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The village of Sooke, on the shore of Juan de Fuca Strait, about a 45-minute drive west of Victoria, has two claims to fame: it's home to Sooke Harbour House, one of Canada's best-known country inns, and it's the last stop for gas and supplies before heading out to the beaches and hiking trails of the island's wild and scenic southwest coast.
From Sooke, the narrow and winding Highway 14 runs 48
miles through birch and fir woods, with occasional sea views, to the fishing village of Port Renfrew. En route it passes Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, where trailheads lead to a series of forest-backed, driftwood-strewn beaches. The area around Sooke is home to some excellent restaurants and high-end B&Bs, but as you head west, other services are few.
To avoid retracing your steps to Victoria, you can follow the signs for the Pacific Marine Circle Route. This self-guided road trip follows Highway 14 from Victoria to Port Renfrew, where it takes a well-maintained back road through the forest to the village of Lake Cowichan. From here, Highway 18 leads to Highway 1 and back through the Cowichan Valley to Victoria. Driving time is about three hours, but watch your fuel gauge, as there are no gas stations between Sooke and Lake Cowichan and no services at all on the 30 miles between Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan.
Watch for the red-and-white lighthouse lamp at the first traffic light as you enter Sooke on Highway 14. It sits in front of the Sooke Visitor Information Centre, which also houses a small museum displaying local First Nations artifacts.
The Cowichan people were onto something when they called this fertile valley north of Victoria "the Warm Land." The region, roughly from Mill...