When the call of the wild reaches fever pitch, few places answer quite like Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, a rugged luxury lodge on the Pacific coast of British Columbia. Reached only by air or water, the lodge crests the shore of the Mackenzie Sound, a saltwater channel flanked by the mighty Great Bear Rainforest. It’s miles from the nearest town and surrounded by hills swathed with thick forest, attesting to the grit and determination of founders Deborah and Craig, who began building in 1980. Their unfailing optimism has made Nimmo one of the most sought-after lodges of its kind, as famous for its wildlife as it is for its part-of-the-family-style hospitality. Bears and bobcats may have the run of the woods, but the lodge is a haven of creature comforts, including cedarwood hot tubs, a floating sauna and a toasty bar stocked with whiskies and fine wines – the perfect cap to a day’s heli-fishing or whale watching.
Double rooms from £1791.57 (CA$3,140), including tax at 5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional room tax of CA$10.00 per person per night on check-out and an additional resort fee of CA$50.00 per person on check-out.
The all-inclusive rate covers all meals, select alcoholic drinks and guided activities like boat tours, kayaking and hiking trips.
Be sure to read some of Deborah and Craig’s remarkable book about Nimmo, charting their story and family history. You’ll find a copy in the lodge.
Nimmo Bay is open from May to October each year.
At the hotel
Unbridled access to remote rainforest, lakes and inlets; floating alfresco lounge and sauna; WiFi throughout; laundry. In rooms: a free minibar stocked with local wine, juices, sodas and beer; tea and coffee kit; a steel water bottle for each guest to keep; a Bose sound system and organic Silk Road bath products.
Our favourite rooms
There are two room types to choose from – the red-roofed intertidal cabins, which are on the waterfront, and the green-roofed forest cabins. The intertidal cabins stand on stilts over the sound, so you’ll be able to see the changing tide and hear the soft lap of the waves. The forest cabins are surrounded by thick greenery and are close to the stream, making them a perfect match for anyone who likes to fall asleep to the splash and gurgle of running water.
There’s no pool, but you’ve got the whole of Little Nimmo Bay to play with. You can slip into the water from the shore and swim out to the floating sauna, climbing the ladder to sun yourself on the deck. For something less bracing, soak in one of the cedarwood hot tubs by the waterfall.
Other spas might inspire a floaty feeling, but Nimmo Bay’s floating sauna hut takes it to literal heights. Anchored in Big Nimmo Bay, it’s surrounded by placid water and framed by thickly forested hills, making it that bit more meditative. Back on land, there’s a massage hut with walls of glass overlooking the surrounding trees. The therapists offer everything from a 45-minute therapeutic massage to a day-long package of tailored work. Yoga and pilates classes are available, and there’s a fitness room with weights, a treadmill and a spin bike.
Bring something to wrap up with in the evenings – guests often gather on the deck for sunset drinks, when it can sometimes get a little chilly.
The landscape runs wild out here, making it unsuitable for wheelchairs.
Welcome. Cots and babysitting are available on request. Under-twos stay for free, children aged 2-12 are charged 25 per cent of the room rate; additional guests aged 13-and-above are charged the full adult rates (prices vary by season).
Out on the deck, where you'll feel most in tune with the landscape.
As you like, but bring an extra layer if you’re eating outside, as it can get a little chilly after dark.
As with all things Nimmo, dining is tied to the landscape and is as ecologically kind as possible. Luckily for him, chef David Hassell has access to some of the best ingredients in British Columbia, particularly seafood like wild Pacific salmon, albacore tuna and dungeness crab, which he can buy from local fisherman on a daily basis. The beef is always pasture raised and from BC farms, and many of the greens, including flowers, berries, leaves and roots, are foraged from the local area. Meals are a sociable affair and can be had inside or out on the deck, depending on the weather. The format changes from night to night – sometimes it’ll lean towards tasting-menu-style dining, at others, you’ll tuck into a decadent spread of local seafood – often with a large crab as the centrepiece. Bread, pastries and sweet treats like ice cream are always made fresh on sit, too.
