Vancouver Island, located off the southwest coast of Canada, is full of adventure and natural beauty. There are several different areas you can explore, but one of our all-time favourites is the southern shoreline. Here, you will find rugged beaches, old-growth forests, one-of-a-kind waterfalls, and incredible hiking ACCESSIBLE for the majority of the year.
The drive from Victoria to Port Renfrew is scenic on its own. When you add in all of the incredible stops along the way, though, it becomes one of the best road trips on Vancouver Island. Many of these destinations are sections of the Juan de Fuca Trail, a famous 47km hike along the coast. Luckily for us, there are different parking lots scattered along the way so that we don’t all have to hike for days to see the magic of the area.
As far as time goes for this journey, I think 3 days is perfect. We spent a few days in Victoria first and then took 3 days to drive to Port Renfrew and back. In total, the drive only takes 2 hours each way, but don’t let that fool you. Most of these stops involve at least some degree of hiking.
David and I are fairly avid hikers who have been known to pack a lot into a day, and we were exhausted by the end of this trip. In the best possible way, of course! In my opinion, trying to do it in a day or two would be extremely rushed.
With all of that in mind, here are the best stops on a road trip from Victoria to Port Renfrew.
Victoria, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, is the capital of British Columbia. Known for its stunning architecture, vibrant gardens, and plentiful outdoor activities, this city is a wonderful place to begin your road trip.
Being one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, Victoria has a charismatic combination of history and outdoorsy charm. During your time in the area, you can enjoy great food, beautiful green spaces, monumental buildings and ocean views. Not to mention a ton of hiking, biking, and natural wonders right at your doorstep.
Some of my top recommendations include a ride in the Hot Tub Boat, Fishermans Wharf, Chinatown, and Hiking Mount Douglas. Check out this blog post for more details!
Goldstream Provincial Park
Goldstream Provincial Park is located about 20 minutes northwest of Victoria on your way towards Port Renfrew. In between the towering trees and vibrant foliage you will find several hiking trails, powerful waterfalls, and diverse wildlife.
Trails range from easy, wheelchair-accessible walks to the strenuous climb up Mount Finlayson. During your visit, make sure to see Niagara Falls, accessible by an easy 0.5 km hike. Cascading down over 150 feet into a crystal clear river, this waterfall is a must-see in Victoria.
NOTE: The Goldstream Trestle was another popular stop in this park. Unfortunately, it is now permanently closed due to a recent incident.
East Sooke Regional Park
East Sooke Regional Park is a stunning section of the coast with 50 kilometres of trails to be discovered through forest, marsh, and field, and an additional 10 kilometres of coastal trails! We hiked out to Creyke Point for incredible views of the ocean and then spent some time checking out the tide pools at low tide.
Mount Manuel Quimper
Mount Manuel Quimper is one of our go-to hikes on Vancouver Island and I would highly recommend adding it to your itinerary if you have time. At 10 kilometres long with 478m of elevation gain, it’s a great workout and only took about 2.5 hours to complete.
From the top, you will have views of Victoria, out over the ocean, of peaks in the distance, and the mountains inland. 360 degrees of pure bliss. The hut provides shelter from the wind or rain if needed, and an additional few meters of height to take in the scenery. For more trail details, click here.
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park is located along the Sooke River with unique rock formations that are popular among locals and travellers. There are several trails that lead you along the river, to waterfalls, and even to train trestles, but the main reason people visit is to swim in the rock pools known as the “Sooke Potholes”.
The day we were going to do this it absolutely poured, but it has been recommended to us so many times that we had to add it in!
Sooke is a town just under halfway on your drive from Victoria to Port Renfrew. Known as the Tall Tree Capital of Canada, there are some magnificent old-growth forests in the area. Sooke is a great place to spend the night or stop for a meal during your Vancouver Island road trip.
David and I ate dinner at Route 14, and let me tell you, we’re still dreaming about it! The portions were plentiful, the drinks were cheap, and the food was fantastic. If you are looking to stop for a drink, you can also visit The Sooke Brewing Company or Sheringham Distillery.
