Style Conscious

Contemporary hotels blossom in Victoria

By: Joyce Gregory Wyels

Tourists have long gravitated to Victoria, British Columbia, for its British flavor and its safe, flower-filled ambiance. But lately the once-staid provincial capital has been turning over a new leaf. Recent surveys show the populace skewing younger, stamping a contemporary spirit on Victorian-era landscapes. A recent trip revealed a cluster of newly built, upscale hotels in Victoria and the vicinity.

Leading the way into the new millennium, the Hotel Grand Pacific has grown from 148 rooms to a stylish 304-room lodging with athletic club, Japanese inflected spa, high-speed Internet and extensive conference facilities. The hotel’s location on the Inner Harbor eliminates the need for a vehicle. Bicycles and pedicabs, camera-toting pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages enliven the neighborhood, while just up the street are the Parliament Buildings, the Royal British Columbia Museum and Thunderbird Park. The hotel’s Mark Restaurant, and the Grand Pacific itself, have earned a Four-Diamond rating from AAA and five stars from Canada Select.

Opened in May 2004, the 236-room Victoria Marriott Inner Harbor is actually a few blocks inland from the harbor but close to the conference center and within walking distance of major tourist sites. Designed for business travelers, the hotel offers high-speed Internet and meeting space. Book clients into a top-floor room for outstanding views of the city and Washington’s Olympic Mountains.

With Butchart Gardens nearby, Brentwood Bay Lodge & Spa is the lodging of choice for garden lovers. About 25 minutes north of downtown, this sophisticated new resort, with its understated West Coast architecture, is just 10 minutes from Victoria airport and even closer to Butchart Gardens. A glass-domed boat delivers passengers to a secluded cove for access to the gardens. But even if guests never stray from the property, they’ll find a multitude of activities on site, from participating in watersports and eco-tours to luxuriating in the spa, which draws on local wineries to offer vino therapy treatments. The resort promises fine art, fine food and fine wine and follows through with an expert sommelier and chef in Arbutus Grille & Wine Bar, plus an in-house artist and gallery.

Poets Cove Resort & Spa, half an hour from Vancouver Island by ferry or less by water taxi replaces an old boaters’ haunt on Pender Island. Like Brentwood Bay, it features glorious west-facing views of sunsets, sailboats, water taxis, seaplanes and the kind of scenery for which British Columbia is famous. There’s also a Canadian Customs office for yachts arriving from U.S. waters. Nine villas and 15 cottages, containing up to three bedrooms each, rise behind the 22-room lodge, making the resort ideal for families. An activities director plans a variety excursions for kids and adults. Adults, though, may prefer the in-dulgences of the spa, cleverly ensconced behind a faux cave and waterfall. A fine dining room overlooks the cove, with a less formal bar and terrace closer to the water.


Hotel Grand Pacific
Summer rates start at $192.

Victoria Marriott Inner Harbor
Rates start at $160 per night.

Brentwood Bay Lodge & Spa
Summer rates start at $415 and include a three-course gourmet breakfast.

Poets Cove Resort & Spa
Rates start at $160. Spa packages start at $140 per person.

Clipper Vacations

Steeped in Tradition

From the indigenous artwork at Vancouver International Airport to the totem pole on the lawn of Victoria’s Parliament Buildings, it’s clear that native culture is part of a visit to British Columbia. “Culture vultures” among your clients will love the Coastal Cool package at Hotel Listel Vancouver on lively Robson Street. The package starts with two nights in a room on the Museum Floor, which highlights locally handmade furniture and Northwest Coast art. A visit to the superb Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia gives visitors a sense of the scope and variety of Canada’s first inhabitants. Then there’s a leisurely paddle in a traditional canoe, led by First Nations guides who share songs and stories. It’s all topped off with native treats at Liliget Feast House. The price, including tangible reminders of the experience, is $750 CDN.

Clients who really want to immerse themselves in native culture can head north a few miles to Quadra Island and Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge, constructed to resemble a traditional Big House. Once ensconced in the handsome lodge, guests have a choice of First Nations museums and performances on both sides of the Inside Passage, as well as wildlife viewing from a zodiac operated by Aboriginal Journeys. Peak rates (July-Aug.) start at $125 CDN.