Paddling to Tod Inlet in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park
Tucked in behind the famous Butchart Gardens is a beautiful tree lined inlet accessible only by boat or by a walking trail just off Wallace Dr near Benvenuto Ave. This is an ideal paddle for beginners as the waters of Tod Inlet and the launch at Brentwood Bay are very sheltered and the total route there and back is only about 5 kms. (See map below)
Tod Inlet is a historically significant area as it was a traditional place used by the Saanich First Nation. It was called S?IDCEL which means, “Place of the Blue Grouse”. The symbolism of the Blue Grouse meant that the land was plentiful. The area was an important resource for edible and medicinal plants and building materials. Culturally modified trees (Western Red Cedar) can be seen along edges of the trail. Tod Inlet was the site of BC’s first cement factory, the remnants of it and its supporting business and residents can still can still be seen along the shores of the inlet as well as along the Tod Inlet Trail leading to Wallace Dr. It was the limestone, discovered here in the late 1800’s, that precipitated the industrial here and later, the start of the Butchart Gardens in the remnants of the exhausted limestone quarry.
Access to Tod inlet is from Brentwood Bay. There is a small park at the end of Verdier Ave just up from the BC Ferries terminal. There is a driveway where you can stop and unload boats and equipment. From here and there is a paved walkway down to a gravel beach where you can launch your boats or SUPs. There is also a public washroom located at the loading zone. You will have to move your vehicle and find a place on the street to park your vehicle. Parking can be a bit of a problem as there are limited spaces at the park and along the street.
Once on the water, paddle out past the docks. Directly in front of you, across the bay, is Willis Point. Tod Inlet runs along this land mass to the left. You can bear left and paddle directly towards the inlet skirting Daphne Island or you can paddle along the eastern and southern shore of Brentwood Bay, following it along to the inlet. Brentwood Bay can be quite busy with powerboats, so be careful and keep a careful watch while paddling.
As you paddle towards the inlet you will pass by Butchart Cove on your left. The dock you see in this cove belongs to Butchart Gardens and their Tod Inlet boat tours leave from here.
Once in the waters of Tod Inlet, and depending on the time of year you can often see lots of jellyfish. Along the shore there are lots of sea star and sun stars and in the trees along the shore or flying you will often see eagles and great blue herons.
The trees covered slopes on your right and surrounding Tod Inlet are part of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. This park encompasses nearly the entire east side of Saanich Inlet, stretching from Goldstream all the way to Brentwood Bay. The trees along the shore to your left hide Butchart Gardens. During summer months Tod Inlet is a popular destination for boaters on Saturday nights when Butchart puts on their evening fireworks demonstration. If you decide to come out for this event, make sure to bring along a head lamp and better yet a full 360º visible navigation light as you will be paddling after dark and will be jockeying for position with a lot of other boaters, most of them bigger than you.
Eventually you will come upon the remains of the piers of the old cement plant. In the background you will see a very tall, old smoke stack, also remains of the plant. You will notice lots of birdhouse’s attached to the piers, some of them designed to look like small RVs, and if you are there during the summer you should see lots of Purple Martins, a large relative of swallows, who make these home. You can land on the shore near here and get out and go for an exploratory walk along the paths and back along the scenic ravine path towards Wallace Dr. You will see plenty of old ruins, the remains of the cement plant and supporting settlement that ranged all along the ravine here.
Back up against the trees there are some pit toilets, picnic tables and park benches, or enjoy the sandy beach, so bring a lunch and enjoy the serenity of this beautiful inlet.
How to Get There Downtown
Paddle Route From Brentwood Bay to Tod Inlet
Total Distance about 5 Kms there and back. Give yourself at least a couple of hours and more if you want to explore the trails.