In just under two hours the drive to Harrison Mills from Vancouver runs through the bustling city, across bridges, past big-box stores and commuter coffee pit stops before it winds down along the Fraser River and eventually coasts into an open valley. Before crossing the bridge to Kilby and heading into Harrison and Agassiz, you’ll find the turn off for the award-winning Sandpiper Golf Club and a historic bed & breakfast called Rowena’s Inn.
The inn is a beautiful summer home that, over the last few decades, has been built up to offer quaint and comfortable accommodation paired with delicious meals and unparalleled river views. There are four suites in the inn itself (each named after one of the children of the family that owned the property) and four cottages (which I supposed we would be more inclined to call cabins). Since there is so much history and so much ground to cover, between the golf course, the restaurant (open to everyone, not just guests), and the accommodations, I’ll start by featuring the inn suites.
John and I were led on a tour of the inn by Betty Anne Faulkner whose father, Charles Pretty, built the English manor house for the family in the 1920s. The inn is named after Betty Anne’s mother so it was a real treat to hear stories not only about the inn, but of the home, the antiques her parents collected (which decorate every room), and about the family. History poured out of every sheet of wallpaper, and newspaper clippings about Charles are on display in the reading room upstairs.
While the suites have antique and collectible furnishings, such as the bed of opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, there are modern amenities such as instant hot water taps (for tea) and iPod docks with alarm clocks. There is a shared terrace that looks out over the property, the river, Mount Woodside, and parts of the golf course.
Downstairs I was blown away (to the point of disbelief) when I discovered the origins of the banister in the drawing room (that was once in the original Hotel Vancouver on Granville at Georgia) and even the dining room table (around which King George VI sat when it was at Hycroft Manor in Shaughnessy).
We had afternoon tea with Betty Anne and I gobbled up stories about how her parents acquired each antique chandelier or vase as quickly as I devoured the mini smoked salmon sandwiches and strawberry tarts.
Our room was outside the inn, along the far side of the golf course where 4 cabins sit at the edge of the woods. It was a great one-room cabin with vaulted ceilings, kitchen area, spacious bathroom (with soaker tub) and a wood-burning fireplace that was ready to light the moment we arrived.
King size bed, patio, and no television, which was a nice change. If you’re looking for a nearby getaway where you can disconnect, this is it. However if you’re looking to stayed plugged in and fully connected, this may not be your cup of tea. For us, it was an amazing change of pace. We sat by the fire in the evening, which way carefully tended to by John, sipped wine, played cards, and told stories. I then posted an update on Twitter about where we were and several people replied with, “Just wait for breakfast”.
Bright at early at 9:05 a basket was brought to our door. Coffee, juice, bacon, muffins, toast, hashbrowns, pancakes, eggs, and more were all hiding away in this delightful package. If you’re a guest of the inn itself, you can head down to the solarium for breakfast with other guests. In the cabins however, your breakfast is delivered.
We could have golfed or laid out by the pool, but we decided to book an eco-tour in Harrison on our second day in the area. While our guide was extremely apologetic about the higher-than-normal water levels (not allowing us to possibly spot bears or bobcats on nearby sandbars, which were now completely submerged) we had a fantastic time just being out on the water. We learned about the area’s history, the wildlife, spotted Rowena’s from the water, and came upon a nesting osprey.
We drove back to our cabin, which takes about 20 minutes as you loop around Mount Woodside, and enjoyed another evening by the fire. During peak season, the inn suites start at $225 a night and our cabin would be $325 (prices may vary, breakfast included). We’re really tempted to return to our cabin in the winter months (which would be at a much lower rate and equally, if not more, cozy).
While it’s steeper than staying at a regular hotel, think of it as comparable to a weekend in Whistler except that it’s a new setting to most. Clear blue river rushing by, deer treading through gardens, and of course the region’s best golf course. It’s not an ‘everyday’ destination but I certainly think it’s worth checking out (or gifting to someone) for a special occasion (anniversary, birthday, honeymoon).
There was a journal left in our cabin that was signed by previous guests and with a quick skimming of the pages, I could see that each found their stay to be happy memory. I didn’t leave a written note in the book but I hope this post and photos can serve as our testament to how meaningful and memorable our stay was to us both.
Find out more about Sandpiper and Rowena’s by following them on Twitter or Facebook. The inn can also be booked for functions and they host many weddings throughout the year.
All photos in this post were taken by John Bollwitt and me. More are available online in John’s Flickr set, and my Flickr set.