Botanical Beach Park in Port Renfrew
For this particular side trip, we were based in Sooke. Port Renfrew is a slow 72 km (45 mi.) east of Sooke. I say slow because Highway 14, also known as the West Coast Road, winds a lot and is comprised of a mixed quality of roadway. It’s best to leave at least 90 minutes for the trip so that you can add on a couple of minutes to reach the Botanical Beach Park parking lot.
To make our trip more challenging, we did this in March and the road changes elevations and also a couple of degrees in temperature. We actually had a bit of snow in the ditches. As we drove, I wondered if it was going to be a quick turnaround as the rain was fairly heavy.
But we were lucky, it was only drizzling when we arrived at the parking lot of the Botanical Beach Park. As an aside, there are two other parks that are recommended in better weather: French Beach Park just past Shirley, and China Beach Provincial Park near Jordan River.
However, we had chosen the low tide time so we could enjoy the seascape and tide pools of Botanical Beach Park. There’s a three foot tide which reveals a totally different world on the water’s edge.
There is a 2.5 km Botanical Loop Trail. We liked the full loop as you can take a 1 km trail to Botanical Beach but frankly it’s boring. It was so cold when we were doing this that we think all the sea life in the tidal pools had gone on vacation to south Pacific. However, the longer trail was much more interesting. There were three other water access points and all had terrific views. If you are not careful, you will become cut off from the trail in the high tide sneaks around you while you are distracted.
In fact the information signs at the start of the trail list a reasonable variety of ways to die on these trails. The chances of a cougar attack are very low, but you are given instructions on what to do if you meet one. Rogue waves are mentioned; apparently if you are not careful, you can be sucked out to sea. Bears are an issue, apparently. And of humans want to break into your car. I recommend bringing your wallet in case you need to throw it at a cougar.
However, if you are a novice at trails, please be aware that there are ups, downs, roots, rocks and other fun things to walk over. If you are mobility impaired, this trail may not be for you. Also the weather takes its toll. A recent wind storm had downed a small tree and it was blocking the trail. The shorter folks in our party were able to crawl underneath the tree. (I got to climb over.)
Don’t let me deter you. Experienced hikers will find this trail a piece of cake. For you keeners, there’s the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail that takes you from Botanical Beach to China Beach Provincial Park in Jordan River, which is a 42 km drive.
Regardless of how you tackle this, the views alone are worth the effort.
Don’t forget that Port Renfrew is one of the two access points to the West Coast Trail, which takes you to Bamfield. This is a 6 – 8 day trek. This is far beyond what I’d consider sane. But if you want to learn more, check out: West Coast Trail Guidebook.