Sandcut Beach is one of a series of terrific beaches along the southern coast of the Vancouver Island, and is unique for its picturesque little waterfalls dropping from the small sandstone cliffs down to the beach below. The beach itself is long and rather desolate, consisting of large pebbles smoothly rounded by the constant push and pull of the waves. The rocks make for slower going than normal when walking on the beach but the rumble as they slide around in the waves can be hypnotic.
The Sandcut Beach Trail
From the parking area, look for the outhouse toilet and near it you will find a wooden trailhead sign. The trail starts there and it is about 400 metres each way to the beach along a rough, occasionally muddy trail with a few deteriorating boardwalks and some fascinating old growth cedar forest dripping with luminescent moss and “witch’s hair”. The trail is flanked by tall trees so it stays cool and shady even in the summer.
Notably odd are the series of giant tree stumps with faces carved into them, with carefully chosen smooth rocks for eyeballs, and even random clumps of tiny trees sticking up like unkempt hair which will help keep kids entertained on the walk.
There are some roots to navigate but the trail isn’t particularly difficult and can be traversed by people of all ages and is family friendly. Although you will surely notice that the trail is all downhill to the beach (including quite a few stairs) which results in it being a fair bit more strenuous heading back up.
This terrific beach is part of the 187-hectare Jordan River Regional Park. On warm days it is a great beach for swimming, just look for the occasional sandy patches that are better for walking into the water. Meanwhile, on cool, windy days the piles of dead trees work well as windbreaks. On clear days you’ll be able to enjoy outstanding views across the Juan de Fuca Strait all the way to the mountains of Olympic National Park in Washington state. Visitors often see whales quietly gliding past and seals sunning themselves on the nearby rocks.
This is a great family beach where you can pack a lunch and enjoy an afternoon. It is dog friendly as well, and the waves are huge and symmetrical, which isn’t too surprising considering how close Sandcut Beach is to the Jordan River, one of Vancouver Island’s most popular surf spots.
Sandcut Beach is probably one of the best sunset spots along the entire coast, although if you do stick around until dark make sure you bring a headlamp or flashlight to help find your way through the forest back to your car (the light on your phone might be enough but I wouldn’t count on it).
The Sandcut Beach Waterfall
After you emerge onto the beach you’ll take a left to reach the waterfalls, walking along the beach for a few hundred metres southeast. Along the way you’ll pass a lot of fascinating clusters of downed trees and old driftwood (some of which was perfect for our lunch stop).
Once you make it to the waterfalls where the creek meets the beach, you’ll notice that because of the undercut shape of the sandstone it is actually possible to clamber in behind the waterfalls themselves. Of course, because they are only a couple metres high, you’ll have to crouch and half-crawl to make it work, and you’re probably still going to get a bit wet, but there is something undeniably cool about staring out at the world from behind a tumbling sheet of water, like a low-budget movie villain hiding behind some convenient curtains. They finished just on the outside looking in at our 9 best waterfalls on Vancouver Island, although I still go back and forth on that decision.
Meanwhile, you can also climb up the rocks to see more of the creek. In the drier days of summer it may be possible to walk close to the edge and get a glimpse of the waterfalls from above (the water is much higher in spring, fall and winter).
If you manage to get to the other side of the falls, either by crossing the creek up top, jumping from sandbar to sandbar on the beach or sneaking across behind the falls, you can continue on a few hundred metres where you’ll find a set of intriguing rock formations. These are great for photos themselves, or can be climbed to provide 180-degree views of the beach, strait and Olympic Peninsula.
After getting a little wet and scraping my knee on a rock crawling behind the falls on my first crossing, for the return journey I decided to attempt the rare and elusive double-jump, with the intention of not stopping long enough on my first landing to actually sink down into the soft, wet pebbles. Sure, it was an ambitious plan, but with proper dedication and careful planning I was confident I could pull it off. Well, long story short, both shoes were almost entirely dry by the next morning.
How to Get to Sandcut Beach
Sandcut Beach is located just off Highway 14, roughly 7 kilometres west of Shirley (10 minutes), 25 kilometres west of the town of Sooke (30 minutes) and 65 kilometres from Victoria (1 hr 15 min). The popular surfing area where the Jordan River meets the ocean is just a few kilometres west of Sandcut and wonderful Port Renfrew is about an hour’s drive in the same direction.
Coming from the east you’ll pass French Beach Provincial Park (a popular family beach with easy access and a campground), then Point No Point Resort and the sign for Sandcut Creek will be soon after. The Sandcut Beach parking lot sometimes fills up but it is also possible to park in a few places along the side of the highway. As with any hiking trailhead, we recommend never leaving valuables in your vehicle.
Sandcut Beach Camping and Facilities
You can’t camp on Sandcut Beach but there are two excellent camping choices nearby – China Beach Campground and Jordan River Regional Park Campground. There really aren’t any facilities at Sandcut Beach other than an outhouse at the trailhead, so be sure to come prepared. Fires are allowed on the beach, although you need to check on any current fire restrictions and make sure you only burn dead wood (or even better, bring your own firewood). Whether or not you have a fire, Sandcut Beach is an excellent place for a picnic as long as you clean up your mess and pack any trash back out with you.
Attractions Near Sandcut Beach
This part of Vancouver Island is filled with things to do. You could base yourself in the area or make day trips from Victoria. It took us four separate day trips to see all of the highlights so if you don’t have the time you may have to pick and choose. Here are some of the best choices on Vancouver Island’s west coast.
Just outside of Victoria, you’ll find the fascinatingly diverse Witty’s Lagoon, featuring a beach, a rocky headland and Sitting Lady Falls.
The Sooke Potholes are a series of interesting rapids, pools and small waterfalls on the Sooke River. They are actually at their most scenic in the summer when the river is lower because in the rainy season the water gets up so high that the “potholes” mostly disappear. Nearby Mary Vine Creek waterfall, on the other hand, is at its roaring, frothing best after a big winter rain. These are two of the best things to do around Sooke.
There are a lot of scenic hiking trails in East Sooke Park, with the East Sooke Coast Trail, in particular, considered by many (including us) to be one of the best day hikes in British Columbia.
Beach lovers can make a whole day of it, stopping at one of the many amazing beaches in and around Victoria including the family-friendly French Beach, surfer favourite China Beach and maybe even check out an even bigger beach waterfall at Mystic Beach (if you are up for the rugged, hilly and muddy 4 km hike to the beach and back).
If you have time to continue on to Port Renfrew there are several more highlights to add to the list, including hikes to Sombrio Beach for a hidden waterfall and Botanical Beach for the tide pools, and visits to Fairy Lake and Avatar Grove.
Just a bit farther west, the Jordan River is worth a stop to surf, or watch the surfers do their thing, and if you have time on your way back to Victoria, Shirley Delicious is a wonderful little café with snacks and desserts to hold you over until you make it back. Then, don’t forget about all the great beaches in and around Victoria, as well.
Along a stunning coastline well-known for its phenomenal beaches, Sandcut Beach stands out for its rocky desolation and beautiful waterfall. It is yet another must-see stop on any Vancouver Island road trip.
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