Wednesday 7 December 2022

Port Renfrew

Last weekend was Ridley's Birthday, so we spent a few days over in Port Renfrew on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  It's only a couple of hours drive away from Victoria, but feels like a completely different place, and is well worth a visit.

About Port Renfrew

Port Renfrew is a small town with a population of around 150, and is the historical home of the Pacheedaht First Nation.  Known for fishing and forestry it has also developed a small tourist industry, mainly due to the wild location and the opportunities for outdoor activities, as well as the proximity to Old Growth forests.  It's known as the Tall Tree Capital of Canada!

Where to Stay in Port Renfrew

There is lots of holiday accommodation available through the usual booking sites.  We stayed in a lovely apartment overlooking the water, with a hot tub, managed by Handsome Dan's.

Port Renfrew Cabins

Things to Do in Port Renfrew

We've visited Port Renfrew a few times now, and it's one of our favourite places to visit on the island.  Here's a few suggestions on what to do if you make it out that way:

Bridgemans West Coast Eatery

This cool bar/restaurant is down by the Pacific Gateway Marina and looks over the San Juan Inlet towards the mountains.  Bridgemans is a timber framed building with large windows and a wood burning stove, and has a typical West Coast relaxed vibe.  It also serves the best smoked salmon we've ever had, the salmon is caught locally and smoked in Port Renfrew, so you can't get much shorter food miles!

Smoked Salmon at Bridgemans Port Renfrew

San Juan Inlet from Bridgemans Port Renfrew

The Renfrew Pub

Serving local craft ales and quality pub food, the pub is also worth a visit.  Only the back bar was open when we visited this time, but it looks to have lovely views out over the pier from the front deck in Summer.  We spent a fun few hours teaching the boys to play pool on the free table, while chatting with some of the locals and other visitors.

Playing pool at the Renfrew Pub
Big Lonely Doug

Big Lonely Doug is the second largest tree in Canada, about 70 metres tall and estimated to be 1000 years old.  The Douglas Fir was saved from clear cut logging in 2011 and now stands alone (hence the name!).  Doug is about a 20 minute drive from Port Renfrew up a logging road, and then about a 15 minute walk from the parking area where the road gets pretty much impassable for a normal vehicle.

Big Lonely Doug

Avatar Grove

You will pass Avatar Grove on the logging road up to Doug.  It is a protected area of Old Growth forest, and home to Canada's gnarliest tree apparently!  It's been closed for safety reasons for the whole time we've been on the island so we haven't actually been in to the grove, although there are often quite a few parked cars at the trail head, so I suspect it still gets visitors. 

Botanical Beach

This great beach is part of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park.  It has some amazing rock/tide pool formations, many are almost perfect circles and unlike anything we have seen anywhere else. They team with sea life and look unreal at times.  Make sure you visit at low tide to see them at their best.  It's about a 20 minute walk from the car park.

Tide pools at Botanical Beach

Tide Pools at Botanical Beach

Sombrio Beach

Sombrio beach is just off the main road between Jordan River and Port Renfrew.  There are three wilderness camping areas, which have now been added to the list for next Summer.  We headed West over a cool suspension bridge and walked down to the rocky beach where we watched some brave surfers.  Turns out we should have headed East to find a beautiful 'secret' waterfall - next time!

View of Sombrio Creek

Sombrio West Beach

Sooke Oceanside Brewing

Okay, so it's not in Port Renfrew, but it's worth looking out for this small craft brewery on your way through Sooke as you're heading back to Victoria.  It has lovely ocean views, great beer, and a cool Mac 'n' Cheese food truck. 

For those of you not following us on Instagram (why aren't you?!?), here's a wee video we made of the weekend.

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Ready for Christmas (Nearly!)

Last weekend was very Christmas themed for the Errington crew!

In an attempt to buy local and support small businesses, we visited the Out of Hand market in Victoria on Saturday. It was a great collection of local artists and makers, and we picked up a few nice pieces for Christmas presents for some of the family - no spoilers as they may be reading this!

