Most people would consider Victoria to be about as far west as one can go but residents here consider Sooke to be the west. In fact, the suburbs of Victoria en route to Sooke are called the Western Communities
In 1865, after the American Civil War, author Horace Greeley encouraged soldiers to “Go West young man”, ie head west and colonise the country. Now arrivals to Victoria are mostly transcient: killer whales, geese and tourists.
Guests at our Victoria B&Bs soon discover that the Victoria area is compact with a great deal to see and do within a short drive. We recommend you rent a car so that you can enjoy all that Victoria offers since there is much more to Victoria than the downtown Inner Harbour.
Sooke and SW Vancouver Island
Sooke is just 45 minutes from downtown Victoria. We do not suggest you merely drive to the little centre of Sooke and return since you’ll be disappointed. But if you add some of these itinerary stops along the way you will have a delightful, memorable day. Your innkeepers can help you prepare the route if you are not pre-prepared.
Hatley Castle was built in 1908 by the same family responsible for Craigdarroch Castle. The gardens are particularly enjoyable, once with over 100 gardeners. Compare the Japanese Garden with that in The Butchart Gardens, designed by the same man. GPS: lat 48.4393656, long -123.47697260000001.
Fisgard Lighthouse and Fort Rodd Hill
Nearby is this two for one visit. Fort Rodd Hill was established in the 1890s to protect the Esquimalt Naval Base (from whom, one wonders?) and is now a pleasing parkland with gun batteries and assorted military buildings remaining. You then walk down to Fisgard Lighthouse, with the lighthouse in the foreground and Olympic Peninsula rising beyond it. It was built in response to the hundreds of wrecks which occurred along the south western Vancouver Island coastline, “The Graveyard of the Pacific”. The now non-functioning lighthouse houses an exhibit about the life of a lighthouse. GPS lat 48.427085, long -123.46162600000002. You can then walk or drive aling the spit enclosing Esquimalt Lagoon.
Follow Metchosin Road to Witty’s Lagoon with its enclosed beaches. Do note that the lagoon changes character significantly with the tides; sand dunes appear when the tide is out. Look for the Sitting Lady waterfall. GPS: lat 48.382005, long -123.53784999999999.
East Sooke Regional Park
You will get an excellent feel for the natural beauty of the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island. East Sooke Regional Park has numerous coastal trails accessed at three places. If you park at Aylands Farm your trail may take you to petroglyths. GPS: lat 48.4284396, long 48.4284396.
Return to the Sooke Road, Hwy 14, and go west (what else?). If you drive east you will encounter a centre for zip-lining – great fun flying through the trees. Take a right along Sooke River Road for the Sooke Potholes. These deep sinkholes are a popular, though cold, swimming spot in fast-running water. The Galloping Goose trail runs nearby, from Victoria to beyond Sooke – we’ll doubtless talk about this in a future blog post. Look for the ambitious remains of a partly built stone lodge overlooking the Sooke River. GPS: lat 48.4284396, long -123.71239200000002.
Sooke at last! Just beyond the little town, with lunch stop-offs, you turn left onto Whiffin Spit Road to walk along Whiffin Spit. GPS: lat 48.3583483, long 48.3583483.
That’s the end of our Sooke tour but you could consider omitting most of the above places and simply continue your drive past Sooke along the west coast to French Beach, China Beach and more, but that’s another story.