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.
Oceanwood Country Inn. To escape life's hectic pace, head for BC's Mayne Island. Embraced by towering firs and manicured gardens, the English Tudor shimmers like a gem as it snuggles up to the pebbled shoreline of Navy Channel.
Even discriminating visitors will discover comfortable sophistication in all twelve guest rooms that individually befit their bird or plant title. Some boast fireplaces, soaking or whirlpool baths, and all but one share ocean views with their inhabitants.
Attention to detail is also evident in the numerous lounge areas that abound with activities. The library shares a double-sided fireplace with the Garden Room, where sunlight flows through the solarium ceiling onto terra cotta floors. The living room, furnished with assorted antiques and a Persian carpet, exudes a more formal flair. There is a Games Room, too, for chess or backgammon. And the video room offers a comfy couch for late-night cuddling while watching your favorite flick.
Expansive windows overlook the picturesque bay from the dining room where breakfasts are enjoyed with each night's stay. And to experience the finest in culinary creativity, stick around for dinner where the award-winning four-course menu emphasizes fresh local ingredients prepared in a Pacific Northwest style.
There are also bikes, a sauna, and an outdoor hot tub to stargaze from. With so many treasures at this island's crowning jewel, you may feel like royalty when enjoying the reasonably priced honeymoon or regular four-night all-inclusive package. Closed December, January, February but booking now for March and beyond.
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.
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Travel writer Jane Cassie is president of the British Columbia Association of Travel Writers.