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Apr 27, 2011 02:41 PM

Foodie Honeymoon: San Juan Islands vs. Tofino, BC

Hi all,

Long time board-reader, first time poster. My fiance and I just bought tickets to Seattle for a one week honeymoon. We were originally planning on spending 4 nights in the San Juans and 2 nights in Seattle. But a lack of available hotel rooms in the SJs and the stunning scenery of the Canadian islands has us considering Tofino and/or Victoria.

We love to eat and are excited to try the local fare, particularly seafood. We are willing to splurge on several great meals for this special trip in early September.

I've looked at boards for these areas, and there seems to be a handful of great restaurants in each place. So, my question is: on the balance, where would YOU go? Would love to hear your individual restaurant and/or hotel recommendations and overall suggestions. Thanks!

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  1. You will need to consider transportation to maximize foodie opportunities. And since it is a honeymoon, fun transportation. Like the train from Seattle to Vancouver BC (a foodie paradise, check the BC board), ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, high speed ferry from Victoria to Seattle. Getting to Tofino will eat up a lot of dining time, and you won't see any islands to speak of. Another return from Victoria option is Victoria (Sidney) to Anacortes, winding thru the San Juans. If you don't want to travel that much, Seattle and Vancouver will meet any foodie wish.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Steve K

      Thanks, Steve. We are now thinking of squeezing one night in Friday Harbor and then doing the road trip through Vancouver Island to Tofino.

      We hadn't thought of taking the train to Vancouver. I'm sure that affords more foodie options than Friday Harbor. Appreciate the input!

      1. re: YoJess

        Tofino is spectacular in terms of natural beauty. If it were me, I'd go straight there. But it's going to be about a nine hour drive from Seattle. Can you fly into Vancouver instead? The ferries back and forth to Friday Harbor are going to use a lot of your time for a one night stay. How about stopping for an overnight at one of the Gulf Islands (maybe Saltspring) on your way to Tofino. There aren't a lot of great restaurants in Tofino, but enough decent ones to keep you fed. If you rent a place with a kitchen you can pick up lovely fresh seafood at Trilogy.

        1. re: L.Nightshade

          Ganges on Saltspring might have better eating options than Friday Harbor (San Juans).

          How about a hotel in Victoria, with various day trips. For example west past Sooke to Port Renfrew (great tidal beaches), inland to Lake Cowichan and back to Victoria. Saltspring and other Gulf Islands are another trip.

          Tofino is pretty, but a long drive, and locally grown food will be limited. The area is mostly forest, wet and cool. The SE end of the Vancouver Island is much better for growing things.

          Seafood isn't necessarily better in the remote towns. Some restaurants will get deliveries from local fishermen, but a lot of the catch is shipped off to the big city (e.g. Victoria, Vancouver).

    2. Thanks for the thoughts, everyone. Flying into Seattle saved us about $600 so that's a done deal. I think we've firmed up our itinerary: we'll be spending 2 nights in Seattle, 2 in Vancouver, and 3 in Tofino. I think between Seattle and Vancouver we'll get our fill of great food, and Tofino for the scenery. We won't get to the San Juans except for maybe on a whale-watching tour from Vancouver. I know the food options in Tofino are limited (Pointe, Norwoods, Shelter and Tacofino are on our radar), so if you have suggestions for meals in Seattle and/or Vancouver, we appreciate it!

      6 Replies
      1. re: YoJess

        I'd search the Seattle and BC boards for suggestions on the 2 cities.

        1. re: YoJess

          I'm sure you will have a wonderful time, Seattle and Van are great cities to visit, and Tofino is incredibly beautiful. Best wishes on your marriage!

          1. re: YoJess

            We visited Tofino/Ucluelet in June and will be visiting the San Juans in September. We spent some time in the Gulf Islands a couple of years ago. In Tofino I was very impressed with our meal at Norwoods. Dinner at the restaurant at the Wikinninish Inn was wonderful. We also enjoyed a super lunch in the Great room at Long Beach lodge resort. The view was amazing. We did not eat at Shelter because it didn't have a great view....but it was recommended by a friend of ours. We stayed at Black rock ocean resort and ate at the resto there Fetch, which was underwhelming.

