A modern-day frontier lodge, the Wickaninnish Inn hotel in Tofino perches in rugged forests beside the wild churning waters of the northern Pacific. Each room holds a giant soaking tub, fireplace and balcony for best admiring ocean views, and the hotel offers rain gear and binoculars for the intrepid. Any adventures should be rewarded with time in the superlative hyper-local restaurant, or the spa, which bases its natural treatments on native traditions.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £286.03 (CA$491), including tax at 17 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (from CA$25), but include valet parking and bikes to borrow.
The hotel has three accessible rooms, just be sure to let them know when booking to make sure there's enough availability.
The hotel closes annually from 2 January until early February.
At the hotel
Spa with a steam room and yoga room, fitness room, library, carving shed, art gallery, free bikes to borrow, rain jackets and boots, CD/DVD library, free WiFi throughout In rooms: flatscreen TV, free filtered water and binoculars.
Our favourite rooms
It's all about the views at the Wickaninnish Inn. Each room looks out toward the Pacific, though rooms on higher floors tend to have the most sweeping panoramas. The west-facing Pointe rooms are very private, and have the best sunset views. They're perfect spots to hole up during storms to watch waves crash against the rocks. Premier Corner Rooms have ocean views on both west and south exposures.
Nestled within the forest, Ancient Cedars Spa has four treatment rooms and two couples rooms, an ocean-facing patio, steam room and yoga room. Full-body treatments draw on ancient healing methods to detoxify, hot stone and aromatic massages use natural oils to relax the muscles, and custom-made facials help cleanse and hydrate. Whether you're a fully-fledge yogi or just starting out, private yoga classes in the Rainforest Haven room are tailored to you.
Don't fret if you forget your wellies: the hotel has very thoughtfully stocked the closet in each room with his-and-hers Helly Hansen rain gear, with boots available at the front desk. There is also a pair of binoculars in each room. Bring lots of layers to accommodate the unpredictable weather changes.
Forest-sheltered Ancient Cedars Spa has a range of treatments, including Hishuk Ish Tsawalk awakening treatment, which brings together fire, water, earth and air in a cleansing ceremony inspired by the region's indigenous people.
Welcome; request a pet-friendly room when booking. The hotel charges CA$60 per night for Fido to bed down (CA$80 for two), and will provide toys, treats and a dog bed; there is also a pet shower for after beach walks. See more pet-friendly hotels in Vancouver Island.
Welcome; under-threes stay for free, and there's a CA$40 (plus tax) nightly charge for anyone three-and-up. The hotel offers games, babysitting services, kids' menus and endless activities for those old enough to explore the natural environs.
Over fives: since the terrain is rugged, children should be comfortable enough to join parents on nature walks and beach strolls.
Beach Loft Suites are the best for families: The two-level rooms have a queen-size sofa bed set apart from the master bedroom, and a full kitchen with a dining area.
The hotel provides beach toys for low-tide playtime and takes full advantage of its natural surroundings, offering scavenger hunts for little explorers.
The Pointe is very child-friendly, and has a kids' menu, along with booster seats and high chairs. The kitchen can warm bottles as well. In high season, the hotel offers family-friendly clam bakes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Babysitters are available at no charge to watch children under 12 while parents dine at the hotel restaurants. At all other times, the hotel can arrange for sitters starting at CA$10.25 an hour.
No need to pack
The hotel can provide books, movies and board games to keep little ones occupied. The hotel can also arrange kids' movie nights. There are kids-size bathrobes for after a soak in the deep tubs.
The hotel stocks a few child-sized bicycles – in addition to the adult-size cruisers – so that families can explore the surroundings.
The hotel is quite green: it’s located within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and works to protect its surroundings. Buildings were laid out to disturb the fewest trees possible, and the hotel encourages patrons to explore on foot or by bicycle, rather than by car. Nearly all of the food is local; leftover scraps are composted on-site.
By day, sit near the windows to soak up the ocean views. At night, sit near the copper stove at the heart of the restaurant, where all the action is.
If there is such a thing as fine fleece, wear it here. The dress code ranges from those in grubby post-hike attire to locals celebrating a night out. Crisp shirts and chunky jewellery should do nicely.
