Vancouver Island off the west coast of British Columbia is the epitome of Canada’s rugged and unspoiled beauty. Old-growth forests, crashing surf, hiking trails, and plenty of space to rejuvenate while staring out to sea are easy to come by. At almost 300 miles long and 62 miles wide, there are a plethora of ways to spend the perfect weekend on Vancouver Island!
I am completely passionate about Vancouver Island, having spent 15 summers with my family camping in the rainforest and exploring its many hidden corners. Trees that are hundreds of years old, pristine glistening waters, endless beachcombing, fresh salmon delights, glowing campfires (as long as there was no campfire ban), surprise whale sightings, and starry nights are some of the memories that keep me returning to this part of Canada. Each time I take a BC Ferry to get to Vancouver Island, I am as excited as I was the very first time. There is always an adventure and something new to discover waiting for you on Vancouver Island.
If you love cities, Victoria, which is the capital of British Columbia, is a destination where culture, nature, and a burgeoning foodie scene are sure to please. For this perfect weekend, we are heading a 45-minute drive west of Victoria to the quaint seaside town of Sooke. Sooke’s town motto, “Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea,” describes this stunning destination. Sooke, with a population of just over 10,000, offers rustic experiences that will honor your outdoorsy, back-to-nature streak. You just can’t go wrong with old-growth forests, the sparkling Juan de Fuca Strait, and seemingly countless beaches to explore. Organic, locally sourced food and potential whale sightings are also on the agenda!
Perhaps the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have uncovered one of Canada’s most perfect locations. Here’s what you need to know to craft a perfect Vancouver Island weekend, too.
Getting To Vancouver Island
We are going to arrive in Victoria as it is close to Sooke. There are multiple ways to get to Victoria, which is on Vancouver Island. Victoria has an international airport and there are also seaplanes from both Seattle and Vancouver that land directly in the Inner Harbour of Victoria.
Ferries are a popular way to arrive on Vancouver Island. Listed below are ferry routes from both the U.S. and Canada.
Pro Tips For Taking A Ferry
- Make a reservation online.
- Be sure to arrive at the ferry terminal 60 to 90 minutes prior to sailing time.
- If coming from the U.S., bring the appropriate identification documents for border crossing.
Ferry Routes From The U.S.
From Port Angeles, Washington
The Coho Ferry, a daily vehicle and passenger ferry, crosses the Juan de Fuca Strait in 90 minutes. The Coho Ferry arrives at the Inner Harbour in downtown Victoria.
From Seattle, Washington
Foot passengers only: The Victoria Clipper, a high-speed catamaran, sails between Pier 69 in downtown Seattle and the Inner Harbour of downtown Victoria. Sailing takes two hours and 45 minutes.
From Anacortes/ San Juan Islands, Washington
The Washington State Department of Transportation has a daily ferry sailing between the Anacortes/ San Juan Islands and Sidney, British Columbia. The crossing takes approximately two hours and 45 minutes. Sidney is a 30-minute drive along Hwy 17 to the city of Victoria. This service is not available during the winter months.
Ferry Routes From Canada
From Tsawwassen, British Columbia
The Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal is a 45-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. The BC Ferry, a vehicle and passenger ferry, regularly sails the 90-minute route to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal on Vancouver Island. This terminal is a 60-minute drive to Sooke.
Things To Do In Sooke On Vancouver Island
This perfect weekend is about slowing down and connecting with the natural world, and with that in mind, I suggest Sooke as your home base.
Go Whale Watching In Sooke On Vancouver Island
Seeing whales in their natural habitat is an absolute highlight for a nature lover. Three orca pods live off the coast in the waters near Sooke. There are also humpback, minke, gray, and fin whales and a host of other marine life to be seen.
Take an unforgettable three-hour whale-watching tour from Sooke.
