I went on amazing weekend getaway to the Sooke area on Vancouver Island. It was my first time visiting this area. Luckily, we got to enjoy some amazing weather while we were there. We visited around Sooke, plus a few other stops along the famous Juan de Fuca Trail. You will want to add a weekend in Sooke, BC on Vancouver Island to your British Columbia road trip adventures. There is so much to see and do in Sooke. You won’t want to miss Mystic Beach, the Sooke Potholes, Juan de Fuca Trail, Sombrio Beach and East Sooke Regional Park. Read on for all the details!
In this blog post, I’ll give you some highlights within Sooke, and those along the whole Juan de Fuca Trail such as Sombrio Beach, Mystic Beach, East Sooke Regional Park, and even the Sooke Potholes that you should make sure you definitely don’t miss when visiting South Vancouver Island. Some of the spots I mention below are absolutely some of the best hidden BC gems that you’ll want to check out while in the area! While it would be great to spend more time, but this can all be done in a (busy) weekend in Sooke.
Sooke is a nice harbourside village in southern Vancouver Island, BC. It’s relaxed and casual, and serves as an escape from bustling city life for many people. Sooke also has lots of the amenities you’d want in the city, so it’s basically the best of both worlds. Sooke is definitely a hidden BC gem! A weekend in Sooke is all you need to explore this area.
History and Culture in Sooke
In centuries past, Sooke was a Coast Salish settlement that thrived. According to Vancouver Island, “The T’sou-ke peoples lived alongside a salmon river and within a sheltered harbor, an area where seafood was in abundance along the seashore, and game, roots and berries were harvested in the forests.” The site also explains that the name T’sou-ke is said to have come from “stickle back fish found at the mouth of the Sooke River.”
The T’sou-ke first nation people began a lasting foundation made up of a valuable legacy for Sooke. That legacy is said to enrich the area to this day.
What are Some of Sooke’s Best Features?
The Sooke area features rainforest trails, beautiful beaches, and some of the mildest climate in BC. You can also enjoy stunning views of the Olympic Mountains from Washington State right there in Sooke. This town is also the entryway to the scenic drive called West Coast Road, or Highway 14.
In Sooke, there are a ton of activities within arm’s length. You can go diving, sea kayaking, mountain biking, fishing, and more. There are also lots of nature parks you can explore. There seem to be an unending number of ways you can tour the area and enjoy its lovely scenery.
How to Spend a Weekend in Sooke on Vancouver Island
The whole area is just stunning. It has so many beaches and waterfalls to explore, and they’re perfect for taking lots of beautiful photos. If you are ever visiting Victoria, I would highly recommend that you pop over to spend a weekend in Sooke, BC.
Juan de Fuca Trail
Next, let’s talk about the trail we made a few stops on while visiting Sooke. The Juan de Fuca Trail is one of the three long coastal trails on Vancouver Island. It’s 45 kilometres long, and can be completed within 3 to 5 days, depending on how many times you stop. You can take it from either direction as well.
The trail can be broken up into a few separate blocks of hiking. We didn’t do the whole Juan de Fuca Trail—we simply stopped at a few notable spots along it, including Mystic Beach and Sombrio Beach. The other locations the trail includes though, are Bear Beach, Chin Beach, and Little Kuitshe Beach. There is also the Payzante Campsite and the Botanical Beach Trailhead, so there are definitely lots of great stops along this trail! While you may want to see a smart part of this during a weekend in Sooke, BC you will need to plan a longer trip to do a longer hiking adventure.
According to Michal of Hiking is Good, “The trail is challenging, short, muddy, and with many ups and downs, but exceptional. I’m a bit biased because of my love of coastal trails but I’m sure that even a non-biased hiker would enjoy it.” Since we didn’t actually hike the whole trail, we’ll take Michal’s word for it!
When you’re planning to stay and camp out overnight along this trail, plan on paying $10 per night to reserve your spot. Reservations are first come, first serve, so you don’t have to necessarily worry about booking anything in advance. Just remember that some of these campsites get filled up quickly, so aiming to get to your spot earlier in the day might be a good idea. Sombrio Beach will be the busiest by far, but it’s large enough that you should be okay with finding your own private spot. That beach is accessible by car, too.
How do you get Around the Juan de Fuca Trail?
If you don’t happen to have a car with you, don’t worry! You can also travel the trail by bus. The bus goes between trailheads, and is called the West Coast Trail Express. If you’re there during the summer months, make sure to book your bus in advance. They fill up quick!
This is Secret Falls (Hidden Falls) at Sombrio Beach, which is less than two hours’ drive from Victoria. It’s a rocky beach that also happens to be a popular spot for surfers. The falls are a part of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, located off the Sombrio Beach Trail. This 1.4-kilometre BC trail features beautiful wildflowers, and is usually accessible all year round.
How to Get to the Falls at Sombrio Beach?
To get there, start at the Sombrio Beach Trailhead. You have to follow the trail until you get to a fork in the path. Stick to the left, and turn left again when you get to the rocky beach. After a few minutes, you’ll see a stream amidst some trees. This is when you really have to keep your eyes peeled, or you might miss it!
