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The Perfect Summer Escape: Two Stunning British Columbia Resorts

Original Article by Laurie Werner for Forbes.com  

The Wickaninnish Inn is famous for storms. Given its position on the west coast of Vancouver Island fronting the open Pacific, this cedar Relais & Chateaux member luxury lodge gets storms rolling in with consummate drama, drawing guests in the winter to tuck in next to their bedroom fireplaces and watch the waves roar through floor to ceiling windows.  But that edge of the wilderness, waterfront location is also prime in the summer when the morning fog brings a cool start to the day and the crisper temperatures encourage hiking, or excursions to scout black bears or fish for salmon, followed by spa treatments incorporating First Nation rituals.

Part of the appeal of staying here, though, is interacting with the nearest town Tofino, a raffish place with a 60’s surfer spirit and an unusually active restaurant scene. It was, in fact, the last day of the surfing trials when I was there in early June even though the water was freezing and the air temperature in the 50′s.  (Wearing wet suits of varying thicknesses,locals surf all year here, regardless of the chill.)  Then they line up for a pulled pork or yellowfin tuna sandwich at The Wildside Grill   or the mac and cheese and pulled pork combo at RedCan Gourmet,for any of  Lisa Ahier’s creative, market ingredient driven, Pacific Northwest by way of Texas dishes at Sobo such as bison short ribs with whiskey habanero sauce  or stay in for the Wick’s complex, locally sourced menu.

At another Relais &Chateaux property,  Sonora Resort, you’re more self-contained—located on Sonora Island at the mouth of the Bute Inlet in the Discovery Islands, it’s reachable from Vancouver only by helicopter or boat and there is no real town nearby– but given the total serenity and beauty of the natural surroundings, there are no complaints. You can also go on a bear search nature tour here, skimming across glassy lakes punctuated by swirling whirlpools while eagles fly overhead scanning for fish and or seriously trawl for salmon (Sometimes you do the work but the eagle beats you to it, snatching the catch off the line.)  If you do  catch something, the chef will cook it for you. But even if you don’t, you’ll eat very well here—dishes such as Quadra Island scallops with shiitake mushrooms and bonito butter, roasted carrot tortellini with chanterelles, mushroom consommé and coriander oil and wild Chinook salmon with fennel, dill, cucumber,beet and Dungeness crab.

Guests can work off the meals with serious hiking, accompanied by one of the three resident golden retrievers if they’re in an exercise mood . Due to a tie-in with the Swiss company Valmont, this is also a perfect place to go for indulgent spa treatments or their version of local First Nation rituals. But given the absolute quiet and truly jaw dropping beauty, guests often do nothing but relax and stare out at the scenery, sightseeing that continues on if you take the helicopter back gliding past some of the most stunning pristine wilderness that you will ever see.

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