An evening of good cheer and great food at Innisfree Farm’s farmhouse dinner

Platters of delicious organic food are passed to diners at the first farmhouse dinner

Platters of delicious organic good are passed to diners at the first Farmhouse Dinner

Anything to do with agriculture and local food has always been a favourite excursion with us, and a recent trip to Innisfree Farm in tiny Royston proved, once again, that you can’t go wrong with that combination.

The beautiful - and tasty - amuse bouche

The beautiful – and tasty – amuse bouche

Located on a pretty side road in the small community just south of Courtenay, Innisfree  Farm was hosting its first farmhouse dinner featuring all local ingredients (most of them grown organically right on the property). The fact that the food was being prepared by Cumberland’s Gourmet Girls Global Catering was a draw for us too – we have greatly enjoyed their interesting and flavourful fare at other venues.  And the price – well, $35 for an innovative four-course meal certainly made it affordable.

Thierry collects produce and flowers from the organic gardens for the dinner

Thierry collects produce and flowers from the organic gardens for the dinner

The other thing we love about these events is the surprise element – you never know who you will be sharing a table with.  When 25 of us sat down we found ourselves surrounded by a best-selling cookbook author, a house painter, an itinerant house sitter and a variety of other interesting characters.

The leaves of autumn settle on a rustic table near the pond

The leaves of autumn settle on a rustic table near the pond

We arrived early at the farm and, with encouragement from owners Chanchal Cabrera and Thierry Vrain, spent some time wandering among the raised vegetable beds, tasting the thriving still-sweet autumn raspberries, and enjoying the flower and apothecary gardens and the planted labyrinth.  There is a pretty pond area and a sculpture garden to enjoy as well – all very serene and the perfect opportunity to free up your mind and relax a bit prior to sitting down for the meal.

Food, glorious food ...

Food, glorious food …

As expected, the Gourmet Girls did not disappoint – the meal started out with beautiful and tasty amuse bouche, followed by a roasted squash soup with house-made flatbread crisps. These were followed by the passing of many family-style platters piled high with everything from fire-roasted beets served with a warm crabapple, nettle and horsetail vinaigrette to salad to olive oil-poached wild sockeye salmon. The dessert combo consisted of chocolate cashew fudge, crisp churritos with house-made red wine grape jelly drizzle and Chantilly cream topped with the aforementioned lovely fresh raspberries. Other than the salmon course, the meal was totally vegan. All of it was  delicious and very interesting, which for us is one of the hallmarks of great food.

Thriving raspberries, still producing late into autumn

Thriving raspberries, still producing late into autumn

While creativity was running amok in the kitchen there was much good cheer and an energetic vibe in the dining area. Those attending shared stories and lives while Chanchal, Thierry and members of the Gourmet Girls team brought out platter after platter of tantalizing food and elucidated about what was on them.

...and dessert!

…and dessert!

The evening was one of those unforgettable events where good cheer, great food and a lovely atmosphere all collided in a perfect storm to provide memories that will sustain us through the impending gloom of winter on the ‘wet coast’.  And here’s the good news – Innisfree has scheduled at least two more of these affairs for October and November.  There can’t be a much better way to banish the winter blues.

Further information on Innisfree Farm and the many events it offers can be found at the website:

http://innisfreefarm.org/

Innisfree Farm is located at 3636 Trent Road in Royston, about 5 kilometres south of Courtenay

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.6347774  Long. -124.95208869999999

N 49 38.087 W 124 57.125

Posted in COURTENAY/COMOX VALLEY, EVENTS, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Blue Heron Steel Studio – an unexpected art treasure in the heart of Qualicum Beach

One of the signature blue heron pieces that have created a devoted following for Nelson Shaw

One of the signature blue heron pieces that have created a devoted following for Nelson Shaw

You find the darndest things in the craziest places.  Nelson Shaw’s Blue Heron Steel Studio is a prime example of that, tucked away in a gritty spot on an obscure lot in the heart of Qualicum Beach. But as is so often the case, location isn’t everything when it comes to finding the best ‘stuff’, whether it be restaurants, accommodation or, in this case, exquisite art work. Excellence trumps location sometimes and in the case of this most unique gallery/art studio that is certainly the case.

