2shhsymbolsHow Sooke Harbour House Became What it is Today

Sooke Harbour House has been our family project since 1979. It happened like a fairy tale.

I met Sinclair Philip in Nice in 1967, only a month after he had arrived in France from Canada. He was, at the time, a young student on his first trip abroad to explore Europe and perfect his French. I think his initial idea was to keep traveling, eventually on to Africa. Instead, he stayed 10 years in France, studying political science and international economics. He earned his PhD, and I completed my Masters of Economics.

During those years in France, we lived in a small village  at the end of a valley. Although we lived very frugally, we always had large gatherings of friends over for long meals, prepared with local ingredients that we usually gathered from our own large vegetable garden and from nearby farmers. Most of our friends were students and artists.

In 1978, we decided to move to Canada and chose Toronto, then home to Sinclair’s mother, as our first destination. We lived there for a year, Sinclair working as a researcher with the Steelworkers’ Union, and I doing my best to adapt to a completely new culture, learn English, and become a stay-at-home mom to my first two children, Benjamin then 11 years old, and Jasmine who was one and a half.

Both Sinclair and I dreamt of leaving the big city, and our dream soon became a reality. On a business trip to Vancouver, Sinclair took two days off to tour Vancouver Island and found Sooke Harbour House. Much to our surprise, we became the owners of an Inn! We imagined running the tranquil little B&B in the holistic manner in which we had lived in France. In our minds, the transition from that very peaceful way of life, to being owners of a small business based on similar values, seemed simple and straightforward. Ignorance is bliss! I trusted that if we worked hard, offered local, seasonal cuisine and comfortable rooms, artistically decorated, we would be successful. And although it was not simple or straightforward, my trust was not betrayed. We were successful in the sense that we had a home, (we lived in the basement of the Inn for 16 years), food nicely prepared by our chefs, a garden and a place to expand, transform, and mold our lives to match our dreams and aspirations, as we happily raised our four children. So we have lived and are living our dream. It is based on a solid philosophy of offering our guests the experience of a coastal hotel on the Pacific Ocean, serving local, regional, and seasonal cuisine, growing native plants, decorating our rooms with the work of local artists and furnishing them with cabinets, sinks and beds of local craftsmanship.


Sooke Harbour House – A Legacy


Our Family

Our family Totem Pole, at the top is Rissa the “KittyWake seagull”, under is Nishka “wild goose in Eskimo”, the wolf is Frederiques maiden name, the Jasmine Flower she is holding is their oldest daughter Jasmine, copper notes for Frederique & Sinclairs grandson Calijah, the little whale is Jonah their other grandson. Sinclair is the big whale as he loves scuba diving and our son Benjamin is the pole a tall dark cedar.

Philips’ Family Totem Pole

The Inn

Sooke Harbour House has been owned and operated by Sinclair and Frederique Philip since 1979. It has been their desire to offer “luxury with a conscience” to visitors. The Innkeepers have worked to incorporate the environmental practices important to them into the daily routine of all areas of the hotel. From nontoxic cleaning products, to substantial composting programs, to a grass paved parking lot, the environmental impact has always been of utmost importance. 28 luxurious guestrooms, an on-site restaurant, edible organic gardens, an unconventional art gallery, and spa services together provide a memorable experience for guests. Sooke Harbour House continually demonstrates that strong business and sustainable environmental practices definitely go hand in hand.

The Inn

Water Reclamation System

Sooke Harbour House reclaims millions of litres of water every year, some of which is used for flushing toilets (water which is reprocessed again and again) with the rest of the remaining non-chlorinated warm water used for garden and lawn irrigation. The wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets is collected in a trash trap and pumped into a membrane-bioreactor. It is interesting to note that sewage is 95 percent water and 5 percent solids. The treated potable water is currently reused in toilets and urinals. Sooke Harbour House also uses the recycled water to irrigate large gardens and lawns. Recycling water results in a marked reduction in water consumption and a decrease in the volume of wastewater discharged to the disposal fields. Sooke Harbour House’s sophisticated system not only mitigates the need for septic fields and sewers, it also saves a renewable resource.

Green Parking Lot

In 2003, Sooke Harbour House created a 44-car, green parking lot. Its grass turf, as an alternative to pavement, is just the beginning of why its parking lot is one of the most environmentally sensitive in Victoria. The parking lot is built on a rock and sand base. The sand base was pressed with a heavy roller and then a recycled plastic grid was placed on the sand. A sand based grass sod was then pressed into the grid creating a durable, breathable, beautiful parking area.


Green Hotel Maintenance

Water Conservation

To reduce the amount of water used some of our rooms have efficient shower nozzles and low volume water toilets have been installed. Please refer to our water reclamation and recycle program for more details on our progressive work with water conservation.

Laundry and Guest Services

Guests are encouraged to do their part with our optional towel and sheet exchange program. The signage in rooms reads: “Dear Guest, If you are staying more than one night and you would like fresh towels, please put your used towels in the bathtub.” This program conserves enormous amounts of water, energy and detergents.

Cleaning Products

Because of the hotel’s dependency on its water reclamation system there is a source control program to keep cleaning products as natural and environmentally acceptable as possible. The hotel now uses more natural cleaning solutions such as citric acid, rhubarb and vegetable based cleaning products and vinegar.


Sooke Harbour House has a comprehensive reduce, reuse and recycle program.

Heating and Electricity

50% of rooms have efficient in-floor heating, where water is heated and pumped under the floors. The heat mass of the building is kept at constant comfortable levels which is a very efficient way of heating. Our insulation, thermal pane windows and draft-proofing for heat conservation is constantly being upgraded as different parts of the hotel evolve. In January 2004 the hotel converted from propane to natural gas. Natural Gas is a clean-burning fuel that produces the least fine particles and greenhouse gasses of any conventional fuel. Natural gas combines high efficiency with low emissions for an environmentally superior energy source.


Kitchen and Garden

Organic Gardens and Composting

“Why would you not be organic?”- Sinclair Philip The hotel garden is completely edible, organic, seasonal, and local, enabling it to serve the most natural food possible. All kitchen and garden plant matter is recycled. Sooke Harbour House has an extensive compost system, based on bins, which are turned on a regular basis producing several wheelbarrow loads of compost per week during the summer. Beyond growing its own organic produce Sooke Harbour House has a long history of influencing many other local growers and producers to become organic.


Buying Local: Less Fuel Consumption

By buying as many supplies, for the hotel, restaurant, spa and gallery, as it can locally, the hotel decreases fuel consumption dramatically as its products are only transported a fraction of the distance. The owners have built their business using local resources and continue to support regional suppliers in everything from food products and cleaning products, to art.

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