Built while domestic travel was halted due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the new Malahat SkyWalk opened July 15 as British Columbia began welcoming visitors from across Canada.
At Vancouver Island’s newest attraction, guests take a leisurely stroll up above the treetops. They have the option of swapping the same route back for the excitement of a spiral slide to the bottom.
Construction of the 40-metre (131-foot) structure started in January 2020.
“There was a lot of hand wringing going on in 2020, a lot of discussions around whether we keep going or delay or things like that,” said Malahat SkyWalk general manager Ken Bailey. “We had faith that eventually we would get over the pandemic and so we made the decision to keep going.”
Built from Douglas fir reinforced with steel rods, the $17-million Malahat SkyWalk is a 35-minute drive from Victoria and sits 250 metres above sea level on the traditional lands of the Malahat First Nation. It’s the first attraction of its kind in British Columbia, a welcome addition to Vancouver Island’s tourism portfolio as travel resumes.
I was content to get my thrills just standing at the top for the breathtaking, 360-degree sweep across the Finlayson Arm fjord, Saanich Peninsula and Salish Sea islands in Canada and the U.S., all framed by snow-capped Mount Baker and the Olympic Mountains.
The wide spiral ramp has a gentle grade which makes the experience largely accessible for all ages and abilities. Even those who aren’t crazy about heights will probably feel at ease. If visitors would rather skip the trip up, there are seating areas to enjoy the view from a cantilevered lookout at the bottom.
As for the 13-second ride down the 50-metre (165-foot) snaking slide and the 84-square-metre adventure net suspended over part of the central Spiral Tower, I was too chicken to try either.
“The slide down was as exhilarating as the views at the top,” said Vancouver Island resident Heather McGillivray. “What a fun way to descend the Spiral Tower after such a natural high.”
Guests don’t see the 10-storey Spiral Tower right away. Anticipation builds as they follow the 600-metre TreeWalk to the site. The elevated wooden walkway is 20 metres above the ground, crossing a Douglas fir and Arbutus forest. TreeWalk starts from the Gathering Place clearing, located behind the welcome centre. Its name reflects the site’s role as a traditional meeting place for Indigenous peoples.
Bailey said more than 5,500 visitors attended the Malahat SkyWalk over the course of its opening weekend. Many enjoyed the experience so much, they upgraded their day tickets to annual passes, he said. The attraction is open 365 days a year.
SkyWalk is partnering with local hotels to encourage longer stays in the Cowichan Valley.
“The wineries are up here, the cideries are up here. There’s no reason to just come up for the day,” said Bailey. “It’s a fantastic one or two nights...come up and explore the region.”
When you go
Location: 901 Trans-Canada Hwy, Malahat, BC V0R 2L0
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Parking: Free; space for buses and RVs
Price: Admission is $31.95 (adult), $28.95 (senior 65-plus), $18.95 (child age 6-17), and $86 for a family pass (two adults, two children). An annual pass is $87 (adult), $79 (senior), $52 (child) and $225 (family). Children age five and under are free.
For more information go to MalahatSkywalk.com.