You can make some interesting discoveries when you are dawdling along on your way to somewhere else, which is exactly what happened to us a while back when we were heading for a bed and breakfast in Sooke, on the southwest coast of the Island. With time to kill before check-in, we wandered a little off the beaten track and found Whiffen Spit.
There is nothing particularly highly-organized or publicized about Whiffen Spit – it is one of those little gems that is just there, snaking for 1.2 kilomtres (3/4 mile) out in to Sooke Harbour. It has protected the Sooke Basin from breakers coming in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean for eons, providing safe haven for the clipper ships that plied its waters in the 19th century, and for smaller craft now.
There are historic footnotes to the spit as well – the first successfully operated steam sawmill was built near the site by the fathers of the B.C Forest Industry, John Jr., Robert and Michael Muir. Ever the resourceful fellows, they used the boiler from the wrecked vessel Major Tompkins in the mill, which endured until 1892.
In 1923 a bible student colony attracted adherents from across North America to the area, where they set up a school, meeting hall, bakery, barber and a fish reduction plant. The colony later moved to Port Renfrew and eventually disappeared.
We meandered along the easily-traversed trail for upwards of an hour, along with Moms pushing kids in strollers, elderly folks in wheelchairs, photographers and numerous dog walkers.
The spit’s protected location makes it a safe spot for children to play and explore along the waterline when the weather is fine. There are benches in various locations with a wide range of view options, and the shorelines on either side of this long finger of land offer up much in the way of beachcombing options. Driftwood, sea grass, cobble and sand surfaces underfoot keep things interesting. The spit was redolent with the fragrance of wild roses during our wander there in early May – a delightful seasonal element that added to the relaxed, pleasant atmosphere.
Because of its composition we had no idea how long the spit actually was when we began our exploration – it twists and turns and presents a rather misleading countenance from the shoreline. It was certainly no hardship, though, to enjoy the meandering trail and the surroundings. Next time we visit we will pack a picnic and take more time to savour the sights of this lovely and historic area.
There is a small parking lot at Whiffen Spit, which is located at the end of Whiffen Spit Road.
Further information on Whiffen Spit can be found at the website:
GPS co-ordinates for the spit parking lot are:
Lat. 48.356841823264055 Long. -123.72658439859623
N 48 21.411 W 123 43.595