The detail on these sunflowers exhibits the artist's talent in working with unusual materials

The detail on these sunflowers exhibits the artist’s talent in working with unusual materials

There are more surprises at the Blue Heron studio than you can possibly imagine, among them the owner himself. A talented and formally-trained artist who has earned a Masters in Fine Arts, artist-in-residence posts and art scholarships, Nelson is an affable guy most often encountered with grubby hands, dressed in grimy clothes – as befits an artist who works not with pen and brush, but with steel, wood, glass and machinery.  His ‘studio’ is a jumbled mass of work tables, art-in-progress and the equipment required to create his stunning and most unusual works.

A co-operative effort - glass salmon in steel kelp

A co-operative effort – glass salmon in steel kelp

The ‘gallery’ attached to the workshop displays a huge variety of Nelson’s unique creations. The lighting in the display space  isn’t perfect and there is sometimes dust on the shelves thanks to the close proximity of the workshop, but visitors are invariably blown away by the scope and innovation of the works crammed onto shelves and every square inch of floor space. What always amazes us is the intricacy and fine design aspect of works wrought from materials that are not generally considered useful for detailed artistic endeavours.

A unique garden bug - of the non-destructive type

A unique garden bug – of the non-destructive type

Nelson’s unique larger-than-life blue herons, crafted from recycled steel, are his signature pieces but there is also a huge variety of other garden and home décor available for purchase. Garden benches, beautifully-framed mirrors, wall hangings and three-dimensional works crafted in concert with the glass creations of partner artists consume much of the display space.  Custom metal work created for clients is often on display (we saw an exquisite small table on our last visit). And, if you are just looking for a small garden accent there is lots to choose from in that genre as well, from colourful and inventive bugs to dragonflies, to turtles.  There are whimsical, quirky pieces and serious works, all of which reveal what a talented craftsman Nelson is.  Blue Heron is a wonderful spot to shop for gifts – all of the pieces found there are one-of-a-kind, making for charming and unique gifts that will enhance the home or garden of any recipient.

A three-dimensional piece created in concert with a local glass artist

A three-dimensional piece created in concert with a local glass artist

In a nutshell, Nelson can create almost anything your heart desires. He has been employed to create pieces for everything from multi-million dollar award-winning homes to artful garden gates. No matter how small your home or garden it’s worth popping into Blue Heron if you are seeking something truly unique to enhance your personal environment.  Even if you don’t see anything suitable (highly unlikely) you will be guaranteed to enjoy the experience of seeing the work of this very talented artisan. Take the time to flip through his photo albums, too, to see the wide scope of his ability.  As it says on his website: Hard work is good. Good work is hard. And Nelson Shaw is one hard worker!

Unique home décor such as this mirror...

At Blue Heron you can find unique home décor such as this mirror….

...or beautiful garden benches

…or beautiful garden benches

Further information on Blue Heron Steel Studio can be found at the website:

http://www.blueheronsteelstudio.com/HomePage.html

Blue Heron Steel Studio is located at Suite B (bottom of the parking lot), 127 Fern Road East, in the heart of Qualicum Beach.  Look for Nelson’s Blue Heron and his sign, just half a block south of the traffic light at Memorial Ave. and Fern Road

 GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.  49.346417008946915  Long. -124.4402923080691

N 49 20.785   W 124 26.418

Posted in ARTISAN GALLERIES, ATTRACTIONS, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ucluelet’s Norwood’s – a culinary gem on the edge of nowhere

Fresh-caught local albacore tuna - pretty as a picture, and even better to eat!

Fresh-caught local albacore tuna – pretty as a picture, and even better to eat!

We rediscovered Ucluelet on the Island’s west coast this past summer and were delighted to find a really outstanding restaurant to share with relatives from England. Norwood’s is a small wine bar-style bistro that serves up some of the best restaurant food that we have consumed anywhere during our travels – such a delightful and unexpected find in a tiny village of 1,600 perched on the western edge of the Island.

Chef Richard Norwood’s menu is an eclectic mix of flavours and textures from Asia, Europe and the Americas, reflecting his many travels and depth of experience in a variety of culinary settings. The small open kitchen facing into the dining area is a model of efficiency, with three chefs working in harmony to create a cornucopia of mouth-watering dishes that are beautifully presented.

