What to See & Do

Eat, Drink and Shop Local ... You'll Find its Still Fun to Shop in Sooke
Sooke people -- called "Sookies," just for fun -- love the friendly small town vibe of this place, and look forward to meeting their neighbours and welcoming visitors in their seaside village. Sooke town centre offers a little bit of something for everyone, from sipping lattes at trendy cafes, to simply buying groceries and stocking up on essential supplies. Shopping is Sooke is all about small town ambience. You'll not find big box stores here, but you will be able to purchase everything you need for a happy and fulfilling holiday. There are two major shopping centres in Sooke, alongside Sooke Road/Highway 14, the Evergreen Centre and Sooke Centre Mall, each with a grocery store with excellent deli counters for lunch-on-the-go. The town has banks, drug stores, health food, liquor stores and gas stations, and the usual fast food outlets for burgers and subs, just like small towns everywhere. Walk around Sooke core, however, and you'll discover some unique small businesses, cafes, boutiques and gift shops. Have a specialty coffee or a light meal at Stick in the Mud Coffee House on Eustace Road, or sip a cuppa and listen to some local music at Serious Coffee in Sooke Centre Mall.  Sushi ON the Sea is a restaurant on the Mighty Rolano, a large sailboat moored in Sooke Harbour, which serves up the freshest sushi and local lore, in two sittings on weekend nights, hosted by the inimitable Sooke raconteur, Captain Ralph. Literary types will find a used treasure trove at Well Read Books on the corner of Sooke and Church Roads, while The Reading Room in Evergreen Mall has a quality selection of used and new books, lots by local scribes, as well as a lovely little restaurant, The Reading Room Cafe, open during the day.  Get outfitted for adventure, or stop in to buy a fishing licence or crab trap at Eagle Eye Wilderness Company on West Coast Road next to the Post Office. Sooke Cycle, a knowledgeable source of tips on riding trails and local routes, sells bikes of all sorts and fixes flats at its location on Anna Marie Road. Located on the harbour, West Coast Outdoor Adventure Rentals has Hobie kayaks (untippable!) and bikes for rent, while Lucky Rentals on West Coast Road at Maple Avenue is the place for scooter and boat rentals. The Federal Government Wharf on South Maple Avenue is home to Sooke's commercial fishing fleet, where you can buy seafood right off the boat. Visiting mariners will find overnight moorage here, just a short walk to town. For landlubbers, the wharf's a scenic spot to drop a crab trap and to watch all the marine activity in Sooke Harbour. Jock's Dock and the Crab Shack, a block away on West Coast Road, sells fresh crab, spot prawns and fish, and has a public boat launch. E-Fish-Ent Fish Co. in Saseenos is your source for smoked wild salmon, gift packs and custom processing of your catch. Nearby Sunny Shores Marina offers a public boat launch and marine engine repairs.  Rush Adventures, also in sunny Saseenos -- aka the 5000 block of Sooke Road/Highway 14 -- sells and rents kayaks, and gives lessons and tours of the beautiful Sooke Basin. Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery (licensed as British Columbia's first meadery in 2003) sells the best honey, and has free tours and a tasting room for you to sample and purchase delicious Meads and Melomel, fermented drinks made from honey collected on its Gordon's Beach/Otter Point property, 10 km west of Sooke town centre. Mead (Honey Wine) is the oldest art of fermentation. Consumed by all, from kings to peasants, mead has gained a reputation as a giver of life, wisdom, courage and strength down through the ages.
From Soap to Squash ... it's All So Fresh at The Sooke Country Market
The Sooke Country Market, held on Saturdays from mid-May through October on Otter Point Road in downtown Sooke, is a gathering place for Sookies selling seeds and plants, flower bouquets, fresh produce, baked goods, preserves, eggs and poultry, as well as locally-crafted furniture, jewellery, artwork and much more.  Everything is homemade, handmade and homegrown and the selection is fresh and unique each week. This open-air market is seasonal fun for everyone! Massage and aroma therapy onsite will soothe the adults, while often there's entertainment, including clowns and face-painting to amuse the little ones.

