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Victoria

Going to Vancouver Island for Vacation in July. Staying in Victoria and Tofino. Any good places we shouldn't miss?

Lucky you! Vancouver island is gorgeous. Haven't been to Tofino, but my cousin stayed at a fabulous lodge there a few years ago. If I find out the name and some other recs, I'll post. In Victoria, go for high tea at the Empress. It's been a few years, but I recall that Chinese food in Victoria was good, in fact in my recollection, better than the restaurants in mainland Vancouver's much larger Chinatown (that's probably because all the good Chinese food on the mainland has moved out to the Vancouver suburbs like Richmond).

I have not been in 10 years, but I would recommend at least stopping for a drink at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress.

+1. I was there 2-3 years ago. Elegant surroundings and gracious service.

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Victoria


Lucky you! Vancouver island is gorgeous. Haven't been to Tofino, but my cousin stayed at a fabulous lodge there a few years ago. If I find out the name and some other recs, I'll post. In Victoria, go for high tea at the Empress. It's been a few years, but I recall that Chinese food in Victoria was good, in fact in my recollection, better than the restaurants in mainland Vancouver's much larger Chinatown (that's probably because all the good Chinese food on the mainland has moved out to the Vancouver suburbs like Richmond).



+1. I was there 2-3 years ago. Elegant surroundings and gracious service.

The restaurant scene in Victoria ( I visit three times a year to see my grandkids) is not as good as DC and certainly nowhere as good as Vancouver or Seattle. Zambris is good -- Italian, for lunch it is a bit like the antipasti bar at 2 Amys. No decent Chinese. Red fish/Blue fish is the equivalent of a food cart except it is good quality fish tacos in a renovated freight container by the dock. Definitely go. The Moss St FArmers market on Saturdays has lots of food stands and a very very good sausage stand that grills many different sausages.
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Tofino; Victoria


Lucky you! Vancouver island is gorgeous. Haven't been to Tofino, but my cousin stayed at a fabulous lodge there a few years ago. If I find out the name and some other recs, I'll post. In Victoria, go for high tea at the Empress. It's been a few years, but I recall that Chinese food in Victoria was good, in fact in my recollection, better than the restaurants in mainland Vancouver's much larger Chinatown (that's probably because all the good Chinese food on the mainland has moved out to the Vancouver suburbs like Richmond).


The name of the inn where my cousin stayed in Tofino is the Wickanninish Inn. She highly recommends its restaurant--the Pointe Restaurant

http://www.wickinn.com/

http://www.wickinn.com/restaurant.html

And it is true what marketfan said about Victoria not being a major dining destination; it doesn't offer options on par with what you'd find in Vancouver on the mainland or Seattle. Still, it's very charming and worth exploring. I especially enjoyed the tour of the Parliament building and as I mentioned before, high tea at the Empress Hotel. Cheers.
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Victoria; Tofino; Ucluelet

Well, I'm back from the vacation and thought I would report in on what we liked.

Victoria
Bon Rouge
Pescatores
Ferris' Oyster Bar & Grill
Nautical Nellies

If you are doing the B & B thing, stay at Beaconsfield Inn - Awesome breakfasts

Tofino
Shelter
Common Loaf Bakeshop
SoBo

Ucluelet
Fetch (in Black Rock Resort)
Norwoods

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Port Alberni

Well, alrighty ol_ironstomach. I'll see your Ontario and up you one Vancouver Island.

Based on nothing in particular, I'm guessing most Americans never make it to Vancouver Island. Partly this is due to confusion so, to get us all on the same page straightaway with apologies to those for whom this will be boring, there are at least 3 Vancouvers which confuse the issue:

- Vancouver City, BC, in Canada. Perhaps best known for the Olympics in 2010 and rioting hockey fans sometime later, big city on the mainland. Many Americans have been here.

- Vancouver, Washington. Totally dissed and in the shadow of big Canadian Vancouver (above). When asked at a local Starbucks for what this Vancouver is known, was told just "Fort Vancouver." Actually a pretty interesting Fort as forts go. Father of Oregon. 19th century tensions between the Brits and Yanks. But, my favorite fact for cocktails: HQ of the Hudson Bay Company, maker of very cool blankets. Can read up on all that if the mood strikes here.

