Inn at Laurel Point

One of my favourite spots in Victoria, BC has always been the little corner of the city near the Inn at Laurel Point.

Victoria

I regularly stay in this area because it’s got a lovely vantage point of the harbour as well as walkable architectural gems the Fairmont Empress and BC Legislature to admire day and night. The Royal BC Museum is tucked in between for rainy days, but getting outside and enjoying this compact provincial capital puts me in my happy zone.

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Since my last visit here in summer 2017, the Inn at Laurel Point has undergone a major renovation, transforming the hotel’s entrance, lobby, Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio and meeting space. When the Inn was built 30 years ago, iconic architect Arthur Erickson and designer Robert Ledingham set out to build a tastefully designed hotel that launched a successful business for the late Paul and Artie Arsens, friends of Erickson.

The revamp was launched last fall. According to architect John Graham (of Graham Sherwin Studio), “Guests will have the sensation of standing on the prow of a ship, and be greeted by sweeping views of the harbour, and beyond, from the moment they arrive.”

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As I enter the hotel lobby, I am greeted with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, leather seating, large accent plants and a conical glass and steel-encased fireplace taking center stage.

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COVID-19-related, both Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio and Inn Room Dining are open for breakfast and dinner. The fitness studio and pool are reserved by the hour (by hotel guest or guest “bubble”). Inn-Room spa services remain closed until further notice.

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Other noticeable additions are First Nations art displays in the lobby (the Arsens were quite the art collectors!), renovated meeting spaces, an infinity pool in the Japanese garden and cozy seating throughout the property, with a winding footpath leading to a waterfall.

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Rooms

There are two distinct wings of the hotel: The Laurel and Erickson. While the Laurel is more traditional in style and decor (with balconies in place of terraces), the Erickson is sleek and modern with luxurious marble countertops in the bathroom, glass walk-in showers and gorgeous glass terraces with deck loungers and tables.

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My Queen room has a living area containing a large wooden work desk with table lamp, cozy fold-out sofa bed with a view, plus a leather chair and footrest with side table.

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The bedroom has dark wood accents, cream walls, a dresser with the flatscreen TV on top plus a leather bench at the foot of the bed (both 32” flat screens offer movies on-demand).

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I admire the minimalist design of the glassware in the corner of the wood counter as well as a white boxy chair with a stark black and white photograph above it. These simple elements add calm to the room, but of course the harbour view is the focal point. It’s easy to lounge in bed with a million-dollar view like this.

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If you’re a L’Occitane fan like we are, you’ll be happy to know that the hotel has worked with the French skincare brand for years and stocks their Verbena collection in the bathroom, along with a bath cube by the soaker tub. A pair of fluffy bathrobes are ready and waiting in both closet and bathroom.

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I love the row of sconces on the mirror, adding an inviting element (and calming light level) to the bathroom. One thing we’re missing are more towel racks and hooks. There’s only two hooks by the entrance to the bathroom.

As there’s no daily housekeeping at the moment due to COVID-19, staff will bring extra bags of BC’s own Spirit Bear Coffee Company or tea. Ample closet space by the front entry includes a personal safe, ironing board and iron. A mini-fridge is tucked below a small sink next to the coffee maker.

As for connecting while you’re here, Inn at Laurel Point has complimentary WiFi, free local, calling card and toll-free calls.

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[A beautiful view of the Japanese garden from my terrace]

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If you’re in a lazy mood, step onto your balcony (or the terraced gardens downstairs) and take in the seaplanes, kayaks, water taxis, whale-watching boats, paddle boarders and other small craft heading around the harbour. Preferably with a glass of wine or cup of coffee in hand.

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Sleep

If you’re used to falling asleep (and waking up) with traffic noise in your soundscape, you’re in for a treat: a waterfall, seagulls and Canadian geese are your morning wake-up calls.

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I slept very soundly on the super cozy bed and pillows, opening the curtain to take in the view each morning before starting my day.

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Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio

Breakfast and dinner with harbour views! Aura has a simple, understated design meant to focus on a pleasurable dining experience. I enjoyed breakfast here with views of seaplanes landing and whale-watching boats heading out for adventure.

