From the majestic mountains and towering forests to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, the astounding natural beauty of British Columbia has a funny way of leaving you lost for superlatives. The expansive landscapes pave the way for some of the most thrilling outdoor adventures, such as hiking, skiing and surfing, making it the perfect place to dabble into exploration of all sorts. Between the cosmopolitan cities with a rich sense of history to the secluded corners of wilderness along Canada’s West Coast, this is a destination best experienced from the water. Immersed in the diverse landscapes, it’s here where you’ll make once-in-a-lifetime memories with those who matter the most. Here is our weekend yacht itinerary for exploring British Columbia and the San Juan Islands.
Flowing streams, lush forests and endless water activities–it’s no secret that the Pacific Northwest is one of the most diverse boating playgrounds in the world. When it comes to a weekend breezing around British Columbia and the San Juan Islands, you’ll need a yacht that effortlessly blends top-notch performance and luxury comfort. Instantly recognizable due to its compact design, bold lines and simple exterior, the Prestige 630 is the perfect choice. Powered by twin Volvo IPS 950 engines with 713 gallons of fuel capacity, this yacht has the power to breeze from one site to the next. It’s ideal for coastal cruising because it can cover ample amounts of territory in the variety of environmental conditions that British Columbia presents. At the same time, the expansive light-filled spaces, fully-equipped kitchen and sumptuous amenities ensure you don’t skip a beat when it comes to living standards. The Prestige 630 is available for charter through Sundance Yachts.
Wake Up in Vancouver
The adventure begins in Vancouver, the bustling seaport and cosmopolitan hub of Canada’s West Coast. This is the fantastic meeting point where sophistication and culture meet the Great Outdoors. Start your day off at Hawksworth Restaurant, one of the most well-respected food destination in the entire city. Located in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, take your pick from the extensive breakfast and brunch menu to fill up before an action-packed weekend. Everything from the original Damien Hirst “heart and butterflies” artwork proudly hanging on the wall to the elegant crystal chandelier in the main dining room embodies the contemporary spirit of Hawksworth. When you’re finished, grab your things and head over to the Port of Vancouver, which is just five minutes away in car.
Vancouver to Victoria
As you depart from the Port of Vancouver and gradually watch the sparkling towers of glass and steel disappear, the euphoria that comes with the untouched wilderness and open waters slowly kicks in. It takes approximately two hours to reach Vancouver Island through the Salish Sea and the Prestige 630 makes for an overall smooth ride that’s fast, stable and quiet. Along the way you’ll witness some of the most magnificent nature that spans thick forests, secluded coves and a plethora of marine life. At a max speed of 28 knots, you can comfortably control your own pace and you’ll occasionally breeze past the ferries that carry passengers to Victoria, seaplanes and other marine traffic. Take in the sights from the flybridge on top and enjoy the panoramic views and relaxing furnishings. As you approach the harbor of Victoria from the comfort and convenience of your yacht, you’ll realize that this historic waterfront capital is one of Canada’s real gems.
Between the picturesque waterfront, bohemian shops and old-school maritime charm, Victoria is certainly one of the most charming cities in the entire Pacific Northwest. After docking at the port, you’ll realize it’s extremely easy to move around on foot or even bike. Located just a few steps away from the harbor, AURA Waterfront Restaurant + Patio is the inviting eatery that puts forth a menu of meticulously designed dishes using freshly-caught seafood and local and seasonal ingredients. From the banana leaf-wrapped halibut to fresh British Columbia oysters, you can rest assured that the gourmet offerings are also caught with sustainability in mind. The expansive terrace is the perfect place to spend an afternoon with the family, whereas the overall atmosphere is casual and laid-back.
After lunch, wander the quaint downtown core with its British colonial architecture to shop, sightsee and admire heritage buildings. Head to the Butchart Gardens, the city’s most famous attraction, for 55 acres of colorful and aromatic flowers, landscape theme gardens, streams and lily ponds that shouldn’t be missed–topped off by the magnificent Ross Fountain. If you want to dive into the cultural side of the B.C. capital, the Royal BC Museum is often touted as the province’s best. You can also relax over some afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel, Victoria’s defining building that’s visible from the waterfront. Opt to spend the night at the Magnolia Hotel & Spa. Located just a few steps away from the port, this luxury boutique hotel emanates a timeless elegance with a world of personalized service where you can just unwind and take advantage of the award-winning treatments.
Victoria to Roche Harbor
Once you say your goodbyes to Victoria and set course for the 3-hour journey to Roche Harbor, opt for an onboard brunch to get your day going. There’s a full-service kitchen onboard that’s complete with state-of-the-art facilities so you can enjoy the comfort of a home-cooked in the middle of the Great Outdoors. Equipped with a snug seating and outdoor dining area, the outer deck was designed with entertaining and socializing in mind.
