Transportation & Accommodation
It's 4:30pm on Friday afternoon when I make my way to Downtown Vancouver's Coal Harbour to catch Harbour Air flight 225 departing for the stunning city of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, sitting on the southern end of Vancouver Island. I hang out in the comfortable lounge sipping the complimentary coffee while taking in the panoramic mountain views of Vancouver. I'm still amazed that I can walk fifteen minutes from the office to Harbour Air's hub and catch a flight to paradise just about anytime I want. The convenience of Harbour Air and their regular flight schedules as well as affordable pricing makes it one of the best ways to commute from Vancouver to Victoria.
Harbour Air was founded back in 1982, and with only two small seaplanes, the company began to offer charter flights. With the growing success over the years, they started to add routes and planes to their fleet. As well as Victoria, Harbour Air also travels frequently to Nanaimo, Sechelt, Comox, Whistler, Maple Bay, and Ganges Harbour.
Today, Harbour Air has over 35 daily departures, a fleet of over 50 planes and has grown to be North America’s largest seaplane airline, as well as being the first fully carbon neutral airline. In addition to the scheduled flights, like the one I took to Victoria, Harbour Air also offers scenic tours, adventure packages, and customizable private charter flights for groups of any size who wish to explore BC.
The plane ride is incredibly exciting, more so than that usual buzz I get while roaming down the runway at an airport. It's my first time on a float plane, which although a little bumpy and terrifying at times, I'm distracted by the stunning beauty of Vancouver and British Columbia surrounding me; the greenery, the water, and the sun, which shines through the clouds creating shadows over the mountains in the distance. It truly is the perfect day to fly.
For more information and to book a flight, package or charter with Harbour Air, visit www.harbourair.com or call (604) 274-1277. Looking forward to flying with you again, Harbour Air, thank you for that beautiful experience.
After a comfortable ride and no longer than 40 minutes later, I jump off my specially wrapped 'Canada 150' Harbour Air plane at Victoria Harbour and my mood elevates immediately. The first thing that catches my attention is the liveliness of the city. Victoria is pumping with energy, it's colorful and extremely vibrant. There are people dancing in the street, buskers belting out joyful songs at the side of the road, hundreds of tourists snapping pictures by the harbour, and even a super cool Reggae festival taking place close by. I notice this all within the first 5 minutes, feeling that Victoria could be even more alive than Vancouver. Although so much is happening around me, I still feel that realness of Victoria, the feeling of a large city but one with small town local values and ethics. The word 'local' is one I'll be using a lot in the following two write ups on Victoria coming later this week, so stay tuned for that.
The realness of Victoria is that unique blend of aged charm with modern experience. With a lot of history and heritage architecture, stunning gardens and community spaces for relaxation as well as an offering of enjoyable outdoor adventures such as kayaking, fishing, hiking, cycling, and golfing, there’s truly something for everyone in Victoria. For me, it was a chance to escape from Downtown Vancouver living and an opportunity to enjoy the wild beauty and culture of a new city.
THE INN AT LAUREL POINT
This weekend I'm being hosted at one of Victoria's most loved hotels, The Inn at Laurel Point, a stunning zen oasis located on the inner harbour. The hotel is approximately 10-15 minutes walking distance from Harbour Air’s Victoria terminal. I caught a Birdseye view of the property from the flight, which looks as though it belongs on a sandy beach in Honolulu, with it’s alluring white modern exterior.
The Inn at Laurel Point is a resort-style hotel originally designed by award winning architect Arthur Erickson. Known for its spectacular views, the 200 room property boasts numerous decks, gardens and a wealth of natural light. Also within the hotel is a spa and swimming pool as well as an outdoor patio and Japanese garden.
I’m extremely lucky to have a harbour view suite on the newly renovated fifth floor of the property, within the Erickson Wing of the hotel. The first thing I notice when entering the room is the breathtaking view of the water, the mountains, and of the boats docking at the harbour in Downtown Victoria. The bathroom has a grand marble bathtub, separate shower, a double sink, and is stocked with luxurious L'Occitane beauty products. I find myself disappointed these days while at hotels when I realize there's no bathtub, reason being that I don't have one at home so I really like to take advantage of a nice soak in the tub when I'm staying at a hotel. But thanks to the Inn at Laurel Point, I was able to sink into a relaxing bubblebath after a long day of exploring the city. I sleep like a baby over the weekend at the hotel, with the curtains open, staring out onto the harbour, falling asleep to the sound of the water.
What I really appreciate about this hotel is that it's still independently owned and operated, meaning that isn’t like a regular chain hotel with guidelines and standards to meet, where everything tends to look the same. This property is entirely unique and special.
