Southern Vancouver Island has many beautiful beaches featuring gorgeous waterfalls, such as the popular Mystic Beach and the hidden waterfall on Sombrio Beach. One of the lesser-known but still amazing waterfall beaches on the island is Sandcut Beach, located in Jordan River Regional Park. It’s only a short drive from Victoria and is one of my favorite day trips from the city!
Sandcut Beach features a beach of pebbles and cobble-sized stones with a pair of waterfalls at one end of the beach that cascade off the top of a small rock cliff into a pool of water. The beach gets its name from the way that the water has cut into the sandstone of the rock shelf.
Underneath the waterfalls, fossilized shells of various sizes, colors and textures are pressed into the sandstone. The shells form colorful striations in the rock, slowly being exposed and eroded over time from the water. You can walk carefully underneath the waterfalls, with water cascading inches from your head.
The waterfalls are accessed by a short forest pathway, that leads you down to the beach through an old-growth West Coast rainforest. You’ll pass many impressive Douglas firs, spruce, and cedar trees. There’s even a small bridge crossing a tiny creek on the trail!
The waterfalls on Sandcut Beach are one of the many hidden gems that Southern Vancouver Island has to offer. The beach is worth a visit, at any time of the year!
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Sandcut Beach, Vancouver Island: highlights
- 3.5 km of pebble and stone beach with spectacular views of the ocean and Olympic Peninsula
- A pair of impressive waterfalls that you can walk behind
- Fossilized shells in the sandstone under the waterfalls
- A fun rope swing by the waterfalls that’ll swing you over the pool of water
- The carved sandstone at the top of the rock shelf
- An old-growth forest trail with boardwalks
Sandcut Beach map
Click here for a map of Sandcut Beach on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and to get directions from Google Maps.
How far is Sandcut Beach from Victoria, BC?
Sandcut Beach is about 65-km from downtown Victoria. It will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to drive to Sandcut Beach from downtown Victoria. It’s great for a day trip because it’s so close to the city!
How to get to Sandcut Beach in Jordan River Regional Park, BC
To get to Sandcut Beach from downtown Victoria, follow Highway 1 north. At West Shore Road, you’ll turn left at the traffic lights. Almost immediately, you will go through three traffic circles. Head straight through the first two traffic circles, and then follow the road to the right on the third. Continue on West Shore Parkway until you see Highway 14. Turn right onto Highway 14 and follow the highway west towards Sooke.
Highway 14 is very scenic and an enjoyable drive. You will pass through Sooke and Shirley to get to Sandcut Beach. When you cross Sandcut Creek, you will know that you are almost there. There will also be signs for the beach. The beach is between French Beach Provincial Park and the Jordan River campground.
The parking lot is on the left-hand side of West Coast Road (Highway 14). The parking lot is pretty small and easy to drive past if you aren’t paying attention.
Getting to Jordan River Regional Park from downtown Victoria is very straightforward with a vehicle, but difficult with public transportation. There is a bus (#61) that goes from Victoria to Sooke, but not further. The West Coast Trail Express bus also heads from Victoria to Port Renfrew but doesn’t stop at Sandcut Beach. So, you’ll probably need a vehicle to get to this beach. You can also bike if you don’t mind a very long bike ride (3 hours 45 minutes from downtown Victoria by bike, one-way).
Sandcut Beach parking lot
Parking at Sandcut Beach is limited. The parking lot is small so it doesn’t take many cars to fill the parking lot up to capacity. On hot, sunny summer days, the parking lot can fill up quickly.
It is best to arrive at the beach early in the day, to ensure you get a parking spot. However, if the parking lot is full, there is some parking on the side of the highway.
While you’re at the beach, don’t leave any valuables in your car. Sometimes thieves target the cars parked by the beaches on Highway 14.
How long is the trail to Sandcut Beach?
There is a short hike to get to the beach. Don’t worry if you aren’t the hiking type, however! The trail to Sandcut Beach is only about 400-m. It will take you no more than 10 minutes to walk down to Sandcut Beach. There is only a change in elevation of about 35 meters.
The trail is fairly easy and it doesn’t get too muddy, even in the winter. The trail is a mix of forest paths, boardwalk, and stairs. Children or people with mobility limitations make need help getting down the stairs. The beach may not be accessible to everyone due to the stairs and uneven forest trail (here are some beaches in Victoria that are more accessible).
Sandcut Beach hiking trail
The trail starts right at the parking lot. First, you’ll head through a gorgeous old-growth forest, with massive Douglas firs, cedars, and spruce trees.
