Dispatches Sooke

Wild, artistic influences define community

The coastal waters off Sooke are known for an abundance of salmon and halibut

The coastal waters off Sooke are known for an abundance of salmon and halibut

Sooke is a small ocean side town nestled among towering, rugged rainforests and unspoiled beaches of the Pacific Ocean coastline.

Only an hour from Victoria and just 20 minutes from the West Shore, it offers visitors a true West Coast experience. Once they get there however, they will see it has as much to offer outside as it does inside artist’s studios.

The rural community offers a wilderness that is equally rugged and gentle. It is a place where everyone can find their pace and discover nature and its wildlife from land to ocean. A paradise for hikers, the Sooke region offers hundreds of kilometres of hiking, walking and cycling trails from easy strolls on Whiffen Spit or the Sooke Potholes to more challenging ones such as the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and the West Coast Trail.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca at Sooke’s doorstep makes for great fishing for some of the largest salmon and halibut year round, exciting scuba diving during the winter in the kelp-free crystal clear water of Sooke Basin and in the more challenging marine park of Race Rocks. Visitors can explore the ocean on whale watching tours, catching glimpses of orcas, grey whales, humpbacks and more from April to October. There are opportunities for leisurely kayak paddles in the Sooke Basin, observing, photographing the flying life of blue herons, bald eagles or the curious seals following you. For the seekers of a more intense thrill, a slide down zipline at Adrenaline Zipline Tours at 60 kilometres per hour through coastal rainforest treetops is a must.

While it is possible to spend your entire time outdoors in this immense natural reserve, the other side of what makes Sooke unique is its multifaceted art and culture.

The beauty and pristine wilderness of the Sooke Region is an inspiration to many local artists. Despite its small town stature and somewhat unassuming and deceiving appearance, Sooke has a very active performing art group in the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra. For more than 20 years, every August, Sooke’s large community of artists, artisans and craft people take part in one of the largest juried art shows on the island, The Sooke Fine Arts Show. Numerous art studios and galleries are open and boast world-class pieces of art from a 2,000-year-old burl love seat to intricate stain and fusion glass works and pottery. Authentic First Nations art is also present and a reminder of the first habitants of the area.

Artistic influences can be found at local tables too. With its small population, Sooke has a large number of nationally- and internationally-known restaurants where the flavours of seasonal West Coast cuisine can be tasted.

A few original passionate entrepreneurs have come to Sooke seeking the pristine clean waters and the pure climate it offers. One of the first meaderies in British Columbia, Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery opened here and Seaflora, a certified organic seaweed company, is one of the fastest growing companies started in Sooke. The T’Sou-ke Nation has been at the forefront of innovation and its community has the largest solar installation in Canada.

Sooke has also always demonstrated an incredible spirit of accomplishing great projects with volunteers. The numbers of volunteers and their strength in making things happen in Sooke is remarkable. Our wonderful climate of wilderness, art, vast spaces and clean air may be one of the major factors to keep this spirit alive.

Sooke is a town growing at a fast pace. It is one of the wildest playgrounds close to a large urban population. For a visitor to discover all of the best things to do in Sooke, a stop at the local Sooke Region Museum is a must. It is a small museum with a very large selection of information through photographs, movies and great displays of how Sooke was a long time ago and all the things to discover of what Sooke is now.

For more information go to www.sookeregionmuseum.com or www.sooke.ca.

Sooke Green Initiatives

Explore the splendor of old growth forest in Sooke at Avatar Grove. The 50-hectare stand has a reputation for having some of the gnarliest trees on the Island — including a red cedar sporting a 12-foot diametre burl. Ancient Forest Alliance is dedicated to promoting the site as a regional eco-tourism resource and will be hosting monthly hikes to the grove this summer.

Sign up for their newsletter at www.ancientforestalliance.org for more information and a hike schedule.