Chef and owner Richard Norwood at work in the kitchen

Chef and owner Richard Norwood at work in the kitchen

We enjoyed a leisurely meal that included a multiplicity of flavours. Norwood’s is heavily into the concept of using local products whenever possible and it showed in what arrived at our table.

I opted for the succulent roasted Brome Lake duck breast, presented with a caramelized fennel puree, rhubarb chutney and guanciale roasted vegetables. My husband chose the beautifully-prepared albacore tuna (so fresh and local that the boat that it came off of was named on the menu), which came with a spectacular Asian-inspired barbecue sauce, sesame bak choy, pickled shitake mushrooms and tempura green beans. More than two months after the fact he is still rhapsodizing about the enormous gustatory pleasure of consuming that dish. Both entrees were so beautifully presented it seemed a shame to actually eat them, but we managed to overcome the artful presentation only to be more delighted by the experience of consuming them.

Brome Lake duck breast

Brome Lake duck breast

Our English guests’ special dietary requirements were happily accommodated with local Pacific salmon by the kitchen and the wait staff, and service over-all was good from start to finish of the evening.

We sampled a couple of the desserts on the menu, including a decadent chocolate brownie torte with raspberry coulis and a seasonal fruit tart featuring delectable cherries.

Seasonal cherry tart, with house-made ice cream

Seasonal cherry tart, with house-made ice cream

Norwood’s is small – it seats only 32 guests, and at times the background music combines with the minimal noise from the kitchen and the chatter of patrons to be just a little over the top. But it is a small price to pay for the delight of such outstanding cuisine in such a surprising location, and it certainly won’t stop us from returning.

            Further information on Norwood’s can be found on the website at:

http://www.norwoods.ca/index.html

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Price rating: $$$

 Norwood’s is located at 1714 Peninsula Road, Ucluelet

 GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.  48.9435025  Long. -125.5506532

N 48 56.610  W 125 33.039

 

 

 

 

Posted in WEST COAST, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Port Alberni’s Stamp River Provincial Park – a hidden gem

The timeless - and very beautiful - Stamp River

The timeless – and very beautiful – Stamp River

It has been almost 40 years since I last visited Stamp River Provincial Park in the beautiful Alberni Valley, and I have to admit that I headed over there recently with some trepidation.  Back in the 1970s the place was wild and essentially undeveloped, 327 hectares (800 acres) tucked in at the far north end of Beaver Creek Road.  Few folks visited – it was little more than a local hidden gem then.  Would it, like so many other natural treasures, have changed for the worse through ‘enhancement’?  It turns out I needn’t have worried.

It's not unusual to see black bears along the river

It’s not unusual to see black bears along the river

We were delighted to find that although things have changed at Stamp Falls, the developments have been minor and truly wonderful. The 23 unserviced campsites are private and nicely scattered through the forest. The two kilometers (1.2 miles) of walking trails are better groomed and more accessible for many visitors.

Picnic tables for a riverside meal...

Picnic tables for a riverside meal…

The four picnic tables perched along the riverside offer a lovely spot for a sit-down and an informal al fresco meal. The well-conceived interpretive signs are a great educational addition to the park.

...or a quiet bit of beach for relaxation and reflection

…or a quiet bit of beach for relaxation and reflection

There is even a television screen serviced by an underwater camera that allows visitors to see the salmon working their way up the fish ladders that were installed at the falls back in the 1950s.

Park visitors gather on the bluff above the falls to watch the journey of the salmon...

Park visitors gather on the bluff above the falls to watch the journey of the salmon…

Happily, the timeless unadorned natural world of the area has remained the same, too.  The Stamp River continues to run clean and clear, a wide, mesmerizing swath of blues, greens and white foam.  Falls and riverThe falls continue to tumble through a nine metre (30 feet) gorge and every autumn, as they have for untold eons, the cohoe, sockeye, Chinook and steelhead make their way up the river and battle through the falls (or the fish ladders) to answer the instinctive call to return to the spawning grounds on the upper reaches of the river and at Great Central Lake.Jumping Fish Black bears appear on a regular basis in hopes of securing a meal – one ambled along the other side of the river and down below the falls during our recent visit, much to the delight of everyone who was perched on the bluff above the falls expecting to see only the courageous journey of the fish.

