New York. Paris. San Francisco. Sooke.
Sooke? Yes, Sooke, a Canadian hamlet about 22 miles from Victoria,
British Columbia's capital city. A cozy, French, white clapboard
country inn is redefining this southern tip of Vancouver Island
where the rolling tides of the Pacific Ocean remain one of the most
Sooke Harbour House has garnered many
awards over the years. To name a few: “One of the Top Three Hotels
in Canada" and "One of the 100 best hotels in the world," Travel and
Leisure Magazine, Readers’ Poll; “Grand Award: One of Canada's five
best wine lists and one of the top 86 in the world,” Wine Spectator,
and “Corporate Environmental Award: Leader in environmentally
responsible tourism,” Tourism Victoria.
What defines such award-winning
accomplishments? Certainly amicable innkeepers like Sinclair and
Frederique Philip. Experience has taught them that to affix the
“extra” in an “ordinary” business takes time and patience. Whether
planning special events, including weddings and business meetings
for up to 50 people or quiet interludes for couples, the innkeepers
have mastered the art of hospitality and culinary flare. After all,
they’ve been in the business for more than 25 years.
another secret that creates a prize winner. “The inn is a few yards
from the Pacific. We are in the pristine wilderness, but we are a
luxurious, small hotel resort,” Frederique says about the inn that
echoes the décor and ambiance of her native French countryside.
Any seasoned traveler knows the
importance of comfort enhanced by impeccable surroundings, which are
found at Sooke Harbour House with treasures like carefully chosen
antiques and handcrafted ceramic basins. “We have 28 rooms, some
fairly large, with steam shower for two, bathtub for two, either in
front of the fireplace or on the balcony. The inn is decorated with
original art; it’s a gallery in itself, it’s very eclectic,”
The amenity-rich rooms (breakfast and
lunch are included in the room rate) also boast a private balcony or
terrace with panoramic views of the mountains and coastline,
bathrobes and a bottle of Port. The proprietors at Sooke House leave
no detail unturned. Even rubber boots and rain jackets are provided
to guests so they can “enjoy the romantic intimacy of a stroll
through the West Coast mists.” A new perk for guests are the
infrared Solarus Saunas, located in the common areas on the bottom
and top floors.
Each guestroom, brimming with regional
artworks and craftsmanship, exudes a different decorating scheme.
The Bird Watchers Room, accented by bird prints, for instance, is a
split-level that provides an ideal perch to spot birds like eagles,
seagulls and heron. The Kitchen Garden Room is full of flora and
flower motifs, most apparent in its eye-popping display of
Tiffany-style steam room glass doors inlaid with flowers.
It is an understatement when Frederique
says, “We don’t do anything like other people.” When was the last
time you visited a place where your expertly-cooked fare was a
mélange of backyard wildflowers, other unique plants (more on that
later) and seaweed from the local waters? While on the subject of
seaweed, after visiting the Sooke Harbour House, you’ll never
underestimate that slickly-slick matter again. First, there is the
famed seaweed tour between May and September (there are also daily
garden tours and numerous other special events) with the “Seaweed
Lady.” (Book the Seaweed Room if you really want to reinforce this
Second, among the myriad offerings at
the Sooke Harbour House Sea-renity Spa, some of the signature
treatments include a seaweed body wrap and full-body soak in a tub
with seaweed; not to mention seaweed oil aromatherapy.
“We have 28 rooms, some
fairly large, with steam shower for two, bathtub for two,
either in front of the fireplace or on the balcony," says
Innkeeper Frederique Philip.
All this seaweed spills into the
kitchen in what Frederique describes as one of the best in the
world. Dinner is available at the restaurant where the menu changes
daily. “We had a mention by food critics from Toronto saying we are
part of the seven wonders in the food category in the world,” she
adds. Perhaps the praise is due to the fact that the innkeepers grow
400 different kinds of edible plants (the temperate microclimate
allows the gardens to flower year-round) that end up in the recipes.
Additionally, what makes dining exceptional is the emphasis on local
specialties, which means the use of gastronomic surprises like
gooseneck barnacles, sea urchins, organic rabbit and, of course,
seaweed. Then, too, Sinclair is Canada’s national “slow food”
representative and a wine connoisseur. (Slow food means pleasure is
derived from the taste, preparation and presentation, focusing on
traditional, regional, seasonal and organic edibles.)
“If you are really a foodie or a food
connoisseur and like to try different wines, this is an exceptional
place to be in because you are in the country, by the ocean, in a
very small sound on British Columbia, but we offer what could be
found in the best restaurants in New York or in Paris—without
pretension,” Frederique concludes with her savoir faire tone that
exemplifies the inn.