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Dine Downtown at some of our favourite eateries ...

and dig into the delicious deep-dish pie, just like your mom used to bake, at the perennially popular Mom's Cafe on Shields Road.   Pizzability, on Sooke Road, makes in-house dough and sauce for its take out fare. The Stone Pipe Grill dishes up inventive and memorable meals for lunch and dinner in a relaxed bistro setting (try the Nightly Fresh Sheet), while the Alternative Kitchen Cafe serves brekky and tasty lunches, and makes up picnic take-away foods for day trippers. Mai Mai's Bistro serves west coast inspired sushi and a fusion of Asian cuisines seven days a week and is open late Friday and Saturday. For fresh Mexican food, try the Lazy Gecko. In Evergreen Centre you'll find our community's longest serving pizza place, Sooke 2 for 1 Pizza."Andythepizzaman" carefully crafts pizza, pasta, wings, salads, donnair, souvlaki and calzones and will deliver these delicious treats piping hot to your accommodation seven days a week.

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Historic and perhaps haunted 17 Mile House (the home of Adrena Line Adventures) serves craft brews and hearty pub food. This roadhouse rocks on weekends with live music, a barbecue sundeck and a volleyball court outdoors.  Stickleback West Coast Eatery features seafood, ribs and steaks and has huge windows and a waterfront patio overlooking Cooper's Cove in Saseenos (next door to Rush Adventures), and is the perfect place to watch a kayak water polo match on a warm summer's night! When heading out West Coast Road from Sooke, Buffy's Pub has big juicy burgers, cold beer, neighbourhood ambience, an open mic and live music on weekends. Buffy's also serves its fare from a take-out window for those in a hurry to hit the beaches or catch a wave further out west.  Kemp Lake Store and Cafe in rural Otter Point offers delicious specials at can't be beat prices. Freedom Arts Music, also located in the store, offers CD and vinyl collectible sales, and live music concerts on Sunday afternoons.

