Sooke to Port Renfrew,Vancouver Island Pacific Marine Trail

25 Jun


To begin our exploration of the south west corner of Vancouver Island we spent our week end at Pedder Bay Marina. Newly set out this RV park provides full service on nice spaced sites. A short trail links to the  Galloping Goose trail for hikers and cyclists which starts in Esquimalt near Victoria travels west to Sooke then north along the Sooke river. Our bikes had not been in use for a very long time so we set off with great determination to cycle as far as we felt we might like to go.

Our first hurdle was not far from our site. We followed the way marker toward the Galloping Goose Trail to discover it led into woodland with a rough steep downhill slope to a small creek bridge. This had a deep step to get on and off it, even a keen mountain cyclist would have been hard pressed on this terrain. We returned to haRVey and made a cup of tea while we recovered!

Not to be deterred next morning we set off to hike the same trail, once over the bridge we turned left and immediately found the path very overgrown. We battled our way through for a short distance then gave up once more, returning to the bridge. We spotted a trail which led in the opposite direction along the river, as it looked in reasonable condition at that point we thought we could loose nothing by exploring it further. After a rough climb the trail became easy, pleasant walking with glimpses across to our camp site, the marina and the mouth of the river. We eventually came to the buildings of the Lester B Pearson College, the surroundings were deserted but a sign advised visitors were welcome to walk around but not enter the buildings. We wandered to the small boat dock, around the buildings there and came upon a whale… well the skeleton of one anyway!


The story of this huge marine mammals demise was displayed on the walls alongside. It had been washed up on a local beach allowing the university students to preserve its bones.

Monday we set off towards Sooke along the Pacific Marine Circle route. We now understand this route to be a link between marine locations rather than a waterside vista road as its name implied to us. Most of the waters edge is sheltered from view by several feet of trees or has dwellings on it. Sooke is the major town along this side of the Island and we stopped to buy groceries before we leapt into the lesser populated section. We have found generally that the island is more suited to smaller vehicles than our own and parking haRVey has been a challenge if a large store car park is not available. Some of the smaller locations we have just not visited as we could not have parked or turned around there.

The Provincial Park at French Beach was our choice for campground, our only choice actually. Whilst a little dark under the trees we had a nice sized spot to park in and an easy walk down to the beach.


We take very little persuading to spend time poking about on a beach, picking up stones and shells to examine and watching the tide roll in.When the sun is shining it all looks so pretty but don’t be fooled by the blue sky into thinking it was warm I was wearing two fleece while beachcombing.






After a quiet and peaceful night away from any traffic noise what so ever we spent another day walking the beach this time to the right of the access path where low tide had exposed huge boulders just waiting to be investigated.









Our amateur geology skills enabled us to determine these boulders were a mix of granite and sedimentary rock.

Mostly grey or black there were some putty green coloured ones too. Our geology vocabulary is still a little limited!




It is hard to get a scale from these pictures but the rock above was more than my waist height. The one to the right probably measured four feet across.





From French Beach we had thought we would hop to the next Provincial Beach Park at China Beach but while emptying our tanks Robert chatted to another camper who advised that the small site at Jordan River was very nice and right by the water. Only 5 minutes down the road we passed through Jordan River, spotting the site we had been recommended to. We drove on to China Beach, surveyed the site there and opted to return to Jordan River, it certainly was a nice spot.


The sites were dry camping on rough gravel but I could forgive all that for the million dollar view across the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The sun was shining and I only needed one fleece today, a distinct improvement.

While sitting out for a spot of sun and a cup of tea, newcomers set up alongside us. A friendly welcome was exchanged and soon we were all chatting. Harry and Paula were travelling with Harry’s sister Leona and her husband John in separate pick up campers. From Campbell River we discovered they were true Islanders born and bred here.


John is an accomplished Backgammon player who spent a deal of time teaching Robert and I the correct way to play. We have been playing our own game rules for about 2 years now. Robert almost always beats me. After being tutored by John I won. I like the proper rules best!

We spent a happy evening around the camp fire exchanging travellers tales and hearing stories from their younger days when the Island was their playground. As we said good night around 10pm there was still a glimmer of light in the sky, this was the longest day of the year.

P1280395Next morning I woke early, too early, just as the day was getting light. Never the less I was awake so got up. The dawn broke over the water giving me a beautiful prize for my early rise.

It wasn’t long before the fog came down covering the sun for the next several hours.

I sat and watched the tide creeping out over the stony beach. A kelp bed just off shore began to show through the water and as I watched I had my second reward for my early awakening. I spotted two sea otters fishing in the kelp bed.