BC Legislature at night from Victoria Inner Harbour

In usual Errington style we also sampled a few drinks from local wineries and distilleries, and have a few nice bottles to add to the Christmas celebrations.

We then watched the Victoria Santa Parade; there were some very impressive Christmas floats and other decorated vehicles, and a couple of Marching Bands.  It got us all in the Christmas spirit despite the rainy weather!

Canadian SAR at Victoria Santa Parade

First Nation Canoe at Victoria Santa Parade

On Sunday we bought our BC grown tree, "the perfect tree" according to Innes!  

Land Rover Defender with Christmas Tree on Roof Rack

We then started putting up our outside decorations, before wandering up to Oak Bay Village for the big Christmas Lights switch on.  It was a fun afternoon with live music, decoration making for the kids, street hockey (not very festive but a highlight for our boys) and sing along Christmas Carols.  The switch on of the lights was Santa's cue to arrive, and he was driven down the avenue on an Oak Bay Fire Truck, along with Mrs Claus and one of his elves.  The truck happened to stop right in front of us, so both of the boys got to say 'Hi'.

Santa arriving on a Fire Truck at Oak Bay Christmas Lights

We then retired to our local pub, The Penny Farthing, to warm up.  Sarah had cleverly thought ahead and booked a table, as it was exceptionally busy.  Santa and Mrs Claus followed us into the pub, took their chance for a photo opportunity with Struan and Innes, spoke to some more children, and then sat at the next table for a well deserved break!

Santa and Mrs Claus in the Penny Farthing

Monday 21 November 2022

Ready for Ski Season

As we mentioned in the last post, we're now well into the planning and preparing for our Winter Adventures.  Last year we had a couple of dicey trips down the hill from Mount Washington towing the trailer on very icy roads.  So this year we decided to leave the trailer up near the ski hill for the winter season.

While most people are winterising their RVs so they can put them into storage, we've winterised ours to get it ready for the ski season!  For us that involves draining all of the water so that it doesn't freeze, filling the propane tanks for the heating system, and generally stocking up on supplies.

We fitted a pretty large solar system (Renogy) on the roof last year, so we should be self-sufficient for power if we're careful with our consumption.  We take water with us (more excuses for Yeti stuff) for cooking, drinking and washing up, and the site has an outhouse so we don't need to use the onboard facilities!

Land Rover Defender and Jayco X213

We've found a lovely secluded spot down in the valley, overlooking a small pond, and we're looking forward to spending our winter weekends up there.

View from our winter campsite
We took a drive up to the ski hill to see how the snow is coming on, and were a bit disappointed with the coverage so far, but it's another three weeks until the planned opening so fingers crossed the snow will build before then!

Thursday 17 November 2022

What a Summer!

Well it's definitely starting to feel like winter is on its way; we've bought our ski passes, started prepping the ski gear, the boys are booked into lessons at Mount Washington, and we've sorted a winter location for the RV - exciting stuff to come.  We've even had our first snow fall in Victoria, although it didn't last long!

The earlier dark evenings and wetter weather can make it harder to get out and stay adventurous, but we've managed to make the most of breaks in the weather and make a couple of day trips out to places that we didn't get to over the Summer; including climbing Old Baldy Mountain this weekend to check-out the "Insta-famous" swing.  The views of Shawnigan Lake from the top are worth the climb, although it's not the most exciting of walks.

Our tent camping season began way before Summer with a trip in the Stryker to Discovery Island, just off the coast here in Oak Bay on the 6th of March.  Temperatures dropped to just above freezing over night, which may explain why we had the entire island to ourselves, but we just couldn't resist it when it was such a beautiful sunny day.  The following weekend we were back up to Mount Washington for a final weekend of skiing (or so we thought - keep reading for that wee gem!).

We then spent March Break on an amazing trip up in the Yukon (let us know if you want to hear more about that trip).  

