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Indulging at nature's edge

"OMG, I am so in heaven!"

My nine-year-old daughter has just scooped up the cache of amenities in the bathroom of our oceanfront guest room at The Wickaninnish Inn near Tofino. She's clutching mini bottles of Italian spa product line [comfort zone] and before I can sample the goods, she's stashed them away in her backpack, reserving a canister of bath salts to crack open later when she tries out the soaker tub. This, too, captures my tween's fascination, thanks to the large picture window with shutters that open the tub to our room and the ocean view beyond. There's an impromptu show for her little brother with fits of giggles and much opening and closing of shutters. And this is how my "relaxing spa getaway" begins.

Kids don't always factor into a weekend of spa indulgence, but when child care and work schedules collide, children come along. The "Wick," perched on the west coast of Vancouver Island near Tofino, has a well-deserved reputation as a romantic retreat for couples (there's even an elopement co-ordinator on staff) but management also - thankfully - makes this Relais & Chateaux property a welcoming place for families.

Child-size robes hang in our bathroom, kid-size gumboots and raingear in the closet.

Near the fireplace is a welcome basket of beach toys, locally authored children's books and the clues to a scavenger hunt that takes little explorers over the rocks, through the forest and on the beach - all on Wickaninnish Inn property.

The concierge will even arrange for an in-room babysitter so mom and dad can tuck into a quiet table downstairs at The Pointe Restaurant for award-winning cuisine, grown-up conversation and a 240-degree view of the pounding Pacific surf.

On our first morning at the inn, the kids and their dad head off on a guided nature walk so mom can get down to important business: a visit to the spa.

The readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine voted the Ancient Cedars Spa the top resort spa in Canada two years in a row. The spa incorporates elements of the inn's natural West Coast surroundings into its a slate of signature treatments.

The spa menu changes seasonally and includes the Hishuk Ish Tswalk treatment based on the natural cleansing ceremonies of the West Coast First Nations. I opt for the West Coast Sacred Sea, a full-body hydrotherapy revitalization.

My treatment starts with a full-body exfoliation using a Seaflora body polish with seaweeds harvested by Vancouver Island's "Seaweed Lady" Diane Bernard. Next, I indulge in a hydrotherapy soak, where warm jets of water massage up and down my back like waves on the shore. After my soak, a firming seaweed gel is applied to my whole body, I'm wrapped in warm linens and I drift off to sleep. I'm revived from my slumber by a rejuvenating scalp and foot massage.

I blissfully float outside and down to the beach to find the kids happily clambering over the rocks and wading in the surf. We wander over to the Carving Shed to visit with "Feather" George Yearsley, the inn's resident carver. Later, at the invitation of the Wick's owner and manager Charles McDiarmid, we spend the afternoon at Shell Beach, the inn's sheltered cove that plays host to weddings and other special events, and is accessible only by private driveway. Then it's off to Tofino for pizza dinner at the chic yet child-friendly eatery Shelter before turning in for the night and falling asleep to the crashing waves.

The next morning, after gobbling fresh-baked muffins from the inn's Driftwood Cafe, we're off to the beach for a lesson with Surf Sister Surf School and then checkout. There's just enough time to brave the lineup at the Tacofino food truck, a Tofino phenom that serves up Baja-style fish tacos, before hitting the road for the journey home - with sand in our hair, sea salt on our skin and the wild West Coast in our hearts.

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When you go: Crab Cookouts start June 24. The Wickaninnish Inn invites in-house guests down to the beach on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings to watch the sunset and enjoy a Tofino tradition: cooking up sweet local Dungeness crab with all the fixin's. Reserve your minimum four-night getaway in a room or suite July 1-14 and save $80/night off regular room rates. Visit

Catch your first wave with Surf Sister Surf School, the only all-girls surf camp sponsored by Billabong in Western Canada, which offers group and private lessons. There's even a Mother/Daughter surf camp: July 15-17, $295 per person for three days of three-hour lessons.

Getting there: Visit for sailing times and to reserve your crossing. Travelling with kids? BC Ferries has partnered with Parks Canada to offer the Coastal Naturalist program, which runs onboard select summer sailings on Vancouver-Victoria and Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo routes.

Enthusiastic young naturalists introduce ferry-goers to B.C.'s unique wildlife and marine life, coastal, nautical and cultural history during these 20-minute interactive presentations.

Original Article by Layne Christensen for North Shore News

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