Activities and Attractions
Vancouver Island is known as one of the most beautiful places on the planet to visit and many tourists comment at how lucky we are to live in such a place. They are absolutely right and we know it!
In fact in 2003 the city of Victoria took top spot and was named the best city in the America's by Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Condé Nast Traveler also consistently recognizes Vancouver Island as one of the best islands to visit in North America.
The Sooke River provides a great place to cool off in the summer.
If you like beautiful coastal scenery, a year round moderate climate, clean fresh air, very few pesky insects, abundant wildlife and sea life, a slower relaxing Island lifestyle and an endless selection of outdoor activities to enjoy, then you need to visit us here on Vancouver Island.
If it takes more than a west coast salmon fishing trip and a 30-pound plus chinook salmon on the end of your line to excite you, then look at what else we can offer you.
On Vancouver Island you will find numerous world class golf courses, some of the best scuba diving on the west coast (many of Canada's decommissioned naval destroyers are now artificial reefs in prime diving areas), skiing in the winter months (Mt. Washington receives the largest annual snowfall in B.C.), surfing on the west coast beaches, ocean wind surfing that will test any ability, ocean kayaking, horseback riding and some of the best summer and winter fresh water fishing found anywhere.
A Few Facts About Vancouver Island
For those of you who will be first time visitors to our little paradise on the west coast, here are a few answers to questions we are asked frequently.
The cliffs along the Sooke River are great places from which to dive or jump
The Island is 282 miles long and is 62 miles across at its widest point, for a total land mass of 12,408 sqare miles. Population is over 750,000 of which most is concentrated in the south and along the eastern shores.
Summer temperatures are usually in the mid 70's and up into the low 80's (Fahrenheit) with low humidity. Temperatures occasionally reach the 90's.
There are often light cool coastal breezes near the ocean beeches. Coastal fog on the west side of the Island can create summer temperatures that are cooler over the ocean.
Winter temperatures can dip down to freezing overnight but it is more common for our 50-degree ocean waters to keep daytime air temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees.
Most precipitation falls in November and the early spring and southern Vancouver Island receives half the annual rainfall of both Vancouver and Seattle!
Sooke & Victoria Attractions (so much to do and so little time)
The Galloping Goose Trail attacts hikers, cyclists and equestrians.
The Galloping Goose Trail is a reclaimed railroad line that at one time was used to transport timber and lumber between Sooke and Victoria. The trail is now used by both hikers and bicyclists and provides a scenic route over its 60 km (40 miles) length between Victoria and Leechtown.
Scenic highlights along the trail include Roche Cove Regional Park, Matheson Lake Regional Park and the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. Both the Potholes and Matheson Lake are busy and popular summer swimming areas. Bring your own bikes or rent them locally.
Other hiking areas include East Sooke Park which features a day hike along a rugged and scenic coastal trail.
The scenic Galloping Goose Trail as it passes Roche Cove near Sooke.
Other beaches worthy of exploration include Weirs Beach, French Beach, Sandcut Beach, China Beach, Sombrio Beach, Mystic Beach and Botanical Beach. The Juan de Fuca Trail connects most of these beaches as it cuts its way through 47 km of coastal rainforest.
For those with less time to explore, the beaches are also accessible by trail heads connected to Highway #14. The tidal pools at Botanical Beach, just west of Port Renfrew, should be included as a must see for anyone visiting the area. Check for low tides which present the best viewing of this wonder of nature.
A great site for complete info and pictures of all the beaches and parks is found at the BC Parks Recreation Juan de Fuca Provincial Park site.
For bike rentals and tours check the following links: Cycle Treks, Cycle BC Rentals, and Sport Rent.
For the most serious of hikers you can reserve a date to hike the West Coast Trail. Limited numbers of hikers are allowed on the trail at one time and must pay a fee for the privilege of this 5-day adventure.
The route follows an old lifesaving trail established in the early 1900's which gave those sailors who ship wrecked and made shore on Vancouver Island's West Coast a chance to walk out to safety.
Excellent pictures of the trail can be viewed at VancouverIslandOutdoors.com, and good place for detailed info can be found at Victoria Club Tread.
The Vancouver Island is a golfer's paradise. World class courses that remain open year round offer endless challenges and enjoyment in breathtaking locales.
