Looking for a Canadian road trip that combines gnarly trees, wine-tasting, secluded beaches on the edge of the rain forest, and plenty of good eating? Drive the Pacific Marine Circle Route, a loop starting and ending in Victoria on the southern end of Vancouver Island.
This British Columbia road trip takes you through the Cowichan Valley, which is a growing wine-producing region, through old-growth rain forest where you can find Canada’s “gnarliest tree,” and along the island’s south coast, where the views of the ocean and across to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula pop out through the trees.
While it’s possible to pack this 185-mile (300-kilometer) island road trip into one very long day, it’s far more relaxing if you have at least two or three days to explore. A delicious stopover point, for both food and overnight lodging, is the Farm Table Inn, located off Highway 18, between the towns of Duncan and Lake Cowichan.
Here’s the scoop:
The Farm Table Inn
Owners Evelyn Koops and George Gates took over the Farm Table Inn, a restaurant and B&B on a small island farm, in 2016. George is the chef, while Evelyn — whose background is in marketing and graphic design — manages the rest of the business. They both chase after the chickens who roam free around the property.
The restaurant, which is open to the public for dinner several nights a week and to overnight guests for breakfast, is on the main level of the inn. Two quiet guest rooms with a shared kitchen between them are at the back of the building.
Guest rooms and amenities
The two comfortable country-style guest rooms both have modern en suite baths and private patios tucked into the woods.
In the Maple Room, the queen-sized bed has a handy reading lamp on both sides of the bed. There’s an old-fashioned vanity, a wooden desk for getting some work done or plotting your next day’s adventure, and an overstuffed chair with a ottoman, where you can settle in to read.
The Cedar Room is furnished with twin beds and red accents, as well as a desk and armoire. Both rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi.
In the common kitchen, guests can make coffee or tea, store their road trip snacks in the small fridge, use the microwave, and borrow books to read or games to play.
A highlight of a stay at the Farm Table Inn is dinner in the restaurant, where Chef George incorporates many ingredients grown on the farm or raised or sourced elsewhere on the island.
The menu changes depending on what’s available, but you might find lamb shank with barley risotto, halibut in a creamy caper sauce, beef with fresh-picked morels, and all sorts of local vegetables, from curried cauliflower to steamed yu choi. George bakes a bannock-style bread, too, that he serves with an herb butter.
The inn has partnered with nearby Alderlea Vineyards to create their own wines: “Not Red” (a white), “Little Red” (a rosé), and “Big Red” (a red table wine). Evelyn designed the labels, which feature photos of the farm’s chickens.
In the morning, your breakfast spread might include eggs (from those same chickens), housemade sausages, tomatoes from the garden, and more of George’s homemade bread, this time served toasted with peach jam that he makes from BC-grown peaches.
If you’re traveling around Vancouver Island, you can rest well and eat amply at the Farm Table Inn — with plenty of fuel for your road trip on the Pacific Marine Circle Route.
Double room rates at the Farm Table Inn, which include a full hot breakfast, start at CAD$150/night from October through April and CAD$170/night from May through September when you book direct. You can also compare rates and book through Booking.com.
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Destination Greater Victoria, Tourism Vancouver Island, and the Farm Table Inn arranged my stay for review purposes.