If the weather on this particular day isn’t cooperating, don’t fret. The nature of British Columbia is known to be unpredictable and susceptible to light showers here and there. Under the drizzle, the main salon of the Prestige 630 transforms into a cozy haven and den to relax in. Read a book and soak in the views from the indoors in what feels like the comfort of your own home. The interior is decked out with luxurious interior furnishings, a harmonious color palette and a level of equipment normally reserved for large cruising yachts. Before you know it, you’ll be approaching the scenic port of Roche Harbor. Peer out the window and you’ll be transported back in time with its vintage charm, white-washed wooden rose arbors and fairy-tale setting.
Easily one of the most enchanting settings in the entire Pacific Northwest, Roche Harbor is defined by its old-fashioned gardens, white-washed houses and looming Hotel de Haro. There’s no better way to spend your lunch hour in this yachting paradise than at Madrona Bar & Grill. This iconic over-the-water restaurant is the perfect place to dine on casual coastal cuisine with a fantastic selection of flavorful cocktails and drinks in a friendly and upbeat environment. Services come to a halt for a few minutes every evening for the Colors ceremony while the national anthems of Britain and the United States are played as the respective flags are lowered and then folded at sunset, marked by a thundering cannon shot. This sense of shared history hangs in the air for a moment, followed by the systematic horns of almost every yacht in the harbor. It makes for a picturesque moment as the sun sets over beautiful Roche Harbor.
Instead of a hotel, opt to spend the night onboard your Prestige 630 docked at the port. The serenity, remote natural beauty and quiet waters surrounding the San Juan Islands provide the perfect backdrop for a restful evening. The Prestige 630 offers three comfortable cabins plus crew quarters, including the spacious midship master suite with private shower compartments. These elegant sleeping quarters make for absolute comfort throughout the night. In the morning, enjoy coffee, fresh baked donuts and a hearty breakfast at the Lime Kiln Café, overlooking the marina.
Roche Harbor to Orcas Island
The San Juan Islands are internationally renowned for its marine wildlife, most famously orca whales. The journey to Orcas Island is a short journey of just 1.5 hours, so feel free to head on a quick detour to one of many hotspots. There are three pods with more than 75 whales that frequent the waters off San Juan, giving visitors a truly unique opportunity. In addition to orca whales, the passage to Orcas Island is filled with humpback whales, seals, sea lions, bald eagles and more. Head to the flybridge for the 360º views to keep out for any underwater activity.
Alternatively, the swim platform makes for some over-water fun if you find a place to anchor for a little while. From kayaks to paddle boards and everything in between, the Prestige 630 is capable of comfortably storing all your water toys and tenders. There’s no rush. After all, yachting in the Pacific Northwest is all about enjoying the ride just as much as the destination. Before you know it, you’ll be arriving at the delicate coastline of Orcas Island for a secluded and private getaway immersed in nature.
Whether you find yourself on the flybridge, the outer deck or the saloon, arriving at Orcas Island is sure to leave you lost for words. Once an important trading post for the North Straits Salish Native Americans, the magnificent scenery and untouched wilderness of this get-away-from-it-all location makes for quality time with the people that matter the most. Rosario Resort, about halfway up Eastsound, has transient moorage, accommodations, dining and a spa, making it a great base for all your Orcas Island adventures.
There are certainly more than enough outdoor adventures to partake in after docking. The undeniable highlight is Moran State Park and its endless amount of freshwater lakes, waterfalls and old-growth forests. This 5,579-acre camping park features over 30 miles of hiking trails at varied difficulty levels while atop the 2,409-foot Mt. Constitution stands a stone observation tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. After enjoying the great wilderness, head to Eastsound Village, the central hub of all commerce, cultural and civic life on Orcas Island. Take your time to stroll through the charming town and take in the amazing waterfront views and enjoy the local shops, bakeries, restaurants and galleries. The laid-back pace of this small island town is an all-around treat for the family.
Back to Vancouver
When you’re done exploring Orcas Island, head back to the Prestige 630 and set sail for Vancouver. There’s no better way to close the weekend than by relaxing in your comfortable yacht and sipping on a glass of B.C. wine as the sun sets. The excellent viewing platforms across the Prestige 630 make for panoramic views of the awe-inspiring surroundings, while you can also take advantage of alfresco dining as you move towards the Port of Vancouver. The quiet Volvo IPS 950 engines deliver fantastic economy for a yacht of this size and a quiet, relaxing motor yacht will please beyond expectations. The sense of boating and spending leisure time immersed in nature runs deep in the culture of the Pacific Northwest. Between the Great Outdoors, enchanting cities and all-around exploration, British Columbia and the San Juan Islands make for an ideal family trip that will leave you with the stories of a lifetime.