small grouping of buildings and tents are lakeside. It's dusk and their lights reflect on the water
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Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge

In the heart of the Pacific Northwest, Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge is a tented camp offering a unique wilderness experience and unforgettable service.

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Living Room at Fairmont Empress, Vancouver Island, Canada

Fairmont Empress

As much a city icon as it is a hotel, the Fairmont Empress has been one of the most famous hotels in Victoria since opening in 1908. Over the years, the property, which is a National Historic Site of Canada, has played host to kings, queens and movie stars, including Queen Elizabeth II in 1939 and Rudyard Kipling, who was a regular visitor. The property is Victoria’s grand dame—a towering, turreted creation with Edwardian-inspired interiors and spectacular views of the city’s Inner Harbor.

While the grandeur of the property is unmistakable, the hotel’s 477 rooms today lack the polish they once had. Purchased by new owners in 2014, the Empress will undergo renovations in the coming years, but for now, the accommodations are dated and a bit tired (dull drapery and worn-in furnishings). The rest of the hotel, however, transports guests to an older, more sophisticated time. A steady stream of guests arrives for afternoon tea in the hotel’s famously ornate, pink confection of a tearoom. Those who aren’t in the mood for Darjeeling and towers of scones can escape to the serene pools and soothing treatments at the hotel’s Willow Stream Spa. The two-hour Island Senses body treatment (a sea-salt body scrub, pine hydrotherapy bath, mud wrap and lavender oil massage) is divine.

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Great Room at Long Beach Lodge Resort , Island, Canada

Long Beach Lodge Resort

While the Wickaninnish Inn and Sooke Harbour House are geared more toward adults, Vancouver Island’s Long Beach Lodge is the perfect family destination. The resort, with its cedar-shingled exterior and stone chimney, is set on Cox Bay, a wide sweep of white sand opening onto some of the area’s most consistent surfing waves. And unsurprisingly, the resort is all about getting out and exploring the nearby wilderness during a rotation of activities including paddle boarding, hiking, sea kayaking, fishing and nature tours.

The 41-room property’s premiere accommodations are the ground-floor rooms, which allow guests to step right onto the sand. The main building boasts an enormous great room with a stone fireplace, Persian rugs, oversized chairs and sofas covered in nubby chenilles, books and board games, and 270-degree views of the Pacific.

Aerial View - Nimmo Bay Resort, Vancouver Island, Canada

Nimmo Bay Resort

Tucked on the shores of a secluded bay off the coast of British Columbia, Nimmo Bay is an intimate wilderness lodge that has been family run for more than three decades. While some guests come for such outdoor adventures as hiking in the Great Bear Rainforest, kayaking through the Broughton archipelago, or cruising around in a boat to observe the abundant wildlife, the lodge’s real specialty is its highly regarded heli-fishing program. Guests can opt to have a dedicated helicopter pilot for anything from a full day to an entire stay, at a cost starting at 2500 CAD per person per day, to take them to a different fishing spot each day.

For those doing a helicopter program, the day begins as you lift off the resort’s helipad with your dedicated pilot guide and head towards the horizon. You might start by flying over misted spruce tops and the inland passages of the mainland coast as you head towards a remote, salmon-filled glacial river. Then it’s a morning of fishing or exploring until lunch, which may be on a coastal stream or atop a 10,000-year-old glacier. The advantage of the helicopter is in the amount of ground you can cover and the variety of experience this opens up. You might choose to spend a morning on a pristine, white sandy beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island, soaking your feet in the Pacific Ocean, and then head up to mountain summit in the afternoon to admire the view from 7,000 feet atop a diamond-blue glacier.

Nimmo has just nine cabins. It’s worth splurging for the Oceanfront cabins, which are gorgeous and spacious, with hardwood floors and a bedroom and seating area with a double-story wall of plate glass windows overlooking the water and mountains. Outside, a private terrace has two rocking chairs for taking in the view. The beautifully appointed bathroom has a big soaking tub and shower. Upstairs is a second loft bedroom. Set near a waterfall, the Riverside cabins are built with families in mind and have a shared living room area, but the views and layouts are not as memorable.