The Pointe Restaurant serves chefs Warren Barr and David Sider's West Coast cuisine with 240-degree ocean views. Much of the kitchen's seafood comes from the surrounding waters. The results are exceptional: mussels steam in local ale with blue-cheese crostini, and duck confit elevates already-decadent eggs Benedict. Though it's easy to fill up by dessert, those who save room can choose between pastry-chef-cum-mad-scientist Matt Wilson's conventional and unconventional sweets. The wine list is also notable, with an extensive array of British Columbian options. The more casual Driftwood Café in the Beach Building serves house-made pastries, omelettes and light bites by day, with a tapas menu at night.
On the Rocks is set on a platform above the restaurant, with sea views and oversized wooden furniture. Drinks are creative, and include chorizo infusions and aromatics. Bar snacks keep in line with Driftwood’s seafood focus, so keep an eye out for octopus wings and curried fish.
The Pointe serves from 7.30am until 9pm each day. Driftwood Café serves from 8am until 2pm, then from 5pm until 10pm.
Menus from Pointe and the lounge are available in your room between 7.30am and 9pm.
The Wickaninnish Inn is located in Tofino, on Vancouver Island, near the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
The small regional Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ) is the closest, a 20-minute drive from the hotel. Since it is quite small, most visitors will arrive through Vancouver International Airport (YVR), which offers flights to major cities including New York (www.united.com), London (www.ba.com) and Los Angeles (www.aa.com). From there, it is a 45-minute flight to Tofino (www.flyorcaair.com). There are also flights from Victoria.
Many people drive through British Columbia to take in the natural beauty. The drive from Victoria takes about four hours. The drive from Nanaimo is spectacular, and will take you through old-grown forests, tiny towns and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Worth getting out of bed for
Nature is your entertainment centre at the Wick. Check the tidal calendars, then head for a low-tide stroll along Chesterman Beach. The forests and reserve are packed with hiking trails. The area is also dense with wildlife. Arrange to go bear-watching, or take binoculars outside to catch a glimpse of bald eagles. On the water, head out to look for whales or catch fish. Not far from the Inn, The Kwisitis Visitor Centre on Wickaninnish Beach is the first port of call for anyone wanting to learn about the culture and history of the Pacific Rim National Park. If you have little ones along, visit the Ucluelet Aquarium, a community-supported centre, 30–40 minutes away by car, on Ucluelet's Main Street Waterfront Promenade, with touch tanks and cool north-Pacific marine life (www.uclueletaquarium.org). The hotel staff seem to know about everything, and can set you up with any activities, including surfing, fishing, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding. Then head back for a treatment at the Ancient Cedars Spa. Although there's a small charge to use the steam room, it's well worth it.
Serving what it calls Japanese-inspired comfort food, Kuma Tofino (+1 250 725 2215; www.kumatofino.com) on Fourth Street prepares flavour-filled share plates and spicy kimchi udon noodle bowls. All tables are kept for walk-ins. At 601 Capbell Street, The Shelter (+1 250 725-3353; www.shelterrestaurant.com) merits a visit for it's sophisticated take on seasonal dishes (especially the local fish and seafood). On Pacific Rim Highway, Wildside Grill (+1 250 725 9453; www.wildsidegrill.com) is owned by a fisherman and a chef who prepare seafood hauled in exclusively from local waters for dishes like a salmon burger, wild-fish and chips, and panko-crusted cod sandwich. On Peninsula Road in Ucluelet, a 30–40-minute drive from the Inn, The Offshore has a wickedly good way with fish. The house speciality is crab – in Dungeness crab sushi and bisque – but don't miss the spicy halibut club sandwich and seafood chowder. Also on Peninsula Road in Ucluelet, Norwoods wins consistent praise as one of the best restaurants in the country (+1 250 726 7001; www.norwoods.ca). Chef Richard Norwood focuses on local fish, served in diverse preparations influenced by his travels across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
On the road into Tofino, keep an eye out for the bright art-covered orange Tacofino truck. The owner serves fish tacos that cradle slivers of crisp fried cod or seared soy-marinated tuna with mango salsa (www.tacofino.com). On Pacific Rim Highway, near the usual spot for Tacofino, Tofitian serves strong coffee and light pastries, which are ideal to bring along on hikes (+1 250 725 2631). Or head for Common Loaf (+1 250 725 3915), a small café on First Street serving house-made pastries and crunchy granola.
From the window of our eight-seat plane, it looked as though you could reach out and tousle Vancouver Island’s nearby mountaintops. Towering above a patchwork of jewel-coloured lakes, unending expanses of forest and a frothy white fringe of ocean, this drama was just a hint of what Tofino had to offer.
