To celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary, we were thrilled to go on a kid-free adventure and have the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone with a Ford Edge ST. Staying in a Yurt at Sole Creek Lodge in Port Renfrew, we had a perfect luxury ‘base camp’ for all our adventures as we enjoyed the outdoors with all the comforts of a hotel room, and the feeling of being somewhere remote.
Port Renfrew is only a two-hour scenic drive from Victoria, but seems like a different world, away from all the hustle-and-bustle. It was a beautiful place to just relax and take it all in. We immediately fell in love with the outdoor lovers’ paradise — you can really see why they call it “Wild Renfrew” with the wonderful wild growth and green all around you. Hearing nature sounds as you wander a forest, go to sleep, or wake for the morning in a Yurt are incredible. And so wonderfully loud.
Our adventure actually began in Vancouver, with dinner, a concert and exploring some of the beautiful Vancouver sights. We found the tastiest Mexican restaurant, with great quality food and service at Patron Tacos & Cantina.
The next morning, we were on a ferry over to Port Renfrew for some peace, quiet and adventure. A BC Ferries ride is a fantastic way to explore the surrounding islands and a great way to bring your vehicle with you. So convenient! I also believe that I could never get sick of the unparalleled views you get from the Ferry. The Salish Sea was definitely putting on one of its best shows yet for our journey. While we did not spot any Orca whales, we did see some Seals lazing in the sun. It was also nice to feel the warmth of the sun on the Ferry adventures as once we got to Port Renfrew, the clouds and fog appeared for most of our stay — though the sun did peak out for a while when the clouds parted for short periods.
Just under a five-hour trip from Vancouver (including the ferry ride), the Ford Edge proved to be a comfortable vehicle for a long drive, especially with all of the fancy driver-assist technologies within the Ford Co-Pilot360. The rear-view and front-view cameras were also such a wonderful assist, especially for someone like me that is short and can have some trouble judging distance because of it.
It was also comforting to know that there was an automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection feature, as well as BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), where traffic can be detected that is approaching from the sides when you’re slowly backing out of parking spots. Ford has really thought of all the ways to help keep everyone safe, in and around the vehicle.
We thought that the SYNC 3 AppLink was fantastic as it helped us to outsmart traffic by sharing information to get the best routes and even showed us real-time alerts about accidents, road hazards, and traffic jams — totally helpful, especially when you’re driving in crazy Vancouver traffic. On the highway, it was super fun to turn on the sport mode and feel the race-car power behind the vehicle.
The Lane Keeping System was especially helpful for those early morning drives when you may feel a little more tired than you would like to be when behind the wheel.
All of these wonderful features sure made driving the Ford Edge a breeze!
We were amazed at how much there was to do in Port Renfrew. The only disappointment was that the kayaking company had closed shop in the area, so the nearest kayaking tours available were an hour away in Sooke. Not a long drive, but once we discovered that we would have a packed adventure anyways, we soon forgot about kayaking. Especially when we saw one of our highlights: Botanical beach. What a magical place that is. Botanical Beach really is a “natural Jewel” in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park .
Rugged coastline, tidepools within holes in the rock; it was mind-blowing beautiful. We spent a lot of time there exploring the tide pools and the enchanting forest that at times felt like it was straight out of the Avatar movie. I did not want to leave. We fell so in love with it that we even ventured back a second time for a couple more hours.
Botanical Beach has such an abundance of intertidal life; you can find hundreds of species of plants and animals. The organisms that live here must be able to handle a wide range of conditions. When the tide is out, there are large changes in temperature, predators, food sources and salinity.
It is important to note how slippery the rock can be when the tide is out. Really make sure you watch your step and that you do not disturb any tide pools. Please respect ALL natural objects found within the park; look, but do not touch!
Nature always blows my mind and I was totally in my element as we explored Botanical Beach. Nature is just so good for the soul!
Soule Creek Lodge Yurt
Perched on top of the San Juan Ridge with stunning ocean views and 160 private acres, spending the weekend in the Yurt was incredible. It is so nice to be in nature with all the great perks of a hotel room. The bed was super comfortable and waking up to the loud sounds of the nature around us was fantastic. Inside the Yurt we had everything we could possibly need. It was nice to be able to “camp” in luxury. The staff was super friendly and helpful and though we had neighbors around us, we did not even notice. We felt like we had complete privacy.
The food at Soule Creek Lodge was also divine. A hot homemade breakfast is included with all stays at Soule Creek Lodge, perfect for fueling up before a long day of exploring the trails. We enjoyed a banana pancake, eggs, and bacon (the best bacon I have ever had; cooked perfectly), fresh fruit and miniature smoothie breakfast and the three-course dinner had our taste buds going wild. We love that their food is also locally sourced when possible: seafood off the waters of Port Renfrew, poultry and eggs from Cowichan Valley, and produce from small Vancouver Island farms. The evening meal is prepared fresh each day, so reservations need to be made before 10:00am on the day you plan to dine.