            Long Beach Cafe Restaurant
            10114 Bridgeport Way SW, Lakewood, WA 98499

            1. re: rooibus

              Thanks Rooibus! We leave in less than two weeks. We ultimately decided to stay at the Black Rock in Ucluelet as well. We've got reservations at the Pointe and Norwoods, very much looking forward to both. In Vancouver, we have reservations at Refuel, and are planning on hitting up Vijay's too. And in Seattle, we have reservations at Le Pichet. We will play the rest of the eating by ear! Thanks for all of your recommendations.

              Any lunch suggestions still welcome!

              1. re: YoJess

                Not a lunch suggestion, but if you at all like chocolate, stop at Fran's in Seattle. It's in a hotel down neear the Market. I love their chocolate covered, salted caramels!

                1. re: DaTulip

                  So does the President. He keeps small boxes of Fran's salted caramels in his desk in the Oval Office to give to visitors.

          2. YoJess - I always hope people will come back and report on their trips after requesting advice. It would be nice to hear if you tried any of the places mentioned here, or found any new spots.

            1. It's been a while, but I'll do my best to put together some remarks about where we ate!

              Le Pichet - a lovely French bistro for lunch. Bright sunlight, a charming host, a couple of glasses of wine, oysters, and a charcuterie platter. Life is sweet.

              Maneki - A 108 year old sushi restaurant recommended by a friend whose family owns a sushi restaurant! This place was fantastic, very reasonably priced, and had an incredibly extensive menu of the raw fish and cooked food varieties. The best sushi we've ever had? Probably.

              Skillet Diner - this was a very hip spot and was perhaps the best southern-style brunch I've ever had. Cornmeal Belgian waffles with pork shoulder. Fried chicken sandwich with a fried egg on it. Decadent and delicious. Great, casual service. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

              Refuel - the food here was good but it was almost totally empty (7:30 on a Weds night) and the vibe was really strange. They messed up our drinks and the bill was kind of a shocker. Again -- good food, but I wouldn't send a friend here.

              Guu Izakaya - in Gastown. We decided that rather than going back to the Kitsilano neighborhood (where we were the night before, for Refuel) for Vijay's, we would check out Gastown. We showed up at Guu without reservations and were seated at the bar after a 10 minute wait. The atmosphere was loud and lively. It was infectious. The food was a fantastic parade of Japanese small plates. The yaki soba was to die for. Gastown and Guu itself were both a little kitchy for my usual taste, but I kept thinking "I wish San Francisco had this restaurant!"

              Ucluelet/Tofino -
              Fetch: We were staying at Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet, and ate a brunch and dinner at Fetch because we had a dining credit. I'd read some pretty mixed reviews but was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the brunch to others. The dinner was pretty good too. The atmosphere is nice, the view is great and if you're in Ucluelet I think it's a fine place to eat.

              Norwoods: Excellent meal, excellent service, excellent environment. It's a really small and cozy restaurant, but quite elegant. The octopus salad was the best dish of the trip. It's not cheap, but for us this was the primary eating destination of the trip and it didn't disappoint.

              The Pointe at the Wickaninnish Inn: We decided to come here for a late lunch since the view is the main attraction. Arriving around 1:30, there were only a couple other patrons at the restaurant. By the time our food was served, we had the place to ourselves. Normally, I'd find that a strange sensation. But the service was on pointe (har har) and it was actually quite wonderful to be in a cavernous, circular room with a 270 degree view with your new spouse. We ordered a full seafood platter that was incredible, as was the tuna sandwich. The braised octopus was to die for. We went for a walk along the long, long beach afterward. Really great time.

              It was a GREAT trip. Thanks to you all for your suggestions. As always, Chowhound the rescue!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Jess2057

                Wow, thanks for dropping by with your report. It will be helpful to future travelers to the area! We had rented a townhouse next to the Black Rock, went there just once. Had dinner once at Widkaninnish, which was very nice, and the view is spectacular. Also enjoyed Norwoods. Sounds like you had a great time!