Local golfers are a spoiled bunch. Courses such as Victoria Golf Club, Royal Colwood Golf Club, Uplands Golf Club, Gorge Vale Golf Club, Olympic View Golf Club, Cordova Bay Golf Course and the newly opened Nicholas-designed Bear Mountain Golf Club are only a few of the links available on the lower Island.
Most of the private clubs do welcome visitors. If fishing and golf are two of your outdoor passions then let us put package a trip for you that combines a chance at catching your chinook salmon trophy and shooting your all time lowest round.. Good information about local courses with many direct links are found at Greater Victoria.com.
Orcas put on a spectacular show
Whale watching has become one of the most popular activity enjoyed by visitors to the southern Island.
Whales spotted regularly include 3 pods of southern resident killer whales (salmon hunters) numbering about 85 family members.
Local waters also see numerous visits by smaller pods of transient killer whales (sea mammal hunters), grey whales, a few humpback and minke whales.
The local resident killer whales are the most popular to watch as they are the most playful and entertaining and often put on an awesome show. It is almost as if they know they are being watched and do their part to entertain with leaps that clear the water or chase each other at top speed.
You may be lucky enough to watch the resident whales take a hooked salmon from an angler's line or a transient pod as they take a seal.
Race Rocks located close to Victoria is a haul out and feeding area for Stellar and California Sea Lions which often number into the hundreds. This area is often included as a must see on whale watching trips departing from either Victoria or Sooke. It is here that the best chance of seeing the transient killer whales hunt down and take a seal exists.
There are some great live web cams located on Race Rocks with close up views of the sea lions as well as underwater cams showing bottom life.
Three hour whale watching trips are offered during the whale watching season by a long time local operator. We will gladly help you set up a trip with him. Visit him online at Sooke Coastal Explorations.
The coastal waters of British Columbia offer some the best
There are many places to explore via kayak all around the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
boating (sailing and power) opportunities on the west coast of North America. Rugged untouched outer waters and beaches, beautiful and extensive coastal inlets, the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands located near Victoria are a mariners paradise and attract pleasure craft of every description from all parts of the world.
Calm, sheltered and scenic waters make it an ideal playground for sailors, kayakers and power cruisers. There are countless islands to explore and coastal island towns to visit.
Catch a small commuter ferry from Sidney for a day trip to Sidney Island and Sidney Spit Marine Park. Relax on one of the best and longest sandy beaches in the area or hike the trails which lead you through the forest and out to a field where hundreds of Fallow Deer graze.
Facilities here include docks, (summer months) moorage buoys, toilets and campsites. (tents only) Salt Spring Island (the largest of the Gulf Islands) is home to many well known artists. Ganges is the largest town of the island and is a great place to visit by boat or by car. Bare boat and skippered charters are available as are kayak rentals, tours and lessons.
Victoria hosts the largest offshore yacht racing event held in the Pacific Northwest. Every May hundreds of sailing enthusiasts gather in the Victoria Inner Harbour for the chance to mingle and compete with fellow mariners.
The Swiftsure International Yacht Race began back in 1930 when 4 boats entered the first race. Today the race draws up to 450 vessels from all over the world to this weekend event.
When you book a fishing trip on this May weekend you get the added bonus of having one of the best seats in the house to watch the yachts as they transit Juan De Fuca Straits.
The 2004 event is scheduled for May 29-31.
A tranquil beach makes an ideal place for a lunch break after a morning on the water
Kayaking info, tours and rental links:
Natural West Coast Adventures,
Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre,
Vancouver Island Canoe and Kayak Centre,
and Ocean River Sports.
For info on a 3-hour sailing tour departing from Victoria go to www.eco-correct.com.
For extended tours aboard a 80' motor sailer with excursions along the entire B.C. coast (including the Queen Charlotte Islands) check out Explore Charters.
If you prefer a houseboat vacation on one of the largest inland lakes on Vancouver Island you can book a boat with Vancouver Island Houseboats. They are located on Cowichan Lake about 1.5 hours north of Victoria.
Salmon Spawning (fall)
Goldstream Park is located just 15 minutes from downtown Victoria and every year it draws thousands of people to watch an annual spectacle of nature. From mid-October until the end of November salmon in the tens of thousands leave the ocean and return to the Goldstream estuary and then make their way upstream to spawn.
The park offers easily accessible riverside trails which allow for close up encounters with large pacific salmon as they complete their life cycle. At many points along the stream the salmon are right at your feet as the trails and river banks are one and the same.