Interpretive signs introduce visitors to the natural rhythms of the river

Interpretive signs introduce visitors to the natural rhythms of the river

While there are certainly more visitors to the park than in the past it is still a bit of a hidden treasure – during the couple of hours we lingered there we probably saw no more than 30 people, of all ages.  Youngsters gamboled along the pathways and sat, mesmerized, watching the leaping fish. Senior citizens, parents, dogs (on leash only, due to the bear situation) all enjoyed the perfect Indian Summer afternoon. Travellers and locals leaned over fences to watch the water swirl and eddy its way along, lingered at the excellent interpretive signs that explained the natural ecology of the area, paused to chat.

 

Trails are wide and well-groomed - a perfect spot for a family walk

Trails are wide and well-groomed – a perfect spot for a family walk

The fish runs will continue into December, so anyone keen to experience this natural phenomena still has plenty of time to get to the falls.  Even if you are visiting at other times of the year, there is plenty to see and enjoy at this lovely park – the world is still as it should be at Stamp River Provincial Park.   It is so worth the 14 kilometre (8 ½ mile) drive from Port Alberni, any time of year.

            More information about Stamp River Provincial Park can be found at:

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/stamp_rv/

 The park is located near the end of Beaver Creek Road, which branches off Highway 4 just out of Port Alberni, on the way to the west coast.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.34386052916214  Long.  -124.91905185215

 N 49 20.632 W 124 55.143

Posted in ATTRACTIONS, DOG-FRIENDLY, INLAND CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cuckoo Trattoria brings a little bit of Italy to Coombs

Exterior

Mamma mia! Who would expect to find a beautiful trattoria on the backside of the Old Country Market (best known these days as Goats on the Roof) in the tiny-and-kind-of-wild settlement of Coombs? Cuckoo Trattoria and Pizzeria has been serving up traditional Italian food to hundreds of folks over the past few years in one of the most stunningly lovely restaurant settings on Vancouver Island. There seems no end in sight to the place’s success.

The spacious terrace is an ideal place to share good food with family and friends

The spacious terrace is an ideal place to share good food with family and friends

The building that houses Cuckoo is a blend of old and new – it was built around the core of a 60-year-old farmhouse and still features the original fireplace and some of the living space. High ceilings, lots of windows, cosy nooks and reclaimed tongue-in-groove fir floors add to a charming ambiance indoors.  And then, there is the exquisite sprawling outdoor terrace – my absolute favourite place to dine in fine weather.  Surrounded by mature trees and a laid-back vibe, it is the perfect place to enjoy an al fresco meal with friends or family.

The Garden Room

The Garden Room

The atmosphere at Cuckoo is very welcoming, and that carries through on the extensive menu.  Offerings include individual meals but there is also the option of ordering family-style repasts served on platters for sharing. There are gluten-free and dairy-free items for those on restricted diets.

We have dined at Cuckoo a couple of times in recent months and were delighted with pretty much everything we consumed.  A not-on-the-menu starter special one evening involved a mouth-watering combination of chanterelle mushrooms in cream, served over focaccia. Our most recent foray involved a starter called Formaggio al forno – a creamy baked brie encrusted with toasted honeyed pecans and served with fresh apple and artisan bread.

Hand-made linguine with a killer basil-pine-nut pesto

Hand-made linguine with a killer basil-pine-nut pesto

Our mains at both meals have been filling and most flavourful – veal scallopini, lasagna, lamb shanks and a killer Linguine al pesto Genovese featuring house-made linguine left us both with happy tummies and happy memories of good food served with friendly efficiency in a very special setting.

And, of course, there are the desserts – traditional tiramisu takes centre stage, but there are various ‘stacks’ on offer featuring a variety of flavours and sweetness levels. My lemon berry stack was a nice finish to a great meal, and the shared chocolate peanut butter stack consumed during our most recent outing went down pretty well too.