IMPORTANT: After you pass Sooke, there are very few options for food, water, and decent cell service. Make sure to bring snacks and know where you are headed before you leave.
Sandcut Beach is breathtaking and unusual because it is home to a beautiful waterfall that flows right onto the beach. We had a lot of fun walking underneath it, admiring the ocean views, and playing around on the rope swing that hangs beside the falls.
From the parking lot, follow the trail through the forest for about 10 minutes. Once you’ve arrived at the beach, go left and make your way along the shore for another few minutes. The waterfall will come into view fairly quickly. Make sure to wear good walking shoes!
This trail begins at the parking lot for China Beach, where you embark on the first 2.0-kilometres of the Juan de Fuca Trail. Along the way, you will wind through massive trees, across a suspension bridge, and down several wooden steps before coming out onto Mystic Beach.
Once you arrive, soak up the phenomenal ocean views and then turn left. A little ways down the beach, you will arrive at another waterfall! This one is quite a bit taller than Sandcut Falls, and if you visit at low tide, you can actually walk to the other side of the falls.
On the right-hand side of the beach, there is another rope swing, a cave, and several little Inukshuks made on tremendous pieces of driftwood. At 4km total and 157m elevation, this is a hike you don’t want to miss on your Vancouver Island road trip.
Sombrio Beach is a popular surf spot and one of my personal favourite destinations in between Victoria and Port Renfrew. From the parking area, it is about 500 meters down a well-maintained path to the beach. This is a great spot to pack a picnic lunch, set yourself up on one of the huge pieces of driftwood, and watch the surfers in the waves.
This next bit can be a little tricky to navigate but I need you to trust me and follow along. It is incredibly worth it! If you are looking at the water, start walking to your left along the beach for approximately 10 minutes. You are aiming for the end on the beach where you can see a large rock cliff that extends out into the water.
A few hundred feet before you get there, you will see a stream coming onto the beach with several large fallen logs around it. Walk up the stream. Yep, you heard me. Prepare to get your feet wet and make your way up the rocky stream. As you go, the walls on both sides of you will grow taller and taller. Before you know it, you will be standing in a smooth rock canyon looking up at an incredible waterfall.
Didn’t I tell you it would be worth it? You’re welcome! In total, this hike is just under 2 kilometres with very little elevation gain. Make sure to bring shoes you don’t mind getting wet and don’t forget your camera! For your convenience, here are GPS coordinates of where you enter the stream.
I’m going to be completely honest with you guys. On the walk into Botanical Beach, I was tired, hungry, and not overly interested in seeing it. We thought we should do it since we were in the area at the right time of day, but I’ve never been one for beach combing. And as I mentioned, I was hungry! Which pretty much trumps everything in my mind. The hike down to the beach is about 1.5 kilometres through a muddy forest and the entire time I was just dreading the hike back up.
When we got to the beach, it didn’t look like anything special right off the bat. I had certainly seen more beautiful beaches. But then, as we started making our way closer to the ocean, we started to understand what all the fuss was about. There were hundreds of tide pools filled with sea life, colourful coral, and starfish. We even saw a baby eel!
David and I spent about an hour admiring all the life in each little rock pool and were completely giddy by the end. Moral of the story: even if you’re not typically interested in this type of thing. Even if you’re tired and even if you’re hungry. Go to Botanical Beach. It’s worth it!
IMPORTANT: You need to go as close to low tide as possible as the tide pools are only visible when that water is out. We got there about an hour before low tide and it was perfect. Check the times online beforehand and plan your day accordingly. In my opinion, there is no point visiting this particular beach at high tide.
Avatar Grove is actually about 20 minutes past Port Renfrew, but it is so beautiful we had to add it to the list! Here, there are two trails through very diverse sections of old-growth forest known collectively as Upper and Lower Avatar Grove. You access both trails from the same spot. There is no parking lot so you can just pull over on the side of the gravel road.
Upper Avatar Grove is a 300-meter out and back trail with some steep sections that will bring you through massive cedars, across a stream, and to “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree”. Lower Avatar Grove is on the other side of the road. The loop trail is about 600 meters and a little less steep, winding you past a massive Douglas-fir and several other green giants.