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An unlikely oasis is waiting to be discovered in a Fraser Valley golf resort.
Golfers would likely recognize Rowena’s Inn on the River by the fairway that surrounds it: Harrison Mills isn’t exactly a buzzing area, and the Sandpiper Resort is an obvious landmark. But my partner and I didn’t make the trafficky two-hour drive from Vancouver to tee off. We’ve come to take a bath.
That’s a bit dramatic, I suppose, but it’s the truth. Rowena’s Inn on the River recently revealed their “Woodland Cabins”: six new accommodation options added to some already impressive lodgings. (Besides the boutique “Colonial” rooms within the inn itself, there are also cozy rustic cabins and modern luxury cabins—the latter are more like a house; the largest has three bedrooms.) Right—back to our bath. Patio ofuro tubs are the main draw of the Woodland Cabins. The outdoor red cedar barrel baths are what we’re here to check out. You’ve heard of destination dining. This is destination dipping.
The interior of the cabin has a modern, minimalist vibe: it’s all concrete, black, white and wood. A switch on the wall activates blinds that slowly reveal the patio tub, as well as a serene view of a little pond, the golf course and the Harrison River beyond. My partner and I get our swimsuits on and beeline for the tub. We’ll be bathing in no time.
Wrong. According to a printout on the coffee table, the tubs take “approximately one hour” to fill. That makes sense, of course. The deep tub gets me considering the eco-friendliness of this experience. We’ll fill the tub for an hour to sit for what—20 minutes? Then drain it all? I have about 45 minutes to consider the ethics of this, because that’s how long it actually takes for the tub to fill (it’s now 2:30 p.m.). There’s no soap or shampoo allowed, but the resort does provide a packet of all-natural lavender eucalyptus bath salt. That salt combined with the smell of the cedar is positively heavenly. The tub design is rather simple—one end has a slanted insert for leaning back on. Two people (including one who is over six feet tall) can comfortably fit.
Maybe it’s counterintuitive to lounge in a spa-like bath while reading a murder novel, but that’s the way I like to recharge. (Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier is my page-turner of choice.) We chill for about an hour—me reading about fictional killers leading double lives, my partner listening to Harry Styles—as the sun flickers through the trees and tiny birds hop along the patio railing (which, by the way, is positioned so that you can’t make awkward eye contact with anyone who happens to walk by, thank goodness). It’s perfectly peaceful, save for one moment when a disgruntled golfer yells, “Shit!” from across the course.
When it’s time to get out and dry off for our dinner reservation, my partner reaches in to pull the plug, but I stop him—if there’s any chance the water is warm-ish when we get back, I’d like to try it out. We slide on the heavy tub cover and head over to the on-site restaurant.
It’s exactly 7 p.m. when I gingerly lift the cover again. Steam comes billowing out. The ofuro tub is still very warm—in fact, it doesn’t seem even a degree cooler than when we covered it three and a half hours ago. We’re in and out for another two hours. The tub is even more tranquil at night. Those 45 minutes invested in filling it have more than paid off.
In the winter, Rowena’s Inn offers indoor whisky tastings every Thursday, a four-course fireside dining experience once a month and trails for salmon and eagle viewing from October to January. So there are plenty of things to do, other than golfing, at this quiet Fraser Valley resort. But there’s also something to be said for doing nothing—so long as that nothing is in a tub.
This story was originally published in the November 2023 issue of Vancouver Magazine.