French Beach: Beyond Victoria, BC

The easiest way to get to Victoria, BC  from Seattle is the Clipper, a three hour passenger only ferry departing from Pier 69.

When I have a little extra time, I much prefer hopping on the good ol’ MV Coho from Port Angeles. I always find this car ferry more enjoyable; here are some reasons why:

  • The MV Coho is a car and passenger ferry so I have my own set of wheels when I land on Vancouver Island.
  • Unlike the Clipper where you’re confined to a stuffy main cabin where the advertisements on the PA start to remind you of the teacher’s voice from Charlie Brown, the zen Coho isn’t pimping any side tours or bus shuttles. It even offers an outdoor covered solarium option on the upper level which is generally where I like to sit.
  • It’s named after a species of salmon that is prevalent in both Washington State and BC.
  • Sailing time is only 90 minutes vs. three hours on the Clipper.
  • Gives me an excuse to make a side trip to Port Townsend or the Olympic National Forest.
you get to be outside. some spend the entire time outside. worth the ttip alone

View from the back of the MV Coho

When we reached land (land ho!), we spontaneously opted to take a detour and skip an hour northwest of Victoria to Sooke. Sooke is a cute little town and a great jumping off point for outdoor adventure: Biking and hiking trails on the Galloping Goose and Juan de Fuca trails, whale watching, bird watching sport fishing and surfing to name a few.

We set our sights a few miles past Sooke proper to French Beach, a pristine park flush with secluded campsites, hiking trails through lush forests and a sand and pebble beach.

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A 10 minute jaunt from our camp site

Arriving at French Beach, located on the stunning Strait of Juan de Fuca on the west coast of southern Vancouver Island, one could easily be convinced to ditch their motorized vehicle for a few days and engross yourself in the following activities: reading on the beach, napping on the beach and bird watching.

We were coaxed to jump in our car only to go trail and beach hopping at Mystic Beach and China Beach. We heard that waterfalls and rope swings would await.

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Strolling on the beach at Mystic Beach

 

The rope swing is as sought out like a double dutch for nine year olds

That’s a big rope swing

Where to grub:

Spending time in nature doesn’t mean you have to cook over a fire or cook at all for that mater. There are some food gems in Sooke or you can make the one hour drive to Victoria for a plethora of options.

In Sooke: People still make the trek to eat at the legendary Sooke Harbour House, which was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Oftentimes referred to as The Herbfarm of British Columbia, Herbfarm owner Ron Zimmerman and Sooke Harbour House’s Sinclair Philip have a history of visiting each other’s restaurant abodes and engaging in conversation about obscure herbs and cooking methods.

If you prefer to go the casual route, check out one year old Shirley Delicious which is a great  breakfast/coffee/bakery stop. Owned by cheery Aussies, you can score hearty pre-hike treats such as breakfast burritos, veggie hash and shashouka. Grab a cheese twist or chocolate chip cookie for the road.

Resembling a cute log cabin

When we asked the staff at Shirley Delicious for dinner recs, almost in unison they belted out: “You must go to Smokin Tuna. That is where we locals eat. Oh, and it’s prime rib Saturday and it’s popular. You had better make reservations.”

The directions to Smokin Tuna sounded a bit suspect, but hey, all Canadian Aussies are trustworthy right? “You go down a winding road for a while. One of those roads that look like it will never end. Then, eventually you’ll see a trailer park. Drive through the trailer park, and at the end of it, you’ll see the restaurant. It’s located right on the water.”

The restaurant at the end of the trailer park did not disappoint.

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Some trailer parks and restaurants are located on primo real estate; At Smokin Tuna, we enjoyed perogies, prime rib and fish & chips

For city dining, check out  food options in Victoria.

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2 Responses to “French Beach: Beyond Victoria, BC”

  1. June 17, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    The other good reason to take the ferry from PA instead of the clipper: dogs are allowed on deck, not forced into cargo/to stay in the car (which can be rough on a pup!)

    • Roll with Jen
      June 17, 2014 at 8:33 am #

      Great point. I got to hang out with a hella cute white German Shepherd on the way back.

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