Another way to explore this pastoral hideaway is by cycling along the extensive Galloping Goose Trail. This picturesque multi-use trail, formerly a railway line, moves through urban, rural and wilderness scenery on its 55 kilometre journey from Victoria to Sooke. You can cycle, stroll, run, or even ride a horse through the rural sections.
The Galloping Goose Regional Trail was named for the gas-powered passenger car that carried mail and 30 passengers twice daily between Victoria and Sooke during the 1920s. It is part of the Trans Canada Trail, a national multi-use trail system linking trails from coast to coast. The Goose intersects with the Lochside Regional Trail, a 29 kilometre former railway line from Saanich to Sidney. Bike rentals are easy to obtain, and Victoria is one of the best cities in North America for cycling. Ask us to provide you with rental company information, including Coastal Watersports, which delivers bikes to Dashwood Manor for our guests' use.
Back to exploring the Metchosin area. Look for Witty's Lagoon Park, a ten minute drive from Hatley Park.
Our regional park authority manages more than 10,000 hectares of spectacular and easily accessible natural areas in 30 regional parks and trails on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Witty's Lagoon Regional Park is a 57 hectare park (140 acres) featuring a salt water lagoon that is excellent for bird watching, spectacular ocean views across to Downtown Victoria and over to the Olympic Mountain Range, more than five kilometres of trails through woodland, beside the lagoon and marsh areas, and a wonderful, sandy beach that has shallow, warm water areas for seaside strolling and for swimming when the tide is partially out.
Park in the main parking area, across from Metchosin Golf Course and between the church and school properties. Follow the 20 minute hiking trail down to the beach. Watch for Sitting Lady Falls and for the variety of birds and other wildlife in this delicate ecozone. Witty's Lagoon is a birder's paradise -over 160 species have been documented in the park. Listen for the rattle call of the belted kingfisher, and the songs of orange-crowned warblers and dark-eyed juncos. Bring your binoculars, and be prepared for discovery, but remember to respect the habitat and birds that use it.
Leaving Witty's Lagoon, go a short distance further south to 'Chosin Pottery Studio. Robin Hopper and Judy Dyelle are the dynamic artisans who live and work here, tend the 5 acre garden and sell their products in the delightful studio. Robin is a master gardener, and he opens his garden freely for visitors to his studio. Wander through and you'll be surprised at every turn. Gladiator tunnel, a singing chamber, a salmon stream and more delight the visitors who take time to wander this exceptional garden.
Ready for wilderness and a better chance to experience a rugged west coast hiking trail along the rocky coastline? West Coast wilderness awaits you at East Sooke Regional Park. Experience it as you hike along the windswept rocky coast, over dry hilltops, through dark rainforest to sheltered coves.
Two of our favourite areas in East Sooke Park are Aylard Farm and Anderson Cove. You can get to them from Metchosin if you find Rocky Point Road and head for Beecher Bay. Get directions from locals in Metchosin's village store or borrow a map from us before you go.
Aylard Farm is on the east side of the park. This park is popular with picnickers and with those looking for easy hiking excursions. A five minute walk through open fields leads to a pocket beach where you can discover intertidal life or watch river otters scurrying across the sand. Trails head inland to hilltop views or along the rugged Coast Trail, a 10 kilometre, challenging trail, and to some petroglyphs a short distance from the beach.
Anderson Cove is on the west side of East Sooke Regional Park. This park is located on the Sooke Basin and it's the starting point for hikers heading to Babbington Hill and Mount Maguire. On these hilltops, bald eagles, turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks join you for sweeping views of the Olympic Peninsula.
Work your way back to Hwy 14 by following Gillespie Road or Happy Valley Road then head west to Sooke. After approximately ten minutes driving time, you enter the Saseenos neighbourhood just at the beginning of Sooke and just after getting the first views of the ocean along Sooke Basin. Check into the Sooke Regional Museum, located on the west side of the bridge crossing the Sooke River. The museum is small, but it's oozing with west coast charm and great stories of the early years of fishing, logging and farming in this area. The museum also houses a friendly, helpful tourist information centre where you can get information on local tides, attractions, studios and beaches.