Lemon berry stack - a not-too-sweet ending

Lemon berry stack – a not-too-sweet ending

As if the good food and absolutely charming ambiance aren’t enough, we also have to offer a ‘thumbs up’ to the wait staff.  Both of our most recent visits have been during very busy periods (Cuckoo serves 900 meals a day during the summer months) but service has unfailingly been friendly and swift.

‘”In the old Italian tradition, everybody’s welcome in our house,” says Cuckoo’s Chef Fausto. Somehow they have worked the right magic at this place to make diners feel exactly that way as soon as they step through the door.

Price rating: $$

            Further information on Cuckoo Trattoria and Pizzeria can be found at the website:

http://www.oldcountrymarket.com/italianrestaurant.php

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Cuckoo is located at 2326 Alberni Highway (Highway 4A) in Coombs, behind the Old  Country Market.

 GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.  49.30433393176267  Long.  -124.42367450610618

N 49 18.260  W 124 25.420

Posted in EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, INLAND CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tradition of fine hospitality endures at Cowichan Bay’s Masthead Restaurant

Masthead exterior duskWe got lucky – very lucky. We were wandering along what acts as the ‘main drag’ in Cowichan Bay village one recent summer Saturday night, debating what to do about dinner. We paused to peruse the menus posted outside The Masthead restaurant, liked what we saw and decided to ask if there was any chance of getting a table without a reservation on such a fine evening.  The answer was positive – and our luck continued as we got shown to the best table in the place, overlooking the deck, the bay and the marinas.

Spot prawn pasta

Spot prawn pasta

Our evening at The Masthead came at the end of several long, harrowing months filled with a lot of stress. So the addition of a pair of musicians playing cool jazz in the background helped us shake off the problems that had been consuming our lives; the time spent contemplating the mouthwatering menu completed the job.

Pretty views, even from inside when it is too cool for patio dining

Pretty views, even from inside when it is too cool for patio dining

The Masthead building was actually constructed in 1863 as a roadhouse.  In those days it took a full day to travel from Victoria to the area.  Things have changed now, of course (the trip takes less than an hour by car) but the building continues to retain its 1860s charm, aided and abetted by dedicated owners Luke and Denise Harms. Both of them have had extensive backgrounds in the fine dining field, continuing that dedication to great food since taking over The Masthead in 2004.

We were delighted to sample a variety of fine dishes, with my husband opting for the very reasonably-priced three course Table d’Hote, which included succulent pan-seared Island Farmhouse chicken. We shared a delectable spot prawn bisque and then I savoured the spot prawn pasta – a beautiful combination of fresh local seafood and broad egg noodles served atop wilted vegetables.

Live music on Saturday nights adds to the casual-but-elegant ambiance

Live music on Saturday nights adds to the casual-but-elegant ambiance

The Masthead changes its menu with the seasons and availability of fresh, local products – an indication that the folks there take their food seriously and are willing to go the extra mile in providing new, interesting and flavourful dishes for the diners who flock to their unique and lovely location. The service is impeccable, the location superb – there isn’t much more that you can ask of a restaurant than what The Masthead already provides,  The residents of  tiny Cowichan Bay should count themselves very fortunate indeed to have such a marvelous place to enjoy a good meal.  I only wish that we lived closer!

            More information on The Masthead can be found at the website at:

http://themastheadrestaurant.com/

wheelchair-mThe Masthead is located at 1705 Cowichan Bay Road, Cowichan Bay.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.74028230956493  Long. -123.61864303750167

N 48 44.417   W 123 37.119

Price rating: $$

Posted in DUNCAN/COWICHAN, WHEELCHAIR ACCESS, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ucluelet’s Whiskey Landing Lodge a great addition to west coast accommodation options

Whiskey Landing Lodge

Comfort and beauty combine to provide wonderful accommodation

Watch out Tofino and Long Beach! There is a new(er) accommodation option in Ucluelet that is up there with the best of them, especially if you prefer to stay somewhere where there is still a sense of community rather than a huge commercial rush to rake in every tourist dollar possible. Whiskey Landing Lodge is one of the newer kids on the block in the west coast accommodation sweepstakes, having only opened in July of 2013 but it has clearly won the hearts of travelers – and with good reason.

