Wednesday 7 December 2022

Port Renfrew

Last weekend was Ridley's Birthday, so we spent a few days over in Port Renfrew on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  It's only a couple of hours drive away from Victoria, but feels like a completely different place, and is well worth a visit.

About Port Renfrew

Port Renfrew is a small town with a population of around 150, and is the historical home of the Pacheedaht First Nation.  Known for fishing and forestry it has also developed a small tourist industry, mainly due to the wild location and the opportunities for outdoor activities, as well as the proximity to Old Growth forests.  It's known as the Tall Tree Capital of Canada!

Where to Stay in Port Renfrew

There is lots of holiday accommodation available through the usual booking sites.  We stayed in a lovely apartment overlooking the water, with a hot tub, managed by Handsome Dan's.

Port Renfrew Cabins

Things to Do in Port Renfrew

We've visited Port Renfrew a few times now, and it's one of our favourite places to visit on the island.  Here's a few suggestions on what to do if you make it out that way:

Bridgemans West Coast Eatery

This cool bar/restaurant is down by the Pacific Gateway Marina and looks over the San Juan Inlet towards the mountains.  Bridgemans is a timber framed building with large windows and a wood burning stove, and has a typical West Coast relaxed vibe.  It also serves the best smoked salmon we've ever had, the salmon is caught locally and smoked in Port Renfrew, so you can't get much shorter food miles!

Smoked Salmon at Bridgemans Port Renfrew

San Juan Inlet from Bridgemans Port Renfrew

The Renfrew Pub

Serving local craft ales and quality pub food, the pub is also worth a visit.  Only the back bar was open when we visited this time, but it looks to have lovely views out over the pier from the front deck in Summer.  We spent a fun few hours teaching the boys to play pool on the free table, while chatting with some of the locals and other visitors.

Playing pool at the Renfrew Pub
Big Lonely Doug

Big Lonely Doug is the second largest tree in Canada, about 70 metres tall and estimated to be 1000 years old.  The Douglas Fir was saved from clear cut logging in 2011 and now stands alone (hence the name!).  Doug is about a 20 minute drive from Port Renfrew up a logging road, and then about a 15 minute walk from the parking area where the road gets pretty much impassable for a normal vehicle.

Big Lonely Doug

Avatar Grove

You will pass Avatar Grove on the logging road up to Doug.  It is a protected area of Old Growth forest, and home to Canada's gnarliest tree apparently!  It's been closed for safety reasons for the whole time we've been on the island so we haven't actually been in to the grove, although there are often quite a few parked cars at the trail head, so I suspect it still gets visitors. 

Botanical Beach

This great beach is part of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park.  It has some amazing rock/tide pool formations, many are almost perfect circles and unlike anything we have seen anywhere else. They team with sea life and look unreal at times.  Make sure you visit at low tide to see them at their best.  It's about a 20 minute walk from the car park.

Tide pools at Botanical Beach

Tide Pools at Botanical Beach

Sombrio Beach

Sombrio beach is just off the main road between Jordan River and Port Renfrew.  There are three wilderness camping areas, which have now been added to the list for next Summer.  We headed West over a cool suspension bridge and walked down to the rocky beach where we watched some brave surfers.  Turns out we should have headed East to find a beautiful 'secret' waterfall - next time!

View of Sombrio Creek

Sombrio West Beach

Sooke Oceanside Brewing

Okay, so it's not in Port Renfrew, but it's worth looking out for this small craft brewery on your way through Sooke as you're heading back to Victoria.  It has lovely ocean views, great beer, and a cool Mac 'n' Cheese food truck. 

For those of you not following us on Instagram (why aren't you?!?), here's a wee video we made of the weekend.

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