This is a short list of excellent places to eat while you are touring Vancouver Island’s west coast. We left many fine restaurants off the list in Ucluelet, Tofino, Port Alberni and elsewhere. Our selections are based on proximity to moorage and of course food quality, atmosphere and uniqueness. We know boaters look sometimes for elegant dining and other times for a pub where they can meet locals and other boaters.
Unfortunately, there are no wineries on the west coast of the Island, but there are several craft breweries.
Sooke Harbour House (Sooke)
This opulent resort sits beside the water, but you will need to moor at the Sooke Harbour Authority or Sooke Resort and Marina, and take a cab. Or walk the less than 3 kilometres. The dining room is committed to using local, seasonally available ingredients and there is a good chance the herbs and edible blossoms used are grown in their garden. The menu changes weekly but there is always an assortment of soups and salads, fresh seafood, viands, and vegetarian dishes and desserts in four divine courses. Plan on a long, leisurely meal. $85 per person, wine pairing $45.
Wild Mountain (Sooke)
Chef Oliver Keinhast’s passion for locally grown and wild ingredients is matched by his flair for combining them to create multi-layered, original flavours. His zeal and informality are shared by his wife Brook and by the entire staff. Tie up at Sooke Harbour Authority and walk two minutes. Try the Housemade Charcuterie and the mussels steamed in dark beer before the Parry Bay Lamb. Entrees under $30. The wine list is little skimpy and, true to philosophy, entirely BC.
West Coast Grill (Sooke)
Tie up at Sooke Harbour Authority and walk five minutes or tie up at Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina and walk two minutes. Enjoy the seaside view from a perch that is not rocking, the relaxing and welcoming atmosphere, and the delicious selection of seafood starters and entrees. The chain is famous for their seafood platters designed for two or more. If you have had enough fish lately, there are meat dishes and pastas. Entrees under $30. Ample wine list.
Sooke Oceanside Brewery (Sooke)
The brewery is within hailing distance of the sea and there is good anchoring in the adjacent bay. Trouble is where to land your tender. You can tie up at Sunny Shores Marina, just a bit to the west. Sample four beers. They don’t have an eatery yet, so it’s just beer here.
Coastal Kitchen (Port Renfrew) 1-844-647-5541
Not open for dinner, but a great place for breakfast before you sail or for lunch. This beachy, laid-back restaurant serves up modern West Coast fare: super fresh seafood (local catch, buckets of mussles, rich chowders), organic salads and power-packed smoothies. The eggs, sausage and currant mead are local products. It’s a bit of a walk from Pacific Gateway Marina. If you are stopping by, the Harbour Authority might let you tie up. From there it is a short walk. Try the Berry Goddess salad or any fresh catches. Entrees under $17. Unlicensed.
Renfrew Pub (Port Renfrew) 1-844-647-5541
Your basic pub fare, close by the sea and who doesn’t need a good pub once in a while. Or every day. And you can bring your own catch and the chef will prepare it for you. Decent beer and wine selection. It’s a bit of a walk from Pacific Gateway Marina. If you are stopping by, the Harbour Authority might let you tie up. From there it is a short walk. Entrees under $20.00.
Bamfield Eateries (Bamfield)
Tides and Trails Restaurant, Boardwalk Bistro/Bakery, The Market Restaurant, Bamfield Pub (Bamfield). You have four choices for meals in Bamfield (and Barclay Sound). All are within easy walking distance from the public wharf. None have websites, so talk a walk and decide when you get there.
Norwoods Restaurant (Ucluelet) 250-726-7001
Furnishings a bit austere, perhaps, but the location near the Aquarium and the food make this a great stop for boaters. The menu is highly eclectic. Chef Richard Norwood has toured the world and we don’t think he was bird watching. His constantly changing menu reflects three continents. It is hard getting past the appetizers, never mind the tantalizing entrees, tastefully paired with wine suggestions. Entrees $26-$48.
Hank’s Traditional BBQ (Ucluelet)
This one is also near the Aquarium. It is on the list because it manages to do something different with the West Coast cuisine that is offered ubiquitously and is good almost ubiquitously. Perhaps it is the playfulness of the chef’s creations that combine seafood elements uniquely and kind of like a puzzle you de-construct. A good place to meet locals. The menu changes regularly. Entrees $20-$30; no reservations.
Icehouse Oyster Bar (Tofino)
The Oyster Bar is perched on the West Street Dock, so if you haven’t had enough of ocean views, you’re set. Sunsets over Mearse Island never fail to delight. This is a fun place. Oysters and seafood dominate the menu, but there are other selections for those who just can’t eat fish AGAIN. Short but adequate selection of wines and beers. Entrees $15-$30.
Wolf in the Fog (Tofino)
Located just a couple minutes walk from the 4th St Government Docks. Chef Nicholas Nutting has classical training to which he has added his philosophy of let the ingredients speak for themselves. A savoury selection of appetizers, limited but interesting mains and a trio of shared plates that make the menu robust. More than adequate selection of wines. Entrees $20-$30.
Tofino Brewery (Tofino)
They are located about 2 km from the government docks, not far from the sea, but no place to land, except on someone’s property. You can find their beers in local establishments. They have a spacious tasting room where you can rub shoulders with other visitors and locals. Ever had a kelp beer? Try their stout.
Starboard Grill (Port Alberni)
Located with waterside patio close to Harbourside Quay next to the Centennial Pier and a short walk from Fishermen’s Harbour. Free docking at the restaurant. This is a fabulous place to get acquainted with Port Alberni. The menu is lengthy and unpretentious. Try Brad’s award winning and taste bud tantalizing Candied Salmon Chowder. You can depend on high food quality and good service. Entrees $19-$26.
Clam Bucket Restaurant (Port Alberni)
Located near Clutesi Haven Marina, which is up the river a few hundred metres. It is across the road from the water, but you’ve seen enough of that by now. Nice patio setting. The menu runs eight pages. Portions are large. Known locally for friendly attentive service. We hesitate to recommend fish&chips to boaters, but try the fish and chips. Entrees $15-$26.
Twin City Brewing (Port Alberni)
We love to tell you about their beer, but they haven’t opened yet (December 2016). So, if you like being first – what do they call that now, early adopter – cruise on in to Clutesi Haven Marina and walk a couple of hundred metres and be among the first to taste what they promise will be “a diverse selection of craft beers.”