Sooke is a district municipality situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island and is considered the westernmost community of the Greater Victoria region. The rugged rainforests and unspoiled beaches offer visitors and residents an authentic west coast experience.
A Bit of History
The name T’Sou-ke is said to derive from a stickleback fish found at the mouth of the river. And for hundreds of years, the T’Sou-ke First Nation was a thriving settlement. Then in 1843, when the Hudson’s Bay Company established a fort in the area now known as Victoria, land acquisition by European immigrants followed. The first to purchase land at the Sooke Harbour was Captain Walter Colqohoun Grant in 1849.
Grant is the same person we can thank (or boo, depending on how you look at it) for bringing Scottish broom to Vancouver Island. This bright yellow blossom spreads like wildfire and can now be found from Alaska to California and everywhere in between.
In 1851, the Muir family took up residents in Sooke and, together with Grant, significantly impacted the area’s development.
To read more about the history of Sooke, I recommend checking out the interactive map of historical sites created by the Sooke Region Museum and Visitor Centre.
The “potholes” are a series of deep, polished rock pools carved naturally into the bedrock of the Sooke River. They offer some of the best freshwater swimming in the region and are undoubtedly the town’s most famous attraction.
Glacial action during the last ice age is responsible for the formations. Moving, melting ice packs stripped the surface area and carved a path deep into the natural bedrock. The rushing river that followed carried along huge boulders, which became lodged against the canyon walls, carving out the potholes seen today.
The area consists of two parks, Sooke Potholes Provincial Park and Sooke Potholes Regional Park. Both offer access to the Sooke River, which is the second largest on southern Vancouver Island and home to a salmon run every fall.
The Regional Park is where the river plunges through a narrow rock canyon and over a series of waterfalls, and the best location to view the famous potholes. This is also where the Deertrail Resort ruins are located. On the other hand, the Provincial Park offers crystal clear pools of emerald water perfect for watching spawning salmon. Both offer a great place to swim and sunbathe during the hot summer months.
For more in-depth information about each park, read Sooke Potholes.
East Sooke Park
Encompassing 1422 hectares of natural and protected coastal landscape, East Sooke Park is the largest in the Capital Regional District. Over 50 km of trail systems are found within the park, including the challenging Coast Trail.
There are three entry points to East Sooke Park.
Aylard Farm is popular with picnickers and those looking for easy excursions. A 5-minute walk through an open field leads to a beautiful pocket beach. Several other trails head inland to hilltop views or along the rugged Coast Trail.
Follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and take exit 14 towards Langford/Sooke.
- Merge onto Millstream Rd/Veterans Memorial Pkwy/BC-14 W (signs for Peatt Road)
- Turn right onto Juan De Fuca Hwy/Sooke Rd/BC-14 W
- Left on Gillespie Road
- Turn left on East Sooke Road
- Right on Becher Bay Road and follow until the end
On the Sooke Basin, Anderson Cove is the starting point for hikers heading to Babbington Hill and Mount Maguire. The trails to these hilltops are steep with uneven terrain, but totally worth it! Frequent sightings of Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, and Red-tailed Hawks can be seen at the top, where you also enjoy sweeping views of the Olympic Peninsula.
Follow the directions above to Gillespie Road, but turn right on East Sooke Road (instead of left) to reach the park entrance on the left.
Pike Road is the most westerly access to the park and the Coast Trail. An old logging road winds through the forest to a meadow and eventually to a beautiful beach. Look for Periwinkles, Goose Neck Barnacles, and Purple Sea Stars at low tide.
Follow the directions above to Gillespie Road. Turn right on East Sooke Road and continue past Anderson Cove. Turn left on Pike Road to reach the park entrance.
Whiffin Spit Beach, part of Quimper Park, is a naturally formed but reinforced, well-maintained spit that allows public access. On one side of the Spit, you will find the protected waters of the Sooke Basin, and on the other side, the open waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait.
A leisurely 30-minute walk takes you to the end of the spit, where you can enjoy the surrounding scenery. Several benches along the path offer the perfect opportunity to sit back and take in the natural beauty of Vancouver Island’s southwest coastline.
