I took a three-week vacation from work in October. I had considered using the whole time to travel and had planned a vacation to Pennsylvania, but as time drew close I realized that a trip across the country would be both expensive and exhausting. I really didn’t want to spend all three weeks of my vacation on the road. So instead my mom flew to Seattle, and we spent a week on Vancouver Island. We’d both done Victoria more than once, so we decided to see more of the island.
Day 1 — Sunday
Picked Mom up at the airport in Seattle, and then grabbed lunch at Bahama Breeze down in Southcenter. After lunch we drove a couple of hours up I-5 to Anacortes for our first night.
Neither of us had been to Anacortes before. We’d been close – We drove across Whidby Island and spent the night in LaConner a couple of years ago. Anacortes was pretty, but there wasn’t a whole lot to do, particularly in October. The hotel owner turned us on to a nice drive though. It was a park out past the ferries, and there was a wonderful trail – a couple of miles long – that could be both walked and driven. I took these photos from a spot on that trail.
After that, we drove to a spot on the other side of the island where I got these shots.
It was raining, so we went back to the motel and read for a while, and then we went to the Rock Creek Grill for dinner. They had awesome Baja fish tacos!
Day 2 – Monday
Had to be out EARLY to catch the ferry to Sidney, BC. What a terrific ride! The route goes up through the San Juan Islands and has stops at Friday Harbor and Orcas Island along the way. The weather was perfect – overcast some, sunny some – and we had great scenery. (I left my camera in the car, so no pictures.) My favorite islands were the ones with few or any houses on them.
We arrived in Sidney, disembarked, and drive to Victoria. We didn’t really have a plan, so we just drove to the wharf and parked. We had lunch at a little restaurant called Nautical Nellie’s where I had – Are you ready for this? – my first beer. Strawberry beer, actually, and it tasted like hard cider.
Here are the photos I snapped while we walked around:
After lunch, we walked down to the Empress Hotel and walked around a bit, then we walked to an ice cream shop for a treat. We stopped at a visitor’s information booth and decided to do a drive that included most of the Victoria coastline. Oh! Almost forgot. We also went to Craigdarroch Castle, which is absolutely gorgeous.
Here are some photos of the Emperess Hotel.
After all that we had an unexpectedly long trip to Sooke. First there was traffic I wasn’t expecting, and then there was a LONG detour due to an accident right outside Sooke. The detour was quite lovely, but it had lots of stops for construction and was, as I said, very long.
We spent the night at Sooke Harbour House, and there aren’t words to describe it. It’s beyond amazing. Every room is completely different. We stayed in the Artist’s Study. Here are pictures, beginning at our front door (which, oddly, was in the bathroom). There are one or two shots where I turn around, but I think you can follow.
We hadn’t planned to eat in the restaurant, but didn’t want to go out again, so we ventured down. Oh. My. It was a taste extravaganza. Beyond amazing. Mother and I agree that our single favorite food we had on the entire trip was the Chanterelle and Hazelnut soup we had during this meal. I also had scallops and lamb and a dessert.
Day 3 — Tuesday
Although I think we both could have spent the rest of the trip happily ensconced in the Artist’s Study, we checked out on Tuesday and made the long drive to Tofino. Okay, let me say right here that Google Maps wins no accolades from me. None. Worst maps EVER. Their directions don’t match the road signs. SO FRUSTRATING.
When we were leaving Sooke, they took us down this trail through this park that was basically one lane with limited sight. It was pretty, and it *was* the shortest route, but since the signs didn’t match the directions, we ended up having to stop at a gas station (had to do that twice, I might add) to get directions.
The trip from Sooke to Tofino is long, not so much in miles as in time in the car and in difficult driving. The eastern side of the island is well-developed, and so the roads are more like highways. Highway 4, which cuts across the island is good until Alberni, and then it’s just a curvy, narrow goat path. Okay, goat path is an exaggeration. It’s a road. But it’s a narrow road that you can’t drive more than 30 miles an hour on. No WAY I would drive it in the winter.
We had a couple of nice breaks while driving Highway 4 though. The first was a stop at Cathedral Grove, an old-growth rainforest.
The second break was at Alberni for lunch – good pizza there. After our good pizza, we made the rest of the interminable drive to the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, arriving shortly before dinner.
