Durrance Lake is a local favourite, especially among families, fishermen and picnickers. Surrounded by scenic hills covered in impressive forest and lined with hiking trails, this cute little lake offers active pursuits as well as relaxation. Although still quite small in the scheme of Vancouver Island lakes, Durrance is actually the largest of the three lakes in Mount Work Regional Park and is deeper than it looks (16 metres at its deepest point, with a mean depth of 6 metres). Mount Work itself looms over the south side of the lake, while the Partridge Hills form a picturesque backdrop to the north.
There is great fishing in Durrance Lake and it is common to see several small boats floating around on the placid waters. There is also a good variety of wildlife that are attracted to the lake, especially the swampy south side with its many fallen trees and deadwood that serve as a foraging and breeding area. Bald eagles are regularly spotted and in spring it is one of the better areas to see trilliums in bloom.
Durrance Lake Activities
Go for a Swim
Although it gets deep in the middle, the slope is fairly gradual around the edges, making Durrance Lake a terrific place to swim. Despite its small size and the many submerged logs, there are almost no weeds and it boasts some of the clearest water on all of Vancouver Island. And, while it remains fairly cool year-round, it still tends to be much warmer than the ocean or some of the larger lakes like Shawnigan or Cowichan.
There are three main sandy spots for lounging but they can fill up fast so a lot of people bring floaties and spend their time out on the water. There are many options for getting into the lake but the easiest and most popular spot is about halfway along wide path on the north side.
Durrance Lake Fishing
Featuring both rainbow and cutthroat trout, smallmouth bass, perch, pumpkinseeds and prickly sculpins, Durrance is an excellent fishing spot. Considered an “urban fishery”, its supply of rainbow trout is restocked on a regular basis, pleasing the fly-fishermen to no end.
There is an accessible fishing pier and small boat launch available but keep in mind that gas motors are prohibited. Electric motors, however, are allowed, as well as all self-propelled craft such as canoes and kayaks. Thanks to its close proximity to Victoria, Durrance Lake is the perfect place for a short fishing excursion.
Hike the Loop Trail
There is a pleasant, easy trail that circles the entire lake. It is just 2.3 kilometres in length but offers a decent bit of variety for such a short trail. The north side (the most popular section and first on a clockwise loop) is a wide, flat groomed gravel path that is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Around the east end, you’ll find an interesting bog area full of birds and fallen logs. At this point the trail transitions to a narrow, dirt forest path with more roots, a few small hills and, generally, a fair bit of mud. This section is obviously a bit more difficult, although it is still fine for most people and offers a few nice views of the lake through the trees.
Is Durrance Lake dog friendly?
Yes, although it depends on the season. Around Durrance Lake dogs are always allowed on the trail, with or without a leash. However, they are prohibited from the picnic area and main beach in summer (Jun 1 – Sep 15), although they are allowed to pass through if they are leashed and don’t stop to smell the roses (or whatever else they usually do to roses).
In addition to the beach and picnic area, there is an accessible toilet and an emergency phone. Camping is not allowed at Durrance Lake and open fires are prohibited. The parking lot is conveniently close to the lake but is not very big and fills up fairly quickly in the summer and on weekends. However, it is possible to park along Willis Point Road and walk in. Unfortunately, there are no public transportation options to get to Durrance Lake.
Durrance Lake Directions
It is located just a 20-minute drive from downtown Victoria, British Columbia, making it one of the handier lakes to visit from the city. Take the Patricia Bay Highway (#17) north to the West Saanich Road exit. Follow this to Wallace Drive, take a left on Willis Point Road, then a right on Durrance Close, which ends at the Durrance Lake parking lot.
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Beaches Along the Coast
If you want to combine your lake visit with some of the great beaches along the Vancouver Island coast, there are several good ones in or near Victoria, plus a long list of amazing spots from 1-2 hours west of the city. Family-friendly French Beach has a great picnic and play area, while quiet Sandcut Beach is known for its adorable little beach waterfall. Jordan River is a hardcore surfing spot but there is also a decent beach at low tide. Farther along you can check out beautiful China Beach or tackle the rugged 4 km hike to visit a much larger beach waterfall at Mystic Beach. Surfer favourite Sombrio Beach features a spectacular hidden waterfall, and the amazing tide pools of Botanical Beach are fascinating to explore.
With its lush, mild climate and wildly varied terrain, Vancouver Island has many superb lakes to choose from. However, very few offer the combination of convenience, scenery and activities that outstanding little Durrance Lake can. With tremendous fishing, good swimming, multiple beach areas and dozens of phenomenal hiking trails, including the Mount Work Summit trail, just minutes away, a quick day trip to Durrance can check off a lot of boxes without requiring you to spend half the day driving.
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