Go Swimming At Sooke Potholes Regional Park On Vancouver Island
Come and take a dip in the Sooke River! The aqua-green, naturally formed rock pools in Sooke Potholes Regional Park are easily accessible. This is a very popular destination in the summer, so you might want to venture out early along the trail through the old-growth forest past the cascading waterfalls. The pools and swimming areas span a length of three miles. Stop at whichever pothole suits your fancy and slip into the clear, clean, cold, and refreshing water. It’s the ultimate way to cool off on a hot summer day.
Location: From Hwy 14, follow Sooke River Road for three miles to access the park. Parking: The closest parking lots cost just over $2 USD per day.
Taste Handcrafted Mead At Tugwell Creek Honey Farm And Meadery
Have you ever tasted mead (honey wine)? Without bees, there is no mead as mead is made from honey. Bob Liptrot’s passion for bees and beekeeping led to the opening of the first meadery in Western Canada in 2003. Pop by Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery for a look at the beehives and savor award-winning meads in the tasting room.
Stroll The Marine Boardwalk And Pier In Sooke
Ed Macgregor Park in downtown Sooke is a landscaped public garden with walking trails, boardwalks, and access to a public pier. The pier is the perfect place to watch locals fishing and enjoy glorious views of Washington State’s Olympic Mountains.
Discover Intertidal Life At Vancouver Island’s East Sooke Regional Park
East Sooke Regional Park has hiking trails for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. If you are looking for stunning coastal scenery with outstanding views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Washington State’s Olympic Mountains, plan to spend some time in this park! My top choice is to pack a picnic lunch and head straight to Aylard Farm and spend a few hours beachcombing and relaxing.
While Away Some Time At Sandcut Beach On Vancouver Island
Sandcut Beach is a 30-minute drive west of Sooke on Highway 14 in Jordan River Regional Park. Follow the wooded trail, just a short 15-minute walk from the parking lot, to arrive at the two-mile-long beach. The 10- to 15-foot waterfall cascading onto the pebbled beach is a highlight. Bring a picnic, watch for whales offshore, and listen to the soothing sound of the pebbles rolling in the waves. Note that there are quite a few stairs to climb down as you approach Sandcut Beach.
Pro Tip: On the way, stop in the town of Shirley at Shirley Delicious for coffee and a treat.
Eating On Vancouver Island
Did someone say fresh local ingredients? Eating on Vancouver Island is synonymous with creative menus bursting with excellent local produce. Fresh seafood, fruits and berries, vegetables, and even kiwi are grown on the island. Freshly foraged mushrooms and nutrient-rich seaweed are not uncommon stars on local menus, either.
Sooke Harbour House
Sooke Harbour House has been leading the food scene in this area of Vancouver Island for years. Its commitment to using local ingredients and produce from their organic garden leads to ingenious creations on a menu that is constantly evolving.
At Wild Mountain, West Coast cuisine is locally and organically sourced and the menu reflects both the harvest and the season. Reserve a table at Wild Mountain, which is just west of Sooke.
Smokin’ Tuna Cafe
On the waterfront, the Smokin’ Tuna Cafe comes highly recommended. It’s known for great views and fresh local food!
West Coast Grill
Fresh seafood and local ingredients mean a delightful meal at the West Coast Grill.
Where To Stay In Sooke, Vancouver Island
Sooke Harbour House
Sooke Harbour House Resort Hotel, which is in an old house, is a luxury oceanside destination. The setting is beautiful with the ocean and the gardens. Be sure to request a room with an ocean view and enjoy a meal in the renowned Sooke Harbour House restaurant mentioned above.
Point No Point Resort
If you are looking for a romantic getaway or to make this the most perfect back-to-nature weekend, Point No Point Resort might be just the place for you. It is situated a 25-minute drive west of Sooke. Choose from one of 25 rustic and delightful cabins. Settle in to enjoy the hot tubs, crashing surf, and nearby beaches. You might just never leave!
Set aside the hustle and bustle of your normal daily life and soak up the beauty of this perfect weekend. At the end of the weekend, the relaxed gait in your step and the twinkle in your eye will be telltale signs that your back-to-nature time on Vancouver Island was good for the soul.