The Perfect Storm

A couple seeks serenity and scenic beauty during storm season in Vancouver, British Columbia.

After a two-year vacation drought, my husband and I decided it was high time to unplug. We zeroed in on the Wickaninnish Inn, a Relais & Châteaux hotel in Vancouver. Wickaninnish is a Native American word that means “no one in front of him in a canoe,” and when we arrived at the inn I understood how this luxurious haven got its name. There was nothing in front of it except the endless Pacific Ocean.

As we entered our room, the majestic view of the setting sun painted the ocean. A double soaker tub overlooked the million-dollar view. Surprised there was no TV, I later learned that it was hidden. Press a remote button, and it rises—James Bond-style—out of a dresser. 

That was the first of several delightful discoveries at this lovely inn. The space was fully equipped with a fireplace, bright yellow rain gear with matching rubber boots, CDs and outdoor blankets to keep warm on the private balcony.

The sustainable Wick Inn, as locals call it, was built with reclaimed red cedar. There are two buildings to choose from. We selected the original Pointe Building on the rugged ocean side. The newer building faces the white sandy Chesterman Beach.

After a refreshing nap we dressed for dinner. A leading culinary destination in Canada, the inn’s The Pointe Restaurant is known for ocean-to-plate meals with forged-fresh ingredients.

We enjoyed Pacific sole perched on cauliflower risotto topped with truffles, and crispy pork belly with seared scallop mousse presented like a reflection of the landscape surrounding the inn. The meal was so beautiful that I was almost hesitant to disturb such an artful presentation with knife and fork!

The sommelier skillfully paired exquisite white wines with our meals, including a variety from the Okanagan Valley, the Napa Valley of British Columbia. Another discovery: White wines that I like do exist!

    

Seascapes: The ocean is visible from just about every angle at the Wick Inn, which aims to pamper guests in a friendly, low-key manner. Bottom right: Local artist George Yearsley holds one of his wood-carving tools.

DAY 1: Tofino Outing 

For our maiden outing, we visited the town of Tofino, which is a 10-minute drive away. Along the main road there was a stream of locals (population: 2000) walking or biking in wet suits with surfboards. Tofino, Canada’s surf capital, offers surfing schools for every level, and as we saw, enthusiasts think nothing of flinging themselves daily into 54º water.

The town is also home to several award-winning restaurants. We selected Wolf in the Fog, which was recently named Canada’s best new restaurant, for lunch. We devoured fresh, locally harvested seaweed salad, halibut with homemade gnocchi, tuna cheek and bok choy, and finally a to-die-for butterscotch brulee with raspberry ice cream.

We browsed at Tofino’s famous Mermaid Bookstore before hitting the Eagle Aerie Gallery, owned by Roy Henry Vicker. The wood-carver’s art seamlessly fuses Mother Nature and spirituality in a contemporary style. The gallery, made with carved and painted cedar plank, is a sight unto itself.

 

DAY 2: Pampering 

Wick Inn’s top-ranked Ancient Cedar Spa is not to be missed. The natural eucalyptus steam cave was the perfect prescription to launch our day of relaxation. It is co-ed, which explains the mandatory “must be covered with a towel or swimsuit.”

The masseuse arrived with a tray of organic aromatherapy oils made by Tofino Soap Co., and our customized sensory journey began. We were transported into another world for a full hour, but our relaxed state lasted all night.

DAY 3: Adventure 

We arrived at Ocean Outfitters (oceanoutfitters.bc.ca) on Main Street in Tofino to board a 30-foot boat, Miss Chief. Powering off amid choppy water and high winds, we embarked on a 26-nautical-mile journey up the coast to the natural geothermal Hot Springs Cove at Maquinna Provincial Park.

The sights were wondrous. We saw three grazing grey whales, bald eagles and sea otters. The ship’s captain told us that sometimes they even see black bears that venture out of the dense forest to catch fish on the shoreline.

After an hour-and-a-half, immersed in exquisite wilderness, we arrived at Hot Springs Cove and made the tranquil 30-minute trek on the meandering historic cedar boardwalk into an enchanted rain forest. Suddenly we smelled the sulfur hot springs bubbling from the earth. Our boatload of tourists stripped down to swimsuits (tightie-whities for some) to soak.

We returned to Tofino via Atleo River Air Service (atleoair.com) in a floatplane.  The exhilarating airborne tour with book-perfect steep turns offered more whale sightings than the boat. Plus you could really get a sense of the size of the
gigantic creatures.

DAY 4: Art & Spirituality

On our final day we ventured back to Tofino to visit the gallery of well-regarded local wood-carving artist George Yearsley. George carves eagle feathers out of salvaged red and yellow cedar with his Swiss army knife and puts them on delicate handmade boxes.

We spent several hours watching George at his craft and listening to his compelling stories before strolling out for a final stroll on Chesterman Beach.

As my husband and I savored our last sunset and pondered the return to our bustling lifestyle, we felt grateful for our respite at the Wick and the opportunity to experience rustic elegance in such a captivating natural setting.