Down at the river estuary their are dozens of bald eagles which gather to feast on the carcasses of the dead salmon. They perch in the trees and can be observed from a nature centre that has a powerful video camera set up to allow very close up views of these large birds of prey.
The nature centre also has exhibits explaining the life cycle of pacific salmon, the different salmon species and also the various birds found within the park. Also watch for the massive Cedar trees found along the park trails, some were young trees when Columbus discovered America in 1492.
Ample parking is located just off the Trans Canada Highway (#1) and adjacent the river and trails.
Bring a camera!!
More info on the park, trails and campsites can be found here at the BC Parks Recreation Goldstream Provincial Park site.
Ocean Shore Fishing (Salmon)
So you think hooking and landing a large chinook salmon on light tackle while fishing from a boat would be an ultimate challenge. Try landing that same fish from the rocks at Otter Point without the maneuverability a boat affords.
Otter Point is one of the popular shore casting spots where local and visiting anglers try their luck against the mighty pacific salmon. The tides of Juan De Fuca Strait draw migrating salmon in close to the beach where shore fishers can reach them with weighted casting lures.
The largest chinook salmon caught from the rocks at Otter Point in the past few years went 45 pounds. The angler who caught this fish needed the help of a fellow fisherman to land the big fish.
The story begins when the lucky angler decides to stop and try his luck when passing by the area while on a lunch break. He didn't have a landing net with him as he wasn't planning on doing any fishing. After hooking into the big fish and fighting it for some time it became apparent he wasn't going to be able to get the big salmon up onto the rocks. The water drops off quite quickly so getting into the water to hand gill the fish is not an option either.
As a last resort he managed to get the attention of a passing boat. That fisherman beached his small boat just west of the Otter Point rocks, grabbed his landing net and scrambled up the rocks to where the he could help land the big fish.
The team effort resulted in the 45 pound chinook finally being successfully landed.
A good casting rod and reel fully loaded with 12 to 15 pound test line, a good landing net, a selection of lead casting lures and a tidal water fishing licence is all that is needed to enjoy a day fishing from Otter Point. Wearing a life jacket is a good idea as the rocks can be slippery close to the waters edge and the tides that bring the salmon here are very strong at times. (children should always wear a life jacket when near the water).
The rocks and Provincial Park at Otter Point are easily reached from highway 14# about 6 miles west of Sooke.
The summer sea and wind conditions in the Sooke area offer a reliable opportunity for a day combining morning salmon fishing and late afternoon or early evening windsurfing.
Catching a wave at the Jordan River Break
During the summer months a typical day in Juan De Fuca Straits begins with flat calm seas which persist all morning. In the early afternoon as daytime temperatures peak the thermal winds begin to build from the SW, often reaching 25 to 30 knots. These strong afternoon and evening winds present a challenge and a lot of fun to the experienced windsurfer.
Gordon's Beach and Tugwell Creek are popular windsurfing spots because there is public access to the beaches and the afternoon winds arrive here before any other place within Juan De Fuca Straits. Both are found after a 6 mile drive west of Sooke and about 1 mile from the fishing hot spot at Otter Point.
Ocean water temperatures don't change much here from the 9`C (50`F) norm, so a wet suit is a necessity.
Book a couple of mornings fishing with us and enjoy the challenge of both landing a 30 pound salmon on light tackle and then later riding a board propelled by a 30 knot ocean breeze, all on the same day!
The winter months are when frequent offshore storms send large ocean swells crashing onshore and where the surfing community waits to ride them. Jordan River and Sombrio Beach are the 2 favorite spots where you will find the right conditions and waves for surfing.
Jordon River is a small community about 33 KM (20 miles)west of Sooke and Sombrio Beach is another 24 KM (15 miles) west of Jordon River. A popular site with up to date info is located here at www.bigwavedave.ca.
The Pacific Northwest is well known as one of the best places on the planet to scuba dive and explore the ocean depths. Colorful and diverse sea life, excellent underwater visibility, sunken artificial reefs and hundreds of wrecks attract divers here from every corner of the world.
Vancouver Island is smack in the centre of what is commonly known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific". Many sailing ships and modern era vessels have been lost over the years and lay on the bottom and are accessible to most competent divers.