There’s a cosy and well stocked bar in the main lodge. House spirits, wine and beer are included in your rate, and there’s a list of premium tipples and cocktails like the Sea to Cedar, made with cedar-infused gin.
Breakfast is served from 6am to 9.30am; lunch from 1pm to 2pm; dinner from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Drinks are served at the bar from 5pm to midnight.
You’ll find Nimmo Bay on the shores of Mackenzie Sound, a remote saltwater channel on British Columbia’s rugged Pacific coast.
The hotel is in a remote part of the Great Bear Rainforest, so getting there is part of the experience. First, you’ll need to get to Port Hardy, just over an hour from Vancouver by air. Once there, you can hop aboard Nimmo’s seaplane for CAD$170 a person each way, or charter your own privately. If you’ve booked a full heli-fishing of heli-venture package, you’ll have a helicopter transfer from Port Hardy to Nimmo Bay included in your rate.
You can only get to the hotel by air or water, so you won’t need a set of wheels.
Worth getting out of bed for
Nimmo’s biggest draw is that the wilderness begins right on the doorstep. Climb into a kayak or onto a paddle board, and in no time you’ll be cruising past untouched forest that climbs into mist-shrouded hills – hills that are filled with rushing mountain streams and ruled by bears, bobcats and birds of prey.If bears are at the top of your list, you’re in for a treat: the biodiversity of the rainforest attracts large numbers of black and grizzly bears, and Nimmo’s guides are experts at seeking them out. Tours can be done on land or sea, where you’ll be able to safely watch bears and their cubs frolicking and fishing for salmon (in season). After a day out in the wilds, retire to the floating sauna or one of the cedar hot tubs for a well-earned soak, watching the waterfall that rushes past the lodge.
Getting around the local area isn’t easy – there aren’t many roads in this neck of the woods and none lead to the hotel, which is why Nimmo’s team have several helicopters and boats at their beck and call. Their most famous experience is heli-fishing, during which you’ll fly out to remote lakes and crystal-clear streams, casting for wily chinook and steelhead salmon alongside various types of trout. You’ll have access to more than 50,000 square miles of terrain, so if you’re having no luck, it’s simply a matter of hopping back in the chopper and trying somewhere else. The helicopters can also be booked for aerial adventure tours, giving you unprecedented access to ancient glaciers, vast waterfalls, virgin forests and glassy mountain lakes. In a day, you could swim, raft, hike and go wildlife-spotting – the choice is entirely yours. The forests and waters are teeming with all manner of animals, including humpback whales, black and brown bears and sea lions.
With the nearest town an hour’s boat ride away, you’re unlikely to be eating out.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury lodge in British Columbia and unpacked their fly-fishing kit, a full account of their Canadian wilderness break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in British Columbia…
All the best hotels are underpinned by a great story. Wherever hoteliers choose to plant their flag, it takes grit and vision to create something a cut above the rest, but few places show quite the same pioneering spirit that helped found Nimmo Bay. The hotel is the life’s work of owners Deborah and Craig, who first crossed paths in Port McNeill in the Seventies. Both had wound up there with on equally intrepid paths – Craig with the hope of building a boat and sailing around the world, Deborah because she had strapped on a rucksack and hitchhiked from Ontario to Canada’s Pacific coast. Arriving in Port McNeill one day, she took a job as a waitress to make ends meet, and on her first shift, in strolled Craig. One cup of coffee later (the best he’s had in his life, he says), the stage was set. Unafraid of the wild and seemingly allergic to the easy route, the couple decided to move to Nimmo Bay, a place with no roads, electricity or residents (other than the bears and bobcats that roam the surrounding hills).
Several decades later, their ceaseless pioneering has transformed their floating house into a luxury lodge – a place that offers heli-fishing, tailored spa treatments and food to rival Vancouver’s best restaurants. The cabins are cosy and the service slick and tailored, but neither they nor their children (who have now taken over) have lost sight of what makes Nimmo special – the sheer, unapologetic nature that surrounds it on all sides.