Along the route, there are stunning ocean vistas, deep green forests, pristine lakes, and majestic mountains. In the heart of all this natural beauty there are cheerful coffee shops, and excellent local restaurants and resorts.
We will collect your party from any of the communities on the east side of Vancouver Island, or from either Vancouver or Victoria airport, so you can spend a few days in Victoria before you go. This is a good opportunity to make sure you have all the necessary adventure gear such as rainwear and good shoes (a must for the serious adventurer!).
Victoria to Port Renfrew
The first leg of the Pacific Marine Circle Route heads towards the town of Sooke, approximately 45 minutes from Victoria. Watch the hustle and bustle of the city fall away as we wend our way along the scenic and winding road that leads to the quaint and picturesque community of Sooke. If you are a bird watcher, Whiffen Spit offers a plethora of bird species that call this area home. Sooke also offers the aptly named Sooke Potholes, a series of cool deep pools created by moving water and a favourite local swimming hole.
Jordan River at Sombrio Beach near Sooke, offers true west coast surfing, for those so inclined. First up after Sooke is French Beach, accessible on a short, well-maintained trail, allowing easy access to this beautiful spot. China Beach, a little further along, and a slightly longer walk (about ten minutes), offers much to explore and enjoy and is the southern trail head for the 47 km (29.2 miles) Juan de Fuca Trail, which terminates in Port Renfrew, our next port of call. For those keen to work up more of an appetite, but not wanting a wilderness trek, Miracle Beach is about a half hour walk through lush forest, and even offers a suspension bridge (unfortunately, this one is not wheelchair accessible).
After a bit of exercise, a delightful lunch can be found at the popular Shirley Delicious, in the tiny town of Shirley, located 20 minutes from Sooke. Take in the historic Sheringham Lighthouse, constructed in 1911, which can be reached via a short woodland trail. About 20 minutes outside of Port Renfrew is the majestic Avatar Grove, where ancient west coast forest still thrives, the trees truly awesome to behold. Take a pleasant lakeside walk to see the whimsical natural “bonsai” tree at Fairy Lake before heading on to Port Renfrew, a delicious dinner at the Port Renfrew Pub, and a well-earned rest at the Seaside Cottages.
Port Renfrew is home to the fascinating Botanical Beach in the newly created Juan de Fuca Park, which is home to 100s of plants and animals. The trail is a three-km (1.8 mile) loop, and the beach itself is a tide-poolers dream, a must see for curious kids and adults alike. This beautiful natural wonder needs some time set aside!
Port Renfrew to the Cowichan Valley
Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, head out on the old logging road (newly paved!). As recently as 1955, Port Renfrew was a logging camp only accessible by boat or by the logging train. This is true wilderness country, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready for deer, elk, black bears, eagles, or for the lucky few or very keen eyed, cougars! Take in the beautiful waterfalls en route and rest up for your next adventure.
Along this road, stop at the Cowichan Valley Trail, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail, a relatively flat and easy walk or cycle. For something more challenging take the Cowichan River Footpath in Cowichan River Provincial Park, which starts and ends at Skutz Falls, a popular summertime swimming hole. More information about these trails can be found on the TrailsBC website.
The town of Lake Cowichan, a bustling metropolis compared to Port Renfrew, offers restaurants, coffee shops, and the lakeshore park offers a pleasant opportunity to stretch your legs. Other activities in this area include world class mountain biking, the Kinsol Trestle, the Duncan Farmers’ Market, and a variety of wineries, distilleries, and breweries that offer tastings and tours.
Alternate Route: Port Renfrew to Bamfield
Please note this route is seasonally dependant.
Bamfield, bordering Pacific Rim National Park offers a slice of West Coast life. Set sail on the M.V. Lady Rose, or the M.V. Frances Barkley through the splendid scenery of Barkley Sound. Along the way, all manner of wildlife can be observed on land and sea. Whales, otters, seals, eagles, black bears, and cougars all call this area home. Great fishing is available here.
Brady’s Beach epitomizes the wild west coast, with gnarled, windswept trees, craggy black rock, sandy beaches, and on warm summer nights, bioluminescence that makes a swim a must for the more adventurous (although the water is cold—beach fires permitted!).
The Pachena Point Lighthouse, located about 13 kms (8.1 miles) from Bamfield is a recognized federal heritage building of Canada. Completed in 1907, and undergoing an extensive restoration in 2015, the 20 m (66 ft.) tower has saved lives for over 100 years. Hundreds of ships were wrecked here prior to the building of the lighthouse. The name “Pachena” means “foam on the rocks,” an anglicized version of the First Nations Pachdeedaht Tribe, and an appropriate description of the tempestuous seas. Tread the trail shipwrecked sailors would have taken seeking safety. This historic wooden lighthouse is worth the walk.
It’s time to head back to Victoria, but more adventure can be had on the way. Go bungee jumping at Wild Play Element Park, or stop at the world famous Chemainus Murals, the historic mining town of Ladysmith, or the Adrenaline Zip Line.