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Vancouver Island Pubs Worth Travelling For

Vancouver Island Pubs Worth Travelling For

Vancouver Island has always had a strong pub culture, and nowhere is that more evident than in the middle of nowhere. The tiny pubs that dot the Island serve as focal points for their communities—important social hubs as much as they are watering holes. Rustic and charming, and usually full of characters, they’re an ideal place to get acquainted with your fellow neighbours. 

The 17 Mile House Pub

Built in 1894 as roadhouse on the way to the bustling but now abandoned gold mining boomtown of Leechtown, the 17 Mile House Pub is steeped in history. Located exactly 17 miles from Victoria City Hall, the former hotel was once home to Sooke’s only telephone. Today, the Tudor Revival building is a little pub right on the edge of Highway 14 that’s impossible to miss. Inside, it’s warm and inviting, with lots of wood, brick, random antiques and pub staples like pool tables and darts. Outside, there’s a massive patio with a full-size volleyball court, a horseshoe pit, bocce ball and even an outdoor stage for live music in the summer. Rumour has it that the pub is haunted by a menagerie of spirits, including former owner Ma Wilson, who died in the pub in 1970, and the boyfriend of previous owner Mary Jackson.

Dinghy Dock Pub

Located in Nanaimo Harbour, just off Protection Island, the Dinghy Dock Pub is Canada’s only floating boat-access only pub. Thankfully, the pub operates a ferry into town for those of us who are boatless.This kitschy pub has a nautical theme; the walls are festooned with pirate flags, fishing floats, life preservers and antique diving equipment. Grab a seat on the patio and watch the otters and seals playing in the harbour as kayakers and boaters pull up to the pub’s private dock for pint. Or stay inside and take in the live music. After renovations this past winter, the Dinghy Dock has never been in better shape, and boasts a new and improved food and drink menu as well.

Crow and Gate Pub

Shortly after the turnoff on Highway 1, past farms, trees, more farms and some more trees, you end up in a little slice of rural England, transplanted halfway between Nanaimo and Ladysmith. This Tudor-style country pub features low ceilings, dark wood, a massive fireplace and bar service only. If it feels like an authentic English country pub, that’s because it is. The original owner, Jack Nash, was a native of Sussex and imported many of the materials that went into building his painstakingly-designed pub—including the exposed timbers, furnishings, even the windows—all the way from England. Fun fact: the Crow and Gate was the very first neighbourhood pub in B.C., opening in 1972 before the ink was even dry on provincial liquor regulations allowing pubs for the first time.

Fanny Bay Inn

The Fanny Bay Inn has long served as a roadhouse along the Old Island Highway. Opened in 1938, the FBI—as it’s referred to by locals—was originally built as a hotel for those making their way up Island. After the Inland Island Highway bypassed the area 20 years ago, the pub settled down and rebranded itself as quaint gastropub. The FBI’s outdoor beer garden is just steps from the ocean and the perfect spot to slurp up world famous Fanny Bay oysters.

Scarlet Ibis

Holberg might only have a population of 35 people, but of course, it has a local watering hole. The Scarlet Ibis is an English-style pub at the edge of human civilization, popular with loggers working in the area, the aforementioned 35 people, and exhausted hikers stumbling out of Cape Scott Provincial Park, hungry for a hot meal and a cold pint. The building itself was originally an old bunkhouse that was cut into five sections and trucked in from Port Hardy, 50 kilometres away.

The White Whale

If your idea of commuting to a pub involves a kayak, then you’ll want to pay a visit to Courtenay’s The White Whale. This restaurant and pub is perched right on the Courtenay River and one its many draws includes the dockside “parking” for kayaks and other small watercraft. The other draws? All the food is made from scratch in-house and the beer menu includes 16 rotating taps. In summer, the patio is your best vantage point to overlook the river and watch fellow incoming paddlers looking to refuel with a plate of fish n’ chips or a pizza.

Stonehouse Pub

This Stonehouse isn’t out of the way at all—in fact it’s right beside the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. While most pass right by this absolute gem of a pub, it’s ideally located if you’re attempting to catch a ferry without a reservation in the summer. The English-style manor was built more than 80 years ago from locally quarried stone, with leaded windows and hand-hewed wood beams. Hunker down with a pint in the pub’s cozy main room, or relax in the glass-enclosed sunroom or garden patio, both of which let in ample sunshine. A two sailing wait has never been so good!

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