I notice an exquisite array of Japanese art and antiques scattered throughout every floor of the hotel, enclosed in glass cases and curated along the corridors outside the guest rooms. I’m informed that the owners have a love for Japan and they bring these incredibly beautiful pieces back from each visit, adding to their sentimental museum within the hotel. Some extraordinary kimonos, beautiful antiques and incredible artworks have been loaned out to museums in the surrounding areas for exhibitions. As someone who has a love for Japan and Japanese culture, I especially enjoyed this added touch. I notice this touch of Asian culture, Japanese in particular, has an influence on a lot of Victoria.
Situated within the hotel on the ground level is AURA Waterfront Restaurant. I’m invited to experience breakfast at AURA on Saturday morning with Brooke, Sales Director of the Hotel. After much debating, I decide on the French toast which arrives on a bed of raspberry jam, topped with lavender honey tossed grapes and cream, and when I cut into it, out oozes a peanut butter mousse lava. My absolute favourite combination of flavours. The breakfast is actually so good that I return the following morning and order a baked croissant stuffed with folded eggs, aged BC cheddar, and Canadian back bacon served with crispy wakame dusted home fries and ketchup.
Japan born Executive Chef Takashi Ito, and his incredibly experienced team really elevate this restaurant to the next level with their delicious, locally sourced fare. I'd also like to thank Kimberley Vy, Pastry Chef at AURA for those wonderful macaroons you left in my room, and to Janis and Brooke for making me feel at home throughout my stay.
The Inn at Laurel Point is proud to be the only carbon-neutral hotel in British Columbia, and one of the only in Canada. Rooms at the hotel can be booked at www.laurelpoint.com or by calling (250) 414-6712.
The weekend passes by in a flash and there’s still so much of Victoria that I’m eager to explore. My stay at the Inn at Laurel Point has me feeling rejuvenated and extremely relaxed as well as more knowledgeable about Canadian cultures and values. I’m already planning my next trip back where I hope to indulge more in the Victoria tea culture, explore more of Chinatown, and enjoy some outdoor activities on the water including the popular whale watching that I've heard so much about.
Taking me back to my home in Vancouver is the newly launched V2V Vacations, which is a daily luxury marine transportation experience linking Downtown Victoria to Downtown Vancouver. The first of its kind, previously taking the ferry was a bit of an inconvenience from what I’ve heard so this newly added transportation method will be much appreciated for vacationers and locals commuting between the two cities.
On board the 254 seat vessel, you can expect to experience pure comfort on a premium leather seat with built in power outlets for charging of your phone or laptop (thank you!) and on-board wifi which is incredibly fast, although it can get a little spotty in some areas, it does work well. There is also a reasonably priced food and beverage service. I enjoyed a chicken and avocado wrap with prosciutto, tomato, arugula, and pesto aioli. The staff on board are extremely friendly, accommodating, and knowledgable. If I'm honest, I'm really not a fan of boats and I do tend to get sea sick but with the V2V vessel I felt as though I was on an airplane or train, as it glided along gracefully. I would recommend this for those who want to enjoy a longer, more scenic journey. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy and rainy on my way back but I can just imagine that this would be breathtaking on a summer's day.
V2V vacations can be booked at www.v2vvacations.com or by calling +1 (250) 590-9154. The city of Victoria is bustling with tourists year round, so it’s important that you make reservations in advance. A city as popular as this books up fast so I recommend starting your research and planning your trip to beautiful Victoria.
For my readers outside of Vancouver and Canada, there’s an airport in Victoria, about 15 minutes from the Downtown hub, offering daily non-stop flights from multiple locations.
If you’re interested in where I ate, what I ate, and what it was like, tune in with me on Wednesday for the next part of my Victoria getaway where I’ll be taking you on a food tour to Victoria's hidden gem Little Jumbo, off the beat and track to Saveur and to a delightful afternoon tea at Venus Sophia in Chinatown. Following that, releasing this this Friday, I’ll be sharing my cycling and sight seeing adventures with you; where I went, what I saw, and who I met.
Peace out Victoria xo
Huge thank you to Tourism Victoria for your kindness, Harbour Air for the wonderful experience, The Inn at Laurel Point for hosting me, and to V2V Ferries for the incredible ride back to Vancouver. It's been an absolute pleasure. I received a welcome in Victoria unlike many cities I've visited, from the moment I stepped on the Harbour Air flight to the moment I hopped off the V2V, I feel as though I've been wrapped in a big hug and been treated like a king. I can't wait to explore more with you on my next trip.