- Vancouver Island, BC. (VI) Left of Canada's west coast (home to the first Vancouver above), accessible only by pretty cool ferries and absolutely best known for Victoria at its southeast corner. This post is about THIS Vancouver because, especially when discussing parts of the England-sized Island other than Victoria, there's very little online. So take that, yelp!

1st of a few entries will focus purely on the small city (town) of Port Alberni and its outpost of a Vancouver Island coffee shop chain called "Serious Coffee" that seems to hold its own fairly well with both Tim Hortons and Starbucks on VI. As you'll see from that link, Serious is indeed fairly serious. Island roasted beans. They don't know what a pourover is but they do know what a French Press is. Not sure they'll actually make you one but that had a pretty good (aka better than Starbucks) Guatemalan brewed when we were in. Maybe a bit trending toward burnt but, as I say, better than Starbuck's standard brew (not the Clover stuff, Don). The folks working at Serious are nice, friendly. Free wifi. Everything anyone could want venue wise.

And that's all I have to say about Serious and Port Alberni, which is now covered much better by donrockwell.con than by yelp.

More to follow. Stay tuned.

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Port Alberni

Quick addition to the above since seems the tech leash is very short on editing ones posts.

On the topic of coffee in the central Vancouver Island town of Port Alberni*, can now offer a bit more help:

- Steamers down in the Quay. Some locals who seem like they know their coffee may send you here. Don't do it. Trust me.
- Canvas Coffee. Hands down your best bet. On the street that leads down to the Quay. Just opened last year and owned by a pediatrician who also paints. His and others' art on the walls. Much better than average joe brewed on a very cool US made machine (all steel with wood handles) I shamefully didn't recognize. WifFi works. As good as it gets in Port Alberni, a town most important as being a way point on the way to or from much, much cooler spots about which I'll post shortly.

* yeah, yeah, I fully realize the odds that anyone will ever search donrockwell.com for a coffee recc here are microscopically small but I look at it differently. when 'people' out there knock dr.com for being 'just a dc area' food site, it's the crazy obscure threads like this one, with useful content and no silly high schoolish ratings and rantings, that prove 'em wrong. :D

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This June I'm once again taking a vacation without Nomex. But am bringing the hiking boots. Starts with 5 days in Victoria. Any recommendations for food-related activities (including just driving about to check out dairies or roadside stands or markets) most welcome. And of course restaurants. And great places to hike.

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This June I'm once again taking a vacation without Nomex. But am bringing the hiking boots. Starts with 5 days in Victoria. Any recommendations for food-related activities (including just driving about to check out dairies or roadside stands or markets) most welcome. And of course restaurants. And great places to hike.

Where are you going specifically? We spent a week on the island including a night or two in Victoria last summer. Thought I'd posted on it (a different thread) but maybe didn't. We loved the west coast and discovered some good spots. Pacific Rim Park is where you'll want to do much of the hiking and the drive on the east/west road over to Tofino/Ucluelet is stellar. I'll do my best to post some of what we liked here before you go but will help to know which areas you'll be targeting.

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We're taking a Seattle (2-3 nights) -> Vancouver (3-4 nights) -> Victoria (3 nights) -> Seattle circle in August, and I would love some travel recommendations. We've got the flight so need to know:

1) The best way to get from Seattle to Vancouver

2) The best way to get from Vancouver to Victoria

3) The best way to get from Victoria to Seattle

A car is an option the whole trip, part of the trip, or none of the trip (it is frightfully expensive to park where we're staying Vancouver, however). Amtrak is fine, as are hydroplanes and ferries - I'm looking for the best combination of experience, efficiency, and price (being well-aware that they don't often overlap). Money is an object, but won't get in the way of having fun.

If we can work in some orca whales, that would be a plus, but unless someone says it's obligatory, it's not necessary.

