Important: There are no lifeguards on duty at most beaches and swimming holes. Swimming is at your own risk.
No matter where you visit on Vancouver Island, you're close to water. From the powerful Pacific Ocean to placid valley lakes, water is the backbone of this coastal paradise. The rocky shores of southern Vancouver Island offer many activities on, in and near the water including beachcombing, swimming and romantic walks along the shore.
The pocket beaches that dot the shores of southern Vancouver Island are small and secluded. Most are cobblestone and pebble beaches. They often have views of the Olympic mountains across the strait in Washington State and offer great viewing of sea life and birds in the intertidal zone. The salt water of the Pacific Ocean is 10ºC year round and the air temperature is usually cool along the shoreline. Wetsuits are recommended for those adventurous enough to take a plunge into the frigid ocean waters.
The freshwater lakes are warmer than the ocean and are popular spots for swimmers. On hot days, local residents escape the heat of the city and relax in the crystal-clear waters of Thetis Lake, Matheson Lake and the Sooke Potholes.
Madrona Cottage is located on the southwestern shores of the Sooke Basin, in a sheltered bay. This bay is protected from the open Pacific Ocean by Whiffin Spit and offers calmer waters around the nearby island. Tides can fluctuate as much as 8 feet between cycles! Some guests have gone for a dip in the water - but fair warning, it is cold! Please remember that there are potential hazards in natural coastal settings and be prepared.
Note that the narrow channel across from Billings Spit (around the corner from the cottage) should be avoided due to strong currents.
Located 25 minutes from the cottage is Matheson Lake, a quiet, picturesque lake situated at the foot of a forested hill. This freshwater lake is a popular hangout with locals and offers a quiet oasis in a lushly treed setting. A small, sandy beach on the eastern shore makes for a gentle entrance to the lake. On hot days, visitors sunbathe on the small island in the center of the lake (Gillespie Island).
Note that there are no change facilities but the beach is only 50 meters from the parking lot.
The Sooke Potholes, located on the banks of the Sooke River, is a swimmer's paradise. The park is named after the deep, naturally-produced pools that were carved into the rocks during the last ice-age. Visitors seek refuge from the summer heat by soaking in the cool, swirling waters. Along the river bank there are a few small sandy beaches that are perfect places to wade and splash.
Thetis Lake features one of the most popular swimming holes in the region. Change facilities are available near the beach area at Lower Thetis Lake. The gentle slope of the sandy shore makes this an easy lake for families with small children. Swimming, boating (electric-motors only), kayaking, canoeing and fishing are all permitted in the park.
If you'd rather swim indoors, the SEAPARC Leisure Center has a 25 meter competition pool and offers adult and family swim times. SEAPARC is located in the town of Sooke and is 20 minutes away from the cottage.
Devonian Park is a small but beautiful park tucked amongst quiet farm land on the edge of the Juan de Fuca Strait. It features Taylor Beach, a cobble beach covered in smooth, gravel-sized rocks. Panoramic views of the Strait and the Olympic Mountains makes it a wonderful place for romantic walks along the shoreline.
Witty's Lagoon is a magnificent ocean-side park that's particularly popular with bird-watchers and beachcombers. Down by the water's edge, a sand-covered beach is located near the picnic area. Visitors swim and sunbathe here, and explore the cobble beach which extends for several kilometers. At low tide, you can walk all the way to Taylor Beach at Devonian Regional Park!
Ready to visit Sooke? Contact us for availability!