A while later I related my sighting to Robert when he finally got up. The otters were still there, working their way left to right and back across the kelp beds. They seemed to be having a wonderful feast constantly finding more fish to consume for their breakfast.

It would have been easy to sit all day and do nothing but watch the water. We decided we have been lazy enough recently, we would move on to Port Renfrew to visit the beaches there which are well known for their tide pools. We had thought to stop along the road but no suitable places were available to us so at around 1pm we pulled into the parking area at Botanical Beach.





We followed the 2 mile loop trail from the car park stopping at Botany Bay for our first glimpse of the rocks and tide pools.

The rocks here are diagonal shale layers (which looked to us like slate)and sandstone, tons of flat grey stones and grey sand form the upper beach the lower beach is very rocky with many many depressions for water to gather in as the tide recedes.

We were so lucky to have another lovely day for this visit but we wished we had arrived sooner as the tide was well in covering lots of the pool area. Those which were left still above the tide were teaming with life and crystal clear.




We continued along the trail through old growth woodland where  twisted trunks and branches  made an interesting tunnel over the sometimes very muddy path.


Arriving at Botanical Beach it was obvious we had only a short while before the tide would be right in and covering the rock pools completely.


Here more sandstone was exposed on the surface again with many depressions for the water to gather. Look carefully in this picture and you can see the bottom of the pool, that is not a reflection.

The pools have many creatures and I spotted red and hermit crabs, some small fishes , sea anemone lots of mussels and chiton (say Kite –on) which we had only seen dead on the beach before! They have to be the best rock pools ever – such a shame the tide was almost in, I wanted to stay and play longer.






With only one small camp ground in Port Renfrew we were going to drive on a few miles to Fairy Lake recreational site. It was not as far as we had thought and the sites were rather small so we decided to keep going to Lizard Lake about another 10 miles on where the Provincial Park map said there were 26 vehicle accessible sites.

The road from Port Renfrew is still shown on many maps and described in tourist booklets as being a gravel road. It had taken some detective work on our part to discover it was paved 2 years ago. It seems that Provincial recreational information is a little out of date on other things too as on arriving at Lizard Lake we found three campers parked across a gated entrance. It looked closed! Our option now was to continue another 22 miles to Lake Cowichan and the Provincial park at Honeymoon Bay or return to Fairy Lake and its small sites. Fortunately we had time left in the day to drive on. Checking in at the Provincial Park we questioned them about Lizard Lake to be told it has been a tent only site for two years. I think someone needs to look at updating the information being given out to visitors!

Friday we arrived back on the east coast of the Island to stay at Osborne Bay in Crofton. One of the Salt Spring Ferry terminals is located here, we thought we could walk on to the ferry then catch a bus the other end to take us to Ganges the main town on Salt Spring. This was to be our excursion on Saturday.

We had just got settled on our site when the grey skies opened into rain, this continued, became heavier, resulting in an extremely wet night. Saturday morning arrived very damp and chilly. Internet only being available at the main office Robert braved the conditions to check the times the buses were available. This is the sort of time we realise we should sometimes do more research. Yes, there was a bus…but…. it did not arrive at the ferry terminal until just after 1pm and left Ganges again before 4pm. Not really enough time to make a visit worthwhile especially with such a damp nasty day. We gave up on our trip.

In need of exercise we took a short walk out around the small hamlet of Crofton along the board walk from the camp ground. Maybe this picture will describe better what a yuk sort of day it was!


At this time the wind was blowing up another storm but once that passed through around tea time the skies began to clear and the day eventually ended with some sunshine. Thankfully the better weather was still with us Sunday enabling further exploration around the residential area of Crofton where some beautiful new properties are being constructed with ocean views and many of the older ones are undergoing renovations. We walked back along the same board walk as on the previous day with conditions so different …


…… what a difference the sunshine makes!

Tomorrow (Monday 25th) we will travel to Parksville for our last camp ground before we say good bye to haRVey. Lots of packing and sorting to be completed in this next week. We will have one final week in a rental property in West Vancouver before we fly home to England on 9th July.


One Response to “Sooke to Port Renfrew,Vancouver Island Pacific Marine Trail”

  1. lizstaats June 25, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    I know that leaving this adventure you two have been on for the last couple of years will be bittersweet, but you will now have another adventure to seek out.

    Can’t wait to visit with you both in September.

    And I wish I knew you were backgammon players, one of my favorite games to play. So Robert has his own rules??? LOL!!!!

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