There was a great view from the loungers, even in the fog. It seemed like the green went on forever into the distance and when the fog would clear, you would also be able to see the ocean in the distance. I could have sat there for hours, listening to nature and staring out into the distance. It was so peaceful and beautiful.
The road up to Soule Creek Lodge is a rough single-lane adventurous gravel road, but take it slow and you should not have any problems getting off the beaten path. Be prepared for no cell service, and slow wi-fi, but we really welcomed the break from always being so connected with technology.
There was a notice to remind everyone to respect their neighbors since the yurts are not soundproof, and there were even ear plugs beside the bed. However, the noise level was never a concern as we never saw or heard our neighbors, only the beautiful nature around us.
We left wishing that was had even just one more night at Soule Creek Lodge.
The time we spent at Sombrio beach, it was covered in fog. It created a really neat atmosphere, and I believe that any day at the beach is a good one, so I was still a happy camper listening to the sounds of the ocean as we wandered the beach seeing if we could find any interesting pieces of nature. It would have been a peaceful spot to camp for those who were set up along the beach as the weather kept it extra quiet along the shores.
I have found that I am just as fascinated by the forest walks to the beach as I am of the beach itself. So many incredible natural sights to see along the way.
We stopped at French Beach Provincial Park between Sooke and Jordan River as a way to stretch our legs. I saw the word “beach” and knew we had to pull over. It is said to be a great spot to get some fabulous views (in good weather) of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. It is also a popular spot for wildlife viewing. The magnificent Gray whales pass by this park in the spring as they migrate to northern feeding grounds, and return again in the fall. Roaming pods of resident killer whales can also be seen offshore, as well as otters, seals, and sea lions. We always seem to miss all the action! All we managed to notice was an eagle flying overhead.
China Beach looked to be a great spot for relaxing. It was a rather easy stroll down to the beach along the trail, with a set of stairs just before arriving at the water. It was this trail that I decided that any beach with a great walk through nature to get there would be worth it — so far, my theory has not been proven wrong!
Another quick stop to stretch our legs found us wandering these rocks for longer than we anticipated. It is always neat to see what kind of sea life can be found and even through all the large rocks, we found a few neat sights in the tide pools. I can never get enough of tide pools; they completely fascinate me and leave me in awe. Every time.
Canada’s Gnarliest Tree – Avatar Grove
We almost ran out of time to do this one, but I figured that getting Darcy up at 4:30 in the morning so that we could check out of the Yurt and stop at Avatar Grove before we had to get moving to make our ferry reservation was a good idea. I’m not sure he was too thrilled doing a miniature version of what felt like Vancouver’s Grouse Grind (“Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”) by 6 am, but it was a great way to get jolted awake and the adrenaline going. There is an upper and lower Avatar Grove, but we only had time to do the upper. The trail sounded more exciting than the lower trail, and who wants to pass up seeing Canada’s Gnarliest Tree? We had driven some of the route the day before trying to catch some sun and as you can see below– the route to Avatar Grove sure is gorgeous. Plus, some of the scenery really felt out-of-this-world. It is incredible to witness what nature is capable of!
Coastal Kitchen Cafe
The Coastal Kitchen Cafe was a recommended stop. It is a great laid-back restaurant that serves a West Coast inspired breakfast and has a lunch menu from 12pm onwards. Small menu, but big taste!
We loved the decor and atmosphere and the food was pretty darn good. The pulled pork sandwich was especially delicious. The Turkey and Brie sandwich did not quite satisfy, it could have used a little more flavor. Cranberry, perhaps?
The Renfrew Pub
The Renfrew Pub is in a great spot on the waterfront, offering classing pub grub, like burgers, as well as oceanwide seafood dishes. Sitting out on the deck gets you some great views and we really enjoyed the atmosphere. The food was delicious with their Chicken Chipotle burger really melting in your mouth. Darcy is more of a burger guy, so he quite enjoyed the Bacon Cheeseburger. You certainly cannot go wrong with great quality food and views!
We got into quite the big adventure in our Ford Edge and it was a perfect vehicle to explore Port Renfrew. The seats were so comfortable that it felt like they hugged you as you drove around. A lot of the roads in Port Renfrew are gravel as well, yet it was still a comfortable ride even when bumpy at times.
Take a look at how you can get yourself into a Ford Edge at Ford.ca.
Our verdict: The Ford Edge ST was built for adventure.
Disclaimer: Ford Canada provided us with a Ford Edge for a week and covered all the expenses and activities of our trip to Soule Creek Lodge in Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island. However, as always, our opinions are our own.