One of Victoria's all time favourite summer swimming areas is found nearby at the 55 hectare Sooke Potholes Regional Park on the spectacular Sooke River. Enjoy the views, explore the trails or take a refreshing dip on a hot summer day! The "potholes" are unique geological formations - deep pools in the river - that offer some of the best freshwater swimming in the region. The Sooke River is the second largest on southern Vancouver Island, and it's home to a productive salmon run every fall.
Sooke Potholes Regional Park is also a great starting point for a trip by bicycle or on foot along the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. Travel south on the trail toward Roche Cove Regional Park, or cycle your way through wilderness scenery all the way to the end of the trail at an abandoned mining town from the early 1900's, Leechtown.
Adventure, scenic beaches and coastline, artisan studios all make the journey to Sooke worthwhile. As one of the oldest settlements on Vancouver Island's West Coast, Sooke is a great jumping off point for recreational fishing and other boating opportunities. Both the harbour and basin are well protected from offshore winds providing excellent kayaking opportunities, sheltered boat launch ramps, moorage and charter fishing guides. Ask us to recommend or organize a charter for you.
Sooke is steeped in artistic talent as well as natural beauty, making it also a terrific destination for touring studios and for its annual art show and sale in August, the Sooke Fine Arts Show. Check our day trip packages for a map of studios to tour, or stop in at the Sooke Museum for more information.
Stopping for lunch and wanting some local fun? Mom's Cafe has been an institution in Sooke for as long as we can remember. Their loggers' breakfasts are the genuine article, and, yes, they're jam-filled with protein and calories for action packed days. From hamburgers to old fashioned milkshakes and mile high lemon pie, they have cornered the market on the local, small town diner experience. 2036 Shields Road, a half block from West Coast Road just past Otter Point Road.
Twenty minutes driving time west towards Jordan River and Port Renfrew, you will come across a hamburger shack local loggers, surfers and visitors frequent beachside in Jordan River. Get a burger and sit on a log watching the surfers play on the waves. Drive another ten minutes to Point No Point Resort and Restaurant by French Beach Provincial Park for a relaxing lunch overlooking the ocean. The views are exceptional and the food is excellent. 1505 West Coast Road, (250) 646-2020
Port Renfrew used to be the end of the practical road trip, but it's now part of the Pacific Marine Circle Route that takes you along former logging roads, which have recently been upgraded and signed for easier navigation as a public thoroughfare, to Lake Cowichan and Duncan. This circle route is rugged, remote and beautiful, but it does require careful consideration before starting out. Check with the Sooke Regional Museum tourism office before taking on this route. Returning to Victoria along this route is possible. It takes a minimum driving time of three hours to drive from Port Renfrew to Cowichan Lake, Duncan then back to Victoria.
Port Renfrew has among the best salt and freshwater fishing in the world. For the sport fisher, three distinct areas vie for attention: the mouth of Port Renfrew harbour, the Carmanah/Nitinat waters, and the Swiftsure Bank. The San Juan River is home to hefty steelhead, as well as northern coho averaging 20 pounds.
Port Renfrew is also home to Botanical Beach Provincial Park, an extensive sandstone beach covered with tidepools, teaming with intertidal sea life. The best time to see the tidepools is at low tide. Use the tide table websites here or ask at the Sooke Regional Museum and tourist information centre as you drive to the area. Two safety concerns are important to consider as you explore the area. First, beware rising tides so you do not get caught on rocky points with no safe return to land as the tide fills in between rocks and outcroppings. Second, Black Bear and Cougar may be present at any time. Black Bear have not become used to feeding on garbage, so pack your garbage out of the park. Cougars normally avoid people and are rarely seen. But, take precautions by leaving pets at home and by ensuring small children do not venture alone into brush areas.
For seven years beginning in 1900, the University of Minnesota's began bringing students and researchers come from all over the world to study marine life here. This shaped the park's future as a unique ecological zone that needed further study and tight protection to make sure it would be preserved forever. In 1989 British Columbia designated the area as a provincial park.