdarroch Castle