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Our exceptional downtown bakery, Little Vienna Bakery, Cafe and Marketplace offers wholesome breakfasts and lunches, specialty coffee drinks and a lovely patio to savour your meal outdoors. Inside you'll find a good selection of chocolate and imported cheeses, artisan breads and sumptuous European tortes and pastries, and also seasonal exhibitions by local artists on its walls.
See Beautiful Art Downtown and All Around Sooke ...
SPEAKING OF ART, check out Sooke Fine Art Gallery, where Michel DesRocher's refined brushwork and beautiful paintings are forefront, and the South Shore Gallery and Artists Supply, a wonderful collection of works of art in many media - fabric, collage, painting, writing, music, sculpture - all by exceptional South Vancouver Island artists. Jake Grant Jewellery Design carries art and decor, native jewellery, carvings and prints, plus custom and production jewellery with Canadian diamonds in all metals from the bench of Jake Grant. Handmade felt and wearable art by renowned local artisan Sheila Beech is sold at The Sooke Harbour House Gift Shop (she has supplied felt for fashionista Donna Karan's shows and created felted costumes for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City). Overlooking Gordon's Beach in Otter Point, you'll find the Orveas Bay Gallery and Studio and the truly original pottery and fine woodworking art of Glenys and Basil Marshall-Inman. At 8520 West Coast Road, woodturner Aivars Logins makes bowls and boxes, and even burl sinks and bathtubs. In his ocean view studio, he sculpts amazing works of art from locally salvaged maple and red and yellow cedar burls, which he ships to art lovers from around the world. SHOPPING FOR A SOUVENIR of your holiday is a delightful experience in Sooke. Some shop names sing out the poetry of this special place: Tale of the Whale displays one-of-a-kind artifacts and antiques at the aptly named gallery on Otter Point Road. Browse and enjoy this lifetime collection of fine Native Art from the coastal area of the great northwest of the United States and Canada. Find fresh floral art, jewellery and unique gifts at A Sea of Bloom, a charming and colourfully painted little shop on Sooke Road.   Blue Raven Gallery on Kaltasin Road in Saseenos is home to a family of award-winning artisans, Carey, Edith and Victor Newman. In this studio you'll see exacting craftsmanship and awesome First Nations art in many media, including high fashion couture, glassware, silver and gold jewellery, painting and wood and stone carving. The Sooke Region Museum Gift Shop is filled with First Nations carvings and art, souvenirs, exquisite local crafts and a broad collection of local interest and natural history books.  And the Sooke Harbour House is in itself an Art Gallery supreme, with every nook and cranny of this amazing hotel and spa displaying the work of local artists. Walk through the halls and be wowed by the creativity of our local artisans, then stop by the Gift Shop to purchase these works and more original pieces. See many objets d'art, inside and outside the hotel, including garden sculptures, blacksmith's metal art, and installation art including a fabulous cedar fence depicting swimming salmon.  If looking at so much art makes you hungry, don't forget that the restaurant at Sooke Harbour House serves dinner nightly and is now open for lunch on Sundays. STOP BY SOME OF THESE PLACES on your driving tour, stroll around and spend some quality time downtown. Be like a "Sookie" and you'll see ... you really can find a little bit of something for everyone in Sooke.
Sooke Restaurants -- Slow Food and the Art of Fine Dining
The slow food movement and its celebration of regional cuisine has firmly taken root in Sooke. Abundant local and wild foods, berries and flowers, game and an amazing array of seafood, including edible seaweeds, have proved inspirational to our chefs and bakers, farmers, fishers and mead makers. Despite its small town stature, Sooke's fine dining seaside restaurants and their owners abilities have turned Sooke into a true "foodie" destination. Sooke Harbour House Restaurant, art gallery and boutique hotel has entertained heads of state and made a name for itself around the world with its award-winning wine cellar and epicurean delights served in a splendid diningroom featuring a stone fireplace and spectacular views. Consistently voted as one of the best small inns in Canada and in North America, Sooke Harbour House is a trailblazer. The hotel's chefs and proprietors have made an art of regional cuisine, championed slow food and the 100 mile diet, and put a star beside Sooke on the culinary highway. If you have ever dined at this seaside gem, you know the food is beautifully presented, and rich with local ingredients. The diminutive Markus' Wharfside Restaurant also serves food big on local flavour, featuring traditional seafood and meat dishes personalized with dynamic twists both to taste and presentation. Quality products and fresh seasonal ingredients are the signature of this casually elegant diningroom overlooking Sooke Harbour and the fishing docks. Markus' Wharfside Restaurant was recently certified by the Culinary Tourism Society of B.C. as a culinary destination. Only a few establishments on Vancouver Island currently have this certification. Well done chef Markus and sommelier Tatum! Point No Point Restaurant, located in the tiny community of Shirley, supplies binoculars at each of its dining tables. Its talented chefs create innovative West Coast cuisine, with dishes inspired by the surrounding ocean and local farms, in a quaint room with sweeping vistas above the treetops to the beach below and the Strait of Juan de Fuca beyond. (See our blog for reviews of Sooke's restaurants.)
More Arts, Music and Culture to Enjoy in Sooke
Sooke is rich in creative artists and creative energy. There's alchemy at large here: the raw beauty surrounding us and an abundance of local resources are the inspiration to Sooke's vibrant artisan community. Vision and the elements at hand come together to form something that's greater than the sum of its parts. Found and natural materials such as driftwood and aromatic cedar, seaweed, seashells, beach stones, glass, felt, porcelain, precious and base metals are transformed into unique works of art such as kelp baskets, unusual decor, wood carvings and treasures you won't find anywhere else! The Stinking Fish Studio Tour takes place in spring, fall and over the Christmas season (Dec. 6, 7, 8, 2013). From East Sooke and Metchosin to Sooke and beyond, artists and artisans invite the public to visit their studios, to talk to them about their work and learn about the different mediums used for their creative expression. They're likely to tell you why they have chosen to live and work here, finding inspiration amidst the rolling landscape and lush rainforests near the sea. The Stinking Fish Studio Tour features a wide array of fine art and fine craft on the southern Island, surrounded by its natural beauty. Come explore one of the richest "art trails" on the Island - meet the artists, see their work and take some home with you! Admission is free.

