For over a year Julie and I discussed various ideas for a special trip to celebrate her 40th birthday (coming up in early August). Our original plan was Italy but in the end we decided on something closer to home. Or rather I decided on something closer to home as I planned this trip as a semi-surprise for her, dropping various hints along the way. The San Juan Islands seemed like a great choice, but when my parents offered to give us some timeshare points I used that to narrow my search and found a great property on Vancouver Island (Pacific Shores). You can find more photos from our adventure in my Flickr photo set.
We drove up the Olympic Peninsula and stopped at a few sites along the way, including a nice beach walk at low tide to see the clam and oyster harvesters on the Hood Canal. Also observed were dozens of beautiful bald eagles.
We spent much of our time hiking the areas around Nanaimo and Nanoose Bay. One of our favorites was the hike to Englishman River Falls.
Our hotel / condo / timeshare way exceeded our expectations, and we found ourselves dining in most nights. This meant picking up fresh fish or steaks from a local grocer, veggies, wine, etc., then strolling out to the point on the bay to cook outdoors and enjoy the sunset. This also led to some great conversations with other visitors.
I think Julie would agree that our favorite day was the 5-6 mile hike around Newcastle Island off Nanaimo. This is provincial park with no residences and some great hiking trails. We timed the visit so that we could walk across to Protection Island and have a beer at the Dinghy Dock pub before taking a ferry back to the mainland.