Whiffin Spit is located at the very end of Whiffin Spit Road (located off of Hwy 14)
Sooke Region Museum
Within the museum’s exhibit galleries, you can view the following:
- Highlights of the region’s pioneer and First Nation’s history and culture
- Artifacts, historical photographs, dioramas, displays and scale models
- Fine items of clothing from the 18 century
- Weavings, quiltings and carvings
- Displays of exploration, natural history, early schools, churches, farming, forestry, mining, and harvesting the bounty from the sea
- The restored Triangle Island lighthouse, dating back to 1910
- 1928 steam locomotive
- Moss Cottage – built in 1870, it’s the oldest pioneer home west of Victoria
The Sooke Region Museum is located on the corner of Sooke Road and Phillips Road.
For an exhilarating adventure, check out Adrena LINE. Soar above the treetops and gain insight into Sooke’s wildlife, history, and natural beauty.
- There are a total of eight ziplines, ranging from 150ft/45m to 1000ft/305m
- You will cross two suspension bridges as you span the forest canopy
- A fun 10-minute Unimog ride up to the top of the zipline course is included in your adventure
- The tour duration is approximately 2 hours
- All tours are fully guided by professionally trained staff
Sooke Whale Watching
Let the informative staff of Sooke Whale Watching take you on an exhilarating West Coast marine adventure. After your two to three-hour tour, you are left with a deeper appreciation of our ocean.
The Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits are home to three resident orcas (killer whale) pods, with a total of 78 killer whales. There are also opportunities to see Humpbacks, Gray and Minke whales.
During peak months, the success rate for whale sightings is 96%!
Where to Eat
If you are looking for waterfront dining, look no further than West Coast Grill. Using locally sourced ingredients, they offer a wide range of delicious creations from farm to plate and sea to fork. They are located at the Prestige Oceanfront Resort, at 6929 West Coast Road.
Another popular choice, especially for wood-fired pizza, is Wild Mountain. Everything here is prepared in-house from organic, local and traceable ingredients. They offer a diverse menu that includes vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The address is 1831 Maple Ave S.
For pub-style food in a casual atmosphere, check out Route 14. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown, this popular little gem uses fresh local ingredients with an extensive menu for food and drink. Located at 6686 Sooke Road.
If you are willing to travel a bit further outside of Sooke, towards Port Renfrew, then I highly recommend Shirley Delicious Cafe. This little A-Frame cafe offers some of the best freshly made baked goods and sandwiches. Open for brunch and lunch and all your coffee and treat needs. Located at 2794 Sheringham Point Road (approximately 12 km outside of downtown Sooke).
While you are there
While in Sooke, you may want to check out a few other nearby attractions.
Sheringham Point Lighthouse
For more than 100 years, this 20-meter-high lighthouse has served as a beacon of hope. Located on a beautiful rocky coastline, the area is popular among budding and professional photographers. A short walk from the parking lot takes you to the Lighthouse, or you can walk the full 3.4 km trail through the surrounding area. Access is right off Hwy 14 on Sheringham Point Road. Signs indicate the way.
French Beach Provincial Park
This beautiful beach on the scenic Strait of Juan de Fuca near Jordan River is the ideal spot to explore. In the spring and fall, it’s a popular location to watch for migrating Gray whales. And the popular vehicle-accessible camping sites are said to be among some of the best on Vancouver Island.
Sooke Harbour House – The Sooke Harbour House is one of Canada’s leading resorts. Although a little more pricey, the attention to detail at this fine resort is second to none. Each charming room features its own decor and offers fabulous views.
This resort offers private beachfront cabins that are perched on a bluff high above the shoreline. Each cabin has a well-stocked kitchen, fireplace or woodstove and private hot tubs. And, of course, spectacular ocean views. There is also an onsite restaurant, and in-cabin massages are available to book.
Prestige Oceanfront Resort – Rising above the Pacific Ocean, this waterfront resort offers breathtaking views of Sooke Harbour, Sooke Basin, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. It is conveniently located near all of Sooke’s unique local attractions.
For a comprehensive list of all the accommodations found in Sooke, click here.
If you are looking for a vacation rental, we’ve got you covered there, too: Sooke Vacation Rentals.
What are your favourite places to explore while in Sooke? Let us know in the comment section below.
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We enjoyed a tour/visit to Saltwest Naturals and Tugwell Creek Bee Farm and Meadery as well as Botanical Beach and Mystic Beach. Spoke is a great place to stay while exploring the south west coast.
Sounds wonderful, Tayna! We visited both Botanical Beach and Mystic Beach too (plus a few others) while out that way…those ones will be in a future post about Juan de Fuca Park.
We love Sooke and all it has to offer! We find this quaint little town so charming, and the Pot Holes are a must! If your hungry check out the Fish Trap for some awesome Halibut and chips!
Oooh, we will have to check out that fish and chip place the next time.