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In the summer, The SOOKE FINE ARTS SHOW -- July 31 to Aug. 10, 2014

provides a venue for well-known and emerging artists from Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii to showcase their work. Vancouver Island's Largest Juried Arts Show attracts 10,000 visitors, and art patrons from B.C., and throughout western Canada and the United States. Hundreds of artworks are displayed for the enjoyment of visitors during this annual festival where fine art can be admired and purchased. The show opens on Thursday, July 31, with a Purchaser's Preview and runs through to Sunday, August 10. Visit (www.sookefinearts.com)
for a daily calendar. Live entertainment, a bistro, wine tasting, a local designer fashion show, art lectures, a gift shop and much more all add to the magical ambience of Sooke Fine Arts. Visit Sooke this summer and enjoy the 28th anniversary of this fantastic event put on the energetic volunteers of the Sooke Fine Arts Society.
The Performing Arts and Fun, Fairs and Festivals Year Round
Sooke Harbour Players present musicals, dramas and dinner theatre in the 350-seat Sooke Community Theatre (inside Edward Milne Secondary School). The Sooke Community Choir, and the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra, a respected semi-professional troupe conducted by Norman Nelson, also stage performances in the theatre, or outdoors in the summer. The crowd-pleasing Sooke Philharmonic Fling!, an annual open-air symphony concert hosted by the orchestra in Ed McGregor Park, features renowned soloists, and sounds a highnote in the summer entertainment season. Plan to attend the Philharmonic Fling! on Sunday, July 13, 2014 and enjoy the Annual Pops in the Park Concert, free summer fun for the whole family! Gates open at 1:00 pm, and the concert begins at 2:30 pm. SOOKE PEOPLE CELEBRATE many special events in our Spirit Square, located in Ed McGregor Park, so named in honour of Sooke's first mayor. This lush swath of lawn and lovely gardens slopes toward the harbour, with views across the water to East Sooke and the Olympic Mountains on the horizon. Concerts take place in the Bandshell, a legacy of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Art in the Park, presented by the Sooke Community Arts Council, is a weekend extravaganza of fine arts and unique crafts by local artisans, with great entertainment and yummy food, held here August 19 and 20. Admission is free.
Many More Activities of Note Highlight the Sooke Calendar:
The Polar Bear Swim and bonfire at Whiffin Spit on New Year's Day; Sooke's Secret Gardens Tour on Sunday, June 1, 2014, sponsored by the Sooke Philharmonic Society, features ornamental gardens, a classic car display, auction and live music by the members of the orchestra in spectacular settings. For more information on this 6th annual tour log on to www.sookephil.ca The flats at the Sooke River Community Campground is the place to be for pickers and strummers on Father's Day Weekend, June 13, 14 and 15, 2014 for the annual Sooke River Bluegrass Music Festival, celebrating 12 years of foot-stomping fun! Locals and visitors alike compete in the Great Sookeini Race ... Canada Day is joyously celebrated on July 1 with music and sun-up to sun-down festivities at the flats on the Sooke River -- a pancake breakfast starts the holiday, followed by a loggers sport show, salmon barbecue, pie eating contest, kids zone, dog show, raft building race and a rock band in the evening -- and the free event ends after sunset with awesome fireworks. A Beach Art competition on beautiful Whiffin Spit in early September invites you to comb the beach and participate in creating something fanciful from found materials ... some of the "creations" are truly amazing!  Be impressed by the bounty of produce, flowers and crafts at the richly traditional Sooke Fall Fair held on September 7 and 8; and the Great Chilli Challenge in September; while Christmas Craft Fairs are held in Shirley and Sooke in November and December. All Sooke Arts and Crafts Christmas Fair with 70 vendors selling everything handcrafted takes place in November at the historic Sooke Community Hall ... and The Sooke Community Arts Council holds its annual Christmas Art Show at Little Vienna Bakery in December. Kids of all ages enjoy the Santa Claus Parade through our downtown, and the Moss Cottage Christmas at the Sooke Region Museum. The Sooke Folk Music Society hosts a coffeehouse with local singers and visiting troubadours on the third Saturday night of each month at the Anglican Church on Murray Road. Live jazz music and an appetizer menu is presented in a lounge setting on Friday nights at Sooke Harbour House. Enjoy the sounds of a live band and shake a leg on weekends at the 17 Mile House and Buffy's Pub. SO PLEASE DO MAKE PLANS TO VISIT US IN SOOKE! Holiday in this natural beauty by the sea where the air is fresh, the view of the forested Sooke Hills and snowy Olympic Mountains is truly spectacular, and where you'll find plenty of fun things to see and do all year round.