At a Glance
No roads lead to Clayoquot, and that’s precisely the point. You depart the mainland by seaplane, soaring over Vancouver Island and then sweeping down into a fjord to land on Bedwell Sound. Located at the confluence of river and ocean and surrounded by old-growth forests and rugged mountains on the island’s west coast, Clayoquot offers fantastic access to all sorts of wilderness experiences. Whether you want horseback riding or a paddleboard on the inlet, excursions are handled by the excellent staff guides from all over the world. Hike through the 650 acres behind the lodge, then take a dip in a hidden pond by a waterfall. Venture along the shoreline by Zodiac to spot bald eagles and black bears, or head further out to see whales, sea lions and seals. The 25 tents are cozy and luxurious, styled like safari tents, with cast-iron heated stoves and decks. Finish your day with farm-to-table cuisine, a glass of Cabernet and s’mores by the firepit under the night sky.
**The Standout:** The charming Cookhouse, with its view over the water and constant array of treats, from cookie jars to canapés **Don’t Miss:** Canyoning up a glacier-fed waterfall channel
- Waking to the sound of birds from a stylish tent, with hardwood floors and soft duvets
- The warm and inviting service, from cappuccino by the fire at breakfast to cozy lanterns already lit in your room when you return from dinner
- The abundant wildlife within the UNESCO-designated Clayoquot Sound Biosphere
Situated on 650 acres where the Bedwell River meets the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by 1.5 million acres of UNESCO-protected wilderness, Clayoquot can only be accessed by seaplane, boat or helicopter. Founded in 2000 by the late Richard Genovese, it was a pioneer in the “glamping” movement and is still one of its very best practitioners, with 25 luxury tented suites.
Guests stay in luxurious canvas tents similar to African safari tents, with hardwood floors, thermostat-controlled wood stoves, down pillows, duvets and rustic furniture. It’s very civilized (leather sofa, faux fur throw, Native American rugs) but still retains the charms of camping, down to nightly campfires and s’mores. There’s no TV or phone; you wake to the sound of birdcalls and the wind in the trees.
There are just 25 tents, reached by a long wooden boardwalk that is lit by tiki torches in the evenings. It’s worth splurging for the Luxury Ensuite Tents, which are perched along the riverbanks and have spacious interiors and en suite bathrooms with heated floors, double sinks and outdoor showers. The Deluxe Outpost Tents (good for kids) are set back from the river in the trees and have a toilet a few feet outside the tent and nice shower facilities down the boardwalk.
Meals are taken in the main lodge and the food is spectacular: the farm-to-table menu changes daily, taking advantage of the freshest catch and vegetables grown on-island. Everything is prepared in an open kitchen, so it’s fun to sit at the counter, watch the action and chat with Chef Ryan Orr. Each meal has multiple choices so you can always find something you like and the presentations are a work of art. Breakfast specials often include a local twist on Eggs Benedict. My favorite lunch was seafood tacos with fresh spot prawns, scallops, halibut, salmon and avocado with a light aioli. Dinner starts with a soup (perhaps roasted tomato and eggplant with mini grilled cheeses for dipping) and an elegant salad, then you have a choice of mains, such as bacon-wrapped venison, Dungeness crab, or seared tuna with a wasabi-sesame seed crust and a special dessert. The sommelier does a wonderful job pairing wines, many of them local.
Where Clayoquot really shines is in its excursions, which are all led by the fun, young staff guides; nothing is outsourced. You meet with John each evening to plan your activities for the following day. You might go kayaking on the sound or paddleboarding along the estuary. A boat trip for wildlife-viewing is a must to see black bears, bald eagles, sea lions and whales. The fishing is excellent.
There are some lovely hikes, including Flores Island, which has vast, deserted beaches, and Penny Falls. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, you could have a helicopter drop you at a mountain summit with a chef and guide. The lodge keeps 20 horses in a stable down the road and has multiple trails, some through the rainforest, others along the riverbanks. There’s also shooting, archery, a zip line and a climbing wall. Afterwards, you can unwind in the spa at the sauna or hot tub or with a massage.
Clayoquot is a place where everything somehow hits just the right note, perhaps because they have been doing it for so long. You feel cared for. There’s always a fire blazing in the main lodge, with cozy chairs for reading a book or having a glass of wine. There’s always some delicious treat awaiting, whether it’s fresh oysters and delicate canapés at cocktail hour or the homemade cookies in jars at the end of the bar.
The bed linens are incredibly soft, the heated bathroom floor a marvelous surprise. You come back from dinner to find someone has lit candles in your room. We spent so much time chatting with the staff members during our stay that we parted friends and all my fellow guests spent our final minutes hugging the staff goodbye. It felt a bit like the end of summer camp and I think we will all be back.
Who Should Stay
Intrepid souls seeking a comfortable, immersive wilderness experience.
Who Should Not Stay
Vancouver Island is a pretty, rugged landscape that is best suited to people who are intrepid by nature. Anyone not comfortable with wind, bugs and unpredictable weather should probably choose a gentler destination.
When To Go
Clayoquot is open from June to September. July and August tend to be full of families, while June and September are more for couples.
Clayoquot has set guest arrival dates of Thursdays and Sundays and schedules an afternoon sea plane to collect incoming guests from Vancouver Airport. The flight is about an hour and is a gorgeous aerial introduction to the region. The lodge is not accessible by road; however, it is possible to drive to Tofino on Vancouver Island and take a boat from there (about 25 minutes).
Written by Eliza Harris