One of the quirks of the trail to the beach is the eyes carved into the trees. Various trees have eyes made out of carved wood, shells, and pebbles. They are fun to try and spot! However, respect the forest and avoid carving any trees yourself.
The trail heads down wooden stairs and then follows a boardwalk over several streams and wet areas. You’ll begin to see the forest open up quickly. Soon, you’ll even get a good look at the ocean and the beach from the top of the stairs!
One more set of stairs down, and you’ll emerge out onto the beach!
Sandcut Beach waterfall
While you can explore the 3.5 km long beach in either direction, I recommend checking out the waterfalls first. The two waterfalls are definitely the highlight of the beach, and you’ll probably want to spend most of your time by the waterfalls.
To get to the Sandcut Beach waterfall, you’ll want to turn left when you get to the bottom of the stairs. The entire walk along the beach is beautiful, with amazing views of the Olympic Mountains across the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Head east on the beach for a few minutes and you’ll get your first glimpse of the beautiful waterfalls! The waterfalls at Sandcut Beach are about 10 or 15 feet tall, and they cascade right onto the beach.
In the winter, when the river is full, the waterfalls thunder down into a large pool of water on the beach. In the summer, the waterfall becomes much smaller, and you can even walk under the water if you want to get wet!
If you’re careful, you can walk behind the waterfalls and stand behind the water. It’s a magical feeling, having the water pour down in front of you while you hide under the rock ceiling. It’s most impressive in the winter when the water is crashing down.
Fossilized shells under the waterfall
One of my favorite things about walking under the waterfalls is the fossilized shells that are pressed into the sandstone. The shells form bands of dark color, contrasting against the light brown sandstone. The shells are often overlooked by visitors to the beach, but they are one of the more unique features of the waterfalls that’s worth seeing!
The rope swing
There is also a rope swing at the waterfalls. You can swing out over the pool of water that is formed underneath the waterfalls. It’s a lot of fun! Make sure to hold on tight, especially in the winter when there is more water under the falls!
It might be difficult to access this swing in the winter at high tide. At high tide, your path to the swing will be blocked by water, unless you don’t mind wading through and getting wet!
Climbing to the top of the waterfall
Additionally, you can climb up to the top of the rock shelf by the waterfalls to get a good view of the falls and the beach from above. The best spot to climb up is on the east side of the waterfalls. Watch your footing!
Climbing up to the top of the waterfalls is best in the summer. In the winter, you’ll have to be more careful, because the water is running a lot stronger. In the summer, you’ll be able to see better how the river water has carved the sandstone. The water has carved pools and channels into the rock, making quite a unique sandstone formation. It’s quite cool to see!
When is the best time to visit Sandcut Beach
The size of the waterfalls on Sandcut Beach varies between years and in different seasons. Unlike many other beaches on Vancouver Island, I highly recommend visiting Sandcut Beach in the winter. During the winter, the river fills with rain and the waterfalls become much more impressive.
This is the same for any of the waterfalls on Southern Vancouver Island. During the winter, the Southern Vancouver Island waterfalls tend to have more water flowing and are bigger. Further north, the waterfalls will freeze during winter, however.
Of course, the waterfalls are still spectacular in the summer, but if you want to experience the full strength of the waterfalls, visit in the winter. Walking behind the waterfall is more fun in the winter because you can really feel the power of the water coming down beside you. The pool of water is also quite a bit larger.
Alternatively, if you prefer a smaller waterfall, visit Sandcut Beach in the summer. During the summer, the river has a lot less water, so the waterfall is much smaller. The waterfall becomes more like a heavy shower, so you can even walk under the water if you don’t mind getting wet!
Washrooms at the park
The only washroom at Sandcut Beach is an outhouse in the parking lot. The outhouse usually has toilet paper and hand sanitizer. There is no toilet at the beach, so make sure to use the facilities while you have a chance!
In the parking lot, there is also a garbage can and a recycling bin. There are no garbage cans at the beach, so you’ll need to carry out any garbage that you have from the beach back to the parking lot.
Can I have a fire at Sandcut Beach?
Unfortunately, fires are not allowed at Sandcut Beach.
Is Sandcut Beach dog-friendly?
Yes, dogs are allowed on Sandcut Beach!
In case you run into wildlife, make sure your dogs are under control. Pack out any doggie bags. There is a garbage can in the parking lot, but no garbage can at the beach.
Swimming at Sandcut Beach
You can swim at Sandcut Beach, but the water will be quite cold! Unlike beaches in the tropics, the ocean around Vancouver Island is never that warm. It’s ok for a quick dip or wading, but I find it quite freezing. Some people who don’t mind the cold as much seem to enjoy swimming in it, however. You can also wear a wetsuit if you want to swim for longer or if you don’t handle the cold well.
