Dust off the winter cobwebs and find some spring in your step: communities tucked along the southern edges of Vancouver Island invite travellers to tap into the Spirit Loop, where the emerging season brings new growth. The communities of Langford, Sooke, Port Renfrew and Malahat are home to spectacular outdoor recreation, fueled by a variety of cuisines.
Kick Off with Spring Camping
If you can start your day anywhere in Langford, visiting or overnight camping at Goldstream Park is a must. Its beautiful setting is matched only by its proximity to some of the best hiking in the area. Trek up Mount Finlayson to be rewarded with unparalleled views.
Once you’ve finished exploring Goldstream, consider a stop for lunch at the newly opened Liberty Kitchen. Open until midnight and featuring pizza, pasta and other home-cooked specialties, this restaurant has a cozy atmosphere no matter the spring weather. It’s the perfect spot for families, dates, birthdays, and hangouts.
Next, make the drive to Sooke Potholes. Following the winding birch, Douglas Fir and cedar-lined trail towards Peden Lake, veer off to the Mary Vine Creek waterfall. It’s a short walk (1.8km out and back), but shoes with decent tread are key. While not considered colossal, the falls are undeniably mighty and a sight to be seen.
If you’re craving something sweet, duck into Sooke’s Bits of Bliss for a cupcake or a dipped donut. Or, if you’re feeling hungry, visit Wild Mountain for takeout or dine-in. Known for their wood-fired pizzas and unique offerings, a trip to Sooke isn’t complete without visiting this community favourite.
When it’s time to rest your head, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from on the journey between Sooke and Port Renfrew. There’s something to suit everyone, from camping on China Beach to stays at luxurious resorts and B&Bs. Visit SpiritLoop.ca to explore the different accommodation options available.
Winding Your Way to Port Renfrew
As you continue down West Coast Road on the way to Port Renfrew, a stop at Shirley Delicious is always necessary. The works of local artisans adorn the walls, and you can pick up a sweet treat or a savoury snack. Since you’ve already turned off Highway 14, take the five-minute drive to the Sheringham Lighthouse parking lot. Once parked, it’s a brisk fifteen-minute stroll to the lighthouse where you can breathe the salt air and take in the ocean views.
Back on the road, just before you make it to Jordan River, you’ll want to make time to stop at Botanical Beach. Botanical offers oceanside exploration unlike anywhere else. It has 251 hectares of natural habitat that offer an unparalleled opportunity to view the abundance of intertidal marine life on Vancouver Island. During the low tide, walk endlessly across the flat sandstone and granite outcroppings to view tide pools and brightly coloured starfish, urchins, and mussel shells. This ecosystem is an incredible looking glass into intertidal life, and it’s best life for your eyes only, as some of the sensitive critters don’t like to be touched.
If you’re stopping in Port Renfrew for the night, be sure to check out some of the local accommodations, including Pacheedaht Campground, where you can camp beachfront. Enjoy a hot meal at the infamous Renfrew Pub or visit Bridgeman’s West Coast Eatery. Both will leave you full and content and yet yearning for more.
Heading Up to Lake Cowichan
Continuing on the “loop,” make your way down Pacific Marine Road, and you’ll eventually arrive in Lake Cowichan. Take in the local sights and attractions as you head towards the Malahat region.
Stop in at Merridale Cidery for a flight of ciders and snacks or visit Villa Eyrie and take in the incredible views of Saanich inlet while you enjoy an exquisite meal.
If you can’t get enough of the Malahat views, make sure to stop in at the Malahat Skywalk. This brand-new tourism facility opened in 2021 and offers unparalleled views atop the Spiral Tower lookout, 250m above sea level. The walk to the tower via the TreeWalk boardwalk is an adventure in itself as you walk high above the forest floor, surrounded by arbutus trees.
Make sure to try and spot the wood carvings hiding in the trees! Once you’ve made your way to the top of the Skywalk, the only question is whether you’ll walk down or slide down! The 20-metre spiral slide makes for an exciting – and much quicker – exit. The best part? The Welcome Centre, TreeWalk and Skywalk are all wheelchair and stroller friendly.
Wrap it up with a Snack
If you find yourself fancying a snack before wrapping up your trip, continue the drive down the Malahat through Goldstream Park and head back into downtown Langford. Make your way to House of Boateng for a meal you won’t soon forget. Featuring African-Canadian fusion cuisine with an emphasis on presentation, their menu items include fresh, local ingredients that are uniquely delicious. Owner and Executive Chef Castro Boateng can often be seen in and out of the kitchen – he may even serve you your meal!
Visit SpiritLoop.ca to learn more about the communities of Langford, Sooke, Port Renfrew and Malahat and their amenities. Better yet, follow along on the Spirit Loop IG to get a visual look at the possibilities.