More recently many of the Canadian Navies last generation of outdated destroyers were stripped of all hazards and contaminants, prepped for easy accessibilty to inside compartments for divers and then sunk in strategic local diving areas which offer safe conditions to dive these artificial reefs.
The HMCS Mackenzie was sunk just off the town of Sidney. Check out the Artificial Reef Society of BC site for more info.
Other popular local dive sites and info can be found on VancouverIsland.com's diving page
British Columbia's wilderness areas are known world wide by camping enthusiasts. Provincial and private campsites offer endless camping possibilities in almost every corner of the Province.
For those who really enjoy getting away and from it all and finding their own little paradise away from home it gets now better than Vancouver Island. Countless inland fresh water lakes, streams and thousands of miles of ocean coastline are waiting to be explored by visiting outdoor enthusiasts.
Almost all the prime saltwater and fresh water fishing areas are assessable by roads and campsites are located close to the action.
All you need is a good map and some free time to enjoy the camping holiday of a lifetime.
Our vessels are located at Sooke Harbour Marina which conveniently has a RV campsite on site and offers full hookups. If you rent a RV from Alldrive Canada Inc you can receive a discount voucher for a 15% discount off our regular charter prices!
You will find Alldrive Canada Inc. on-line at www.alldrive.com.
The Sooke Harbour House Restaurant
A driftwood themed parking lot
Enjoying local cousine is one of the most pleasurable experiences when you travel to new destinations or revisit your favorite retreats.
Vancouver Island is blessed with an abundance of fresh local produce, herbs, local farm raised meats which even includes ostrich, the freshest and most flavourful seafoods with pacific salmon and shellfish being a specialty and our own Vancouver Island and B.C. wines. The food, the wines and the chefs who prepare your gourmet meals have been recognized around the world with many top culinary awards.
Sooke is home to one of the top recognized restaurants and hotels in the world.
The Sooke Harbour House Hotel is world renowned for both its unique gourmet food made from locally produced organic ingredients and its unmatched romantic ambience. The hotel has also won top awards for its extensive wine selection (Wine Spectator), and goes the extra mile with fresh greens, herbs and edible flowers it grows in the beautiful gardens surrounding the oceanfront property.
The Sooke Harbour House Hotel also features locally made works of art of every description through out the hotels, rooms, hallways, common areas and the outside grounds. Most of this artwork is for sale and your favorite piece can be purchased.
Another longtime favorite Sooke restaurant is Mom's Cafe. This popular local diner has been serving up generous portions of tasty home cooked fare for decades. When you dine at "Mom's" you will feel that time has stood still. Milk shakes are still served in the old style aluminum mixing machine containers.
They still make their own pies in their adjacent bakery and they serve a well known local favorite called "Bluenose Seafood Chowder". A seafood chowder which is served in a bread bowl and it will remind you what a seafood chowder should taste like.
A great place to fill up after a day of fishing or for a hearty breakfast to give you the energy to fight the big one..
A short 45 minute drive from Sooke to downtown Victoria puts you in the middle of a shopper's heaven. The city's layout encourages you to stroll, explore and browse through the many downtown shops, markets and alleys. In downtown Victoria you will find everything from antiques, local crafts and art, native art and jewellery, specialty shops of every description and souvenirs.
Along Government Street you will find shops selling chocolates, teas, coffees, bone china from England, woolens, tartans from Scotland, Irish Lace, Christmas decorations and local souvenirs. Turn up Fort Street for blocks of antique shops featuring rare china, silver, coins, toys, furniture and much more. Fort Street is also known as Antique Row.
At Fisgard & Government Streets is the entrance to Canada's oldest Chinatown. Enter through the Gate of Harmonious Interest for shops featuring art, curios, home furnishings and Asian wares and Chinese foods. Find north America's narrowest street at Fan Tan Alley. Once a notorious place with many opium dens and gambling houses, Fan Tan Alley is now lined with shops and restaurants.
Other places of interest include Trounce Alley, Bastion Square and Market Square all located downtown and an easy walk will get you to see all of them.
For those who are restricted in the distance they are able to walk there are many Kabuki cabs available downtown and local buses offer great service downtown and out to the surrounding areas. You can even catch a harbour ferry from numerous pickup docks and either transit to the opposite shore of the harbour or take a complete harbour tour.
And don't forget to take in very popular high tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, which is located on the harbour downtown.