French and Sandcut Beaches – two different experiences

Sandcut Beach

Sandcut Beach

Back to the beaches!  With the amazing weather we have been having over the past few months beaches tend to be a natural draw for us.  So, it’s a happy thing that there are so many of them here on the Island, ranging from wild to serene.  This week we are chronicling two beaches on the southwest coast of the Island that are as different as chalk and cheese.

The trail to French Beach is very easily traversed

The trail to French Beach is very easily traversed

We began our adventure at French Beach Provincial Park, located about 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) west of the town of Sooke.  Of all the beaches we have explored on the Island this is one of what I call the most ‘civilized’.

French Beach is a great choice for day trippers, who will find all sorts of amenities including picnic tables, benches and firepits

French Beach is a great choice for day trippers, who will find all sorts of amenities including picnic tables, benches and firepits

The park encompasses 59 hectares (145 acres) of woodland and waterfront, with exceptionally easy access – parts of it are even wheelchair-friendly.  An easy walk from the parking lot on well-groomed trails leads to a sheltered grassy area along the waterfront that features great picnicking and day use possibilities – tables, benches and fire pits are all there.

Campsites at French Beach are easily accessed

Campsites at French Beach are easily accessed

There are also drive-in campsites that are about a 10-minute walk from the beach for those who might want to stick around for a while and explore the park thoroughly, or spend time watching the migration in the Spring and Autumn of the 20,000 gray whales that pass through the area.

The beach is pebble, or cobble and is one of the fairly calm areas along the west coast, so no dramatic surf scenes – just a serene environment that invites visitors to stay a while and enjoy the peace and quiet.

The hike into Sandcut Beach is a little more rigorous...

The hike into Sandcut Beach is a little more rigorous…

From French Beach we ventured up to Sandcut Beach, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish!

Sandcut is wilder and rougher than French Beach – an interesting contrast in view of the fact that they are only 11 kilometres (7 miles) apart, with Sandcut located further west, towards Port Renfrew.

Looking west along Sandcut Beach

Looking west along Sandcut Beach

The hike in to Sandcut is a rough trail featuring boardwalk, tree roots and variable footing that calls for good footwear. The beach is part of a 181  hectare (447 acres) park reserve, but there are no services either along the trail or at the beach itself.

What you will find if you venture along the rather steep trail, however, is a taste of the wild not found at French Beach.  In addition to the cobble beach there are sandstone outcrops, waterfalls and an untamed beauty that, to us, is more the essence of the west coast.

Both of these beaches are do-able in a single day if you start out in reasonable time.  Pack a lunch and liquid refreshment, and enjoy!

            Further information on French and Sandcut Beaches can be found at the following websites:



            Both beaches are located along Highway #14, also known as the West Coast Road.

            GPS Co-ordinates are:

            For French Beach:wheelchair-l

            Lat. 48.39523666881147  Long. -123.94248681933595

            N 48 23.714   W 123 56.549

             For Sandcut Beach (approximately)

            Lat. 48.418050   Long. -124.021508

            N 48 25.083   W 124 01.290


About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers. In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.
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