The morning menu features eggs benny, full breakfasts, porridge, chia bowls, standard side orders, house-made bagels and pastries as well as coffee and Victoria-based Silk Road loose-leaf teas. As expected, tables are set apart to establish physical distancing, so reservations are recommended due to less seating. Friendly servers are attentive to diners’ needs.

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[Korean Fried Broccoli and Cauliflower with Chili Mayo]

At dinner, chef Austin Lu has created a fun offering of seasonal, globally-inspired small plates, from prawn and smoked salmon okonomiyaki with karaage prawn head to luscious shiso and mint pesto-enhanced gnocchi topped with grated Parmesan. There are vegetarian, seafood and meat options available to satisfy all palates and dietary needs.

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[Shiso and Mint Pesto Gnocchi with fresh Parmesan Cheese]

According to Chef Lu, “We always try to be innovative and create something unique. By using the best ingredients, respecting them, and not over complicating our dishes, we’ve been able to create a truly delicious menu.”

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Save room for dessert! The bourbon milk chocolate with Tonka bean caramel pot de creme is super decadent, as is the beautifully presented apple tart with Granny Smith mousse and almond frangipane, each lovingly crafted by pastry chef Kimberly Vy.

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[L to R: Lemon & Mint Soda; Royal-Tea: Butterfly pea flower-infused iced tea with lemonade]

Three-ounce wine pours allow you to sample regional wines and to pair your chosen dishes according to preference. A selection of craft beers, colourful cocktails, mocktails, saki, sherry, port and dessert wines round out the beverage choices.

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[Sambal Skate Roll served on a mini brioche accompanied by xo sauce and jicama]

Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio is also for open for happy hour and small plates brunch on weekends.

Ready for a quick break this fall? BC residents can book a Bed and Breakfast package including parking and a choice of tasty breakfast options each morning. From whale watching to romance, the pet-friendly Inn at Laurel Point has a package to tailor your mood and getaway.

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In the Hood

Just a short walk to the left of the Inn is cute and cozy Fisherman’s Wharf Park, where you can grab fish and chips, a scoop of ice cream, head off on a tiny, colourful ferry for an inner harbour tour, or get fitted into a kayak for a two-hour tour of Juan de Fuca Strait (or the city’s inner harbour, depending on wind and currents) with Kelp Reef Adventures.

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Two and three-hour kayak tours are offered daily as well as individual rentals. The guides explain the local flora and fauna as they point out all the gorgeous scenery that you’ll encounter along the way. Inn at Laurel Point is located at 680 Montreal Street in Victoria, BC.

Helijet

Getting There

BC Ferries has regular service from the mainland to Victoria, however for a luxurious and speedier option, I chose local helicopter provider Helijet.

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Round-trip fares range from $550 to $750 including taxes and through their Kids Fly Free Program, for every full-fare paying adult, a child under 12 can accompany them for free (extra kids, $109 per child).

Helijet

Helijet is taking every opportunity to fly safely in light of the current pandemic, providing hand sanitizer at all terminals, limiting each flight to a max of six passengers (each one with a window seat), sanitizing cabins before each flight, disinfecting high-touch areas within both cabin and cockpit, plexiglass shields at check-in counters, grab-and-go pre-packaged foods and drinks in place of complimentary standard food and beverage options and frequently deep-cleaning terminal facilities, washrooms and offices.

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From downtown Vancouver, it’s a quick 35-minute jaunt to Victoria, offering stunning views in both directions. A free shuttle is offered to bring you to your accommodation (downtown Victoria and Vancouver). Just remember to bring a mask for check-in and onboard.

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On an environmental note, Helijet annually donates to the Pacific Salmon Foundation, based on one-way flights sold on their regular routes. Additionally, they donate “chopper time” to assist with remote conservation projects, helping to protect some of the most precious salmon habitats in the world.

My flights were hosted by Helijet and my stay and meals were compliments of the Inn at Laurel Point and Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio for the purpose of this feature. Opinions, as always, remain my own.

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