Sooke and Jordan River
Sooke, British Columbia, Canada
Location: 48° 22' North, 123° 44' West
Population: 9,704 (2006 Census)
Incorporated: December 7, 1999
Sooke is a district municipality located about a half hour drive west of Victoria at the southern end of Vancouver Island. I honestly didn't know much about Sooke at first, except that it has one of BC's top rated restaurants at the Sooke Harbour House, but other than that - nada. I knew zilch. I first drove through Sooke with friends on our way to Jordan River back in February 2006. I was expecting a beautiful, charming, if not downright romantic town on the water's edge. But then reality hit me as we drove through a non-descript collection of buildings and strip malls on the side of the highway - no water to be seen and nothing at all what I had envisioned. This is Sooke?
It wasn't until I revisited Sooke in July of 2007 that I realized I had been missing the point. Sooke is not really so much about the town itself. It's about being within close proximity to the water's edge (which is not necessarily visible from the side of the road), access to the lush and ever-enchanting temperate rainforest, being located nearby some excellent surfing sites, and of course, it doesn't hurt that Sooke has many boutique accommodation choices located along a relatively remote stretch of highway.
One of my good friends had moved to Jordan River, so I visited her in July. Jordan River is a tiny hamlet located a half hour drive west of Sooke. There's not much there except 2 restaurants, a campground, a surf site, and a forestry office. In fact, the only reason why that forestry office exists there is because the workers love to surf. And this is what makes it one of the most sought-after locations to work out of if you're in forestry!
During our weekend stay in Jordan River, we went beachcombing along the shore. We went for a horseback ride nearby Sooke along the beach, through the meadows, and through the rainforest. We ventured into town for some lunch and some groceries. We then drove further west beyond Jordan River to Sombrio beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park and hiked a tiny bit of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. We saw garter snakes, river otters, deer, and bald eagles. We lit a beach fire by the deck where we cooked freshly-caught coho salmon and roasted marshmallows. And we even found a lighthouse!
Now this is what Sooke (and Jordan River) is all about. My experiences around this southern end of Vancouver Island really feels like Vancouver Island, and is quite unlike the touristy Victoria only a short drive further east. This is where you go to get away from it all.
The area is definitely a working class kind of area where the major industry is forestry, fishing, and farming, (and thus, lacks all the pretensiousness one can find elsewhere), and while the forests are often owned by logging companies (and are clearcut and reforested), and while new housing development is slowly eating away at this area's tranquility, it was paradise for my weekend getaway. As soon as I got home, I wanted to go back!