Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites

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.

Magazine Complex - Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site
Descending down the stairs into the magazine complex of the Upper Battery at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site.

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.

Electric Light Directing Station
Alden and Clara looking into the electric light directing station.

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.

Battery Commander's Post
Alden looking in through the window of the Battery Commander’s post.

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.

Plotting Room - Lower Battery
Plotting room in the Lower Battery at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site.

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.

Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site
Fisgard Lighthouse is beautifully situated at the entrance of Esquimalt Harbour.

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.

Spiral Staircase
Clara on the spiral staircase in the Fisgard Lighthouse.

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.

Director Tower
A modern (1943) addition to the Bellmont Battery, the director tower has a commanding view out over the Juan de Fuca Strait.

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.

2 comments

  1. Hi Dave – thanks for the Island Nature, it’s SO inspiring! You see, I’m still learning a lot from you, and I don’t mean the photography alone but the whole way of noticing, learning, and appreciating our immediate surroundings. This site is full of beautiful images and interesting writing. I have subscribed to the blog and look forward to your future posts.

  2. Thanks Cenk – appreciate your comments. I find photography really helps me to slow down and dig a little deeper to find the images that work. It does take time (which can be challenging with a 6 year old and a 4 year old in tow) but it is definitely worth it! And those discoveries often lead to other great images as well. I usually go back to the same location several times before I’m satisfied with the final results.

    With Fort Rodd Hill – I’ve lived and worked on Vancouver Island off and on for over 15 years, been to Victoria countless times, but never visited. Should have gone sooner, will definitely be going back. Would be fun to see some of the reenactments.

    You’re lucky to be in Vancouver since there are so many great urban landscapes to be found there – make sure to make the time to find them.

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