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Two Alternatives Beyond Tofino – Discover Stunning Options on Vancouver Island

written bySteven Eckert

Last ModifiedDecember 14, 2023

Experience the Unforgettable: A Journey from Sooke to Port Renfrew Filled with Stunning Surprises

Mystic Beach Waterfall
Waterfall at Mystic Beach

Vancouver Island is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. Beautiful beaches, rugged coastlines, and dense forests await visitors who come to explore.

While Tofino is one of the most popular destinations on the island, other lesser-known towns offer equally stunning natural attractions. We’ll take you on a journey to two lesser-known towns and one bonus off-the-beaten-path location on Vancouver Island with stunning natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and unique local experiences that will make your visit unforgettable.

If you’re planning a trip to the West Coast of Vancouver Island but want to explore beyond Tofino. Here is why Sooke and Port Renfrew are great alternative destinations to consider.

Sooke – Top 4 Must See Destinations Within a 30-Minute Drive

Sooke is a quaint seaside town located about 45 minutes southwest of Victoria. This area, located along the Sooke Basin, is only just beginning to get discovered by the tourism industry. With its stunning coastline, lush forests, and vibrant arts scene, Sooke is an ideal alternative to the more tourist-heavy destinations on Vancouver Island.

 

#1 – East Sooke – Aylard Farm

Beecher Bay beach Aylard farmWhite sand beach, fruit trees, petroglyphs and miles of coves and rugged coastline. Aylard Farm is located in East Sooke Provincial Park and offers a little bit of everything. Fun for all ages and abilities. Even the drive to get there is an adventure with some of the windiest roads on the Island. East Sooke & Aylard Farm >

#2 Sooke Potholes 

What to see at Sooke Potholes? We have a long list of what you will find along the Sooke River. The Sooke Potholes Regional Park is only a 10-minute drive from downtown Sooke and offers much to see. Including – hiking, swimming, waterfalls, camping, biking, trestle bridges, gold rush history, cliff jumping, ruins and more. Sooke Potholes Regional Park >

#3 Sheringham Lighthouse – Shirley

Lighthouse sheringham pointA perfect picturesque lighthouse perched atop a cliff overlooking the sea. Located 20 minutes from downtown Sooke, Sheringham Lighthouse is ideal for an afternoon of exploration and relaxation. This historic lighthouse has walking trails, displays and even a speaker to listen for whales. Sheringham Lighthouse >

#4 AdrenaLine Zipline Adventure Park

An excited group having fun on a platform above the rain forest on South Vancouver Island. They are headed to their next zipline and are happy to be at Adrena Line Zipline tours in Sooke BCThe only zipline tour on South Vancouver Island offering breathtaking vistas and thrilling ziplines over the treetop canopy. Enjoy the off-road adventure ride to the top and the 8 zip lines and a 100 foot suspension bridge in the Sooke Hills. AdrenaLine Zipline Adventure Park >

Sooke – 5 Activities to do in the town of Sooke

With a bit of searching, you will quickly realize this quaint little town has hidden experiences around every corner. Here is our list of the top things to do in Sooke.

#1 Take in the sights

Whiffin Spit

The small, naturally formed peninsula offers a nice easy 3km walking trail with unique charm. Located at the end of Whiffin Spit Road, you’ll find a parking lot for the family-friendly walk and a full view of how the spit separates the beautiful Sooke Harbour from the rough waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait, all framed by the Olympic Mountains. It’s also a great spot to keep an eye out for wildlife. Whiffin Spit >

Sooke Boardwalk

Explore Sooke with our favourite short walk along the Sooke Boardwalk, which is only 1.75 km to complete but gives you the authentic feel of this area! Starting at Ed Macgregor Park, the trail zig-zags down through the trees opening up to the beautiful Sooke Harbour. Complete the loop by heading up the stairs and up the hill to downtown Sooke. Sooke Boardwalk Loop >

 

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#2 Visit Sooke’s Cute Cafes and Retail Stores

Sooke is home to some wonderful coffee shops, and retail stores scattered throughout town. Here are our 3 must stops and why you should visit.

Artisan’s Garden

Patio view at Artisan's Garden Coffee bar. Shop, grab a specialty coffee and a treat in this great locationHidden just off the main road. Artisan’s Garden offers so much for any visitor. A quaint coffee shop with one of the best patio views in Sooke. You will also find an artisan market with goods from local creatives and artists. And downstairs, there’s a garden centre filled with colourful flowers and greenery. What else can you ask for? Artisan’s Garden >

Stick in the Mud Coffee House

Walking into the Stick in the mud Cafe for a cup of coffee and a baked treat I noticed this fun sign under the covered patioThe west coast charm and wood interior makes you want to take a deep breath and shrug off the worries of the day. This is one of our favourite spots to enjoy a little conversation with friends after a hike in the beautiful Sooke area. A true gem, don’t miss it! Stick in the Mud Coffee House >

Reynolds Antiques

Reynolds Antiques jewelry china vase Sooke RetailThe ultimate destination for all treasure hunters. Here is a unique opportunity to unearth an array of exquisite art, wonderful antiques, and stunning jewelry. The energetic and knowledgeable staff makes your visit a truly memorable experience. Reynolds Antiques & Collectables >

 

#3 Art Tours and Relaxation

If you’re seeking a more laid-back vacation, Sooke offers plenty of options. You can tour and explore the local artisans and their studios or perhaps spend an afternoon relaxing at one of the spas hidden around Sooke. 