A lot of the beach is rocky, but there is more sand hidden under the water. The sand is revealed when the tide goes out and is nice to walk on while wading through the shallow water.
Wildlife around Jordan River Regional Park
You can spot lots of wildlife around Jordan River Regional Park and southern Vancouver Island. You have a good chance of seeing some animals when you’re enjoying the beach. Bring binoculars!
At the beach, you have the possibility of seeing whales. Grey whales can be spotted swimming close to shore in the spring as they migrate past Vancouver Island from about February to April. Humpback whales can be spotted in the summer months. And, there is always the chance to see orcas!
Lots of harbor seals, river otters, and sea birds hang around the coast of Vancouver Island. You’ll spot these animals hanging around the beach in the water. And, keep an eye out for bald eagles or osprey flying overhead!
There is the possibility of running into a black bear or a cougar around the beach (although this is unlikely). Make sure you take precautions before hiking to the beach.
Sandcut Beach camping
Unfortunately, you cannot camp at Sandcut Beach. The beach does not have the facilities to accommodate camping. As a result, the beach is in a much more pristine condition than if camping was allowed.
The closest camping option is the Jordan River Regional Park campground. Alternatively, you can camp on the beach at Sombrio Beach or Mystic Beach. Both of these beaches are located in the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, west of Jordan River. These beaches both have a similar feel to Sandcut Beach, and both feature stunning waterfalls.
Jordan River Regional Park campground
The closest campground to Sandcut Beach is the campground at Jordan River Regional Park. This campground is about 6-km away from Sandcut Beach. The Jordan River campground has a gorgeous beach and is a popular spot for surfers.
This campground has amazing waterfront views. The sites are all first-come, first-served, so arrive early! There are toilets, drinking water, picnic tables, and fire rings at the campground. However, they don’t have electrical hookups, a dumping station, or showers. There is a maximum stay of 2 weeks.
Staying at Jordan River Regional Park campground will cost:
- $15 per night from Apr 1 – Oct 31 (Additional vehicle $5/night).
- $10 per night from Nov 1 – Mar 31 (Additional vehicle $5/night)
Mystic Beach and Sombrio Beach camping
Mystic Beach and Sombrio Beach are both great options if you want to backcountry camp on a beach. Mystic Beach is much closer to Sandcut Beach, only about 10-km or 11 minutes of driving between the trailheads. Sombrio Beach is much further from Sandcut Beach, about 31-km away or 35 minutes of driving.
Both of these beaches have waterfalls. Mystic Beach’s waterfall is right on the beach, near the entrance to the beach. The waterfall pours right onto the beach, and you can run under the water to cool off. Sombrio’s waterfall is more hidden – you’ll have to follow one of the creeks up into the forest, where the waterfall is hidden in a narrow gorge.
These are both beautiful backcountry camping areas. There aren’t any official campsites at these beaches. If you camp at either of these beaches, you’ll need to hike your camping gear to the beach. Sombrio is a very short walk (about 250-m from the parking lot), but Mystic Beach is about 45 minutes of hiking to get to the beach (from the China Beach trailhead).
You’ll have to pay for a backcountry camping permit if you stay overnight at either of these beaches. The fee is:
- $10 per adult per night
- $5 per child per night
Hotels near Sandcut Beach and Jordan River Regional Park
There aren’t many hotels close to Jordan River Regional Park. Your best options are to stay in either Sooke or Victoria. If you stay in Sooke, you’ll be closer to the beach but further from a lot of Victoria’s tourist attractions. There are also more hotel options in Victoria, but Sooke has a more laid-back atmosphere.
One of the closer options is the beautiful Prestige Oceanfront Resort in Sooke. This hotel is affordable for what you get. The hotel is right on the water so you’ll have amazing views of the Sooke Harbour. The resort features a spa, restaurant, indoor pool, gym, cafe, and hot tub. The restaurant has really good food and a fun bartender. They also have a charming little patio with private fire pits and a gazebo area for events. There is also a small dock you can walk out on to enjoy the sunset.
If you choose to stay in Victoria, there are many options. You could stay at The Empress, which is the most famous hotel in Victoria. The Empress is more expensive but it’s worth the money and it’s conveniently located right on the Inner Harbour.
Alternatively, you could try Fairways Hotel on the Mountain, which is beside Bear Mountain and the golf course. This hotel is in a quiet, beautiful location, and the staff are very helpful and friendly.
Sandcut Beach is an amazing hidden gem in Southern Vancouver Island. The island has lots of beautiful waterfall and beach locations, just waiting for you to explore them.
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