The Town of Ladysmith - From the Tourism BC Website
Photos by Gerry Beltgens
Ladysmith (population: 7,538) is a Vancouver Island heritage town, located on the 49th Parallel within easy hailing distance of Victoria and Nanaimo. The heart of the old town is situated on a hillside overlooking an oyster bay and postcard-perfect Transfer Beach Park, which annually hosts Vancouver Island Paddlefest (a weekend-long kayaking event). The Gulf Islands are southeast from the mouth of Ladysmith Harbour – a prime location for pleasure boat cruising – past the point of land where Pamela Anderson's family once ran a cabin resort.
One of Canada's Prettiest Towns
Voted one of Canada's ten prettiest towns byHarrowsmith Country Life magazine, Ladysmith offers a rare and remarkable flashback to another era. The town's main street (aka 1st Avenue) features a strip of vintage Edwardian buildings, many erected circa the town's founding in 1900 and now occupied by independent merchants of all kinds: baker, butcher, restauranteurs, artisans, coffeeshop proprietors, shopkeepers, book dealers and more. Nearby Cedar is home to various fruitfarms, a farmer's market, and specialty food shops.
Roberts Street in Ladysmith is the access point to the town's twin jewels – its charmingly retro downtown on the left and Transfer Beach Park on the seaside right with its community marina, waterfront amphitheatre, art gallery, kayak rentals, dog-walking area and kids' playground. The exact location of the 49th Parallel – the northern latitudinal boundary that marks the US/Canada border from the BC mainland to Manitoba – is close to the town's third stop light at the north end of Ladysmith (where 1st Avenue meets the Trans Canada).
Ladysmith is one of the greenest towns in British Columbia, as its municipal council was quick to become an early adaptor to pioneering environmental initiatives (such as a low-impact electric trolley that runs along 1st Avenue). Keeping it green has certainly paid off in terms of hiking opportunities. Forested hiking trails traverse Holland Creek from high above Ladysmith to an otter-happy estuary near Coronation Mall. Serious climbers can strike out for the see-forever (Mount Baker included) viewpoints at Heart Lake and Stocking Lake.
The Marine Walk, meanwhile, traces the shoreline of Ladysmith's greenest gem: Transfer Beach Park. Then-mayor Kay Grouhel spearheaded the purchase of the waterfront acreage from private logging interests in the mid-1960s. This largely undiscovered area is now known by boaters andkayakers as "the gateway to the southern Gulf Islands."
On The Waterfront
The route continues past the park to the Ladysmith Waterfront Arts Gallery and Ladysmith
Maritime Society Community Marina. The latter is home to a floating museum operated by the Ladysmith Maritime Society, which also offers summertime harbour tours in vintage wooden boats. Beyond here in the harbour area are modern marina facilities, a government wharf (with plenty of parking space for off-loading boaters) and the oyster beds that continue to supply restaurants with the freshest bivalves.
Where to Begin
First stop for newcomers in search of more than a fill-up, tasty meal, or caffeine fix is the Ladysmith Visitor Centre (Roberts St). Talk to the friendly staff and get some bearings with available maps. A set of good area maps can also be found in the back pages of the definitiveLadysmith to Cedar guidebook, also available here along with full information on accommodations,dining, hiking, festivals, and local artists and art galleries. History enthusiasts can pick up a special brochure outlining a town route lined with artifacts from the once booming coal and logging industries.