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Charming Inn on Vancouver Island

The chief would be proud. The Wickaninnish Inn, named after the First Nations chief of the local Clayoquot people at the time of European contact in the 1770’s, is a world class Relais & Chateaux property that manages to offer a completely luxe experience in a wilderness setting.

Owned and operated by the McDiarmid family, the inn represents the culmination of Dr. Howard McDiarmid’s dream. After moving to the town of Tofino on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island to head up the Tofino General Hospital in the 1950’s, he helped create the nearby Pacific Rim National Park reserve. But establishing the park resulted in converting a tiny inn (the original Wickaninnish Inn) into today’s interpretive center. The inn’s closure sparked Dr. McDiarmid’s vision to replace it with an elegant new lodge that still remained rustic in feel. Inspired by their father’s dream, the McDiarmid family turned that vision into a reality. The current Wickaninnish Inn opened in 1996 – and has been attracting discerning travelers ever since.

It’s easy to understand why. Giant yellow cedar doors, hand-carved with images of eagles, open to a lobby framing jaw dropping Pacific Ocean views, where the friendly reception staff will help get you settled.  The handsome cedar and stone West Coast architecture, soapstone seal carvings and direct access to Chesterman Beach are constant reminders of nature’s proximity. The 75 oceanfront guestrooms and suites are housed in two buildings. Rooms in the original Pointe building, recently refurbished, are smaller and range in size from 420 to 470 sq. ft. while those in the newer Beach building are a little over 600 sq. ft.

While there are several configurations for the rooms (some of which are pet friendly), all come with plush king beds and gas fireplaces and are decorated with smart cedar furnishings and local art. Some have bathrooms with a large window by the bath so you can admire the view outside. Others have double soaking tubs sitting smack against the window for up-close ocean views. Ours had an olive green leather club chair and footstool, as well as a sofa and coffee table with a scooped out indentation filled with loose shells and driftwood.

Exceptional care is paid to small details here that make a stay totally enchanting. The “Wick” (as it’s called) encourages guests to get outside no matter the weather.  In the closet you’ll find at the ready new yellow raingear, backpacks and stainless steel water bottles for use on hikes in the rainforest or strolling along the beach. (Rubber boots in different sizes are also available from the front desk.) Thick Hudson’s Bay wool blankets invite cozying up outside on your covered balcony, perhaps sipping a hot chocolate. And with a view like this, you can bet that all The Wick’s windows are squeaky clean – not an easy feat when you consider that it’s pummeled by rain a good portion of the year.

When it comes to dining, the inn’s Pointe Restaurant is the gourmet choice on this side of Vancouver Island. Perhaps a starter of shoestring potato-crusted oysters will whet your appetite? Followed by a tandoori salmon or rack of lamb with caramelized yoghurt endive? Deconstructed desserts include blackberries in Malbec sprinkled with morsels of Reblochon cheese or smoked tomato with milk chocolate and nasturtium. Soaring windows (of course) offer incredible ocean views on late summer evenings while a circular hammered copper fireplace warms up the space on stormy nights.  For lighter fare, the Wick recently opened up a new wine bar.

And if you’re craving some pampering, the Ancient Cedars Spa has treatment rooms by the water’s edge and a new steam cave. The whole package adds up to one priceless gem. And with Mother Nature this close to you, it’s little wonder that at the end of the day the Wick will be your security blanket.

Janice & George Mucalov - Travelsquire.com

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