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Monday, 01 May 2006

Hollyhock: British Columbia's Retreat

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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imageHollyhock was a delicious break on a journey through fjords, gardens, & forests. It took forever to get there, but it was worth it! Hollyhock is on an island and to get to that island by car from the mainland you need to take at least three ferries. The first ferry is to Vancouver Island, then a drive to Campbell River, then a ferry to Quadra island, a drive across it, and yet another ferry to Cortes island where Hollyhock resides. There is nothing quick about this journey, but going by ferry seems like a nice prelude to the retreat.

There is nothing to do but watch the superb landscapes slowly pass by, your car tucked safely in the hull. Some even see whales on the journeys, although I wasn’t that lucky. The quick way to get there is by seaplane, but it is very expensive and you’ll see much more of the lifestyle here if you take the ferries. I would definitely recommend making Hollyhock just one stop on a longer journey around Vancouver Island and the outlying islands, as there is too much beauty here to skip quickly through.

Once I arrived at Hollyhock, I didn’t leave until it was time to make my way back to the ferry. Though the island seemed like it would be a great place to discover, I really needed a rest. I spent my two days relaxing in their beautiful hot tub, walking through the forest & along the beach, meditating, eating (more about the food later!) and trying to find ways to dry out my tent. I’d made the mistake of camping (British Columbia is essentially a rainforest) and it rained all night, despite being sunny both days I was there. No wonder why the prices drop so much when you tent instead of staying in a room. As with most retreat centers I’ve been to, the prices begin to soar when you think about getting a single room with a private bath.

Hollyhock does have dorms which I could have afforded, but I preferred to have my own ‘room’ in my tent. The campsites are very quaint, though; they are all mapped out, little plots between trees laid with pine needles. The trees work well for tying tarps to (bring one). The support staff was very helpful when I went to ask if I could borrow a tarp, someone came to help me, though I got the feeling this was an unusual request. Nearby the campsites are nice, clean cedar bathhouses with toilets & hot showers.



imageHollyhock has an organic garden for herbs, lettuces, and hundreds of varieties of flowers. It is a great place to sit and read a book or write poetry as you watch the bees zip around pollinating everything. There is a lodge with a comfortable lounge and a dining hall with a wide front porch and welcoming round tables with friendly company. As for the food, it was a gourmet feast – the best retreat center food I’ve had! Every meal was perfect. You could tell that such care went into the preparation and that they were using the freshest ingredients. Though the food is mainly vegetarian, there is an oyster barbeque once a week down on the beach which was a lot of fun. The charismatic guy who was roasting them to perfection kept trying to get me to try more, though to be honest, I’m not a big oyster fan even though I’m from Boston. I act more like someone from the Midwest that hasn’t been around seafood much. Everyone around me kept commenting on how fabulous the oysters were, so I believe you’re in for a treat.

ImageMany people go to Hollyhock for their 5-day workshops on subjects ranging from ‘Zen of Business’ to ‘Beach Wood Carving’ to ‘Seven Valleys in the Soul’s Journey.’ Others come to live and work, for 3 month long personal retreats, or, (like I did), for R&R.

There is a popular spa at Hollyhock where you can book a variety of massage styles, facials, and other treatments. I opted for trying Cranio-Sacral, a very gentle modality where they hold your head and sacrum and make small movements. It doesn’t sound so great, but it feels very good. When I left I felt much lighter, as if I was gliding on water.

My two favorite places were The Sanctuary, (a Southwestern style adobe hut filled with character where morning meditation was held), and the outdoor Jacuzzis overlooking the rocky bay which was surrounded by fjords & mountains on distant islands. Watching the sun set in those bubbly waters filled me with ease as I exhaled and inhaled the clean salt air.


Details: Tent single $84 CN (~74 US), tent double $73 CN pp (~64 US), Dorms with bunk beds $106 CN pp (~93 US), Single with private bath ocean-front $273 CN (~239 US), Rooms for couples with private bath $163 CN pp (~143 US), check website for other housing options, Rates include all meals, yoga classes, and use of hot tubs & facilities. They do not include workshop fees which vary (approx. $500 CN for a five-day program).


©Christina Bolton

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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