Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Checking In: The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino

The Wick (Courtesy of The Wickaninnish Inn)
It’s hard to imagine anything more thrilling than exploring wildlife in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. But I have to admit – an overnight stay at The Wickaninnish Inn (above) in Tofino presents some serious competition for Mother Nature.

I spent three nights in heaven at The Wickaninnish Inn – a Relais & Châteaux hotel with five star service and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. “The Wick” is also the sole resort located on Chesterman Beach, Tofino’s longest beach at 2.5km of white sand. 

Before arriving, I had heard nothing but praise from tourists and locals alike, who predicted that I’d be spoiled rotten by the resort. And they were right – my experience was so amazing that I decided to write a feature article about The Wick.

The Wick really rolls out the red carpet for its guests. Driving up to the front door (below), I was greeted by the valet and the concierge - ready to park my car, whisk away my bags, and offer a private tour of the resort. 
Entrance to The Wick
It’s the little things that add up to create luxury at The Wick. Guests are treated to complimentary valet service during their stay. Rooms are equipped with yellow rain slickers and umbrellas for guests (just in case of a storm, of course). In the early evening, hotel staff “turn down” the  rooms – closing drapes, fluffing pillows, replenishing supplies, and switching on soft music for their guests. 
Set against a backdrop of rainforest, two cedar buildings house luxurious rooms (above) -- all with ocean or beach views, gas fireplaces, spa-like bathrooms, and balconies. The rooms set an atmosphere of “rustic elegance” with driftwood furniture and weathered tones in the décor. Step onto the balcony to inhale the salt air and watch the sunset over the ocean.

“We wanted to bring nature into the rooms,” staff member Claire MacDonald, told me on the hotel tour. 

The modern upgrades create an ultra-luxurious experience. My bathroom had a Jacuzzi-like tub, spa products, and heated floors. I didn’t waste any time flicking on the gas fireplace, opening a bottle of red, and putting on my terry cloth robe (below). At night, I nestled under a fluffy duvet, ready to set up a permanent base camp in the heavenly bed.
The Wickaninnish Inn was the brainchild of local Tofino residents, Dr. Howard McDiarmid and his son Charles, who dreamed of building a luxury hotel in Tofino that honoured its natural surroundings. They opened The Wick as a family-run resort in 1996. Over the years, the hotel expanded to add a library, fitness centre, cafe, and second sun-filled lobby with sweeping views of Chesterman Beach (below).
The lobby (left), view from the Driftwood Cafe (centre), and the Lookout Library (right)

Tree-hugging readers will be pleased that The Wick has taken some drastic measures to go green.

“The entire Pointe building was moved a few feet to save a cedar tree,” Claire told me.

She’s not kidding. The Krumholtz Cedar tree still stands today, just to the East side of The Pointe Restaurant. Also, recycled wood has been used to construct parts of the hotel. Cedar and spruce trees cleared from the lot were reused in the walls of the lobby, Driftwood Café and Lookout Library. 

Douglas Fir wood salvaged from a demolished building was transformed into the furniture and liners & trim at every door and window. Just take a closer look at the wood for tiny nail marks and occasional bolt hole (above). 
The Pointe Restaurant (Courtesy of the Wickaninnish Inn)
Foodies don’t have to go far to sample excellent food. The Pointe Restaurant (above) offers hearty West Coast cuisine presented with an artistic twist. Grab a seat by the window – this resto has killer views of wildlife, ocean, beach, and sunset. 
I managed to tear myself away from my cozy room to feast on a seafood dinner at The Pointe. I devoured Tofino halibut with wild rice and spring salmon with sour cream perogies (above). 
On Sunday morning, I lounged over brunch while watching surfers try to catch a wave on Chesterman Beach (above).

The Ancient Cedars Spa (Courtesy of the Wickaninnish Inn)
 After a long day of hiking, I booked a treatment at the Ancient Cedars Spa. Before the treatment began, I discussed my individual needs with my practitioner, and then relaxed with a warm foot bath under the cedar trees. The one hour aromatherapy massage almost put me to sleep and soothed my aching muscles. I entered the room as a tense ragamuffin, and emerged feeling light and renewed. 

Need to stretch it out? The Ancient Cedars Spa also offers daily yoga classes in the beautiful Rainforest Haven room. Classes are semi private, and designed for all skill levels.
The Wickaninnish Inn has a big backyard just waiting to be explored. Take a long walk on Chesterman Beach (above) to soak up sand, surf, and sun. Reserve a spot on the hotel's free Saturday morning nature hike - a leisurely trek through the rainforest and the beach, led by a local naturalist. There’s also a Self-Guided Art Tour, departing from the Beach lobby and featuring the collection of inspiring local pieces.
Sunset view from the room at The Wick
The Wickaninnish Inn is a popular destination for weddings, especially because of its prime location overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Chesterman Beach. But The Wick is also renowned for its expert planning of both big and small weddings. The resort has an Elopement Coordinator and Special Events Manager who can handle any aspect of the event, and work with brides to create a vision for their day.

Depending on the season, room rates for The Wickaninnish Inn start at $300/night and up. If this exceeds your budget, drop by The Pointe Restaurant for a meal or a cocktail instead, or the Ancient Cedars Spa for a treatment. 

My three days at The Wick were so special that checking out nearly sent me into tears. I'm dying to return in the winter season to do some storm watching. If you're in Tofino, make sure to visit The Wickaninnish Inn!
-- Lisa Jackson is a freelance writer and blogs at Eat Drink Travel Magazine. Find her online @eatdrinktravels. 

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