Mr Smith (who, two weeks previously, had made me his Mrs) and I were embarking on the final element of our Canadian honeymoon. So far it had been an increasingly gasp-inducing Rocky Mountain wilderness tour with accommodations unencumbered by modern affectations (read: no electricity or running water). All wonderful, but the lure of a high thread count had never been greater.
As we pulled up to our luxury resort, the first of the Inn’s two buildings, Wickaninnish-on-the-Beach, loomed above us with its stern driftwood grey façade softened by the sea fog curling around its edges. We continued on through the old-growth forest to the Pointe building where we were to be staying. Its huge, richly carved yellow cedar double-doors were pulled open and our bags whisked away.
After a cheerful welcome, we were shown to our a second-floor Deluxe room, where we tried to pay attention to a briefing on how to boost the underfloor heating and make the flatscreen appear – but, with a freshly unveiled vista of the Pacific crashing into view, it was impossible to do anything but gawp. This is what the Wick does best: artfully framing the most spectacular scenery so that – despite the fact that you’re cossetted in luxury – the raw power of the great outdoors is close enough to touch.
Left alone, we began a giddy inspection of our new surroundings (ooh! Fisherman’s sou’westers in the wardrobe! Blankets for the balcony! Tide timetable!). Armed with the room’s binoculars and a local Kettle Valley red (it would’ve been rude not to sample such a well-stocked minibar) we headed straight for our slate-floored patio to scan the now-glossy ocean for whales. As the famed mammals proved elusive, we freshened up – I mentally made an appointment with the pristine white double-bath for a tea-light lit soak later that evening.
But first, cocktails were in order. We made our way down to the On the Rocks Lounge. Under this cedar-beamed big top, hand-textured panels frame a floor-to-ceiling seascape that dominates on almost all sides and a wood-burning stove glows in the centre. The room’s workmanship was by a local wood carver named Henry Nolla who came to the Wick in the Seventies – the legend of his skill (and equally impressive beard) lives on in his workshop on Chesterman beach. Settling in, we ordered palate-piquing thyme-infused gin cocktails and sampled the hotel’s handmade breads, served alongside silky salted butter churned on-site. Now we were officially hungry.
Heading outside to the beachfront crab cookout, we take a seat on one of the driftwood-hewn pews, the informality of the setting inspiring conversation between guests. We soon found we were surrounded by a devoted tribe of Wick followers, many of whom return year on year for their fix. Pots of steaming Dungeness crab were served with dressing-slicked salads, corn and – guiltily – more of that pillowy homemade bread. For those with capacity, there were trays of elegant tartlets and mousses for dessert, but we were too distracted by the enticing glow of a campfire and the sticky pleasure of toasting marshmallows on foraged sticks.
The next morning, reluctantly leaving behind the most comfortable night’s sleep on record – thank you, king-size – we stopped in at the Pointe restaurant for a fortifying coffee and eggs breakfast before taking advantage of the hotel’s fleet of Raleigh beach cruiser bikes to pedal the 20-minutes into Tofino town for a kayak adventure. The early sea fog gave our water-bound adventure an especially mysterious feel, and before long we were paddling Clayoquot Sound with a ferociously knowledgeable guide, to investigate mist-shrouded islands and myriad sea creatures. A blissful couple of hours slid by before we returned to shore to seek out the local speciality Tacofino – a bright-orange van where you’ll wait in line with hordes of wet-suited surfers for the Baja-style fish and seared tuna tacos.
We’d hoped to round off the day with a trip to the Ancient Cedars Spa, perhaps in one of its little treatment shacks that sit on the rocky outcrop, but we weren’t the only ones to be tempted. Disappointingly, it was fully booked for the duration of our stay. Instead, we explored the rainforest-fringed shore. As it turns out, strolling along the sands – crashing waves on one side and snow-capped mountain-tops on the other – is a pretty good tonic for body and soul, too.
The highlight of our trip came that evening, with a tasting menu at the Pointe restaurant, the beating heart of the hotel. Despite having our noses pressed against the glass to take in the spectacle of sunset over the Pacific (you’ll feel shortchanged with anything other than a window seat), the food managed to compete for attention. We tucked into five courses – all starring local ingredients such as seared scallops and striped prawns artfully presented on Japanese porcelain – which were served alongside excellently matched wines.
With a serene moon shining over the water, it was a romance-steeped few hours. Mr Smith and I speculated it would look every bit in a surf-lashed winter storm, and we quietly resolved to come back – after all, you’ve got to save something for a rainy day.