It makes perfect sense when Jesse Keefer explains that he has had several authors hole up at Bodega Ridge, his Galiano Island resort, to write for as long as a month at a time. He even hosted an artist who transformed one of the cabins into a recording studio, with each room devoted to a different instrument.
Bodega Ridge is a truly idyllic escape, giving the island’s classic bohemian vibe a contemporary facelift.
Keefer first took over the property from a Hungarian owner back in 2003. He had just quit his career as a professional cyclist, and the property became his new focus. He transformed the collection of seven large log cabins in dire need of refurbishment into one of the most stylish and elegant resorts in the Gulf Islands. And Keefer insists, it has been a continual work in progress ever since.
Each of the fir cabins has three bedrooms (with Pendleton blankets), two bathrooms (with handmade soaps from Galiano Soap Works), cedar decks, and a full kitchen, with hardwood floors, handmade wooden furniture, and designer lighting to go along with plush leather couches and chairs and cast iron wood stoves. “All the flooring is from reclaimed fir from old buildings in Vancouver,” says Keefer. “The doors of the lodge are from an old medical building in Vancouver, and the floors of the lodge are from the house I grew up in, in Point Grey. The tables and the countertops are all made from reclaimed fir.”
The resort can be found on the northwestern end of the long and slender island, on the western slope of Bodega Ridge. A relatively short journey from Vancouver brings guests to a secluded forest setting overlooking the water, with Salt Spring Island off in the distance. Keefer thinks the arbutus forest adjacent to the property is likely one of the largest in the world.
The all-wood lodge has a bar, a cafe serving JJ Bean dark roast, and an event space; however, Bodega does not operate a restaurant. For weddings and other occasions, Keefer has a trusted team of go-to chefs such as Darryl Garcia of Vancouver’s Chambar. “Everything is farm-to-table,” Keefer says of his catering program. “We get all our greens locally, and in the summer we get about 80 per cent of our vegetables locally. It’s really West Coast: all the best of the local seafood we can get, and it fits in with the lifestyle of the island. Everyone is really big on sustainability and keeping it close.”
Jesse McCleery, chef, co-owner, and forager extraordinaire at Pilgrimme, one of Canada’s most acclaimed new restaurants of 2015, was first introduced to Galiano when Keefer recruited him to work at Bodega Ridge in 2013. After his stint at Bodega, McCleery decided to open his restaurant about 15 minutes down the road.
Though close in proximity, Galiano feels worlds away from cosmopolitan Vancouver. Bodega Ridge, then, is its perfect hideaway.