Ski Northern BC this Winter
For a dusting of powder and charm.
In a town that is fast becoming the ‘go-to’ place for outdoor enthusiasts, massive and pristine Sproat Lake is the jewel in Port Alberni’s crown on Vancouver Island. The lake has been the Alberni Valley’s cottage country for as long as anyone can remember, and in days gone by a couple of special vacation accommodations attracted high-end guests. Sadly that had fallen by the wayside until recently, when a shiny new accommodation/dining facility named Sproat Lake Landing made its public debut. Being only 45 minutes from home for us, it made a perfect, easy getaway.
We arrived at Sproat Lake Landing late on a sizzling Friday afternoon and settled into our brand new lakefront suite on the second floor. It was opening day for the boutique hotel and we were greeted with sweeping views of lake and mountains, fresh flowers and a wonderfully-designed room that offered plenty of sensible storage and all the accoutrements that have become standard in good hotels these days. Our small patio was a great invitation to enjoy the beautiful views and the activities going on around the ‘beaver lodge’ located directly below us. We loved, too, that the owners have tipped their hat to the logging industry that for so long has sustained the Alberni Valley – wood is used for many applications, adding to the modern-but-rustic vibe.
After settling in, we wandered downstairs and enjoyed a great dinner at Drinkwater’s Social House, a combination pub/dining room. We opted to sit indoors because of the heat and worked our way through delectable offerings that left us more than satisfied. The team at Drinkwater’s has put together an enviable menu featuring as much fresh, local product as they can get their hands on and it showed in every bite we savoured. Great flavour combinations, in-house culinary creations and a deft touch combined with great, friendly service left us in a very happy frame of mind.
Post-dinner, we wandered along the gravel pathway to the wharf, where droves of people were arriving by boat from around the lake to enjoy a drink or meal on the spacious outdoor patios at Drinkwater’s. By the time we meandered back up to the hotel, the outdoor decks were crammed with happy patrons of all ages – it was one of those iconic summer tableaus that make you think how good life is.
After a quiet night’s sleep and a peaceful early morning cup of coffee on the patio, we headed down to Drinkwater’s again for brunch, which is available only on weekends. More great food hit the table, served by yet another friendly waitress – Sproat Lake Landing exudes welcoming and warmth no matter where you go or who you talk to.
Following breakfast we set our sights on the wharf once again to board the iconic Drinkwater IV, a tugboat that replicates the one operated by Joe Drinkwater for more than 30 years. Between the 1940s and the 1970s, Drinkwater’s tug hauled everything from booze to building supplies to customers scattered along the lake’s 300 kilometres (188 miles) of shoreline. The partners at Sproat Lake Landing felt it fitting to name their lake tour boat (and their pub) in honour of the old pioneer.
Our captain was the affable Jeff Stephenson, one of the principals in the creation of Sproat Lake Landing. We set off for a 90-minute tour of the 4,047-hectare (10,000-acre) lake that includes the famed Martin Mars water bombers, a wall of petroglyphs that no one seems to be able to date, and what is left (one cabin) of remote Klitsa Lodge, which attracted the likes of Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplin, Emily Carr and many other luminaries as guests. We motored gently past lakeside cottages that have been in families for generations, and past Massacre Island, where warring First Nations tribes had a major set-to in 1856. We get to see Vanderbilt Island too, once owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt and his wife, and we waved to happy folks who had rented houseboats and were heading out on to the lake for the day.
Our beautiful and historical lake tour complete, we hauled our gear off the Drinkwater IV and headed, for the final time, along the wharf. It was a dreamy couple of days, filled with typical summer lake activity, perfect weather, amazing scenery and many friendly faces. It’s time to head back to our real world, but there is great reassurance in knowing that we can so easily access that lazy, hazy days of summer vibe with so little effort thanks to the vision of the folks at Sproat Lake Landing.
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