At 25 years old, this ground-breaking B.C. hotel and restaurant is still stunning guests
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It's a foggy Sunday morning in June and the waves are crashing wildly into the rocks on the north end of Chesterman Beach in Tofino, B.C.
Inside the dining room of The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickanninnish Inn there's the gentle hum of people sitting down to brunch. It's impossible not to go silent - thanks in no small part to the massive floor-to-ceiling windows in the airy, expansive circular room - and pause from sipping coffee or fresh-squeezed fruit juice to gawk at the Pacific lashing the rocky shore. In the distance, surfers are making the most of the waves, and people are strolling the beach.
It's the perfect Tofino day.
The Wickanninsh Inn has been giving its hotel and restaurant guests these perfect Tofino moments for a remarkable quarter-century now, and at 25 years continues to stand out from the pack thanks to its meticulous attention to detail, a deep reverence for the land's history, and respect for all things local. It doesn't hurt that the property offers a breathtaking place to escape into the forest and sea with a heaping dose of luxury to boot.
Opened in 1996, the Wickanninish Inn is really a family story, led by Dr. Howard McDiarmid. McDiarmid served as the local Alberni-Clayoquot MLA from 1966 to 1972, and was part of the effort to create a national park designation in the region, which became the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Dr. McDiarmid long wished to create a gathering place on the family's land on Chesterman Beach, and in the 1990s, when tourism to Tofino was increasing, his sons took on the task.
Charles McDiarmid, who has been Managing Director of the Wickaninnish Inn since it opened 25 years ago, was born and raised in Tofino. If you should ever be so lucky to have McDiarmid show you around the property, you will immediately understand why nothing on the property is just about face value. There are stories surrounding each beautiful art object on display, the vintage maps in the mezzanine library room, and even about much of the materials used to build and maintain the property.
Hotel restaurant pioneered Tofino's acclaimed culinary scene
In The Pointe Restaurant, that same level of care is applied to the food, which walks that delicate line between fine dining and a relaxed resort experience. Before the era of the listicle or influencer, The Pointe was pulling in acclaim from critics and diners, and trailblazing the way for many Tofino restaurants to come. Today we might take for granted a chef or restaurant's philosophy of sourcing local, but the practice in the industry was rare - especially for a far-flung locale like the Wick's side of Vancouver Island - in The Pointe's infancy.
"As the opening chef of The Pointe Restaurant, I faced immense challenges," recalls Chef Rod Butters in the foreword to the 2018 Wickanninsh Inn Cookbook. "Our remote location required a fair amount of logistical problem solving, including sourcing and transporting food supplies." Butters adds that he also had to convince chefs and staff to take the risk and join him in Tofino - but that a year in, the restaurant and hotel's stellar reputation made that much easier.
"The Pointe Restaurant had become a destination, for visitors and staff alike," says Butters. The resort restaurant's launch "kicked off a culinary scene in Tofino that has made that little corner of the world a draw for anyone who appreciates great local food."
The result is a ripple effect that is felt - and enjoyed - now more than ever. Restaurants and chefs in Tofino have forged strong relationships with Island farmers and fishing outfits, and fostered a foraging culture, with the spoils passed on to the customer. Incredible food is a calling card for Tofino, from the original Tacofino truck to the refined Wolf In the Fog.
And The Pointe is still going strong. Currently under the direction of Chef Carmen Ingham, the North Vancouver native who placed second in the first-ever Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship competition and who has an impressive resume of roles with well-known B.C. restaurants and resorts, The Pointe continues to delight guests with its seasonal menus of elegant, approachable fare served in an incomparable setting.
Additionally, The Wick took advantage of the pandemic shut-down to make some renovations to the restaurant space, creating an expansive bar area, featuring a bar top that keeps your drink cool - a decidedly cool touch.
Named one of the top hotels in the world
The restaurant certainly is part of what helped The Wickanninish land Travel + Leisure's recently-released list of the top hotels in the world, too. Ranked 80th of the 100 stunning properties around the globe, Tofino's storied Wick was among just a couple of Canadian stays honoured on the list.
Since the pandemic continues to have an impact on travel, events, and staffing, The Wick is opting to keep 25th anniversary celebrations on the subdued side for the time being, but the restaurant is eager to once again be able to offer special dinners and events. No matter the occasion, whether its peak summer or moody storm watching season, a stop at The Pointe (or better yet, a stay at The Wickanninsh) makes for a perfect Tofino day.