When you follow the stream about fifty feet in, you will come to a moss-covered cave. Be careful inside because it can be slippery! You’ll enjoy an amazing variety of lush plants that cover the cave’s walls. Once you go a little further in, you’ll find the falls in all their glory. You might want to get that perfect shot, capturing the falls as they tower over you up ahead. There’s even a hidden swimming bay in there! There is also a suspension bridge at a certain point further along the trail. And of course, you can take part in some beach relaxation after your adventurous hike.
Things to Keep in Mind at Sombrio Beach
Depending on the time of year you go, it can be really busy with lots of young people hanging out and hiking the trail, so keep this in mind when planning your outing. While on the trail to the waterfall, you might even catch some views of surfers riding the waves. Speaking of waves, though, keep an eye out for high tide! It’s best to visit the falls when the tide is low.
The trail leading to this hidden waterfall is both unforgettable and unique. I think it’s the fact that you have to do a little work to find it that makes it even more special once you do. It’s also free, which is the best kind of adventure! You’ve got to check out this BC hidden gem for yourself. Trust me and add this to your list for an adventurous weekend in Sooke.
What’s the History of Sombrio Beach?
The territory of this beach traditionally belonged to the Ditidaht and the Pacheedaht First Nations People. Their territory ran from Cowichan to Pachena Bay, plus the fishing sites and their village site at Sombrio Beach. The hidden waterfall so many visitors enjoy each year is actually sacred to these tribes. Therefore, be extra respectful when you visit the sites in these areas! It is very disheartening to see trash left in the area and graffiti left on this hidden BC gem.
The hike to Mystic Beach along the Juan de Fuca Trail is 4 kilometres long, and takes about two hours round trip. To give you an idea of its location, it’s a little over two hours’ drive from Victoria. And, yes—you can camp there, too! This beach is known as one of the most scenic in the area, which is called the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
One highlight of this beach is a little waterfall that shoots down from a cliff high above the beach. You can also enjoy amazing views of the surrounding wild Pacific Northwest coastline. Don’t miss this is you spend a weekend in Sooke in Southern Vancouver Island.
A little History about Mystic Beach
The Pacheedaht were the First Nation People who lived in this area before white settlers. The name of their people actually translates to “Children of the Sea Foam”. The story was recounted by Chief Queesto Charlie Jones. The story goes, according to Chief Jones on Pacheedaht First Nation, that they came across a strange white foam when they were travelling along the San Juan River. It was so much foam that apparently, it blanketed the banks of the river to eight or so feet above the actual water level of the river.
“’Everyone was very excited about the discovery of this foam, and everyone wanted to find out what it was. So they decided to get someone to taste it. They chose an old lady slave for the task – this was in the days when our people when our people still kept slaves – as it was thought she was expendable, I suppose. Some of the men took her up the river and told her to taste the foam and tell them what it was.’
‘She picked up some of the foam with her fingers and put it in her mouth, and finally she said that it didn’t taste like anything at all. It was salty though, like sea-foam. So they decided it was sea-foam, and everyone went back down the river to the village. They all talked it over and decided that the proper name for it was Pacheeda, which means “sea foam.” Ever since that time, we have called ourselves the Pacheedaht, the Children of the Sea Foam.’”
So, when you visit Mystic Beach, you can imagine the days when the Pacheedaht People discovered that foam. It may also add yet another layer of what makes this beach so true to its name.
How do you get to Mystic Beach?
From the parking lot, you’ll need to follow the trail to get to Mystic Beach. By the way, check at the wooden map board that you’re at the beginning of the Juan de Fuca Trail, not the China Beach Trail. You’ll see the entire trail outlined on the map, but Mystic Beach is the first stop.
Follow the worn pathway and be careful as you step. Some parts of the trail can be a little slippery and muddy. It’s best not to rush this part. After some time of hiking, you have to cross a suspension bridge that goes over Pete Wolfe Creek. Once crossing the bridge, you’ll keep hiking until the path eventually becomes wider and gravelly. You’ll notice that you’re starting to go downhill from here, and you will be able to move a little faster.
As you reach wooden steps and a tiny bridge that crosses another creek, you’ll start to hear the soft crashing of the water against the shore. At one point, you will see stairs fashioned from a fallen tree as a part of the trail. You should start hearing the water a little more loudly now. The path goes to the left, and the steps soon open out to a beach entrance.
What are its Best Features?
Besides the cascading waterfall from the rocky cliffs overhead, there is also a rope swing that hangs down from a tree that’s above the cliff. You’ll find these features to the left from the hiking trail entrance.
East Sooke Regional Park
This was in East Sooke Regional Park at Aylard Farm on Vancouver Island. This beach was adorable and has such blue, clear water. I am so lucky to have friends like Joel and Josh who are always down for an adventure.