Another option is the “ale trail” and visiting one of the three local craft breweries or the historic meadery.  

Create Fused Glass Art

In this 3-hour class, you’ll tap into the ancient knowledge of the Egyptians and use their techniques to craft one-of-a-kind fused glass art. With no prior experience necessary, you’ll be amazed at how easy and enjoyable the process is. Glass art workshops >

Afternoon Massage

stress relief aromatherapy and reiki massage

Enhance your stay with a relaxing mind, body and soul experience. Book a therapeutic treatment that reduces muscle tension, pain, stress and anxiety. Massage & Therapies >

 

#3 Endless water activities out of Sooke Basin

POV of a hot sunny day Kayaking Matheson lake -Regional Park in Metchosin 40 minutes west of Victoria on Vancouver IslandFor water activities, Sooke is known for some of the best fishing on Vancouver Island. But that’s not all, with whale watching, sailing adventures, paddle boarding/kayak tours, and rentals. Sooke has many options for adventure seekers. Map of experiences around Sooke

Sooke – Where to Stay When in Sooke

Hotels:

Located in the Sooke core is a choice of two resorts, including Sooke Harbour Resort, a condo-style vacation rental resort located on the water, offering multi-room townhomes that are great for families. Or stay in luxury on the cliffs of remote East Sooke overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait at SookePoint Ocean Cottage Resort.  The complete list Of Sooke Accommodations.

Sooke Harbour House exterior 3Condo Resort in Sooke

A spacious vacation rental that can accommodate your entire family. Townhome style condos located right on the harbour with fully equipped kitchens. Sooke Harbour Resort >

Sookepoint Ocean resort with balcony overlooking Juan de Fuca Strait and the Sooke Basin in East SookeStunning Ocean Views

Wake up to the breathtaking view of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the stunning Olympic Mountains at this luxurious cottage resort in East Sooke. SookePoint Resort >

Of course, there are many vacation rentals in and around Sooke, from affordable suites to one of the rentals on the oceanside with a million-dollar view. Here is a list of accommodations in the area.

Camping:

Camping is another great option along the Juan de Fuca with private and provincially run options, including Sooke Potholes Campground or up the road at French Beach Provincial Campground. Here is a list of campgrounds on Vancouver Island.

 

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Vacation Rental in Sooke BC on Vancouver Island
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Located minutes from Sooke centre and perfectly placed as the gateway...
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A full kitchen or kitchenette, free WiFi, BBQ, and fire pit are featu...
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Like no resort you've experienced before - Oceanside Luxury Vacation ...
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Port Renfrew – 4 Must-See Places in Port Renfrew

Located an hour west of Sooke, Port Renfrew is a charming fishing village that offers many outdoor activities, such as fishing and hiking. Although it may not have many services, its secluded location and endless opportunities make it an excellent option for those seeking a peaceful getaway.

Botanical Beach

Botanical Beach on a Sunny day at Port Renfrew on Vancouver islandAt low tide, this rocky shelf offers a peek into the best tide pools on the island. Peering in, you will be amazed by the brightly coloured life living in the cracks and burrowed holes. Each window into marine life offers new and exciting plants and animals. Make sure to walk the complete loop and visit Botany Bay. Botanical Beach >

Pacheedaht Beach

A long sandy beach across the bridge from Port Renfrew on Pacheedaht first nation land. An excellent place to camp, have beach fires and enjoy the day, this is one of the few large sand beaches on southern Vancouver Island.

Sombrio Beach 

 Surfing, camping, hiking and hidden waterfalls. Located on the Juan de Fuca marine trail between Sooke and Port Renfrew, the road is a little rough, but the beach is a fun way to spend the day. Try to find the hidden waterfall. Sombrio Beach >

Avatar Grove 

Canadas gnarliest tree Upper Avatar Grove in Port RenfrewAvatar Grove is a wonderful experience walking alongside giant red cedars and Douglas firs any time of the year. The adventure starts in Port Renfrew and the 17 min drive includes logging roads and bridges just wide enough for one car. Feel adventurous? There are more spots to see further up the road, including Lonely Doug and Eden Grove. Avatar Grove >

Conclusion

Sooke and Port Renfrew offer visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty, culture, and outdoor adventures of Vancouver Island without the crowds found in more popular destinations like Tofino. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, exploration, or a mix of both, these areas are still relatively unknown. Enjoy the drive and beaches up and down the Juan de Fuca Strait between the two towns, and they will surely make your visit to Vancouver Island unforgettable.

Other helpful links

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Mystic Beach

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Thank you for visiting VIBL (Vancouver Island Bucket List) please continue to discover all of the places that makes Vancouver Island so great! 

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Discover new places and find your way around Vancouver Island. Many areas do not have cell service so maps and guidebooks can be very helpful for the curious.

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