Oh! Almost forgot. There was one more short break. The second half of Highway 4 follows the Kennedy River which eventually empties into Kennedy Lake. We stopped to take some pictures of the cool rocks in the river.
We had 6PM reservations at the hotel’s restaurant, and, as expected, the food was amazing. (So was the view from our table. Wish I’d had my camera.) I don’t think the food was as good as the food at Sooke Harbour House, but it was certainly excellent. Can’t remember what I had though. I do remember I was too full for dessert!
Day 4 – Wednesday
Wednesday was our spa day. We slept in a bit, and then popped downstairs to the lounge for a casual breakfast. The view was, again, stellar.
Mom had two spa appointments scheduled back-to-back, so she spent the entire morning at the spa. My appointments were split – one in the morning and one in the evening – and my morning appointment started late, so after breakfast, I went for a stroll on the beach.
My first appointment at the spa was for a treatment called “Sacred Sea.” Without going into the froufrou detail, it included a foot bath, an all-over sea salt scrub, a soak in the hydrotherapy tub, a wrap, and a foot and scalp massage. Needless to say, I was in heaven!
We had a late lunch at the restaurant, and then after a couple of hours of just relaxing and reading, I had my second spa treatment – a hot stone massage. My regular masseuse gives a better one, actually, but he did work magic on the sore muscles in my neck and lower back.
When I got back to the room, I ordered the cheese plate for dinner. It was excellent. Cheese plates are a common dessert in Canada. I love that, because I would generally prefer to have cheese rather than something sweet.
Oh, oh, my favorite part – when I called room service, the guy who answered the phone said “Definitely” over and over. He probably only said eight words total and four of them were “Definitely.” The funny thing, though, was *how* he said it. Very sing-song, evil-cartoon-character-ish. Hysterical! I’m still saying it. 🙂
Day 5 – Thursday
We got up, had the full breakfast in the restaurant, and then got on the road back across the island to Campbell River, where we would spend the rest of our trip. This day was the first day it rained. It wasn’t constant – in fact, most of the drive was dry – but it was rainy through the first half (and hardest) part of the trip.
We got to Courtenay around lunch time and ventured into the city center. We found a nice area with shops, found a great parking space, and had lunch in a little tea room. It was raining again, so we didn’t explore the rest of the area, but we decided we’d come back the next day.
The motel in Campbell River was… a step down. <cough> But, honestly, it wasn’t bad, and the bed was very comfortable. We spent the afternoon relaxing, then drove around until we found a Japanese restaurant for dinner. It was okay. Not outstanding, but okay. It was raining again, so we didn’t drive far, and we didn’t get any pictures.
Day 6 – Friday
And on the sixth day, it rained. And rained. And rained some more.
At lunch we thought it was letting up, so we ventured out, planning to go to Courtenay to check out those shops. That was not to be, though, because first thing I did was fill the gas tank and by the time I was done, it was pouring! So we decided (without much hope) to see if there was more to Campbell River than what we’d seen.
Holy cow! It was much bigger than we thought, and we found lots of cool places. Because we hadn’t expected it, it felt like a nice serendipity. We found a nice little place to eat lunch right on the wharf. After lunch, the rain took a break, so I popped out and took a few pictures.
We went back to the wharf to a local seafood restaurant for dinner. The food was excellent. Mom and I both agreed that while there were individual foods that were better in other meals along the way, this meal as a whole was our favorite.
We probably won’t go back to Campbell River, but, honestly, I like the town itself a lot. Nice place.
Day 7 – Saturday
Travel day home. Nice sunrise from our motel balcony though.
We got out early and made the drive to Duke’s Point in Nanaimo. Nice drive, actually. We got there early, and I thought – “Oh my gosh, we might be able to catch the earlier ferry!” Alas, we missed it by 15 minutes. Sob. To add insult to injury, we couldn’t find a good place for lunch. And the ferry was slow and cold. And the traffic was bad. And the border wait was annoying.
Yes, Saturday was my cranky day.
But finally we were back in the States, and all was well again. We drove home in record time, and went straight to my neighbors’ house. We had a good dinner and good conversation, then headed back to my house where the dogs were crazy happy to see me.
It was an absolutely fabulous vacation! I’m glad to be home, but I’m so glad we took it.