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Canadian Connection
A Diverse World Of B&BS In BC
Margo Pfeiff


Watch porpoises play from the deck of a seaside retreat; smell homemade bread in rustic ranch luxury; wriggle your toes in beach sand alongside a toasty lakeside fire pit; savor a breakfast of Eggs Benedict with candied salmon while a moose grazes outside the window. Up close and personal moments like this — and getting to know the folks who make them possible — are what brings a trip to life. "Bed and breakfast inns reflect their owner's lifetime of experience, and that is exactly what a B&B traveler wants," says Evan Penner, president of British Columbia's B&B Innkeepers Guild, "and with so much diversity of landscape and character in this province, you're bound to find what you're looking for." Penner should know. He operates the West End Guest House, an elegant immersion into downtown Vancouver's Victorian heritage.

Across BC, innkeepers are making their own special dreams come true, then sharing them with others. Steve Schweighofer and Michel Wagner did just that a short drive outside Victoria. Their spectacular West Coast retreat with high vaulted ceilings is nestled in the rainforest of southern Vancouver Island with views of the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula. "We call Cougar's Crag an ‘extreme B&B' because it's all about the outdoors," says Steve. For seven years the pair have hosted hikers and cyclists who come for hundreds of nearby trails including the Galloping Goose. Their two spacious units with lofts and their own entrances to guarantee privacy in the wilderness have been a Mecca for kayakers, beach walkers and especially dog-lovers who enjoy free doggie daycare and wash facilities.



A two-hour road trip including a scenic ferry ride north from Vancouver up the Sunshine Coast, Stonehaven is a dramatic architectural gem perched overlooking Halfmoon Bay, a contemporary B&B of glass, wood and stone. Watch grey whales, sea lions and seals from your own private deck while bald eagles soar overhead. After a gourmet breakfast is delivered to your suite, stroll down three levels of stone patios to the sandy beach, go for a paddle or play billiards in front of the fireplace in the common Club Room. This can be a romantic getaway complete with spa treatments, or an active one. In winter, strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis, then return to warm up in the oceanside hot tub to watch the sun go down.



Heading inland to the Kootenay Rockies, Mirja Vahala has a unique offering: "Call me in advance to arrange classes in acrylic, oil, watercolor painting or drawing while you're here," says the artist whose studio and gallery, Inspiring Minds, is part of Windborne B&B in Castlegar. Vahala is as passionate about art as her husband, Marc Conacher, is about gardening and cooking killer breakfasts like sautéed balsamic pears with brie and cranberry sauce, or mushroom and wine chorizo omelet’s. Together, they create a one-off experience at their art-themed B&B with its 60 meters (197 feet) of beachfront on the Columbia River. Arrow Lake is minutes away for summer playing and in winter, there is world class downhill skiing at Red Mountain Resort and Whitewater Ski Resort.



Not far away in the Thompson Okanagan region, Clearwater Springs Ranch is a recent dream-come-true for Sandie and Neil Robinson. For years they owned a safari lodge in Zambia, but longed to run a wilderness outpost in BC. They found a 121-hectare (300 acre) piece of paradise surrounded by the forests and mountains of Wells Grey Park and immediately immigrated. Their B&B opened in 2010, a classic log home with a huge fieldstone fireplace and silence broken only by the sound of a distant waterfall.



Telescopes and binoculars are never far away to zoom in on wolves, bears, sandhill cranes and moose. Clearwater Springs Ranch is a little world on its own with a gym and a literature-filled library with relics from the couple's African past. Hike, horseback ride, canoe or whitewater raft in summer or, in winter, go dog sledding or snowshoeing after a full English breakfast. Return for afternoon tea, cakes and biscuits and follow-up with a hot tub soak. Then head back to spacious suites — each one different — furnished with handmade wooden furniture and antiques and tuck yourself into rustic four-poster luxury.



Rustic is a common theme and lifestyle in BC's Cariboo region to the north. So the Kroekers decided to do something different. "Many Cariboo B&Bs are very casual, log cabin-type accommodations," says Deborah whose husband Vance built their home and one-room suite at Sheridan Lake Bed and Breakfast, about six hours northeast from Vancouver. It opened in October 2010. "We wanted to offer luxury, pampering and something completely private on the lake." The modern five-star king-bed suite has its own entrance with a queen-sized sleeping-loft, fireplace, fully appointed kitchenette, large pedestal soaker-tub and a spacious, secluded lake-front courtyard where you can spoil yourself with a manicure and pedicure. At your own private dock, a canoe, kayaks and row boat await a paddler in search of wildlife and serenity.



In Northern BC's big sky country near Prince George, Norton North Ranch is a creative surprise among ranch-themed B&Bs. The Norton family has been ranching since the 1800s when they drove cattle north from Texas. Their current ranch/B&B dates back to the 1950s and these days they concentrate on horses. In fact, the establishment is BYOH — Bring Your Own Horse — and the Corral Cottage even has its own paddock.

Open the door to each of the three traditional ranching cabins — especially the newly renovated Old Logbarn — and you'll gasp at the chic modern interior. "We wanted luxury in a rustic shell," says Dagmar Norton, known for her welcome basket of fluffy warm cinnamon buns. "We wanted to preserve the heritage exterior, but offer a contemporary interior that would make you open the door and say ‘Oh my God!'"



The Nortons call themselves a "bed & bale" place because breakfast isn't included, though they'll create an epic one anytime — 24 hours a day. "It's a voluptuous breakfast," Norton confesses. And even with a full kitchen with granite counters, a convection oven and dishwasher, who wouldn't spoil themselves with a spread of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and home-baked bread with cold cuts and cheese delivered to your room, dressed up pretty like the traditional German breakfast that it is?

For more bed and breakfast options in BC, visit www.Hellobc.com/b&b. For more on British Columbia's destinations and travel information, call (800) HELLO BC® (North America) or visit www.HelloBC.com.

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