The park has incredible views and is a great place for hikers looking for a challenge, and plenty of beautiful wilderness scenery. There are over 50 kilometres of trails that venture through a variety of landscapes. These include marshes, forests, fields, some lovely pocket beaches, and tide pools. Overall, there are ample photo opportunities!
The Coast Trail
On the 10-kilometre Coast Trail that goes through East Sooke Regional Park, hikers will go through lush rainforest, pass by the edge of the ocean, and come across many bays, cliffs, and chasms. Throughout it all, you’ll be sure to feel an adventurous energy in the air. In this remote place, it will be easy to connect with nature. You’ll want to lose yourself—and maybe find yourself once more—out there.
What’s the History in the Area of the East Sooke Regional Park?
At Aldridge Point, you will experience some of the remnants of the Coast Salish People. The Point was deemed a Provincial Heritage Site in 1927. Those remnants I mentioned would be the cool petroglyphs that are carved into the rock there. Apparently, it’s a style specific to what you can see in the Strait of Juan de Fuca area.
Above is the Beechey Head geographic marker for the Canada and US Border overlooking Strait of Juan De Fuca near Sooke.
Vancouver Island’s site states that “the late 1800s were busy years in East Sooke: large sailing ships and dugout canoes ran supplies to and from Fort Victoria, and a steam-powered sawmill provided lumber for the small community.”
Before that, though, Coast Salish people—also called the T’Sou-kes—used to reef net salmon around Becher Bay. They also collected berries, roots, and shellfish for the winter months spent at Pedder Bay. Soon after and within five years of 1790, all lands north of the strait of Juan de Fuca had become British.
I actually was doing a vlog for this trip but we were having so much fun at the Sooke Potholes that I didn’t record anything. As a result, I decided not to put the vlog together. Huge vlogger fail!
Anyway, the Sooke Potholes is actually its own Provincial Park. It’s about an hour from downtown Victoria, and the trail is quite easy. It takes an hour to do and is a total of three kilometres in length, round trip. There’s no public transportation there so you really need a car for this one.
If you like this blog about a weekend in Sooke, you may also like 10 Vancouver Area Hikes I did this Summer, A Weekend in Victoria, Spring Glacier Kayaking in BC or Fraser Valley Tulip Festival – Times Two!
So, what are the Sooke Potholes Exactly?
Sooke Potholes is a popular destination located along the Sooke River. The last ice age from about fifteen thousand years ago caused a rock formation which is special enough to draw thousands of visitors each year. It formed huge rock pools out of sandstone bedrock, which provide a nice place to do some swimming, and spend a lazy day.
The pools are deep, and have been naturally carved. They’re surprisingly very smooth! According to BC Parks, “Glacial action during the last ice age 15,000 years ago is responsible for the formations, as the moving, melting ice packs stripped the surface area and carved a path deep into the natural bedrock.”
This photo is from our visit to the Sooke Potholes. You have to do cliff jumping if you go here, by the way! This is definitely an absolute must if you ever travel to Sooke on Vancouver Island. There is also catch and release fishing available at the nearby Sooke River.
The site goes on to explain that “huge boulders carried along by the rushing river became lodged, were swirled against the canyon walls and consequently carved out the potholes that can be seen today.”
Now when you go visit the Sooke Potholes, you can sound like the smartest one there, and maybe even give others a little geography lesson. 😊 A visit to the potholes is a must when you spend a weekend in Sooke.
Did you know there are actually ruins in this area, too? Deertrail Resort’s ruin sit right there in Sooke Pothole Provincial Park, crumbled and beautiful all at once. It’s on a cliffside, which makes it even harder to tear your gaze from. This isn’t a super well-known spot, so it’s definitely a cool stop off place for a weekend in Sooke!
When there, you’ll see a surprisingly harmonious blend of a failed business, spray-paint art, and pure nature. If you like ruins, urban art, or cliffs, this is also a great photo opportunity. The building was actually never completed, which is a bit sad. The trees are wildly overtaking the cement structure, and the graffiti changes constantly as artists visit the area. That’s another thing that makes this spot so unique—you may actually be seeing it in a way not many others have when you go.
On the ferry ride home from Vancouver Island, we were able to catch an amazing sunset, which topped it all off nicely. The whole trip was so nice, and very fulfilling overall. We got to see so much beautiful scenery, and we took lots of great photos throughout the trip.
If you’re ever visiting Vancouver Island, Sooke and surrounding areas are definitely worth a few days of your time there. There were so many hidden BC gems you can indulge your senses in! From the hidden cave waterfall on the Sombrio Beach Trail to the Coast Trail in East Sooke Regional Park; the little waterfall and rope swing at Mystic Beach to the Sooke Potholes that we had so much fun exploring.
Thanks for stopping by the blog and supporting me. Make sure you add a weekend in Sooke, BC on Vancouver Island to your British Columbia road trip adventures. There is so much to see and do in Sooke. You won’t want to miss Mystic Beach, the Sooke Potholes, Juan de Fuca Trail, Sombrio Beach and East Sooke Regional Park. Safe travels, friends!