By Michele Peterson
Photos: Jeremy Koreski, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
Some of the planet’s best outdoor adventures happen on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve. Here, where the mountains meet the Pacific, black bears scoop salmon from the water’s edge, inlets come alive with breaching whales and eagles soar overhead.
To experience this still-wild frontier, head to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, an exclusive collection of luxury white canvas prospector-style tents tucked at the end of a remote 11-kilometre fjord where the Bedwell River spills into the Pacific Ocean.
Flanked by one of the last remaining ancient temperate rainforests in the world, this all-inclusive Relais & Châteaux resort is open seasonally and features a wealth of upscale amenities from an indulgent spa to gourmet cuisine.
Yet, the most incredible memories come from immersion into a natural setting few get to experience. The sense of freedom enjoyed while kayaking, horseback riding, and hiking in serenity is the ultimate luxury in an ever-busy, complicated world.
You’ll feel as though you’ve left the rest of the world behind as you fly by seaplane through the clouds over the mountain peaks of Vancouver Island, less than 60 minutes from Vancouver. Located 30 kilometres outside of Tofino on the west coast, the resort is named after the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region, a biologically unique ecosystem treasured for its fragile diversity.
Clayoquot Sound is home to ancient temperate rainforest, countless lakes, rivers and streams, alpine mountains, open Pacific Ocean, rocky shores and sandy beaches, as well as estuaries and mud flats. In addition to serving as a feeding, breeding, and staging habitat for resident and migratory birds, mammals, fish, and other species, it’s culturally rich.
The wilderness resort itself is situated in Ahousaht First Nation territory — part of the Nuu-chah-nulth (formerly known as Nootka) tribal council comprised of 15 related tribes whose traditional home is on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The Ahousaht have occupied Clayoquot Sound for over 2,000 years, and their traditional ecological philosophy of ‘Hishuk Ish Ts’awalk,’ which means “all things are one,” is shared by Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in all aspects of its operation.
Founder Richard Genovese opened the 243- hectare tented outpost in 2000, and it’s since grown into Canada’s premiere eco-safari resort, where guests have the opportunity to experience the interconnectedness between people and the planet.
Sustainable and eco-friendly design
The guiding principle at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is offering guests an authentic wilderness experience while protecting, restoring, and enhancing the biosphere’s delicate ecosystems through special initiatives such as the Coastal Ambassador Program, where resort guests travel to remote islands within Clayoquot Sound to clear debris and restore wildlife habitat. Other projects include partnerships focused on creating new salmon spawning grounds and restoring native stocks to river systems.
Resort-wide eco-friendly operations include a ban on single-use plastic and styrofoam, recycling of all non-organic materials, composting of
100 per cent of organic waste, energy efficient LED lighting, naturally filtered local water, and more.
Luxurious accommodation and exceptional service
Set against a canopy of old-growth rainforest and fashioned after turn-of the-century great camps, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort features 25 white canvas prospector-style tents arranged along the water’s edge, in the forest, and on a hillside overlooking the estuary, all connected by wooden boardwalks and enjoying unparalleled Relais & Châteaux service.
Sixteen luxury waterfront ensuite tents are appointed with king bed comfort plus a queen sofa bed and private deck. An in-tent bathroom features blissfully heated floors, double sinks, a flush toilet, and a private outdoor cedar shower. Each of the tents includes a remote controlled cast-iron stove, vintage oil lamps, antiques, and furniture crafted from naturally fallen trees milled onsite.
Another highlight is the gourmet cuisine. Guests enjoy an ever-evolving menu featuring choices such as sustainably sourced wild halibut, Queen Charlotte scallops, or Cache Creek strip loin. Each dish is a work of art.
Meals are served within the Cookhouse Dining Room, a grand timber building with a wood-burning fireplace, open kitchen bar, and floor-to-ceiling windows. An onsite vegetable herb garden and greenhouse provide organic, fresh produce; plus, the resort partners with local artisans, retailers, and food suppliers to ensure products are sustainably foraged and harvested. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is a member of the Ocean Wise® program, which guarantees all seafood on the menu is local and sustainably harvested.
At the resort’s modern tugboat-shaped Ivanhoe Glass Lounge Bar with panoramic windows overlooking mountains and sea, guests can explore an expansive sake menu featuring local BC and Japanese sakes or sample oak barrel-aged cocktails such as a Clayoquot Manhattan crafted with Shelter Point Sunshine Liqueur, a blend of barley spirits and maple syrup.
Connect with nature
Mornings begin with sunrise yoga and meditation at the Healing Grounds Spa, located on a perch set among cedars overlooking the estuary. This eco-spa also offers restorative wellness treatments for body, mind, and soul including, wraps, facials, and massage using luxurious Yon-Ka skincare products.
Days are spent immersed in nature with a wide range of unforgettable independent and fully guided adventures. Guests enjoy an all-inclusive menu of marine and land-based activities including, whale and bear watching, deep-sea and fly-fishing, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding.
An extraordinary menu of extra activities such as heli-adventures is also available. While exploring this natural playground, guests can expect to spot wildlife such as grey whales, California sea lions, sea otters, harbour porpoises, bald eagles, and more. With abundant wildlife, living culture, and kind-to the-planet lodging at the edge of vast, silent wilderness, this rare and remarkable luxury escape is sure to inspire.
Michele Peterson is an award-winning Ontario based travel, food and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at michelepeterson.com.
• Clayoquot Wilderness Retreat: The all-inclusive three, four, and seven-night packages include luxury tented accommodation, meals, snacks, and beverages including, featured wines, beer and alcohol, horse drawn wagon shuttle, adventure activities, spa treatment (dependent on the length of stay), evening turndown service, in-room amenities and more. wildretreat.com
• Eco-safari season: Clayoquot Wilderness Retreat is open from May to September.
• Getting there: The 45-minute transfer via Seair seaplane departing from YVR South Terminal to the resort dock can be arranged independently or by the resort. Or guests can fly to Tofino (YAZ) on Vancouver Island and take a 40-minute boat transfer to the resort. Cost for the transfers can be added to package rates.
• Official Tourism BC: Get visitor and travel information at hellobc.com
• Fairmont Vancouver Airport: Fairmont Vancouver Airport is a soundproofed, luxury hotel and spa
located within Vancouver International Airport and near YVR South Terminal.fairmont.com/vancouverairport-richmond