The West Coast Road (Highway 14) runs along the thin strip of Vancouver Island’s southwestern coastline between Sooke and Port Renfrew, including French Beach, China Beach, and Botanical Beach Provincial Parks, and the southern terminus of the West Coast Trail.
The exposed waters of Vancouver Island’s southwestern coast quickly dispel any notion that an ocean is an ocean is an ocean.
The true personality of the Pacific is revealed as you traverse the slopes of San Juan Ridge as the Strait of Juan de Fuca makes its entrance from the open water of the Pacific. Conditions shift dramatically from the sheltered, rain-shadowed waterways of the Strait of Georgia with its gaggle of tranquil islands.
Here you face the open ocean, where nothing breaks the rolling swells or deflects the sting of winter storms. For those who listen for the voice of the West Coast, here it begins to speak up, way up. Many a dark chapter has been written about ships and crews that perished in the violent storms that rake the raw shoreline. This is the Pacific Davy Jones’s Locker. Thrown up on the beach, survivors considered themselves blessed if they could reach the nearby West Coast Lifesaving Trail. As harsh today as then, less-endangered people willingly subject themselves to this legendary trail’s test of endurance.
Such a reputation adds a wild spice to adventuring here. Do not treat this environment lightly. Each year some unfortunate soul ventures too close to the ocean and pays the ultimate price. Venture with care and you’ll come away with wonderful memories of your time spent by the shoreline, where many creatures live in splendid harmony with the ocean’s deep rhythms.
Location: The West Coast Road is runs along the southwest shores of Vancouver Island. Owing to the ruggedness of the region, access to this area is limited to the paved coastal Highway 14 and several unpaved backroads. Highway 14 begins in the Victoria suburb of Colwood. It links the village of Sooke on the west side of Sooke Basin with Port Renfrew on the south shore of Port San Juan (actually a wide bay), a distance of 45 miles (70 km). To the north, the Harris Creek Mainline and Hillcrest Mainline Logging Roads link Port Renfrew with Cowichan Lake, and from there with Highway 18 and the Cowichan Valley.
View maps of the area
The following towns are located on or near Highway 14 (east to west):
Situated between Colwood and the Malahat, and incorporating the head of Finlayson Arm and Mount Finlayson, Langford offers an accessible diversity of beautiful parks and lakes and limitless recreational activities.
Originally one of four large farms established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1850’s to supply the steadily increasing population of Fort Victoria, Colwood is now itself a thriving satellite city in the largely residential area of the Western Communities.
A rural community of wide open spaces, pastoral countryside and bountiful farmland, Metchosin was first inhabited by Coast Salish peoples. Metchosin, or Smets-shosin as it is called in the Native Coast Salish language, was incorporated in 1984.
The pleasant harbourside village of Sooke provides a tranquil refuge from the bustle of city life. Sooke enjoys a relaxed, casual lifestyle in a rural setting that also affords many of the amenities of city life. For centuries, this area was a thriving Coast Salish settlement.
The tiny logging community of Jordan River offers a terrific view of the open Pacific Ocean. Highway 14 makes its only approach to the ocean here before beginning to climb San Juan Ridge once more. Jordan River lies about 19 miles (30 km) south of Sombrio Beach.
A small village at the end of Highway 14, Port Renfrew calls itself The Jewel of the West Coast, where you can experience the tranquility and beauty that has made the West Coast famous. Port Renfrew is best known as the trailhead for both the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and the historic West Coast Trail.
Parks located along or near Highway 14:
- Sooke Potholes Provincial Park
- East Sooke Regional Park
- French Beach Provincial Park
- Juan de Fuca Provincial Park (incorporates China Beach and Sombrio Beach)
- Botanical Beach – Juan de Fuca Provincial Park
The Pacific Marine Circle Tour, which incorporates West Coast Highway 14 from Victoria to Port Renfrew, is an excellent way to explore the historic West Coast of southern Vancouver Island. The wilderness route traces the coastline from Victoria through Sooke and Port Renfrew, continuing on to Cowichan Lake and the Cowichan Valley, and looping back down the Trans-Canada Highway via Duncan and the Malahat to Victoria.