We left before the break of dawn, before the sun kissed treetops with its warmth and birds chirped their sunrise song. My husband shifted the bike into neutral and we glided down the hill careful not to awaken neighbors with the throaty rumble of Screamin’ Eagle pipes.
Partway across the north Olympic Peninsula, the first blush of day cast fields awash in a buttery glow. Laced with fragrance from the earth awakening, latent evergreen scents wafted up through my helmet, tickling my nose.
We were headed an hour’s ride west to Port Angeles where we’d catch the 90-minute sail on the Coho ferry to Vancouver Island. We had reservations for the ferry (www.cohoferry.com), since only 13 motorcycles are allowed per trip. Reservations are recommended for cars, too, especially on weekends. While we waited to board, we joined the instant camaraderie shared between bikers. Conversations ranged from favorite routes and destinations to tips about road conditions.
After a smooth sail across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with clear skies and magnificent views of Vancouver Island on the horizon, we landed in Victoria, cleared Customs and headed north on Douglas Street. Traffic is often stop-and-go through the city, so it’s a relief when stoplights are left behind on Trans-Canada Hwy. 1.
We took the Hwy 14 exit to Sooke which wends through the suburban community of Langford. Once through town, Sooke Road opened up with gentle curves under a canopy of towering cedar, fir and hemlock, then hugging the coastline into the city of Sooke. As the road touched the edge of Sooke Harbour, temps dropped with a welcome blast of cooler marine air.
Sooke: Foodie’s Delight
On the horizon, the smoky-blue line of the Olympic Mountains in Washington reminded us how far we’d come in only a few hours. The road cut inland with sweet curves and sweepers, leading back again to the ocean where the road traced the sea then straightened out as we descended into French Beach. Our destination was lunch at Point No Point Resort—a long-time favorite of ours, known for its locally-sourced, beautifully prepared and flavorful fare.
Panoramic vistas of the Olympic Mountains and the rugged western coastline of Vancouver Island take your breath away when you walk into the dining room. I always ask for a window table, but, in fact, all the tables boast glorious views.
My lunch was a crispy confit of chicken, with an ancient grain salad, mango vinaigrette, arugula and bacon relish, perfectly paired with a glass of a local vivant/viognier/roussanne blend. The chicken was so tender it fell off the bone and the bacon relish added a salty, savory flavor to the grains and edamame. My husband ordered the burger special of the day with pomme frites.
We opted to walk off that delectable lunch on the resort’s private trails and headed to the beach. The sea breeze gave some relief to the warming day and, before we knew it, we were dozing on the sand, lulled by rolling waves lapping on the shore, the surf echoing in our dreams.
Point No Point Resort has cozy, comfortable rustic log cabins that overlook the rugged coast, many with private sundecks and hot tubs. We’ve enjoyed several relaxing stays here. (Go to www.pointnopointresort.com to see all the cabin descriptions and rates.)
Our destination for the evening was the Sooke Harbour House (www.sookeharbourhouse.com), known for tantalizing foodies from around the world for nearly four decades, long before the term “foodie” was invented. We’d had the pleasure of eating in their award-winning restaurant several years ago, hosted by co-owner and founder Sinclair Philip, who regaled us with fascinating stories of his early life in Europe, meeting his bride Frederique, and how they’d built the inn, bringing it to today’s exceptional international status. He was witty, charming and we instantly bonded as new friends. And, of course, the food and wines were simply stellar and luscious.
We wandered the grounds before checking in, marveling at the prolific gardens where they grow their fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers, as well as stunning driftwood sculptures complementing the natural beauty of the seascape surrounding the inn. We were delighted to see Frederique Philip again when we checked in. Such a homecoming! Their son Benjamin showed us to our suite, which featured original artwork and antiques, and a lovely view of the harbor leading into Sooke. Fishing and recreational boats plied the waters until well after sunset.
In true West Coast fashion, fog rolled in from the ocean late in the afternoon, cooling temps and making us Northwesterners feel right at home. As we entered the dining room and were seated by the window, it lifted enough to grace us with yet another stunning water view.
Executive Chef Jonas Stadtlander features wild, local, seasonal and organic foods, many from the property and with a fresh three- or four-course menu every day.
He was in the kitchen that night and the choices were mouth-watering. For our first course, I chose the salad of Sooke Harbour House greens and blossoms while my husband ordered the Metchosin chicken and leek terrine. Our second course consisted of rockfish escabeche for him and Swiss chard zucchini crepes for me, which boasted tomato-golden oregano emulsion and pickled fuschia berries (who knew, right? I thought they were olives at first, but no! Fuschia berries!). The third course was a pave of bell peppers and eggplant for me and beef wellington for my sweetheart. Each course was paired with a local B.C. wine and we topped it all off with a dark chocolate and wild blackberry tart. My, oh my, this foodie was simply in heaven!
