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
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.