FEATURE STORY

 

Vancouver Island's Spa Hideaway - Sooke Harbour House
Vancouver Island Area (Sooke), British Columbia
by Stacy Lytwyn Maxwell

 

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 unrivaled attractions.

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.

Location-location-location. That’s 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,” Frederique says.

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 theme!)

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.

 

Sooke Harbour House

Lodging Type: Country Inn

Accolades: Mobil Travel Guide 4 Stars, AAA 3 Diamonds, Wine Spectator Grand Award, DiRoNA, Canada Select 5 Stars

Location: 45 minutes from Victoria BC

Guest Rooms: 28; Suites:  

Meals: Dinner

Facilities: Full Service Restaurant, Wedding Facilities, Meeting Facilities, Spa

Web: www.sookeharbourhouse.com

Email: info@sookeharbourhouse.com

Phone: 250-642-3421

Address: 1528 Whiffen Spit Road, Sooke, British Columbia, V9Z 0T4 Canada

 

About the Author: Stacy Lytwyn Maxwell

 

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 unrivaled attractions.

 

The amenity-rich rooms boast a private balcony or terrace with panoramic views of the mountains and coastline.

 

 

 

 

Some of the signature treatments at the Sea-renity Spa include a seaweed body wrap and full-body soak in a tub with seaweed; not to mention oil aromatherapy.

 

What makes dining exceptional is the emphasis on local specialties, which means the use of gastronomic surprises.

 


Sooke is a Canadian hamlet about 22 miles from Victoria, British Columbia's capital city.