Food is served in the main lodge. There isn’t a menu to choose from; the chef simply prepares meals, keeping in mind any preferences you have stated prior to arrival. The food is creative, hearty and delicious, focusing on fresh local ingredients with an Asian twist. Amenities at the lodge include two hot tubs, a yoga studio with excellent daily classes, and a fully-stocked gear room with everything you might need for your adventures: waders, hiking boots, water shoes, serious foul weather gear, rain pants and light raincoats. You can also have a massage outside.

In many ways, Nimmo feels more like a visit with friends than a stay at a hotel. Every detail reflects the passion of its owners, the Murray family, who have devoted three decades to building it bit by bit from a humble cabin to a five-star lodge. They are all still very involved, and you may well be treated to Craig Murray playing guitar by the campfire in the evening, or his son Fraser taking you out to scout for wildlife in a boat. This gives the place a real authenticity. While certain parts of the experience are luxurious and others are quite rustic, overall it is a peaceful, soulful and beautiful escape.

Who It’s Right For

Nimmo is best suited to guests who are looking for an intimate hideaway to use as a launch pad to explore the surrounding wilderness. The resort itself is quite small, with a casual living room and dining room, a dock (to sit around the campfire after dinner) and a handful of cabins, so would not be a good fit for someone looking for a big, full-service resort.

Exterior View -  Sooke Harbour House, Vancouver Island, Canada

Sooke Harbour House

An hour’s drive southwest of Victoria, Sooke Harbour House is home to one of Canada’s most acclaimed restaurants. The property is a rambling white-clapboard inn set on a wind-whipped promontory facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The inn’s owners, Sinclair and Fredérique Philip, are known as pioneers of terroir cuisine (the idea that a food’s flavor comes from its soil and climate), and have transformed their backyard into nearly two acres of herbs, vegetables and edible flowers. A six- or seven-course culinary adventure unfolds each night in the inn’s candlelit dining room.

Each of the inn’s 28 guest rooms is different; most are spacious suites with slightly improvised—but entirely charming—décor: cotton slipcovered sofas, kilim rugs, fireplaces and antique chests piled with books. This is the sort of place where nothing is too perfect, but everything is exactly right for the setting. The atmosphere and seclusion conspire to let you do absolutely nothing—or at most, to pour a glass of port from the decanter the Philips have conveniently left on your bureau, strike a match to the kindling and curl up.

Surf and The Pointe Wayne Barnes at Wickaninnish Inn, Vancouver Island, Canada

Wickaninnish Inn

Perched on the rocky shoreline of Tofino’s Pacific coast lies the Wickaninnish Inn, one of the first properties to reside on Vancouver Island, it opened in 1996, and also one of its most luxurious. The 75 rooms and suites are handsome but understated, with down comforters, gas fireplaces, soaking tubs, floor-to-ceiling picture windows and balconies overlooking the crashing waves and craggy shoreline. Most importantly, each room boasts sweeping ocean views and a his-and-hers set of Helly Hansen rain gear, should guests forget any essentials.

At the inn’s Relais & Châteaux restaurant, The Pointe, guests can dine on local oysters while browsing the 27-page wine list in a dining room cantilevered above the coast. Those looking to indulge further can visit the pampering Ancient Cedars Spa, where guests lazily unwind after days spent gallivanting around the surrounding wilderness. Because after all, that is how a stay at the Wickaninnish should be spent; exploring the pristine region on land and by sea. Activities on offer include hiking, bear- and whale-watching, fishing, paddle boarding, surfing and bird-watching (each room is stocked with a pair of binoculars). A nearby aquarium makes a great half-day trip for those traveling with children.

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