Port Renfrew was the end of the road; the end of a gravel road until not so many years ago.
Service between Victoria and Port Renfrew was provided by the CPR’s SS Princess Maquinna from 1913 to 1952. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a patched-together route of the logging truck railway systems in the San Juan Valley could carry passengers by speeder cab as far as Bear Creek, where they could then drive by motor vehicle to Shawnigan Lake and on to the Malahat highway.
A year later even more good news came for the logging community when a series of logging roads connected Port Renfrew to Sooke in 1958. In fact, when I moved to the Island with my parents in 1966, we used to go day-tripping up to Port Renfrew and then make the cross over to the east side. We had two choices. We could end up in Lake Cowichan or Shawnigan Lake. Jan and I continued these fabulous day trips well into the early ’80s but by that time the big wooden trestle bridge on the Shawnigan Lake route had been taken out by river debris after a big rainstorm. Sadly, never replaced.
Today’s asphalted circle route from Victoria to Sooke to Renfrew to Cowichan Lake and back to Highway – called the Pacific Marine Circle Route – is known as the ultimate west coast road trip; tracing a 300 km loop of endless breathtaking views and optional side trips.
Today as we whiz on a paved road from Sooke to Port Renfrew, it may be hard to visualize Port Renfrew was once one of the most isolated communities on south Vancouver Island. It is still isolated in that there is no cell phone service and the gas station run by the Pacheedaht Nation has been in existence for little over a year.
Keeping in mind the remoteness of Port Renfrew and the lack of utilities, it is no wonder streaming technology is a challenge. WiFi is strong for simplistic needs; emails/texts, searches and even streaming radio but watching streamed movies as seen on Netflix and Amazon Prime………..whoa Nelly. I agree it’s irritating beyond words.
Port Renfrew has reached its technological peak as both the permanent and transient community grows. Our service provider has applied and received approval for optic lines. I am told this is a one to two-year project. Please be patient and remember what brought you to Port Renfrew in the first place; the Wild Woolly West Coast; the tall trees and forest walks.
Disconnect from the world and enjoy the isolation. Celebrate the solitude.