Any travel tips would be greatly appreciated, and yes, restaurant tips in Vancouver and Victoria also. I'm just now in the nascent stages of figuring out what to do in Vancouver and Victoria, so day-trip recommendations would also be greatly appreciated.

So excited about this trip! And yes, Lark, here we come again unless someone can give me reason not to!

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Vancouver [mainland city, not island; more here]

Hawksworth is Vancouver's best restaurant.  I was told last week to reserve one month in advance for Friday and Saturday night.

Car.  For the whole trip.  $45 a night for parking in downtown Seattle and the same for Vancouver.  Drive to the ferry terminal and use your car in Victoria (which I am not a big fan of unlike most others on this board; I suggest the Okanagan and Kelowna but Americans have never heard of this, the most beautiful wine country on earth with over 200 and several of Canada's best restaurants.  I also believe Walla Walla is well worth the five hour east drive.  Vancouver's best Chinese is in suburban Richmond which you'll need a car to get to.  I believe you MUST have a car in Vancouver-there is just far too much to see in the sububs, acrossing the Lionsgate bridge and beyond West Vancouver.  This is a city to drive outside of and just get lost.

Vancouver is the most beauitful setting of any city on earth.  It is worth basing yourself for a week at.  Victoria is worth a night or two at most.  Kelowna is worth two nights.  Whistler is a breathtakingly beautiful 65 mile drive.  Grouse Mountain is the definitive view of the Vancouver area with 60-75 mile views on clear days. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Vancouver_from_Grouse_mountain.jpg

Video that may show 100 or more miles:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XB_6rOnRPw

http://www.greatnorthwestwine.com/2013/05/19/british-columbia-proves-place-on-world-wine-stage/

Unknown in America: http://naramatabench.com/menus/la-frenz-winery/

Kelowna and the Okanagan including Quail's Gate and Mission Hill:  http://www.tourismkelowna.com/do/wine/

Today, Vancouverites vacation in Hawaii and Palm Springs.  And the Okanagan.  Victoria is a charming recreation of the U. K. but if you've spent time in the U. K. it is no big deal

I would also make the argument that you'll forget about Seattle once you see Vancouver.

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Victoria; East Sooke

Quick report on our last night in Victoria (typing on iPad). If you have one night, go to Ulla. Absolutely fantastic, local, fresh, creative but not precious. If you have another night, get out of town and drive to Sooke Harbour House. Same description as Ulla, beautiful setting on the water. Not really much to see/do in Victoria, but hiking on the west coast is outrageous. In town, check out Abkhazi Gardens. Don, we 're taking the ferry to Vancouver tomorrow, will report on options later. Consider taking a seaplane if you don't have too much luggage.

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Victoria; East Sooke; Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

Early in our trip Mr P found an interesting statistic: Victoria has the highest number of restaurants per capita of any city in Canada, and second only to San Francisco in all of North America.  But quantity doesn't correlate to quality.  Most of the places we tried were pretty good, but nothing special, with the exception of Ulla and Sooke Harbour House (mentioned upthread).

Brasserie l'Ecole was fine except for one dish that was unbelievably bad (pasta with sausage).  Mr P described it as the menu's "f**k you" dish, as in "what, nothing sounds good? then get the pasta, you rube, and f**k you!".  But my main course of marinated, braised, and seared flat iron steak was great.  Caution, though: they don't take reservations, but will keep a list and call you when your table's almost ready.  We sat down at 8:00; by 8:15 we overheard waiters telling other diners "we're out of the X and the Y and the Z".  By the time we were ready for dessert, they'd sold out of the one I wanted.  If you want to choose from the whole menu, go early.

Cafe Brio was nothing special in the innovative sense, but it is a perfect little neighborhood restaurant, with well-conceived and well-executed Italian-inspired dishes.  I actually quite liked it but then I prefer that style of dining to fine dining.

Beware of confusing Veneto Tapa Lounge with Tapa Bar, as we did.  The latter is supposed to be quite good.  The former was not, except for a nice field greens and blueberry salad.

If you stay at Beaconsfield Inn, as we did, you won't be thinking much about getting lunch.  The three-course breakfasts are delicious and very filling.

