Revelling in surprises during a Nanoose Bay getaway
By Susan Lundy
Photos courtesy Fairwinds
Wrapped in blankets and tucked into an L-shaped couch beside a gas-powered fire bowl, my daughter and I sit outside on the deck of our “home for the night” at Fairwinds Residences in Nanoose Bay. Glasses of wine in hand, we chat cosily and enjoy the view of a moon-lit sky that casts a gentle glow on Fairwinds Marina, sitting directly before us. It’s the same spot we sat a few hours ago as evening-shade pastel colours crawled across the sky and a distant mountain range glowed in white.
But as we discuss our day, our conversation is peppered with the word “surprise”—it seems it’s the element of the unexpected that has highlighted our experiences.
This beautiful, airy two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite with a full kitchen, comfortable sitting area and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows—all within touching distance of the ocean—was our first surprise. Who knew this shore-hugging collection of suites even existed, let alone offered this exquisite touch of luxury and comfort?
Nanoose Bay is located just south of Parksville on Vancouver Island. After driving north through Nanaimo, take a right off Highway 1 and enter an unexpected haven of rural farmland, parks, ocean views, forested trails and the Fairwinds development that includes upscale homes, a sprawling golf course—and a few surprises.
After checking in to our suite, we drove back down the road to the members-only Fairwinds Wellness Centre, which is available to all Fairwinds Residences guests for $40 a week.
Like our suite, the centre revealed some surprises. Set against an outcropping of steep rock, trees and trails, it exudes a peaceful ambiance with its beautiful high-ceilinged spaces and floor-to-ceiling windows that open directly onto the natural setting outside and bathe the space in natural light. Here, you can find two weight rooms, a yoga or stretching room, a billiards/games room with an adjoining reading room, a kitchen, a 20-metre pool, hot tub and dry sauna, an outdoor tennis court, and a massive gym area for pickleball and other racket sports. This approximately 20-year-old structure also has lots of outdoor seating areas, and even space for live music. To top it off, various classes here are available to Fairwind guests.
So, this was a bit of a surprise.
Neither my daughter nor I are golfers. However, as we drove through Fairwinds’ lush-looking, rolling golf course, we were almost tempted to give it a try. Literature for the 18-hole course describes scenery as spectacular, with “150-year-old Douglas firs, sculpted driftwood, dramatic shorelines, wildlife and breathtaking views.” The course has two large practice greens with a year-round driving range, covered and heated stalls and a short-game practice area. Certified PGA of Canada professionals provide lessons, camps and clinics for golfers of all ages and abilities.
But instead of picking up golf clubs, we decided to check out the trail network, and encountered yet another unexpected experience. The hiking trails here are extensive and accessible, with marked levels of ease (easy, intermediate, difficult), and the paths wind through forest and wetlands, and past large ponds and lakes. On this day the woods were dappled in sunlight. Notch Hill is one popular hiking spot in the area, but we took the trails to Enos Lake, which suddenly appeared before us in glassy-surfaced perfection, just calling out for summertime swimming and picnics at the water’s edge.
A few hours later, we set out for dinner at Seascape restaurant, which adjoins the Fairwinds Residences at Fairwinds Landing. Here we discovered a menu heavy on delectable-looking seafood dishes, a renowned AAA sirloin steak, and several plant-based options. And the view from our seaside window table was unrivalled. (As it turned out, this was one of the last dinner services at Seascape before it switched ownership. Now we’re excited to come back and experience another surprise when it reopens.)
And so, after a nightcap of wine on our suite’s moon-lit deck, we crawled into our comfy beds satiated…and, well, surprised.
The next day, the hits just kept coming. Back at the Wellness Centre, we rented electric bikes (mountain bikes were also available) and set out to explore the area and reward our “hard biking work” with lunch at a pub. E-bikes are the way to go! It’s been years since I’ve cycled, but these e-bikes were straightforward and easy to ride, and it made me so happy each time I hit a hilly incline and the bike’s “assist” kicked in. We took a circle route, gliding down the main roads first and riding the more-enjoyable back roads on the return. The main roads, we discovered, were quite busy with gravelly shoulders not completely conducive to cycling. But speeding along on a bike, taking in the sights on a more up-close level is a wonderful way to travel and I felt practically giddy with the experience.
And then—surprise! The Rocking Horse Pub. Following signs to the pub, we arrived at what appeared a residential horse farm only to be transported through the doors into a rich, warm and inviting old-English-style pub. A wood fire danced in the fireplace and the interior setting welcomed us with its array of charming antiques and quaint details. There’s a patio in the park-like area outside, and the pub itself is split into two areas—the dining room and a more casual bar area. We tucked into a platter of nachos, and while we were surprised to discover this place, we were not surprised to learn that it is super popular.
After returning the bikes to the Wellness Centre, and still filled with exuberance from the bike ride and pub discovery, we jumped back in the car and drove around a bit, further exploring the area. Among other spots, our drive took us to Moorecroft Regional Park, which has a long beach and views across the water plus a beautiful wetland area and trail network.
Now, on our way back to the highway, one final surprise remained: the Rusted Rake Brewery.
A quick stop here revealed a beautiful building—from the massive tree columns at the entranceway to a natural-light interior and patio at the back that’s set against a grassy farmland backdrop—as well as an excellent food and drinks menu.
Placing the Rusted Rake Brewery on our must-do list, we turned onto the highway and headed home—still talking about our surprise-rich getaway.