Western Living Magazine
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Sure, it’s just a short drive west of Victoria, but Sooke manages to seem like a wild excursion all the same.
Let’s get this straight—you’re not here for culture; you’re here to leave all that in the rear-view mirror. So, first things first: stock up. If you’re coming from the Swartz Bay ferry, hit up Four Quarters Meats in Sidney for excellent sausages, bacon and can’t-get-elsewhere stuff like their Lemon Drop or killer salamis. For the wine-minded, stop at Church and State, about 20 minutes south—pick up the Signature Series Trebella and the Cabernet Franc if you can get them. For the beerhound, do a tasting and grab your Young Lions IPA to-go at Victoria’s Hoyne Brewing.
Once you’ve secured other, less essential groceries, head to one of the two-dozen private cabins at Point No Point in Sooke. Sited on a bluff above a mile of private beach, the cabins come complete with kitchens, fireplaces, private hot tubs and very audible surf. On this first evening, you’ll also enjoy the welcome culture shock of what Point No Point doesn’t have, thanks to its stubborn grasp on its 1950s roots: no phones, no TVs and no wifi in your rooms. And, correct: no cell service, either. Thus, the selection of cribbage boards and other games on offer. Walk to the beach to work up an appetite and remember that there is life beyond streaming video.
This is the great outdoors, people. Not only is your cabin a pinecone’s throw from the beach, you are also close to some of the best coastal hiking in Canada. Drive 15 minutes to the Mystic Beach trailhead, part of the 47-kilometre Juan de Fuca Trail. The hike to the surf takes less than an hour via the forest trail, crossing a suspension bridge along the way. If the tide is out, you can treat yourself to a walk through the rock arch, a ride on the rope swing and (if it’s warm enough or you’re feeling just that happy) a skinny-dip in the waterfall. Those that prefer to roll can bike the Galloping Goose Trail for as long as your quads can stand it—but be aware that, if you head north out of Sooke seeking the “ghost town” of Leechtown, there’s not really much to see (that’s ghosts for you), and that the sword ferns and cedars there look pretty much the same as they do outside your cabin.
Culture (if you must!) can be had at the 11-day Sooke Fine Arts Show, which runs from July 22 to August 1 and features hundreds of works by Vancouver Island sculptors, painters, photographers and jewellers. Past prizewinners include Vincent Fe’s steampunk teapot, Jonathan Kacki’s bike-wheel photography and Nicole Sleeth’s arresting, cigarette-smoking nude. You can also absorb your fill of local history at the Sooke Region Museum, featuring photography, clothing and artifacts dating back as far as the 18th century.
For dinner, head to Wild Mountain, which is not only the best in Sooke (especially with the iconic Sooke Harbour House still under renovation), it could easily take the podium for the best in B.C. Oliver Kienast and Brooke Fader are straight out of central casting for passionate, talented chefs who use farm-to-table as an ethos, not a catchphrase. There’s a new wood-fired pizza oven if you want more casual, but the daily menu always offers a masterclass in what Sooke is all about.
You’ve had your morning soak in the hot tub. You’re almost awake. What about coffee? Get it organic and locally roasted at the West Coast Grill along with your chicken and waffles or a West Coast benny. Caloried up, you’re ready for your last splash. Summer in Sooke means the Potholes. That’s not a pub, nor a road hazard—the Potholes are a series of swimming holes carved into the bedrock of the Sooke River by glacier-deposited boulders… and, in more plain terms, they’re a hoot. Clear, clean and not-too-cold water will give you a last dose of West Coast wilderness to set you up for the trip home.
MORE STAYCATIONS: 21 Hidden Places to Hike, Bike, Paddle and Chill in Your Own Backyard