Soaker tubs and west coast décor combine to make even the bathrooms special

Soaker tubs and west coast décor combine to make even the bathrooms special

I have to admit that when we booked in Ucluelet I had some misgivings – I wanted our guests from England to experience the wild west coast of the Island at its best, and in my mind that has always meant staying right on one of the beaches that stretch away from Long Beach and Pacific Rim National Park. However after experiencing the tourist trap that Tofino has become and consuming a less-than-stellar lunch at one of its most revered restaurants I was happy to settle into our Ucluelet abode.  There is still a small-village feel there, and a slower pace of life.  And you can find parking during the height of the tourist season!

Kitchens are compact but complete

Kitchens are compact but complete

Whiskey Landing Lodge was a great surprise and a huge delight for us – with Ucluelet always having been the ‘poor cousin’ on the Island’s west coast my expectations weren’t very high. I am delighted to report that my attitude changed as soon as I walked in to our stunning suite, where a view of the inlet, soaring ceilings and big timbers took my breath away.

Gas fireplaces add to the 'cosy' factor
Gas fireplaces add to the ‘cosy’ factor

 

The lodge is constructed in what has become known as ‘west coast’ style – lots of natural wood is used, including on the bathroom counters.  A wall of floor-to-ceiling windows lets in plenty of natural light and enhances the beautiful views.  There are special small touches in every nook and cranny that add to the spectacular ambiance – decorative additions adorn the wall above the soaker tub, a west coast sunset tops the gas fireplace, two very comfortable easy chairs and an occasional table provide a comfy place to read or, as we did, enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the early morning parade of sport fishing boats heading out for the day.

The suites at Whiskey Landing include fully equipped kitchens, so if you feel inclined to do your own meals that works (not an option for me when we are on holiday – we only used the fridge to chill some wine). And what better way to greet the day than waking to the beautiful maritime ambiance outside our windows?

Early morning entertainment - the parade of sport fishing boats heading out for the day

Early morning entertainment – the parade of sport fishing boats heading out for the day

Added bonuses to staying at Whiskey Landing include some excellent restaurants in Ucluelet, close proximity to the stunning Wild Pacific Trail and the well-regarded Ucluelet Aquarium, great sport fishing and kayaking opportunities and a truly friendly attitude from everyone we met.  Service was above and beyond everywhere we went.  It seems that Ucluelet is finally coming of age – I just hope that the place manages to retain its small-town charm and doesn’t get gobbled up by the Gods of commerce.

Close proximity to the spectacular Wild Pacific Trail adds to the attraction of Whiskey Landing

Close proximity to the spectacular Wild Pacific Trail adds to the attraction of Whiskey Landing

Further information on Whiskey Landing Lodge can be found at the website:

http://whiskeylanding.com/

Whiskey Landing Lodge is located at 1645 Cedar Road, just above the Government Dock in Ucluelet.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.94336581017499  Long. -125.54604840619942

N 48 56.602  W 125 32.763

 

Posted in ACCOMMODATIONS, DOG-FRIENDLY, WEST COAST | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dick’s Fish and Chips popular for a good reason

Some of the best fish and chips anywhere on the Island

Some of the best fish and chips anywhere on the Island

Can there be anything better than enjoying superb fish and chips on an outdoor patio on a fine evening? For us, it is one of the simple pleasures, but sometimes finding good fish and chips – even here on the Island, where fresh fish is plentiful – is a problem. We have more often than not been disappointed by fish that was not fresh, chips that came from a freezer bag, heavy greasy batter – you name it, we’ve seen it all even in supposedly ‘good’ fish and chip joints. Maybe that’s why Dick’s Fish and Chips in Campbell River was such an extraordinary delight.

Dick’s is located along the waterfront on a wharf, easily visible from the parking lot located at the marina that is its neighbour.  We wandered down there for dinner during a brief overnight stay in Campbell River to discover that we weren’t the only ones planning to enjoy the fresh air and maritime ambiance that paired so beautifully with the fare offered at Dick’s. The place was hopping!

