When your loved one says, “Can we do something fun today?” put the Malahat Skywalk at the top of your list. We checked out Vancouver Island’s newest outdoor attraction, and it got a thumbs up from all of us.
- Features: Amazing views, elevated forest walk, 20-metre spiral slide, adventure net
- Trail length: 600 metres to the spiral ramp, and then another 250 metres to the top; all at a gentle incline
- Suitability: Everyone! The treewalk, ramp, washrooms and visitor centre are fully wheelchair and stroller accessible
- Pets: Must stay at home or in the car
The Malahat Skywalk Experience
With a $17-million price tag, the Malahat Skywalk is a joint venture between the Malahat Nation and A. Spire by Nature, a company led by two entrepreneurs who founded the Sea-to-Sky Gondola in Squamish. This architecturally stunning infrastructure provides an accessible way for everyone to experience the great outdoors in a unique way.
The 600-metre elevated boardwalk leads you through an arbutus and Douglas fir grove. Along the way, watch for beautiful driftwood creations made by the talented artisan, Tanya Bub. Hidden among the trees, you can find cougars, herons, an owl and a bald eagle. Also, make sure to stop at the information boards to learn more about the surrounding natural environment.
The boardwalk and spiral tower are wide enough for two strollers or wheelchairs to move past one another easily and rise at a very gentle incline. The Welcome Centre, which includes a gift shop, cafe, outdoor gathering place and washrooms, are also wheelchair and stroller friendly.
As you near the 10-storey spiral tower, one can’t help but gasp at the beautiful wooden structure. It’s truly stunning and only eclipsed by the 360° view at the top.
Standing at 250 metres (820 ft) above sea level, you get a bird’s eye view of the Cowichan Valley and beyond to the state of Washington. Your view includes Finlayson Arm, Saanich Inlet, Saanich Peninsula, Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands, Mt. Baker and the Coast Mountain range.
As this attraction capitalizes on the views, it’s best to check the weather before you go. Although crowds would be very minimal on a drizzly, overcast day, your experience might not be worth the cost of admission. In my opinion, heavy fog, especially, would ruin the fun.
The Fun Stuff
You have a few fun options once you’ve taken in the view. If you are brave enough and not afraid of heights, walk out onto the adventure net suspended partially across the centre of the tower. From the middle of the net, you get views of the arbutus forest and the spiralling structure beneath your feet.
A fun way to get to ground level is the spiral slide. This enclosed 20 metre (65 ft) slide is available to everyone over 42″ (107 cm) tall and/or five years of age. I was going to opt-out of trying the slide, but at the last minute decided to give it a go. And I’m so glad I did!
They give you a fabric mat to sit on and snuggle your feet into for the ride down. This helps with preventing fabric snares and also gives you extra speed. Apparently, the ride down is even more exhilarating when the weather is warm.
The slide is extremely popular. During the busy summer months, lineups can be over an hour long. Considering you get to the bottom in less than a minute, not a great return on your time investment. However, when crowds are minimal, as they are in the off-season (late fall, winter, and early spring), one can go up and down the slide as many times as you like with very little waiting.
Ground Level Experiences
At the bottom of the tower, several brightly coloured Adirondack chairs invite you to sit and enjoy the view. There’s also a cantilever viewpoint that extends out in front of the tower, allowing you to watch people walk to the top of the structure.
The picnic area provides a uniquely shaped firepit, with enough room for many people, along with tables to sit and enjoy your lunch. Porta potties are also near this area.
For a different perspective, take the gravel path on the way back to the Welcome Centre. This ground-level path walks you past a pond where birds like to spend their time. You may also spot Western Toads and Rough-skinned Newts sunbathing along the edges.
The cafe at the Welcome Centre offers assorted coffee drinks and other hot beverages, cold drinks, snacks, local baked goods, and hearty sandwiches. The Gathering Place provides a spot to sit and enjoy your food and drink purchases underneath the canopy of trees.
The gift shop offers typical touristy items (“Malahat Skywalk” embossed clothing) along with a variety of artwork, jewelry, textiles, and carvings made by members of the Malahat Nation.
Although pricey, I feel a visit here is definitely worth it. If you are a local, I highly suggest checking out the Malahat Skywalk during the off-season for an optimal experience (minimal crowds!). And, as mentioned above, to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, check the weather before you go.
To take everything in, expect to spend a minimum of 90 minutes at this attraction. And even more, if it’s busy.
Please visit the Malahat Skywalk website for current pricing and hours of operation.
Some will say the free views at the Mahalat viewpoint are equally as lovely. While I agree, parking is extremely limited at the viewpoint, and you often can’t find a spot. You also don’t get the other unique benefits the Skywalk offers.
If you need a little further convincing, we teamed up with Dan King, who was kind enough to make this awesome video for us showcasing the Skywalk.
The easiest access is heading north from Victoria, as you can’t access the attraction directly off the highway heading south. If you are heading south, you have to drive past the entrance to the designated U-Turn at the Malahat Chalet (another 4 km south).
Access heading north is directly from the Trans Canada (Malahat) Highway. You can’t miss it, as there are lots of signs.
While You are There
There is plenty to see and do in the area if you are looking for other ways to fill the day.
- For a yummy treat, stop at any of the wineries, cideries or food attractions mentioned in our Cowichan Valley Flavour Trail.
- Stop at nearby Bamberton Provinical Park for a stroll along a sandy beach; or check out the waterfalls at Goldstream Provincial Park.
- For another impressive structure, head to the Historic Kinsol Trestle
Places to Stay
If you are looking for a luxurious place to stay nearby, check out Villa Eyrie Resort. This beautiful destination offers similar views to the Malahat Skywalk, but with a spa, pool, onsite restaurant and top-notch accommodations.
There are also a few great vacation rentals nearby as well.
Have you been to the Malahat Skywalk? What are your thoughts about this newest outdoor attraction? Let us know in the comment section below.
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