Escape to Inner Tranquility
Idris was in camps for most of the summer so I could work. But we put together a fun-only island getaway with Boo (our very old rescue dog) for mid-August. We live in Nanaimo and had four days to explore. I wanted us to get out in nature and discover a few new spots. Idris just wished to hang out and have pizza at least once. “Mom, you know how you say you’re maxed? I’m maxed on camps” (he is nine).
As a parent, I like to front-load the more healthy learning activities. That way, when my child is tapped on excursions, I know he’ll find a little more steam with a couple more just-fun activities. Plus, I can also explore a few new things outside of what’s more kid-focused. I decided to start with Port Renfrew, then Sooke and Langford, because honestly, in that order, ending on Langford, Idris will be thrilled as there are a ton of things for kids there. It’s also a pretty cruisy trek back up the Malahat to get home. He can nap, I can listen to podcasts. Win-win.
Unfortunately, when I told Idris I’d booked us the first couple of nights in a yurt at the gorgeous Soule Creek Lodge, he was drinking chocolate milk. I still have no idea why he found the word so funny, but he cracked up so hard that the milk came out his nose. You’re welcome for that visual. I explained that it is a portable round tent usually covered in skins or felt that originally was only found in Central Asia. Granted, we ended up booking at Handsome Dan’s in the Cat’s Pajamas cabin because our first pick didn’t allow pets.
Honestly, we have camped a lot, Goldstream, Sooke Potholes, Jordan River and Gordon Bay, to name a few. But this time, I wanted less work. It’s been a crazy two years—I also wanted a holiday. Boo is also less mobile. I bought a new car because we couldn’t go on an overseas trip we had talked about to visit family in New Zealand, so a road trip fits the bill.
It’s only a two-hour drive, so after taking Boo for a short walk and a late breakfast, we hit the road. I wanted to get to Botanical Beach for a few hours before check-in. I packed a lunch so we wouldn’t need to stop on the way. Funny how every time I believe Idris when he says, “I don’t have to go, MOM,” about thirty minutes into the trip, he bleats, “Mom, I have to go.” Whatever, we’re on holiday now.
Port Renfrew is located on the Pacheedaht (pah-chee-dah) First Nation land. It extends from Point No Point to Bonilla Point and from the San Juan River’s mouth to Todd Mountain. It means “Children of the Sea Foam.” Idris memorized all the Indigenous names on Vancouver Island (there are 50) when he was seven.
It was pretty misty when we first arrived at the park. I had Boo on a leash because her eyesight is bad, and there are many tidepools. The trek down to the beach from the parkade takes about 20 minutes. There are plenty of interpretive signs to explain what to look for in terms of flora and fauna. Idris was hoping to find a Wandering Salamander or a Yellow-spotted Millipede, but he did see a Sow Bug (we call them pillbugs, though). The salamander is only found on the west coast and is one of the few that can climb. He especially wanted to spot the rare Dromedary Jumping slug, as you need to report it to BC Parks. Alas, no joy, plus can it really jump? I should look that up.
The sky cleared up on the beach, but the waves were churning. No wonder they warn you again and again not to let kids (or anyone, really) play right by the water. We spent a couple of hours walking along the sandstone and granite beach, ogling the anemones and checking out the Gooseneck barnacles, Purple Sea Urchins, snails, Blue Mussels, purple, red and orange starfish and anemones and darting little fish. Idris wanted to bring a hermit crab home, but that was a no.
On the way back up to the car, we noticed the natural bonsai. The small Sitka Spruce trees remain small to contend with the harsh conditions instead of reaching up to 50 meters.
It was time to check out our home for the next couple of nights. I was expecting pretty rustic, but no, the cabin seemed very new. There was a massive tree that the deck had been built around, wood floors. It was spotless and cabin-cozy. I was thrilled. Idris wanted a bath, so he listened to a podcast and did that. I curled up on the sofa with a book and a tea. Boo settled in on the bed.