Dining al fresco at Dick's

Dining al fresco at Dick’s

We placed an order for a couple of ‘one piece fish’ dinners knowing, thanks to our B&B hostess, that there is always an extra smaller piece of fish thrown in for good measure. After ordering we plunked ourselves down at one of the picnic tables and watched as a wide variety of meals arrived at other tables.  We tend to be purists on the fish and chip ‘thing’, going for the deep-fried variety, but there are many other options on the menu including grilled fish, burgers of every imaginable variety, wraps, salads – choice is not an issue here if traditional fish and chips are not your heart’s desire.

We only had to wait a few minutes until our order, served up in large paper cones perched in unique trays, was ready.  We unloaded the tray, inserted the paper cones into the holes cut in our table (I had been wondering what they were for….) and plowed in. And oh my, what a treat!  Cut-to-order chips, lovely fresh fish in a light and non-greasy batter – it was enough to warm the cockles of a fish ‘n chip lover’s heart. Hands down, it was certainly the best fish and chips we have eaten in a very long time.

Service with a smile....

Service with a smile….

There isn’t much to say about the ‘ambiance’ at Dick’s – it is cheerful, clean and, it seems, always busy.  There is limited indoor seating if the weather isn’t co-operating but really, half the experience here is enjoying the fresh salt air, watching the activity on the docks and gazing in wonder as the spectacular Alaska-bound cruise ships glide by. It’s a great way to enjoy good food in a lovely setting and, for sure, Dick’s will be a destination for us on future trips to Campbell River.

Further information on Dick’s Fish and Chips can be found at their website:

http://www.dicksfishandchips.com/welcome/

             The restaurant is located at 1003B Island Highway, at the Coast Marina and beside the BC Ferry terminal

             GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 50.02650215559821  Long.  -125.24089387539828

N 50 01.590  W 125 14.454

 

 

Posted in NORTHEAST ISLAND, WHERE TO EAT | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sointula – still a place of harmony – offers a warm welcome

Looking towards Sointula from Rough Bay

Looking towards Sointula from Rough Bay

How can anyone fail to love a place where little girls can set up a lemonade stand in the middle of ‘town’, unaccompanied by adult supervision, whiling away their summer days and maybe making a little bit of pocket money?  How can anyone fail to admire a settlement that still honours the pioneers that founded it more than a century ago?  And really, is it possible to not appreciate the sweeping beaches, mountain views, gorgeous trails, the history, in that place? Those are only a few of the things that entranced us during a visit to Malcolm Island and Sointula, the tiny, isolated 600-soul village that is its heart.

Sointula is safe enough that kids can be kids, in the truest old-fashioned sense of the word

Sointula is safe enough that kids can be kids, in the truest old-fashioned sense of the word

Sointula was founded as a socialist Utopian community in 1901 by Finnish immigrants fleeing the brutal and dangerous life of coal miners on Vancouver Island. The Finns settled on Malcolm Island with nothing in the way of job prospects – there was absolutely no industry there – but with the vision of developing a creative and harmonious life.

Ultimately the dream died but many of the Finns, noted for their perseverance and work ethic, remained in Sointula (which in Finnish means ‘place of harmony’).  They carved out lives in the fishing and logging industries, raised families, built homes and farms.

One of the many  beautiful sweeping beaches to be found on Malcolm Island

One of the many beautiful sweeping beaches to be found on Malcolm Island

One of the most endearing things about Sointula is that it continues to honour that heritage.  Finnish is still spoken periodically in the community, some signage and publicity literature includes Finnish translation as well, and there is an excellent museum that illuminates the legacy and hardships of the past.

Although the Utopian ideal didn’t survive there is still a lovely sense of community  on Malcolm Island.  And for those who think that remote communities may be lacking in things to do, think again.

Gillnet rugs were designed by a Sointula resident in the 1950s and are still unique only to the community. This display can be found in the excellent museum

Gillnet rugs were designed by a Sointula resident in the 1950s and are still unique only to the community. This display can be found in the excellent museum

In addition to visiting the museum – which is staffed almost entirely by volunteers – there are some charming galleries and restaurants to enjoy in Sointula.  The Upper Crust Bakery became our favourite spot for a light lunch and delectable goodies, and the Burger Barn proved to be purveyors of some of the best burgers we have ever consumed.

