I believe a day trip is a gift you give yourself. Choose to go alone or add your near and dear. You don't have to take the kids out of school or time off work, nope, it's just about taking a day, discovering something different and putting Victoria in the rear view mirror. It doesn't matter if you live here or are visiting, go on, have a play day and get lost!
To truly understand the west coast you just need to drive west from Victoria to Sooke. Along the way, enjoy historic sites, beautiful gardens, beaches, mountains, trails, valleys, huge trees, lakes and streams. And yes, they're waiting to be discovered by you. Spend the entire day at the beach or fishing and swimming in a freshwater lake. Hike through ancient rainforests or step back into time into a 150 year old lighthouse. Design your own playday by making a couple of choices below.
Some spots are accessible for those with mobility issues, many are dog friendly, and many are not. Please always check their website for updates. There are some spots where you'll have amenities and others don’t. Please ensure you carry a leash in your vehicle and bags for proper pickup and disposal. Do not under any circumstances take a pet if you intend to leave them in the car. Forge ahead with the clan and have fun.
Picnics are king on road trips and we always pack a cooler because it’s easier, cheaper and way more fun to just go with the flow. A grocery store, bakery, farmers markets and road stands make it easy to throw the essentials together. Always have on hand the following: plenty of water, towels, a change of clothes and a bathing suit.
You’ll have a chance to explore historic Fort Rodd Hill and 150 Year Old Fisgard's Lighthouse both of which are accessible and in the same location. Enjoy the incredible views, marine traffic and wildlife while you learn about what it must have been like in years gone by.The interactive displays, ramparts, a working lighthouse, beaches and tidepools, not to mention their picnic areas and trails, could keep you here all day.
Hatley Castle, with it's rich military and academic history, is close to Fort Rodd and is the backdrop to themed gardens, collections of which have been added to through the years. These grounds are worth exploring and are stunning. Now home to Royal Roads University, you are invited to tour the grounds and enjoy the many photo opportunities that exist.
OK, now for some different kind of fun! Let's get to the beaches, parks, swimming holes and rainforests. The emphasis is on having a great time while learning about and enjoying the natural wonders of the west coast of Southern Vancouver Island. Continuing west, consider stopping at Witty's Lagoon Regional Park. A year round spot for birders, this park offers 5km of woodland trails, a waterfall, a stretch of sandy beach and 3 different picnic areas. A perfect choice for a family outing. Let the kids play in the water, explore the beach and visit the Nature Centre. You'll find interactive displays, volunteer naturalists and brochures to help you navigate the park.
Maybe you’ll choose to stop at Matheson Lake Regional Park and enjoy a hike and a swim. The trail around the lake is where you’ll find viewpoints, swimming spots, beaches, washrooms and an information kiosk. You may decide to spend the rest of the day here just relaxing. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout which just adds to the fun. Ensure to pick up a freshwater licence at a local store or online. Here in BC if you’re 16 or older, you must carry a fishing licence.
You can choose to take any number of tours that operate out of the area such as kayaking, whale watching, fishing charters and more. Create your own day, your own way, any day of the week, year round. We've really like the folks at Rainforest Hikes as they offer guided tours through many magical rainforests, up mountains, down dales and onto beaches where you can enjoy the sand between your toes. Choose from 1/2 or full day hikes, and more.
East Sooke Regional Park is vast and offers the visitor a myriad of different trails each leading to exceptional beaches, rocky outcrops, the summit of Mount Maguire and the trailhead of The Coast Trail. The Aylard Farm entrance allows you to park close to a pocket beach and enjoy some of the easier trails that are perfect for young and young at heart. This park offers three different entry points, trails for different skills and great spots for picnics.
Some may want to continue on and do the entire Southern Circle Route or maybe just drive as far as Port Renfrew for the day. It’s a great drive as you travel further into the wild wilderness. This is just a day trip, so I've recommended spots that are easy to get to and close to Victoria.
Wherever you choose to go, you'll create memories that will last forever, and sleep in your own bed that night.