For dinner, we checked out Bridgemans West Coast Eatery. It was a little tricky to find because it’s down a steep road and not visible from the road. I’m so glad we found it. Idris had the codfish and chips and a shark juice (blue sugar bomb drink with a shark gummy), and I feasted on the chowder with fresh salmon, clams, mussels, shrimp, bacon and vegetables and a massive plate of onion rings. The service was super friendly, and the food was yum. Our view was this little marina with boats in the sun. Idris and I discussed which boat we would like and where we might go. What a great way to end our first day.
In the morning, we lounged for a long time. I’m a big fan of the one busy day, one lazy day. We strolled around the site and checked out some gorgeous waterside units. We swung by Coastal Kitchen Cafe for lunch. Idris had a veggie wrap with a sticky bun, and I had the Chicken & Brie Club and one of the best short cappuccinos ever. Then we went back to the cabin, hung out with Boo and watched a movie. I brought a box of mac and cheese and microwave popcorn for dinner. Being nestled in the woods was so grounding. Port Renfrew feels like you are in the middle of nowhere—exactly what I craved. We crashed early and slept long.
In the morning, we walked Boo and headed for Sooke. We stopped at the Cold Shoulder Cafe in Jordan River (also on Pacheedaht First Nation land). I’m so glad we did – the coffee was excellent, and our breakfast sandwiches were off the chart. There’s also a hilarious list of questions they have been asked over the years and really warm service. We got Boo out for a stroll on the beach and watched the surfers.
Once we hit Sooke (T’Sou-ke Nation), we were lucky to get early check-in for our two-bedroom suite at the BW Prestige Oceanfront Resort. The room was immaculate and faced Sooke Harbour. We set up Boo with food and a bowl of water and headed for Adrena LINE Zipline Adventures. Full disclosure, I might love ziplining more than my son. It’s so exhilarating, silly and exciting. The first time I tried it at WildPlay in Langford, I was hooked. At Adrena LINE, you go on a guided two-hour tour with eight ziplines, two suspension bridges and a 10-minute off-road ride. The guides were incredible, welcoming and thorough, and careening over the treetops was fantastic.
“I’m starving!!!” wailed my kid as I was handing a tip to our guides. Fair, that was an oversight. I forgot to pack snacks. The guide was too sweet and gifted him a granola bar (lifesaver). Adris and I grabbed burgers at Mom’s Cafe. He had the Hawaiian with yam fries. I dug into the halibut with an excellent Caesar salad. I think it took him about seven minutes to gobble up his meal. We returned to the hotel and watched TV for a bit while we digested, then went and goofed around in the pool and hot tub. I treated us to dessert for dinner from room service because we were still full from lunch. Somehow Idris and I found room for the homemade bread pudding, chocolate torte, deconstructed cheesecake and two hot chocolates.
“It’s our last day, Mom, get upppppp!” I woke up to the smell of coffee and Idris’ face an inch from mine. “Okay, okay” “I made you coffee!” My little champion, he had too. The plan was to check out, grab snacks, drive to the Danbrook Dog Park in Langford, hang out there for a while, then see if we could check into our hotel early before an afternoon of fun. We picked up muffins, coffee and juice from Kelz Bakery, and we were on our way.
We arrived in Langford, on the traditional territories of the Lkwungen (Lekwungen) peoples and in no time found the park. The dog park was a big win for Boo. She loves other dogs and had a great time. Once she was tuckered out, it was time for a big surprise for Idris. His best buddy Kate had moved to Victoria last year. They had not seen each other. It was time to change that. We met up with Kate and her father at Centennial Park (their faces when they spotted each other—priceless), and the two got to tear around in the water park and have double scoops of ice cream. I left them to check us all in (two rooms) at The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa and settle in the dog. Kate’s father brought them back in a couple of hours, spent and ready for lunch at Kuma Sushi. Then we all rented bikes and rode the trails. For dinner, Kate’s dad picked up Neopolitan meatballs, an antipasti plate, a cacciatore and Margherita pizza and chocolate truffles from 900 Degrees Pizzeria.
When we rolled out of bed in the morning, Idris was beaming, “Mom. We maxed out that road trip for sure! I love you.” Awww. I love my little guy. He didn’t realize we still had one more day.