Sooke Region Museum yields up intriguing history of Island’s southwest coast

Children making bannock at the Sooke Region Museum, Sooke, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Historical footnotes at the Sooke Region Museum include learning how to make and cook bannock

Who knew?  We certainly had no idea that there had been a minor gold rush on Vancouver Island. And, while I was very aware of the Graveyard of the Pacific, where hundreds of ships foundered and many lives were lost, I had no idea of the huge scope of that moniker – until we visited the engrossing and very welcoming Sooke Region Museum.

Map showing Graveyard of the Pacific at the Sooke Region Museum, Sooke, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

This map delineating the Graveyard of the Pacific and the shipwrecks that were endemic there certainly gives pause for thought

We stopped at the museum originally because it also serves as a visitor centre and looking, as ever, for information and story ideas, we always find these places a treasure trove of information. We certainly weren’t disappointed in that respect, but the added bonus of 90 minutes spent perusing the museum displays enhanced our appreciation of the area that much more.

Moss Cottage at Sooke Region Museum, Sooke, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Moss cottage, the oldest standing structure outside of Victoria

The Sooke Region Museum is an indoor/outdoor experience, scattered over spacious, well-kept grounds.  The main building houses the visitor centre as well as many historic artifacts and displays highlighting the history of this area of the southwest coast of the Island.  There is a gift shop downstairs and upstairs there are more displays, which vary depending on the time of year.  When we visited there were beautiful hand-made items on display from the Sooke Arts Council (which prompted me to start my Christmas shopping several months early!)

Hand woven First Nations baskets at the Sooke Region Museum, Sooke, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Beautiful hand-woven first Nations baskets are on display in the main building

In addition to the main building presentations there are many exhibits on the property that offer a glimpse into life on the southwest coast of the Island more than a hundred years ago.

One-room accommodation in pole makers shack at Sooke Region Museum, Sooke, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The humble accommodation in the pole makers shack

We meandered to the covered outdoor exhibit that houses much of the ancient machinery used in the ‘good old days’, including a horse-drawn cutter.  Moss Cottage, the oldest standing structure west of Victoria, offered a glimpse into home life in the 1870s. At a huge sheltered outdoor fireplace we discovered a pair of volunteers teaching school kids how to make and cook bannock, and a little further along a meandering pathway we discovered the authentic pole makers shack, complete with very humble one-room accommodation.

Fabric Art at Sooke Region Museum, Sooke, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Fabric art was on display upstairs in the main building during our visit

There is even a vintage lighthouse on the property, relocated from Triangle Island on the northern coast of Vancouver Island.  Built in 1910, the cast iron and glass fixture was decommissioned despite its ability to throw light up to five miles away.  The problem with the light came with the fact that it had been built so high that its beam was often obscured by clouds, making it useless to mariners.  A decade after its installation it was taken out of service, eventually ending up as a display piece in Sooke.

While museums are generally not my thing, I found plenty to like about this little treasure and all that it offered in the way of information about life in the area. It was easy to imagine living on the southwest coast during the 1800s and 1900s, thanks to the museum and the talented employees and volunteers who make it all happen.

            Further information on the Sooke Region Museum can be found at the website:

Sooke Region Museum is located at 2070 Phillips Road, Sooke

 GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.384240  Long. -123.706423

N 48 23.054  E 48 23.054


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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