Victoria has a huge coffee scene.  I found none that I liked.  Maybe at Bubby Rose's Bakery and Cafe, which also had excellent pastries.  But I went to a few of the well-regarded independent coffee houses and didn't care for the coffee anywhere.  I think the problem is in the roasting, not the brewing.

As for getting around, Victoria is small, and there's no need for a car unless you want to get out of town, which you probably will, since there's not much to see in Victoria.  If you do have a car, you can try driving through the small towns on the north coast in search of good local foods.  We didn't have much luck with that, though, except in Cowichan Bay, where we found an excellent bakery and a shop selling local cheeses.  That and a pick-your-own farm with strawberries was all we needed for a nice picnic lunch.

If you like hiking but don't have time to go all the way out to Tofino/Uclelet, go to East Sooke Regional Park or the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.  Beware, though, that Sooke is the last place you'll find provisions (or gasoline) until Port Renfrew.  The trails in these areas are difficult, but the scenery is magnificent.  Also there are bears.

As for getting to Victoria from Vancouver for a day trip, you can take the ferry, but it's a long drive from downtown Vancouver to the terminal at Tsawwassen, an hour and a half crossing, and another 45 minute drive to Victoria, so if you do it this way you'll probably want to stay overnight.  You can also take a seaplane, which lands right in Victoria harbor, downtown.  If you aren't staying overnight do this for the time savings and the cool factor.

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail; three courses at Sooke Harbour House (field greens; lamb with Israeli couscous; halibut); Coast Trail, East Sooke Regional Park; two courses at Ulla (pea soup and Parmesan cracker with minted ricotta and bacon; something that included morels, duck prosciutto, and a coddled duck egg)

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* yeah, yeah, I fully realize the odds that anyone will ever search donrockwell.com for a coffee recc here are microscopically small but I look at it differently. when 'people' out there knock dr.com for being 'just a dc area' food site, it's the crazy obscure threads like this one, with useful content and no silly high schoolish ratings and rantings, that prove 'em wrong. :D

What are the odds?  I was looking for recommendations last summer when I was in Port Alberni, but I missed this thread.

oops, actually that was Port Renfrew, but either way, middle of freakin' nowhere.

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Just finished the Vancouver Island leg of our trip.  Highlights were Ulla, Fol Epi, and The Pointe at Wickaninnish Inn.  All the other meals were also quite good, but do not measure up to those three places.

The very good

Ulla - Thanks to Porcupine for the recommendation.  This place is fantastic, the cooking style reminds me a bit of Ashby Inn under Tarver King - the food might be slightly better than I recall from Ashby Inn.

Fol Epi - Great bakery.  They make wonderful fresh sandwiches on crusty bread.  They also have some of the flakiest and tastiest pastries I've ever tasted.  This place is everything that PAUL wish it was but is not.

The Pointe - Very nice modern cooking.  It's pricy but we felt the food was more than good enough to justify the price.  The view was very pretty though not as pretty as Point no Point restaurant near Sooke.  The service good, but strangely, largely staffed by Russians, so there was a slight language barrier from time to time.

The very very tolerable

Point no Point - The food here is from good to very food, with the housemade charcuterie being the highlights.  The view and service are reasons to come here.  It's a gorgeous view out the window.  It was good enough that I picked up a brochure about their hotel accommodations (surprisingly, not too pricy even for high season) so I can dream about coming back here.

Sooke Harbor House - It was good but not exceptional.  The view is lovely, but the food is what we'd expect from a pretty country inn with some pedigree.  It's nice enough but if choosing between Point no Point and here, we'd go with Point no Point, no question

Wildside Grill - Solid soup options, good fried seafood and fish tacos, the fries are kinda mediocre.

Spotted Bear Cafe - Good kitchen and friendly service.  They do try to be quite creative with their foods, the results are some hits and some misses, but everything is at least good to eat.

Sobo in Tofino - Good if you want a wider variety of options, we found the tofu pockets and soups to be the best.  The other things we tried were fine but missable.

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