Onto Salt Spring
After another amazing meal for breakfast, we sadly bid Frederique farewell, loaded up the Harley and took off across the island for Crofton where we’d catch the ferry to Salt Spring Island. I love the jaw-dropping vista of Finlayson Arm from atop the Malahat as you travel north on Hwy. 1. It’s best enjoyed from the back of a motorcycle because nothing obstructs that panorama. Coming down the hill, we turned right onto Mill Bay Road and traced the edge of the sea for a couple of miles, turning left into Mill Bay Centre, just before the road ends.
This is home to my all-time favorite coffee stand—Bru-go’s—where I indulge my guilty pleasure with their Double Fudge Mocha Frappuccino. We discovered this more than a decade ago and make it a priority stop whenever we’re on Vancouver Island. I’m a sucker for chocolate and this rich, creamy dessert drink does not disappoint. With autumn in the air, their colorful, abundant hanging baskets were still abloom.
Once in Crofton, motorcycles go to the front of the line on BC ferries, just like in the U.S., so it cuts down on wait time when reservations aren’t available. It’s a short ride, only 20 minutes, to Vesuvious. Arriving on Salt Spring Island, we followed the signs to downtown Ganges.
Saturday is Farmers Market day (www.saltspringmarket.com), making parking a challenge. Plan to walk a few blocks to Centennial Park, where the market is held, and be assured it’s worth it. Fresh local produce from nearby farms is offered, along with internationally acclaimed artisans, including world-class potters, jewelers, fiber artists, woodworkers, painters, photographers and more. Live music and food vendors keep you entertained and your belly happy. The market opens in early April and runs through October, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Anxious to shed my leather jacket and helmet, we rode to the Stonehouse B & B, one of B.C.’s most luxurious inns (www.saltspringstonehouse.com). After entering the gates, and before you get to the house, the astonishing Standing Stone Circle grabs your attention with a nod to its English inspiration.
We’d stayed here last year and I’d kept in touch over the months with Michael Coughlin, the inn’s charming host and chef extraordinaire. He’s also a talented painter and author. Michael was there to greet us like long-lost friends. He has a way of making you feel like you’re the most important person in the world. His gracious warmth is matched only by the beauty and elegance of the place.
The Great Room boasts floor-to-ceiling windows with mesmerizing 180-degree vistas of Ganges Inlet and B.C.’s surrounding Gulf Islands, crowned by the snow-capped peak of Mt. Baker rising majestically above the Salish Sea. But, in the next glance, you’ll be dazzled by the diverse collection of art in the room and the gorgeous Bosendorfer grand piano taking center stage. Our suite wa
s around the corner, beckoning us to retreat to luxury and comfort in the embrace of art and nature.
After a delicious rest, we returned to Ganges for dinner at House Piccolo (www.housepiccolo.com), another favorite from previous visits. Located in a heritage building, this charming eatery has been renovated into a cozy dining room with linen tablecloths and fresh flowers gracing the tables. I savored every bite of my warm prawn and scallop salad with a mango curry sauce, sliced avocado and fresh Salt Spring greens and radicchio. The tang of curry set off the flavors of scallops and prawns with the salad adding a fresh crunch. We shared their warm semi-sweet Belgium chocolate timbale, so delectable I wanted to lick the plate clean.
Back at the Stonehouse B&B, we sat outside sipping a light Pinot Gris mesmerized by the setting sun, painting the sky in vibrant brush strokes of rose, magenta and mauve. When Mother Nature’s show was over, we headed into our room and fell into bed, happy, full, and deeply grateful for such a glorious day.
Michael creates breakfast masterpieces for his guests, catering to each person’s preferences and diets. Assisted by Milly, who crafted drool-worthy coffee drinks, he served us fresh duck Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon over a lightly grilled fresh Swiss chard from his garden, atop a homemade waffle with grilled garden cherry tomatoes and zucchini. After a five-star breakfast like that, it’s hard not to rave endlessly about the Stonehouse B&B!
Always sad to leave, amid hugs and promises to stay in touch via Facebook and a visit assured again for next year, we waved good-bye and roared out the driveway to head back to Victoria. We wandered the city’s streets, poking into a few shops and then caught the Coho ferry where we started planning our next trip to Vancouver Island. – Story and photos by Anne Norup, RFT Contributor