Southern Vancouver Island: Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

The tide pools of Botanical Beach

The final major coastal area we did on our end of summer trip to Vancouver Island was the Juan de Fuca Trail. Located west of Sooke, it’s a 47 kilometre (29 mile) hiking trail. The main beaches along the trail can be done over a series of days on foot or visited in a single day by car.

Located at the northern end of the coastline, we wanted to visit the Botanical Beach first. During low tide, you can see a series of plant life and sea creatures trapped in the tide pools. After checking the tide chart for the area we left in the morning to reach it at the right time. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that there is a series of construction projects along the way, so it took longer than expected to reach Botanical Beach. After about an hour and a half we reached it.

After a 20 minute walk through a forest we reached the ocean and the sandstone and granite formations. Although the tide wasn’t at its lowest point, it was easy walking around the tide pools to examine the life within.

Bull kelp washed up on shore. It was huge, hollow and felt more like heavy plastic tubing. It’s probably the reason bull kelp is also called bullwhip kelp, named after the item made famous by Indiana Jones. Broken off from underwater kelp forests, it can reach up to 36m (118 feet) long

We made our way to a second section of the tide pools. There, the grey stone gave way to a raised, yellow sandstone section.

Checking out the life in the pools
Our next stop was Sombrio Beach, known for good surfing waves and whale-watching.

On this day the water was relatively calm and there were no whales to be seen. Aside from people enjoying the beach there were only some paddle boarders in the water.

From there we moved on to China Beach. After a short trip through the forest we entered a wide beach.One end was rocky and full of small pebbles while the other end was sandy.

The final stop was French Beach, located furthest south along the Juan de Fuca Trail. After a walk through a picnic area we had the pebbly beach mostly to ourselves.

Throughout the day we say some hikers with full packs and camping gear, doing the four-day trip on foot. We also saw a number of day-trippers like us, enjoying the sun and surf. Finally, there were surfers and paddle boarders in the water, though the weak waves on this day meant far fewer surfers than normal. When the weather gets rougher the waves can be dangerous, but on this day it was a pleasant experience walking along the ocean.

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