Heading to Tofino for a week’s worth of relaxing shoulder-season exploration brought me to the Wickaninnish Inn. This wasn’t my first time visiting the Relais & Chateaux property, but it WAS my first time staying here and from the moment I checked in, I was spoiled with views, outstanding staff service and moments that made it pretty hard to leave after my two-night stay.
First off, the Wick Inn is located at a beautiful point on Chesterman beach. All 75 rooms (including 12 suites, one more gorgeous than the next) take advantage of the inn’s location and are either beach-to-ocean or ocean-to-west-facing rooms.
Balconies, bathrooms with natural light, fireplaces and luxury amenities are standard in every beautifully-appointed room.
Handmade wooden chairs grace each desk; wood is a major element used, complimented by paintings and West coast artwork throughout the rooms and two main buildings.
Both Beach and Pointe buildings lead to Chesterman Beach, Tofino’s longest beach. While the Beach building is the newer of the two (with shared library, fitness center, Driftwood Café and concierge desk), the Pointe is no less impressive.
The Wick will celebrate its 20-year anniversary in 2016. I recently learned that in 2011, the Canadian Tourism Commission named storm watching at the Wick Inn a Canadian Signature Experience.
Once you’ve had the chance to unwind and unpack your bag, the room’s very inviting. At the soaker tub’s edge are a candle and bath salts. Floor heating, dimmer lights – even a wall-mounted removable night light/flashlight – are there to make you feel instantly at home.
Cozy chairs inside, a balcony outside. If you get a chill, grab the Hudson’s Bay blanket from the closet and wrap up. There’s a coffee maker, water kettle and assortment of coffee, organic teas and hot chocolate next to the minibar basket.
Inside the closet you’ll also find rain slickers, pants, umbrellas, extra blankets and a daypack. Wick Inn also loans gumboots and offers a drying room to place your gear in if you’ve hit the beach during storm-watching season.
When an employee overheard me in the lobby commenting on the basket of fresh apples at the counter, I returned from dinner to find a small basket of my own next to a personalized note. It’s little touches like this that add to a very memorable experience, giving the Wick Inn the worldwide reputation that it deserves.
Hiking, Galleries, Shopping
You can rent a DVD, select a book (and in turn leave one behind), enjoy the downstairs lobby with fireplace or have a drink in one of the restaurants while pondering whether you’ll head to town (five-minute drive) or on a hike. Kleen Kanteen Wick Inn-branded steel bottles can be filled up and taken out for trail hikes and local excursions. If you’re into cycling, there’s free cruiser bikes with helmets and locks on loan as well.
Together with Ancient Cedars Spa’s extensive massage and beauty treatments on offer, you can also opt for a morning, semi-private yoga class. There’s also an in-room yoga booklet that provides a handful of stretches you can easily do on the spot.
The spa uses both local and Vancouver Island beauty and wellness products (also for sale) including the Seaflora Wild Organic Seaweed Skincare line.
This area is filled with beautiful hiking trails, one starting right by the Wick, the Rainforest Beach Trail. Most lead you through old-growth rain forests, where giant moss-covered trees and foliage showcase the scenic nature that draws thousands of visitors here year-round.
From short loop trails to the 2.6 km Wild Pacific Trail, there’s a walkabout for every level of fitness. Tofino is part of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve from the southern boundary of the Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to just north of Estevan Point. Nearly 83,000 of its 350,000 hectares comprise marine environment.
Head down the road to discover Tofino’s tiny downtown. There’s several galleries, art studios and gift shops to admire. While you’re here, don’t miss landmarks Chocolate Tofino, Surf Sister and Tacofino.
The Pointe is the resort’s signature dining space encompassing 20-foot ceilings, commanding ocean views, a large wine collection and adjacent lounge. Quintessential West coast dishes are prepared by Executive Chef Warren Barr. We were well pampered with glorious amuse bouches and glasses of BC sparkling wine.
My dishes were each beautifully presented and well paired with my selected white wine, a Pinot gris from Vancouver Island’s Unsworth Winery.
I highly recommend both the Cellar Salad with shaved root veggies and the local snapper and shrimp dishes. The Pointe serves Ocean Wise-sanctioned dishes; several items are part of their Ancient Cedar Spa menu (healthy choices with full nutritional value available upon request). The romantic setting is ideal for a special celebration or landmark event.
There’s a daily brunch service as well as in-room dining. Chef Warren and his team are able to prepare and customize meals for fishing charters, whale watching or a picnic on the beach.
The Driftwood Café is a casual spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take a morning stroll on the beach and walk up here for house-baked breads and croissants, great coffee and full breakfast dishes. Meals to go for hikes are available at both restaurants.
Orca Air has a few daily flights from YVR South Terminal, an easy 15-minute courtesy shuttle ride away from Arrivals Level 2 (domestic and international stops). Our eight-seat Piper Navajo Chieftain got us to tiny Long Beach Airport in about 50 minutes. From there, it’s about a 10 to 15-minute drive to the Wick Inn (Budget Car Rental is located inside the terminal).
Or plan your trip via BC Ferries, making the four-hour road adventure through beautiful scenery to Tofino from either Nanaimo or Swartz Bay.
From Horseshoe Bay, BC Ferries takes you to Departure Bay in Nanaimo. From Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver), the choice is between Duke Point near Nanaimo and Swartz Bay near Victoria.
Being in Tofino is akin to taking one big chill pill. Your lose sense of time and effortlessly transform to the island pace, making leaving a spot this lovely a near crime.
I purposely left enough time before heading down Airport Drive to take in one last, long glance at Long Beach across the road. A 4×4 had just pulled up with a surfboard on the roof and a large dog in the passenger seat ready to happily accompany its owner on a sunny, frosty late morning walk.
If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat, this is the perfect time of the year to enjoy off-season, crowd-free Tofino.
Note: the Wickaninnish will close from January 2 to February 4, 2016 for some renovations and will reopen on February 5.
Wickaninnish Inn is located at Osprey Lane at Chesterman Beach in Tofino. I stayed as a guest of Wickaninnish Inn. Opinions, as always, are my own. Unwatermarked photos by Kyler Vos.