Just 38 kilometers north of British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria, the district municipality of Sooke rests quietly in splendor. Offering the perfect blend of a relaxing getaway, an ocean adventure, and rugged vistas, Sooke presents a distinct personality from her larger, more famous neighbor.
Once you’ve gone to Sooke, leaving her is not that simple anymore, and you’re certainly never going to forget her. As former Torontonian Bob Iles (captain and wildlife tour guide) explains, he travelled to Sooke for a fishing vacation and never left. Once he arrived, he knew he was home.
From Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on BC Ferries, to the pristine vistas on the drive, to the gem that is Sooke, this became a labour of love.
John and I arrived 30 minutes early for the reservation and were onboard the Coastal Celebration at precisely 11:00 a.m. Whether you’re a local or tourist, the BC Ferries experience is a must. The Pacific Buffet lunch wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end restaurant, offering seafood, beef and vegetarian main courses, along with a dessert bar too tempting to pass up. It’s also not uncommon to spot killer whale pods and other wildlife while eating your meal.
Fun Fact: Did you know that BC Ferries is one of the largest ferry operators in the world, providing year-round vehicle and passenger service on 25 routes to 47 terminals, with a fleet of 35?
Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina
Once arriving at the Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina, John and I were able to see the beautiful suite. The room was a penthouse overlooking the 114-slip marina. Featuring two decks, a propane barbecue, a dream kitchen and his and hers bathrooms, the suite was well-appointed. From the living room, a panoramic view showed off the scenery. Just steps away at the marina were crabs, a large starfish, and a seal. (What a perfect oceanside getaway for fishing, whale watching or outdoor adventuring!)
John and I were also treated to a complimentary basket with gourmet cheeses, bread and a good bottle of red wine. It was hard not to feel right at home on the patio overlooking the boat launch, beaches, and the beautiful sunset.
John and I had a morning coffee fix at Serious Coffee in the village before kayaking. Also offering tea and an assortment of food, the friendly staff was welcoming and offered two Americanos, which tasted great and helped kicked start the day.
There is a first time for everything and on Monday, for me, it was kayaking. Considering someone wasn’t exactly an Olympic swimmer there was a sliver (or maybe a thick wedge) of doubt that maybe someone wouldn’t agree to participate in this endeavor. I won’t give away names here but her first name is Christine.
Before venturing out, Allen, the owner and instructor from West Coast Outdoor Adventure, reassured me by telling stories of people who have never kayaked before, then tried it for the first time and enjoyed it.
He then provided John and I with a rental, foot-powered Hobie kayak for two. It was easy to use, allowing John to take photos. Of the photos taken was an eagle perched on a pole, holding still long enough for a photo. Shortly after leaving the marina a seal popped its head out and kept doing so at different stages of the self-guided tour of the coastline. John and I also stopped for geese swimming across the path. The water was calm and in some areas with low tide, the kayak was stuck in long grass once or twice but using the paddle easily freed it.
Kayaking for the first time was enjoyable and I look forward to trying it again.
Wildlife Boat Tour
As mentioned, Bob was the tour guide, bringing at least 18 years of fishing experience and knowledge of Sooke waters, which is crucial for year-round fishing. The harbour tour was 90 minutes on Bob’s craft, and it sported new twin Suzuki engines. Even at a good speed, the engines were quiet enough to imagine sneaking up on the fish with a net in hand.
Next up was a tour of the harbour. From getting up close to the T’Sou-ke Nation oyster farm for some great snapshots, to some beautiful homes that were carved out of the mountainside, there were a lot of interesting things to see.
John and I learned how oysters are farmed, spotted sea lions basking in the sun, and learned about salmon and the ecosystem. Bob also mentioned how a seal recently gave birth right on the marina.
Sooke Brewing Company
After the boat tour, John and I checked out the local brewery, sampling some of their brews. With plenty of room to enjoy a social evening, Sooke Brewing Company owners have lived in Sooke for generations.
Stickleback Eatery is located on picturesque Cooper’s Cove. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an extensive patio built on the water, owner Scott Taylor knew it wasn’t enough. So, he and his wife, Leah, hired Justin, the best chef he could find. They wanted a chef that could think outside the box and create meals on demand and that’s exactly the kind of chef they have now.
John and I ordered cauliflower bites and seafood appetizers, which were delicious. For the main course, I had fish and chips and John had the salmon.
Scott explained that Stickleback was named after a fish to honour the T’Sou-ke First Nation Territories. In their native tongue, Sooke means Stickleback. His passion for food was evident.
The atmosphere was memorable, offering a cozy environment and excellent menu at affordable prices.
Sooke Potholes Regional Park
As John and I began the one-hour hike in Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, the trail led high above the rushing waters of the Sooke River. The vista was pristine, and waterfalls and enticing pools lulled the senses into a time warp, rendering everything else irrelevant. The view from the top was breathtaking.
Hiking and running are popular and accessible to the Galloping Goose trail, popular with visitors and loved by the locals year-round. The potholes are unique geological formations – deep pools in the river rock that offer some of the best freshwater swimming in the region.
The Sooke River is the second largest on southern Vancouver Island and is home to a salmon run every fall.
Sooke is a welcoming ocean getaway from your daily grind. Spend it fishing, hiking or boating and you’ll find yourself hooked like John and me.
With notes from John Moe