On the Waterfront

This Vancouver Island inn helps clients get away from it all

By: Joanne Blain

SOOKE, B.C. The ideal way for visitors to adjust to the relaxed pace of Sooke Harbour House is to drop your bags in your room and take a walk along the spit of land that stretches from its back door into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As you meander along the narrow strip of land that separates Vancouver Island from the state of Washington, the sound of the tide lapping at the rocky shore and the postcard-perfect sight of boats set against a backdrop of distant mountains is bound to make you start to unwind.

Everything about Sooke Harbour House is designed to lull visitors into a sense of serenity. Just 22 miles from Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, the inn has the gracious ambience of a French country inn, with the added drama of a spectacular waterfront setting.

The piece de resistance is a restaurant that has won numerous awards for its menu and wine list, including accolades from Gourmet magazine, whose readers named it the second best country inn in the world three years ago, and Wine Spectator, which twice gave the hotel its grand award for having one of the 100 best wine lists in the world and one of the best two in Canada. Its lush gardens, which are entirely edible, supply many of the herbs and other plants used in its daily menus.

There is nothing typical about Sooke Harbour House, run by Sinclair Philip and his charming French-born wife, Frederique, who in 1979 bought what was then a small bed-and-breakfast inn and embarked on an ambitious renovation and construction plan.

Each of the expanded inn’s 28 rooms has a wood-burning fireplace and private terrace or balcony, but every one is different, designed around a central theme by the Philips with the help of local artists and artisans. For example, Room 5, also known as the Kitchen Garden room, features artwork of the garden and whimsical plant motifs throughout, including a spectacular Tiffany-style steam room with glass doors inlaid with flowers.

Frederique Philip says some visitors who come for several days ask to stay in a different room every night.

Sooke Harbour House also offers planning services for special events, including weddings and business meetings, with facilities for gatherings of up to about 50 people. Spa services are also provided by appointment in guestrooms.