Secluded on the San Juan Ridge in Port Renfrew, Soule Creek Lodge is a serene mountain top getaway overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Olympic Peninsula, Juan de Fuca straight, San Juan Inlet and Coastal Mountains. Located a scenic two hour drive from Victoria, Port Renfrew is a picturesque community along the Pacific Circle Route. Opened in 2001, Soule Creek Lodge features yurt accommodations, mountain lodge suites and a cabin but it is truly the six yurts that make this one of the most unique places to stay in Canada. Six mountain top yurts, each with its own private wrap around deck, unparalleled views of rainforest, mountain and ocean, luxurious interiors and modern comforts make this an unforgettable stay.
Each yurt has its own story to tell, from the newest Yurt of the Salish Sea with the highest view and the most privacy to the more rustic Carmanah Yurt which offers an outdoor enclosed shower and toilet. Our stay was in the Cheewhat Yurt, named after the Cheewhat Giant Cedar, both of which share a 20ft diameter.
This yurt 315 sq ft. was added in spring 2016 and features a soft and comfortable king size bed, mini fridge, microwave, tea service, sitting area, toilet and sink, quartz tiled shower with glass ceiling, and sky dome. It is fully heated, insulated, has wifi and is powered by electricity. The Cheewhat Yurt is spacious yet intimate and with all the modern conveniences (hot water, electricity, wifi), yet also immersed in the forest and nature.
Each yurt is located in a secluded area of the 160 acres of the Soule Creek property, allowing for maximum privacy and reflection. We had blue jays and robins visiting us on our deck and were told the area is home to black bears, bald eagles, Roosevelt elk and other wildlife.
Complimentary hot breakfast is offered daily in the shared lodge dining hall and includes eggs, meat, fruit salad, a mini smoothie, coffee, tea and juice. The serving staff were friendly and accommodating, and were able to bring us almond milk for our tea.
A three course gourmet dinner is available nightly and hand prepared on site by chef/owners Tim and Jon Cash. Together they have 35 years of experience as professional chefs in the hospitality industry. Ingredients are fresh, local and mainly organic. This is an excellent option as there are few restaurants in Port Renfrew itself and none of which are of this calibre. More details about reservations for dinner and the menu are available on the website. A packed picnic lunch can be requested for a small cost, and is perfect to take on a day hike. An outdoor hot tub with an incredible view and zen garden are available to all guests.
Although we absolutely enjoyed a restful and peaceful stay at Soule Creek Lodge and are already planning our next visit, there were some things to be aware of. In the Cheewhat Yurt, although there was a wall separating the toilet area from the bedroom and therefore creating privacy, the top of the bathroom was open, meaning you could hear your partner using in the bathroom, making it a little uncomfortable. There was no iron or ironing board in the yurt, meaning I had to change my clothing choice for the day, as I didn’t want to wear a wrinkled shirt. The kitchen only includes a microwave, mini fridge and tea service and cups, so be prepared to take advantage of the dinner option or go into town for dinner.
Also when selecting a yurt, not all views are equal and not yurts had parking adjacent to the yurt. For the best views, I would recommend Tatoosh, Yurt of the Salish Sea, Yurt of the Setting Sun and Pandora’s Yurt. These yurts overlook the San Juan Bay and have a slightly better view than the Cheewhat and Carmanah.
These yurts also all have parking right next to them. That said, all yurts do have good views.
Things to Do
Once you have made it up the lengthy uphill driveway to the Soule Creek Lodge, you feel as if you have escaped to another world and may not want to leave at all. However, if you do venture out to explore the Port Renfrew area, there are some beautiful natural wonders to explore.
Here are a few highlights:
Botanical Beach: Discover rich tide pools filled with shellfish and sea flora and enjoy a coastal forest walk to the beach. Check with the staff for the tide chart as low tide is the best time to view the tidal pools and it is a 40 min plus walk to the beach form the parking lot.
Port Renfrew is known as the tall tree capital of Canada and there are many tall trees and forest walks to explore. The Red Creek Fir is the largest Fir Tree in Canada at 73.8m (242’) and an estimated 700 to 1000 years old. Avatar Grove is 15 minute drive from Soule Creek Lodge and boasts a giant Old Growth Cedar with a 14ft diameter burl amongst its old growth giants. Both require 4 wheel drive vehicles to access.
For a sandy beach and a nice place for a picnic lunch, try the nearby Pacheedaht Campgrounds and beach.
Other popular activities in Port Renfrew include fishing, surfing, wildlife viewing, kayaking and eco-tours. The West Coast Trail is open from May 1st to October for hikers and campers. A general store is open 7 days a week year round and offers the basics for camping and snacking. Currently there is no gas station in town, but one is scheduled to open in June 2017.
Heading into town stop by French Beach and if you are continuing on to Lake Cowichan, be sure to stop at Fairy Lake and view the magical tiny Douglas Fir growing from a log in the middle of the lake. It can be seen from the road and is definitely worth a picture.
With the Pacific Circle Route allowing for greater access to the South West Coast of Vancouver Island, this quiet community is likely to become busier and more popular. Soule Creek Lodge however remains a mountain top retreat with its exceptional hospitality, unique yurt accommodations and restorative immersion in nature.