The weather outside may be frightful, but it is also an opportunity to see nature at its most powerful. Standing in the open during wild weather is both frightening and invigorating. There is nothing like a winter storm to make you feel alive.
For years people have been flocking to Tofino to watch the storms blow in off the Pacific Ocean. What some forget is that those same gnarly winds and big water are also found close to home.
The Pacific Marine Circle Route is a storm watcher’s dream. From the heavy waves and spray along Ogden Point in Victoria to the tidal pools and extreme weather in Port Renfrew, the weather is something West Coasters live with and experience.
The circle route is a 255-kilometre loop from Victoria to Port Renfrew, through some of the most untravelled roads to the Cowichan Valley and back to Victoria.
Views of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia give the traveller a honest look at the southern coast of Vancouver Island. From Victoria the storm watcher can travel to East Sooke Park with it’s 3,500 acres and 50 kms of trails. Sheltered coves and stands of forest are there for the exploring.
Travel further along Highway 14 to Sooke and one can walk along Whiffin Spit and view the majestic Olympic Mountains while watching for passing boats. The Sooke Potholes is a favorite swimming spot as well as a great hiking area.
Further up the highway there is a host of provincial and regional parks which provide an easy walk to the pounding surf and driftwood strewn beaches. Campgrounds are available as are picnic areas. French Beach, China Beach, Juan de Fuca, Sandcut and Sombrio Beaches are all within your reach.
Jordan River is known as the spot to surf along this stretch of rocky shoreline. When the waves are high you will see surfers, stand-up paddle boarders,and kayakers all enjoying the big water. At China Beach one can try surfing in the winter waves or just stroll along the sandy beach. This is the start of the Juan De Fuca Marine Trail and, a moderate multi-day hike which takes you to Port Renfrew and Botanical Beach. Sombrio was known as a surfers’ paradise when squatters lived and surfed on the rugged shores before it became a park. Sombrio was home to Leah Oke, one of Canada’s best female surfers.
Botancial Beach in Port Renfrew is a favorite place to study intertidal pools and marine life. In Port Renfrew at Port San Juan you can marvel at the long stretches of driftwood strewn beaches and you may even spot surfers enjoying the winter wav action.
If you have had enough of beaches and waves you can travel along to Fairy Lake, a fresh water lake just out of Port Renfrew. Ancient old growth trees are found in Avatar Grove and Red Creek. Red Creek has the world’s largest Douglas fir tree with a circumference of 12.5 metres. Ask in Port Renfrew and they will direct you to these ancient forests.
Travel east through to the Cowichan Valley and meander along the harbor at Cowichan Bay. Duncan leads you back to Highway 1 to complete the circle. There are places to stop for food, but gas is not readily available once you leave Sooke. Fill up and hit the road, go storm watching, enjoy the unspoiled wilderness and the colorful characters. It’s a trip worth taking even in the winter months.
To download a map go to: www.pacificmarinecircleroute.com.