by Julie H. Ferguson
The view gobsmacks me as I wheel into the Pretty Estate Resort in Harrison Mills, an easy day trip from Vancouver. Why hadn’t I stopped here before?
“You’re early,” the man at the pro shop tells me. “Is it your first time?”
“Would you like a tour?” My eyes light up.
Alan whisks me away in his cart. He’s a player’s assistant at the Sandpiper Golf Course and sets the tone for my stay.
Alan shows me the forested course that sweeps down to the unspoiled Harrison River and gives me tips on how to play it. Sandpiper’s front nine winds amongst towering Douglas firs, but it is the back nine that has spectacular holes running along the banks of the river. I also get my first look at the restaurant and Rowena’s Inn.
As I play Sandpiper, all I can hear are birds singing and the plop of my ball dropping into the cup. The fairways are lush after a wet spring, though players using power carts must still keep to the path. I enjoy this uncrowded course, not too difficult but with enough challenges to keep me interested. The views through the firs distract me periodically, but when I reach Sandpiper’s signature hole, the fifteenth, my scoring comes undone. The fast-running river is cloudy turquoise with snow melt; the snow-capped Coast Mountains, smoky blue; the old fruit trees, white with blossom. I inhale spring.
I struggle to restore my wandering focus and tackle Sandpiper’s final hole. I manage a par before lunch at The River’s Edge restaurant.
This cozy restaurant nestled in the firs is filled with old world charm but in high summer, guests eat on the terrace and drink in the view along with VQA wines. River’s Edge focuses on west coast food with fresh ingredients mostly from Fraser Valley producers.
Rowena’s Inn on the River, which I’d heard about but never visited, is the former Pretty family home and looks out over the open fairways to the river and mountains beyond. Here the goal is seriously comfortable hospitality and impeccable personal service.
Inside Rowena’s, I’m transported to an era where the art of unhurried conversation was encouraged. The main rooms are elegant and refined, and filled with carefully acquired antiques; natural light pours through the south-facing windows. Upstairs the guestrooms are all different; in one, the carved bed of Dame Nellie Melba, the opera singer, takes centre stage. If guests desire more privacy, they stay in one of four luxury log cabins that nestle close beside the inn overlooking a small lake.
I enjoy the traditional Afternoon Tea in the drawing room with other guests who anticipate a gourmet breakfast in the inn’s solarium next morning.
Later with a glass of Okanagan Chardonnay by the pool, I breathe the pure air and unwind. Now that I’ve found the Pretty Estate Resort, I never want to leave.
If you go:
A car is essential to visit the Harrison-Agassiz region. The drive from Vancouver takes under two hours and the most scenic route is along Highway 7 on the north side of the Fraser River.
Pretty Estate Resort: www.SandpiperResort.ca
Fishing expeditions, wildlife and ecotours available
The inn and restaurant are wheelchair accessible.
Harrison Tourism: www.tourismharrison.com
About the author
Julie H. Ferguson is an addicted travel writer and photographer who is intensely interested in the history and culture of foreign lands, as well as Canada, and her stories and images reflect this focus. She never leaves home without her cameras and voice recorder, always looking for the colour and sounds that captivate readers everywhere.
Julie is also the author of twenty-six books, including four about Canadian history and seventeen travel-photo portfolios. Her travel articles and images have appeared in global markets, both print and online.