If you're seeking to unwind on the rugged West Coast but don’t relish the long, windy drive to Tofino, look no further than scenic Sooke
Only an hour and a half drive from Swartz Bay ferry terminal or a 35-minute drive from the capital city of Victoria, Sooke is located on the southwest tip of Vancouver Island and is an ideal place for a weekend getaway.
Home to theT’Sou-ke First Nation, whose name is derived from the native term for the stickleback fish found in the Sooke Basin, Sooke is growing in popularity as a destination for those seeking both outdoor adventure and relaxation. With breathtaking beaches, plenty of outdoor activities, award-winning restaurants and accommodation, and talented local artisans, Sooke has something for everyone.
Sooke is located on the edge of a temperate rainforest and is the gateway to many world-class multi-day hiking trails, from the stunning Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, which begins at China Beach and ends north at Botanical Beach, to the famous and strenuous West Coast Trail, with one trailhead beginning about 70 km west of Sooke near Port Renfrew.
Lesser-known is East Sooke Regional Park, which offers an assortment of day hikes that meander past rocky outcrops, jagged bluffs, scenic viewpoints, and through rugged terrain. Feel the sea breeze as you hike past towering Sitka spruce, Douglas firs, and Western hemlock on the Coast Trail.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the ancient petroglyphs of the Coast Salish people at Alldridge Point. There are also short walks near Aylyard Farm which are family friendly and lead to beautiful picnic spots on the beach.
Urban and Wilderness Trails
The Galloping Goose Trail is a hard packed and, in some places, paved trail that extends nearly 60 km from Victoria to just beyond Sooke. While it is a popular trail to walk, bike, or ride on horseback, some sections can also accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and in-line skates, but be sure to check the map for more information.
Travelling through both urban, rural, and wilderness landscape, the Galloping Goose was built on a once active rail line that transported passengers between Sooke and Victoria in the 1920s. In fact, the trail’s name was inspired by the noisy, rattling gas rail-cars themselves.
There are various access points to the Goose and the trail is particularly breathtaking in the Sooke region. Immerse yourself in the lush vegetation of the temperate rainforest; you may even spot bald eagles soaring high above the Western Red cedars, Arbutus trees and Douglas firs.
Botanical Beach is a must-see for visitors and makes for a great day trip from Sooke. Located off Highway 14 about an hour and a half drive from Sooke, Botanical Beach has an amazingly rich intertidal zone.
Scramble across the granite and sandstone outcroppings to explore the numerous tidal pools teeming with colourful anemones, sea stars, urchins, mussels, sea cucumbers and the like.
Touching, collecting, or removing marine life is not allowed here as this is very sensitive habitat. The best times to visit are at low tide, so make sure you check the tidal charts before heading there.
West Coast Watersports
West Coast Outdoor Adventure, located on the dock at the Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina, is the place to go to rent stand up paddleboards (SUP) or Hobie kayaks for exploring the Sooke Basin and Harbour. If you want to try something new, it also offers guided Hobie Adventure/Tandem Islands "sail-'yak" tours. These sailing kayaks are ocean-going trimarans, and make for an adventurous way to explore the harbour and coastline. You may even see some friendly seals or porpoises on your route.
If you are up for some wilderness surfing, Sombrio Beach is considered one of the best places to surf on southern Vancouver Island. Located about 57 km west of Sooke off of Highway 14, it's a short 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the beach. Waves are biggest in the winter and you can check the surf forecast for conditions. Surfers can also be seen catching some waves at Jordan River and China Beach.
Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery
Discover the world’s first fermented beverage - mead - also known as honey wine, at Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery. Featuring a tasting room and guided tours, visitors can learn about the history of mead making from master beekeeper and mead maker Robert Liptrot.
Made in small batches and handcrafted with honey from its farm and local berries, Tugwell Creek’s award-winning meads are gluten-free and make for a perfect dinner pairing. You may also want to pick up some of its delicious honey, which is full of nutritional benefits. Learn about the crucial role bees play in our ecosystem, and if you are really keen, consider taking an introductory course on beekeeping, offered in conjunction with Royal Roads University.
There is no shortage of notable fine dining establishments in Sooke.
Point no Point Resort features an award-winning Teahouse restaurant that is popular with locals and visitors alike. Charming and cozy, it is the perfect spot to enjoy spectacular cliff-top views of the Juan de Fuca Strait while dining on delicious culinary creations made with locally sourced organic foods. Lunch offerings include fresh seafood entrees, tasty homemade soups and hearty sandwiches. Be sure to make use of the binoculars at your table –along with eagles and seals, you may even spot some orcas or migrating Gray whales.
Markus’ Wharfside Restaurant offers delectable dishes in an intimate setting. With an on-site garden and access to fresh ingredients from the sea and the ground, it's no wonder Markus’ recently received certification as a BC Culinary Tourism Destination.
Spring into the renowned Sooke Harbour House on Whiffen Spit beach for a romantic seafood dinner or Sunday brunch. Featuring a menu that changes daily and an award-winning wine cellar, the chefs take pride in using local, wild, seasonal, and organic food in their delicious dishes.
French Beach Provincial Park, located about 20 km west of Sooke, is a favourite summer destination for families. With 69 campsites, hiking trails, wildlife viewing, a sand and pebble beach, surf-side picnic facilities as well as a children’s playground, French Beach makes for a perfect West Coast camping experience. Spring is also a good time to visit this park as Gray whales can often be viewed feeding offshore.
There are also some private campgrounds in the Sooke area and wilderness/walk-in camping opportunities at China Beach and beaches along the Juan de Fuca Trail. Check the BC Parks website for more information.
Cabins, Cottages and Hotels
If you're looking for something slightly cozier than a tent, try Point no Point Resort. Located about 25 km past Sooke, Point No Point features 25 beachfront cabins and each has a view to die for. Encompassing 40 acres of lush temperate forest and rugged shoreline, there are numerous trails and private beaches to explore. Cross the tree bridge to the 'point', spend the afternoon beachcombing or relax on the Adirondack chairs on your private deck. Many of the cabins have two-person hot tubs, perfect for warming up after an invigorating day outdoors.