Whiffen Spit Park - Sooke, British Columbia

Difficulty: Easy. This is a flat walk along a narrow strip of sand.

Whiffen Spit Park, Sooke, BC
Sunset at Whiffen Spit Park.

Whiffen Spit at low tide
Whiffen Spit at low tide.

Known for its windswept beauty, Whiffen Spit Park is a natural sandy breakwater just south of the town of Sooke, BC. Whiffen Spit extends for 1.1 kilometers into the mouth of the Sooke inlet and protects the Sooke Basin from the open waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait. The lighthouse at the end looks deceptively closer than it actually is. This is a great hike when the skies are clear or when the sun is setting on the Pacific horizon.

Whiffen Spit is barely 2 meters above the high-water mark and narrows to just a sliver in width during the spring tides (the town of Sooke periodically reinforces the low areas). This seaside trail offers hikers grand views of Sooke and the open waters of Juan de Fuca Strait, framed within the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. The open water to the right of the Olympic Peninsula is the mighty Pacific Ocean. Tucked behind Whiffen Spit is the local commercial fishing fleet that takes shelter in the Sooke Harbour.

At low tide, the intertidal marine life is exposed on the sandy shores of Whiffen Spit. Sea kelp brought in by the waves and the tide line the shores, along with the sea creatures that use it for cover. Birds take advantage of the abundant food, making Whiffen Spit an excellent place for birdwatching. Seagull, eagle and heron frequent the skies; in the water, river otter and seal forage for food or warm themselves on rocks.

Unlike the parking lot - infamous for its many potholes! - the trail is covered in gravel and is well-groomed. The "hike" is flat and gentle and is more of a walking path than a hike. Locals enjoy walking along the winding path and grassy shores, among and driftwood stranded in the intertidal zones.

Whiffen Spit is usually windy and a sweater or jacket is recommended even for an afternoon walk. During a Pacific storm, the park should be avoided due to its low elevation and the large waves crashing into its western shores.

Whiffen Spit is often used as a kayak launching point; however, the area is exposed to winds and tidal currents which could make for strenuous returns. All tidal water in the Sooke Basin flows past the tip of Whiffen Spit creating currents at up to 4 knots. Novice kayakers should avoid this area. The region is also exposed to the westerly winds since it's not sheltered from the Pacific winds.

The hike starts from the parking lot of Quimper Park, a memorial park in recognition of the first European to visit the area. Aboard the Princesa Royale, a Spanish sloop, Manuel Quimper first ventured to the Sooke region in 1790. In 1990, in commemoration of the 200th year anniversary, the T'Sou-ke First Nation re-enacted the encounter and, with the participation of Spain's Ambassador to Canada, dedicated Quimper Park at the base of Whiffen Spit. The bust of Manuel Quimper was entrusted to the park by the king of Spain in 1991.

Local History

  • Whiffen Spit was named after a clerk on the Herald, a British Royal Navy's ship which surveyed the Sooke region in 1846.
  • The Muir brothers, John Jr., Robert & Michael, started the first successful sawmill near the base of Whiffen Spit in 1855.
  • During the later half of the 1800's, ships would navigate the channel around Whiffen Spit to pick up loads of lumber to deliver to coastal settlements.
  • A bible colony set roots around Whiffen Spit in 1923 and operated their own school, meeting hall, bakery, other shops and a fish reduction plant on Whiffen Spit.

How to Get to Whiffen Spit Park (from Madrona Cottage)

The park is about 20 minutes away from Madrona Cottage and is located in the Sooke town centre.

  1. Turn left onto East Sooke Road (towards town).
  2. Turn left at the T-intersection onto Gillespie Road (at Bills' Food 'n Feed).
  3. Turn left on to Sooke Road (Highway #14) towards Sooke.
  4. Travel through the only set of traffic lights in town. The road changes into West Coast Road.
  5. Keep going and turn left on Whiffen Spit Road. The parking lot is at the end of the road. Note that the parking lot is usually in rough conditions since it's exposed to wind and rain.

 

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