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Formerly known as the Pacific Marine Circle Route, the scenic drive on Vancouver Island is now named the South Island Spirit Loop. This coast to coast journey on Vancouver Island offers panoramic views of the Juan de Fuca, Haro and Georgia straits as well as the Saanich Peninsula. Enjoy a quieter way of life while visiting spectacular provincial parks, pastoral landscapes and wineries.
This coast to coast journey on Vancouver Island offers panoramic views of the Juan de Fuca, Haro and Georgia Straits as well as the Saanich Peninsula. Enjoy a quieter way of life while visiting spectacular provincial parks, pastoral landscapes and wineries.
To get to the South Island Spirit Loop from Victoria, travel north on Douglas Street, which turns into Highway 1 (the Trans Canada Highway). Take exit 14 and follow signs to Sooke, turn onto Sooke Road (Highway 14) and follow the road to Sooke. Sooke Road turns into West Coast Road once across Otter Point Road in the heart of downtown Sooke. This road heads west to Port Renfrew and then north and east to Lake Cowichan. Then it winds further east to Duncan, turn back onto Highway 1 and follow through the Malahat, which leads back into Victoria.
The entire route is now paved, including the road connecting Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan. Visitors should note that along the western portion of the route, gas is only available in Sooke, Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan, so it is wise to ensure that your tank is full when leaving any of these places. At various points along the route, there are signs indicating the level of fire danger and whether or not a campfire ban is in effect. Be aware of these and be appropriately cautious with smoking materials and any other source of open flame. Forest fires pose a very real risk in the region. Should a visitor notice any indications of a fire, he/she should immediately call 911 or alert residents who can do so.
Some of the points of interest described do not have car parks. To visit them, it is important to park well off the road on the right hand side. Ensure that any valuables you have to leave in your vehicle are out of sight or locked in the trunk. Much of the forest in the area is working forest, that is, it is being actively logged by TimberWest, Western Forest Products and a number of smaller logging operators. Access to many points of interest is over private logging roads. This means that public use is limited to times at which there are no logging operations. Some of the logging roads are gated, details at the address, others are not (with the exception of periods with Extreme Fire Hazard during which they are all gated). There may be active logging on any of the roads. The majority of the operations occur between Monday and Friday, 7:00 to 5:00 p.m. However, at times there are activities (blasting, log hauling, etc.) outside the normal operating window. There is also potential for people to be locked behind a gate if crews are not aware of their presence. When planning your trip, if you want to visit one of the sites that is accessed by a logging road, be sure to call the companies for specific information regarding access and timing. TimberWest at (250) 749-7700 and Western Forest Products at (250) 646-2031.
There are large carnivores (wolves, cougars and bears) throughout the area. Be sure to familiarize yourself with how to deal with them should you encounter one. Deer are commonly seen on the roads throughout the Circle Route. When visiting beaches on the ocean, it is very important to be aware of the tides and incoming waves. Depending on the season and other conditions, tides can come in very quickly. As well, there are occasional rogue waves, especially in winter, that are very dangerous. People can be pulled out into the ocean by strong currents.