Bere Point Regional Park is a lovely stretch of forest and waterfront.  If you are lucky, you might see orca whales rubbing on the beaches in that area.  We spent a couple of hours hiking the Beautiful Bay Trail that skirts the shoreline – not what anyone would call a groomed trail but most certainly manageable for anyone who is reasonably fit and wearing a good pair of walking shoes. There are other well-documented trails on the island as well – unfortunately time limitations prevented us from exploring all of them.  That’s fine with us though – it gives us an excuse to return some day.

The beautifully maintained cemetery is the final resting place for many of Malcolm Island's pioneers - a history lesson in itself

The beautifully maintained cemetery is the final resting place for many of Malcolm Island’s pioneers – a history lesson in itself

It’s also worth taking the time to explore the beautifully-located cemetery, which is a history lesson in itself. Many of the original pioneers are buried there, overlooking the ocean.  It is rather poignant in many ways – there are headstones marking the deaths of everything from hardy pioneers to a mother and four children who died in a disastrous fire that swept through the communal sleeping quarters of the original settlement.

There are sailing charters available out of Sointula, regular organized public events and, of course, there is the delicious opportunity to simply kick back, relax and revel in the spectacular scenery and the peace and quiet of the place.

Malcolm Island is progressive in a good kind of way

Malcolm Island is progressive in a good kind of way

The Sointula Resource Centre is the ‘go to’ organization for information on the community and on Malcolm Island in general.  Their website can be accessed at:

http://www.sointulainfo.ca/

Malcolm Island is located a 25-minute ferry ride across from Port McNeill.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 50.62716178796512  Long. -127.01726400000001

N 50 37.630  W 127 01.036

 

Posted in DOG-FRIENDLY, KID FRIENDLY, NORTHEAST ISLAND, SPECIAL PLACES | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gold River’s LandnSea Bed and Breakfast

Home sweet home for a night - the lounge area in the tiny, comfortable suite

Home sweet home for a night – the lounge area in the tiny, comfortable suite

As I have mentioned in the past finding comfortable, reasonably-priced accommodation in isolated settlements can often pose a conundrum. We were faced with the same issue several times this summer, most notably in the town of Gold River on the northwest coast of the Island. A link to LandnSea Bed and Breakfast on the website of Get West Adventures, with whom we were sailing to Kyuquot, spared us the choice of a lengthy drive to the dock or having to spend the night before our excursion in accommodations frequented by logging and construction crews. Being that we were up and out the door by just after 6 a.m. that proved to be a very happy situation for us.

We arrived at LandnSea in the early evening, hungry and tired from a long day of travel, to be greeted by owner Sharron Jefford.  We couldn’t helped but be cheered immediately by Sharron’s jolly countenance and a couple of suggestions of a good place for dinner.

The kitchenette had everything you could want

The kitchenette had everything you could want

Our sun-washed suite, while tiny, had all the comforts of home – including an air conditioner.  There was a comfortable lounge area with sofa, a kitchenette with dining table, and a separate bedroom area, complete with writing desk.

Because we had to leave by 6:20 a.m. to catch the Uchuck III Sharron brought us a sumptuous breakfast basket in the evening, which, stowed in the refrigerator overnight,  got us off to a happy and filling start early the next morning. The generously-filled  basket included a cornucopia of fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, milk, orange juice, home-made muffins and banana bread, bags of trail mix, granola snack bars … and two brown paper bags to pack up anything we didn’t consume for breakfast to take along on the voyage the next day.  Needless to say, we were well-stocked during the trip thanks to Sharron’s generosity and thoughtfulness.

The bedroom is spacious enough to comfortably accommodate a writing desk

The bedroom is spacious enough to comfortably accommodate a writing desk

We enjoyed a good, quiet night’s sleep at LandnSea and the next morning slipped quietly away as the Jeffords’ neighbourhood was still steeped in slumber.  We couldn’t have asked for a better, more restful start to our Gold River/Kyuquot adventure.

LandnSea Bed and Breakfast does not (like so many other small operations) have a website, but Sharron can be contacted via e-mail at: landnsea@cablerocket.com

            The bed and breakfast is located at 546 Mallard Way, Gold River.

           GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.7821372  Long. -126.05300090000003

N 49 46.928  W 126 03.180

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