Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Western Canada Archives >
Aug 21, 2007 07:25 PM

Vancouver Island/Sunshine Coast cheap eats

I'm planning a vacation drive through the southern half of Vancouver Island and back via the Sunshine Coast. We'll be camping, so I am interested in lunch stops, bakeries, and groceries for camp food.

We'll probably start on Salt Spring Island, so will pass through Ganges at least once. In the past we've bought groceries there, and eaten outside near the docks. We probably won't be there for the Saturday market.

I intend to stay on the outskirts of Victoria (we've visited downtown several times), and head to Sooke, and then to Port Renfrew. Sooke Harbor House is well outside our budget (and dress code?). From there I intend to take backroads to Lake Cowichan, Bamfield and Port Alberni. In the past I've bought a few groceries in Lake Cowichan, and had a nice, but not memorable, lunch in Port Alberni.

I've passed through Courtenay, but not stopped or eaten there. This may be the place to my Tim Horton fix.

Many moons ago we had a memorable meal in Powell River near the ferry dock, but the place probably isn't in business, even if I could recall the details. The main thing I remember from Sechelt (more than a decade ago) was camping next door to a coffee roaster.

Based on past trips, I lean toward getting groceries at Save On or Overwaitea I'm a sucker for Freby meat ends from the deli. I'll also have to get some schinken.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Trip report:

    We caught the 12:45 ferry to Duke Point. Lunch on the ferry was White Spot BC Burger with fries, and penne and meat sauce. The burger reasonably good if you like one with lots of bacon and sauce. It was on par with the bacon burger at Burgerville in the other Vancouver. The penne was so-so. Overall I was more impressed with ferry food on previous trips (which included roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on the now-sunk Queen of the North).

    We did a bit of grocery shopping at Saveon in Nanaimo - bread, fruit and deli meat. I had to get some Baurenschenkin to nibble throughout the trip.

    An aside: what is the difference between 'authentic' Montreal corned beef, and Montreal smoked meat?

    Supper at Englishman Falls PP was frozen mussels with garlic and butter sauce. Worked well as a quick camping meal, with bread to soak up the sauce.

    Next day we had deli meat lunch at the Forbidden Plateau trailhead, and camped at Elk Falls PP near Campbell River. We shopped at Supervalu in CR, getting more 'rustic' items such as Barge Pilot Biscuits (from Purity in Nfld), and smoke pork jowl from Hertel Meats in Port Alberni. Supper was aji tuna which I brought frozen from home (Trader Joes), cubed and quickly fried with soy sauce and brown sugar, and instant miso soup.

    Breakfast was grits cooked with jowl, and scrambled eggs. Another deli lunch on the road side overlooking Comox Lake (logging backroad). Supper at Sproat Lake PP was a soupy pasta dish using TJ 'gourmet' sausages, canned chickpeas, Knor Alfredo mix, and Mexican fideo (noodles).

    1. The next day we drove to Bamfield. The grocery on the east (car accessible) side didn't have much to offer. Supper at the Pachena Bay campground was dutch oven biscuits with the rest of the sausages.

      The next was more gravel, potholed roads to Carmanah. Lunch was at the Nitinat Lake Rec Site, surrounded by windsurfing campers. Gas at the nearby Reserve store was expensive, but the shelves were surprisingly well stocked.

      In Lake Cowichan, the Village Market has moved into a new, larger building in the last few years. I liked the selection and prices here the best. Supper at a rec site near Port Renfrew was a quick pork stew, using diced pork shoulder steak, and fennel bulb. The road from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew has been greatly improved in the past year.

      In Port Renfrew we only bought an ice cream bar, after a walk at Botanical Beach. Supper at French Beach PP was a pasta 'risotto' using Mexican melon seed pasta, Canadian back bacon (I love to those Freybe meat-end packages), fennel and Goya seasoning.

      Camping at French Beach made it easy to get to Sooke Harbor House in time for the 10:30 garden tour. This took over an hour, and included a number of samples. It was a good overview of their cooking philosophy.

      We ate lunch at Mom's Cafe in Sooke. Since it is on a minor street of the main drag, it was a bit hard to find. Decor is 50's diner. Food was good, though the service was a bit confused. We had a pork schnitzel burger, a chicken burger, pie and ice cream.

      1. We spent the last 3 nights on Saltspring Island, sleeping on the shore at Ruckle PP, and sampling only a fraction of the hiking on the island.

        We had one lunch at Aunties Pesto in Ganges (Grace Pt Square). In part we chose this because we could eat outside, and 'park' the dog at the dock railing nearby. The antipasto dish was focacia with a relish rich in olives and artichoke hearts. We each had a half order of pasta. While the pesto was a little boring, I really liked the flavor of the carbonara. The ingredients were a bit non-standard, including cream and prosciutto. But meat was cut just right to add a texture and flavor contrast. The eggs were a bit overcooked, almost scrambled, but the cream kept the dish suitably moist. Admittedly I have never had carbonara at an Italian or high end restaurant, but judged against what I make for myself, it was quite good.

        We shopped at the Thrifty Foods near the docks (there is a Village Market a bit further north), and Ebey's bakery. Being close to the docks Thrifty foods gets a lot of business from the yacht crowd, so has good choices for campers as well. One night I fixed lamb 'loose meat' (see the Midwest Maid-rite threads) (seasoned with some smoked paprika). The next night was Hertel smoked pork chops, cooked with an apple and dried apricot sauce.

        The second day on the island we browsed at the general store at Fulford Harbor. They had a selection of local cheeses, but prices were too steep for my budget. Many of the farms on the island had self-serve flower and produce stands in their drive ways. The best selection was at the entrance to Ruckle Prov. Park. Also at Ruckle we were 'attacked' by a flock of free range turkeys. The working farm at the park also has sheep and apple-fed long hair cattle.


        4 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          There is a great health food store with lots of great cheese and fresh fruit and veggies on the main road in Ganges.. can't remember what it is called though. Sunday brunch at "the inn" is tasty as well!

          1. re: paulj

            Many of the farms on Saltspring, including Ruckle, had small flocks of sheep. At the Ganges market I bought ground lamb because I figured it would be easiest item to fix on the camp stove. But I also had the choice of lamb liver, and hearts. And the more expensive chops, etc.


            1. re: paulj

              Sounds like a great trip paulj. What the "heck" are you driving? [smile] Some of those backroads can be tough on a vehicle. Do not think that I will risk our "vintage" [read old] mini-van although I would love to get back to see Bamfield. Your post reminded me that it had been almost 40 years since the last time we were there. That time we took the Lady Rose from Alberni to Bamfied.

              We are off to the Island on Thanksgiving Week-end. Nanaimo, Tofino and then Victoria. Am looking forward to some relaxation and good eats and long walks on the beach with our goldens.

              No Saltspring Island this trip. Caught the last Saturday morning market of the year on our last visit with lots of local goat cheese.

              Your post reminded me that this year we will have to get back out to Sooke.

              1. re: Bob Mac

                When we visited Carmanah, the roughest stretch of road, we crossed paths with a young European couple who were driving a PT Cruiser, probably a rental. They were, though, taking the potholes very slowly.

                But some of the roads are improving. The Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan stretch is good enough to attract the Sunday afternoon motorcycle tourists. And there were rumors in Bamfield that Victoria was promising pavement (there are some ongoing treaty negotiations) :)