ROMANCING THE STONE: STREAKING ALONG THE SUNSHINE COAST AND VISITING ROCKWATER SECRET COVE RESORT
Story and photos by Cherie Thiessen
In the old days we knew it as Lord Jim Resort, a collection of chalets and cottages on a pretty part of British Columbia's Sunshine Coast, picturesquely named Halfmoon Bay. We would drop in for a decent meal overlooking the sea, or sometimes we would sail there from Vancouver Island and tie up for a few days of R & R after the frequently adventurous Georgia Strait crossing in our 23' Crown sailboat.
But that was then and this is now, and Lord Jim is now Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, the hottest romantic getaway on the coast, with 67 weddings on the books this year according to President, Kevin Toth. Toth, who was 17 years with the Fairmont Hotel Chain, is telling us how he was influenced by African Safari properties when he started looking at the resort and trying to decide what he could do with the undeveloped, gorgeous strip of oceanfront property to the left of the main buildings and marina. He wanted a development with a low environmental impact but it had to be classy, effective, and luxurious. He started thinking tents.
So we started looking and found a circus tent design we liked, then found a local tent manufacturer and explained what we were after. He delivered. Everything was built by hand, and when we started developing that section of the property we didn't use any machinery. We had a goal to cut down as few trees as possible. Each tent site was personally inspected and chosen. We then put in 2400' of boardwalk to link them all together.Now if you're thinking tents can't possibly be luxurious or romantic, you don't know the Serengeti. Or Okavango Delta. Start picturing luxurious carpets, marble floors, four posters, spacious bathrooms and every imaginable luxury.
But we were out to discover what a resort had to do to qualify as romantic. The 13 tent house suites spaced along a boardwalk connecting to the main lodge, and curling through the arbutus-studded canopy was inspired. It definitely qualified for an "R" rating. Oceanfront views accompanied by the sound of surf never do any harm either. The extensive, covered, and largely private decks with comfortable furnishings, which enable lovers to come out, cuddle up and get some fresh air are also a nice cozy touch. We checked off fine linens, the king sized bed facing the ocean, the fluffy bathrobes, the fireplace, shoji screen the radiant floor heating and the amazing hydro therapy tub for two that massaged with water jets while bombarding us with flashing colored lights. Well, that got three checks actually. Finally, we approved of the book selection, the tea and coffee makers and the mini refrigerator. The final check was when I opened the refrigerator and yes - there it was - a container of real cream instead of that plastic dried stuff.So far this place was measuring up in every little detail. Even the fact that tents don't hold in the heat too well didn't harm this romantic survey in the least because if you're snuggling up together, a little cold can be a good thing.
But we were still not finished. Another touch is the hand carved gongs at the pathway to every tent, located far enough away to keep visitors at a respectful distance until you're ready for them.So what else defines romantic? Wine, roses and oysters, no doubt. So we head to the intimate, dreamy dining room and find it warmly lit. Rockwater has lucked out in its chef, Ben Andrew, who tosses off dishes like West Coast Bouillabaisse, Pacific Albacore Tuna, seared, with crème fraiche, and crisp capers, or Qualicum Bay Scallop Ceviche with preserved lime and scallions. We consider ourselves crème brule experts, and his classic creation was the finest. The wine selections were extensive and we were happy to see a good selection of wines by the glass, something many restaurants still overlook. We had no intention of falling off the boardwalk when the night was still young. And aren't spas considered seductive? More checks then. The resort's spa has had a special presence on the Sunshine Coast well before the tents wove their magic here. Clients have been able to walk along a boardwalk to a massage room without walls and enjoy a variety of relaxing treatments while listening to the gulls and the waves chasing each other just feet away. Now double that and make it a couple's massage, and you have more accolades. Was there anything where it lost points? Well, while walls have ears, tent walls have hearing aides - sound is magnified. We were too shy to put this to the test, but if you are worried, may I suggest you ask for the waterfront tents located closest to the sea down their own private staircase? There's a good chance the melodious sea might cover whatever sounds of delight issue from your Arabian Nights' paradise.
Finally, the icing on the bridal cake, really, is our discovery that Rockwater actually employs someone whose job description is an elopement coordinator!It's time to go. We knew it had to happen. It's hard enough to kiss romance goodbye, but after thirty years of marriage, good food is even harder to leave behind. For us, as possibly for you, there was solace in knowing that Spence on the Coast wasn't too far away. This enterprising gourmet chef, who also has his own TV show, has opened a popular restaurant in nearby Sechelt, so where is it written that you have to leave the Sunshine Coast today? You've come this far, take another night and visit Spence, and then if you're not ready to say goodbye to these incredible ocean views, book yourself in at Peter and Norma Bond's nearby Bed and Breakfast, At the Shore. There should be another category to describe this place, as ' bed and breakfast' just doesn't do justice to the wholesome, gourmet 'breakfast', delivered to your room, or the 'bed', which comes with a fireplace, a Jacuzzi tub, an ocean knocking on your door, your own entrance, a mini kitchenette, a welcoming tray of sherry and cookies, an oceanfront hot tub, and hosts Peter and Norma Bond, whose special brand of hospitality combines a tactful respect for privacy with a willingness to help in whatever way they can. The older you (and your marriage) get, the more you come to realize that romance needs to be wooed. So, if it's missing in your life these days, go on out, find it, experience it, and drag it home. Photo credit: Cherie Thiessen 1. At the shore beach - guests can enjoy beachfront privacy.
2. Lund marina - the public docks looking over to Sevilla Island
3. Private tent - Rockwater guests wanting extra privacy might want to ask for a seaside 'tent' like this one.
4. Manzanita Restaurant, located in the old courthouse in Powell River's old townsite. Websites: Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, http://www.rockwatersecretcoveresort.com/
At the Shore, (Peter and Norma Bond), http://www.attheshore.ca/
Spence on the Coast Restaurant, http://www.spenceonthecoast.com/
Manzanita Restaurant, http://www.manzanitarestaurant.com/