The massive gates, battery gun emplacements, underground magazine rooms, towers to climb, windows to peek in and out of, and secret rooms to discover. All of these things and more make Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites of Canada very cool destinations for kids (and adults) of all ages.
Last weekend I took Clara and Alden on a day trip to Victoria to explore Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse. These two fascinating national historic sites are located just across the Esquimalt Harbour from Victoria, British Columbia. After the long drive both kids were raring to go and excited to check out the fort and see the lighthouse.
We started with the Upper Battery (built between 1895 and 1898), entering through a massive steel gate and then descending down into the underground magazine complex. The tunnels were interesting and the kids soon found several rows of replica shells. From here we climbed up onto the 6″ gun emplacement and got a commanding view of the Juan de Fuca Strait before heading to the electric light directing station. This little wooden structure had an excellent view as well. Constructed in 1903, it was the location used to direct large searchlights that could illuminate the harbour entrance in the event of a night time attack.
A quick check of the guide and we began to make our way down towards the Lower Battery (also completed in 1898). Clara insisted on a detour to the battery commander’s post. Again, peeking in and out of the windows was more interesting than the history of the building.
The Lower Battery was our next destination. Actually, the lighthouse was front and center on the kid’s minds and we figured that we would be able to get a great look at the lighthouse from the seaward facing walls and gun emplacements. From this view point we realized that we would have to backtrack through the main gates of the Lower Battery and follow the wall down towards the water’s edge.
In retrospect it would have been more exciting for the kids to follow the inside of the wall of the Lower Battery down toward the casemate barracks. We got a look at the giant “steps” at the far end and they would have made for fun balancing on the way down. I could only convince them of a quick stop to check out the manikins in the fortress plotting room (completed in 1941 and used to direct the guns at Mary Hill and Albert Head) before heading out on the causeway to Fisgard Lighthouse.
The Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site is dramatically set on a low rocky island at the end of a man-made causeway—a perfect destination to run to. Built in 1860, it is the first lighthouse constructed on Canada’s west coast. Inside there are many interesting exhibits to look at and rooms to explore. Alden was disappointed that the stairway to the light was closed off, but the kids found a spiral staircase that was just as good.
Our final destination on the way back was the Belmont Battery. The Battery was completed by 1900 but the director tower that is visible from the shore was built in 1943 during the Second World War. It provides a great view out over the water to the lighthouse and harbour, plus the outside staircase is pretty cool to climb. You can’t get all the way to the top (at least when we were there) but the view from the twin barrel 6-pounder gun platform is spectactular.
There is so much to do at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse and we barely scratched the surface. Thankfully, that gives us a perfect excuse to return and search out some of the places we missed and learn more of the fascinating stories of both of these national historic sites.