Five Fabulous British Columbia Island Retreats

The Aerie, Oceanwood, Shoal Harbour

The Aerie
Image courtesy of Jane Cassie

Contributed by Jane Cassie

If it's charm, intimacy, romance, and seclusion you seek, you'll discover them and more at any of these five extraordinary BC island retreats.

The Aerie. Perched on the Malahat's summit, just thirty minutes from Victoria, The Aerie lives up to its name by sharing the sensational view with soaring eagles. From high above Finlayson Arm, the uninterrupted vista stretches over unfolding mountains and beyond to snow-capped Olympic peaks.


The eighty-five acre resort, embraced by gnarled arbutus trees and rock-hugging firs, is unforgettably picturesque. Mediterranean-style villas terrace the wooded hillside and meld harmoniously with their surroundings. Private decks lead to sumptuous interiors where every nuance of romance has been considered, from goosedown duvets that drape canopy kings, to elevated window seats that boast oversize Jacuzzis.

Boardwalks lead past cascading waterfalls to other scenic bliss. An outdoor chapel amidst summer blooms offers an idyllic spot to tie the knot. Total rejuvenation is in store at the Wellness and Beauty Center. And a pool, sauna, and hot tub provide other ways to unwind. Manicured gardens along the way overflow with vegetation that find its way into fresh-cut bouquets as well as the menu. By treating the local produce, game, and seafood with French cooking techniques, chef Christophe Letard and his team create award-winning meals.

Condé Nast Traveler Magazine's Readers' Choice Awards ranked The Aerie second as top North American small hotel and thirtieth in the World. In addition to being a popular spot for eagles, it is indeed a sanctuary for lovebirds as well.

Shoal Harbour Inn. While some getaways promise Old World elegance, others entice with modern day comforts. At this seaside wonder in the quaint town of Sidney, BC, you have your choice.

Swathed with enchanting memorabilia, the Latch Heritage Mansion transports guests back to yesteryear's tranquil pace. The timber lodge, originally a retreat for BC's Lieutenant-Governor, has been restored by owners Bernd and Heidi Rust, to preserve its 1920's charm.

Six guest rooms generate romantic aspirations with elegant linens, down duvets, and impressive bathrooms. Paneled walls that warm the interiors extend to two cozy dining rooms on the main floor. Accented by candlelight, the inviting décor unites with classic country cuisine with a European influence. Created with fresh ingredients and locally harvested produce, gastronomic options range from intimate dining to wine makers' dinners and six-course meals.

Sharing this pristine property and bridged by a canopy of Douglas firs, the adjacent Shoal Harbour Inn has a modern West Coast feel. Waves lap near its front yard and skylights brighten the three-story atrium lobby where a grand staircase hosts wedding ceremonies. Hand-crafted interiors extend to twenty-two palatial suites offering fireplaces, Canadiana pine furnishings, soaking tubs, and balconies. All are equipped with kitchenettes, although breakfast is included with the stay at both hideaways.

Shoal Harbour Inn feels a world away from the busyness of nearby Victoria. Whether choosing to step back in time or be surrounded by present-day creature comforts, you won't be disappointed.

Page 2: Sooke Harbour House >

Travel writer Jane Cassie is president of the British Columbia Association of Travel Writers.

Sooke Harbour House. This world-acclaimed inn beckons a welcome from ocean bluff Sooke lookout, just forty-five minutes outside Victoria. Distinction flows from manicured grounds to 28 regionally inspired suites that pamper with private hot tubs, crackling fireplaces, exquisite artwork, sexy Jacuzzi tubs, and two-person steam showers. Fresh cookies, fruit, and a flask of port wait to be shared.

Serenity spa services enriched with the elements of beach stone, garden herbs, and the sea can be relished in the comfort of these havens. And as waves slap the rocky shore below, a picture postcard view stretches beyond Juan de Fuca Strait to the distant snow-topped Olympics.

While tidal processions create an ever-changing backdrop, the gardens host more than 400 varieties of edible vegetation that inevitably find their way into culinary creations. It goes without saying that dining at Sooke Harbour House is an important part of the experience. Fine wines complementing the freshest local ingredients to give Sooke Harbour House its award-winning reputation. For those intrigued by the innovative offerings and in search of gastronomic adventure, the Multi course Tasting Menu will gratify.

Fabulous full-course breakfasts, discreetly delivered to your door, and basket lunches to inspire romantic picnics, are included during weekend and high season stays.

Sooke Harbour House has been a labor of love for owners Frederique and Sinclair Philip. Their presence is evident although unobtrusive, and their hospitality is yet another fine quality that contributes to this getaway's consistent top ratings.

Page 3: The Wickaninnish >

Travel writer Jane Cassie is president of the British Columbia Association of Travel Writers.

The Wickaninnish (check prices now) This West Coast retreat minutes from Tofino is backed by evergreens and embraced by the untamed surf. From its jetty perch on Chesterman Beach, The Wickaninnish is indeed a hit with seascape and nature lovers. Storm-watching aficionados are drawn to "The Wick" when winter gales blow in from the north and churn up the sea. During these months, giant waves escalate to record peaks before crashing against craggy rocks and driftwood-clad shores. When warmer weather prevails, this rage transforms to gentle rollers and the sapphire waters become a paradise for surfers, kayakers, beachcombers, and pods of grey whales.

Windowed walls grace the inn's lobby and invite this splendid panorama indoors. The elements of nature unite with custom designed furnishings, and attention to detail flows through to 46 sumptuous guest rooms. Fireplaces flicker, deep soaking tubs soothe, and floor-to -ceiling windows frame Mother Nature.

The Ancient Cedars Spa pampers with heavenly offerings, drawn from the ocean and earth. From massages to signature treatments like The Sacred Sea thalassotherapy and the Soak-By-The-Sea hydrotherapy, mind, body, and soul are nourished.

Delectable creations are presented at The Wick's award-winning Pointe Restaurant. Cantilevering beyond the shoreline, this post-and-beam treasure zooms in on golden sunsets.

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Travel writer Jane Cassie is president of the British Columbia Association of Travel Writers.