Sarah's birthday is in early April and after two birthdays in lockdown we were keen to get away somewhere.  Ridley hoped to get the paddle boards out but the weather had other ideas and we actually had more unexpected snow. We still had a great weekend camping at Bamberton Provincial Park, thankfully we were in the RV this time!  

By the middle of April the weather was starting to warm up, and we had some great day trips in the Stryker; including our first trip to Pender Island, where we saw our first Humpback Whale.

At the end of April we took the RV up to Rathtrevor Provincial Park, and in the middle of May we had our first visitors.  Sarah's Aunt and Uncle were over from the UK for two weeks, and fully embraced our Canadian lifestyle with boat camping on Newcastle Island (Saysutshun), whale watching with Eagle Wing Tours, RV camping at Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, hiking to Big Lonely Doug and Botanical Beach, as well as a few brewery visits of course!

Orcas in the Straits of Georgia

Orcas off Vancouver Island

Big Lonely Doug

The unusual Vancouver Island weather continued for a bit longer; the snow at Mount Washington had taken much longer to melt than normal, and they opened up for a day of skiing in the middle of June for Father's Day.  A week later Summer weather finally arrived and we were playing on the beach at Sidney Spit.  This was our first full Summer on Vancouver Island, as we arrived in mid-August last year, and what a Summer it was!

We spent Ridley's first Canada Day as a Canadian Citizen in Vancouver.  Exploring downtown Vancouver, Granville Island, Stanley Park, the Capilano Suspension bridge, and a couple of breweries.

Later in July, Ridley's brother and his family also came over from the UK for a couple of weeks.  They too embraced the lifestyle; rainforest walks, trips in the Stryker, attempting to surf in Tofino (some more successful than others), boat camping at Sidney Spit, another trip to Pender Island, more whales and more breweries, are you starting to spot the theme?!

Cox Beach, Tofino

Humpback Tail off Pender Island

The last weekend of July was spent in the Cowichan Valley at SunFest; an awesome Country Music festival, where we won backstage passes to the main stage on Saturday night. 

August found us boat camping at Narvaez Bay on Saturna Island, a beautiful boat/foot access campground with only half a dozen pitches.  On our way there we had the most spectacular display from a pod of around 12 Orca.  Then we were away for two weeks on our amazing trip to Haida Gwaii with Sarah's parents (read more here), and finally camping and river tubing on the Cowichan River

Stryker boat at Narvaez Bay, Saturna, BC

Narvaez Bay Campground, Saturna, BC

Cowichan River

The first weekend in September we were boat camping for Innes' birthday, this time with some great friends from the Island.  This time we camped on Portland Island, and day tripped to Salt Spring and Pender.  Our friends love free diving and spear fishing, so we had some excellent fresh crab, oysters, scallops and fish; all hand caught from the Stryker!

Sarah then spent a weekend learning to sail, achieving her Competent Crew certification on a 35ft yacht with Blackfish Sailing (highly recommended).

Our (probably) last tent camping for this year was at the end of September at Pine Point Recreation Site on Cowichan Lake.  After lots of cold water swimming in the Pacific Ocean over the Summer it was nice to be back on a lake and reminded us why we loved Ontario so much!

So, now for winter adventures - lots planned, and lots in the planning, and we can't wait!

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Camping Christmas?

Tent in the snow with Christmas Tree

Is it too early to talk about Christmas???

Sarah says no, so here we go!

We've put together a list of some of our favourite camping gear that we take on our adventures.  Everything on this list is actual equipment that we own and use regularly, so please don't think this is our Christmas wish list, it is just an easy way of us getting our recommendations to you - also don't feel you need to use Amazon, please go and support your local camping/outdoor stores if you can. 

All of these 'little' bits make our camping experience so much easier - some may seem slightly dull, but when you need them they don't feel dull - they give us less worry, better ease of set-up and an organised camp (Ridley loves an organised camp!) and more time to enjoy what we are there for - the adventuring! 

PS. Having found this photo online, Sarah now feels there's a Christmas Camping challenge to be had, who's up for it?!?

PPS. Couldn't get our favourite radios to add to the Amazon list - so try here.