Adventure Five Star Style Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge is a trip of a lifetime

One of the best places to experience the wilderness and beauty of Clayoquot Sound is Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, 18 nautical miles from Tofino.

Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island’s west coast is truly the epitome of “supernatural” British Columbia.

Here you will find bays carved by glaciers, dense forests anchored to steep mountainsides, alpine meadows, rocky beaches, salmon-spawning rivers and nutrient-rich estuaries. Not to mention an abundance of wildlife, from humpback whales and black bears to gray wolves and sea lions.

One of the best places to experience the wilderness and beauty of Clayoquot Sound is Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, 18 nautical miles from Tofino.

After closing due to the pandemic, the ecotourism retreat reopened last summer, offering visitors off-the-grid luxury and adventure in this wild and beautiful location between Strathcona Provincial Park to the east and the Pacific Ocean.

As soon as my daughter and I arrive, we are greeted at the boat and seaplane landing (air and sea are the only ways to get to this secluded lodge) by manager Sarah Cruse, who will operate under the property’s new co-owners, Baillie Lodges , supervised. The Australia-based company is known in the travel industry for its luxury wilderness lodges in Australia and New Zealand, but this is their first venture in Canada.

After acquiring the 600-acre property in 2019, the company immediately spent over $1 million upgrading its accommodations. Guests stay in one of the 25 large white canvas safari tents connected by wooden walkways through the woods and along the estuary. There are also safari tents parallel to the coast near the main lodge buildings.

Antique furniture that gave the tents a frontier feel has been swapped out for furniture with a contemporary, clean look. And as this is luxury, the tents are kept toasty warm by a cast iron stove (conveniently lit by a thermostat). The property’s update also included the construction of ensuite bathrooms with heated floors that lead to an outdoor shower nestled between western red cedar and Sitka spruce.

Also new is the Ivanhoe Lounge, named after Clayoquot’s old 110-foot artisan boat, the SS Ivanhoe, which is moored on the edge of the estuary. The Ivanhoe Lounge features rooftop seating and floor-to-ceiling widows to take full advantage of Bedwell Sound, where the river meets the sea. I can’t think of a better place to relax and enjoy a handcrafted cocktail and canapés while watching possible sightings of eagles, blue herons and otters right outside the door.

The second phase of the renovation will be a redesign of the Cookout, the center for eating, drinking and lounging at the lodge. Here, guests enjoy five-star meals that enhance the guest experience, from adventure to culinary. The multi-million dollar conversion will nearly double the Cookout’s current dining capacity from 40 to 70 seats and create a large room where guests can relax around the stone fireplace, now best viewed from the outside on a comfortable sofa and armchairs see is.

Known as Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in 1995, the lodge is in the heart of the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, which was listed by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 2000.

“I really think this property is unique where there’s this incredibly pure energy,” says Cruse. “It is difficult to describe the intangible values ​​of the property. It gets into your heart and soul and leaves an imprint on your memory,” she says.

Cruse sums up her life at Clayoquot with this enviable comment: “I live in Mother Nature’s house.”

As my daughter and I begin our first outing, I immediately understand what Cruse means. This place takes us out of our ordinary life and we too can embrace nature every moment of our stay.

Our first adventure begins with a guided hike along the riverbank and through temperate rainforest. It had been raining days before so the trail was muddy in places but luckily I was able to borrow walking shoes from the lodge which is fully equipped from raincoats to walking sticks.

Before we set off, our guide reminds us that black bears have recently been sighted near the lodge playing in the pasture in front of the horse paddock, giving you a quick reminder of do’s and don’ts if there is one we meet a bear in the forest. (Never run and slowly back away to make room for them.)

If we come across fresh bear droppings, it’s nice to know that one of the lodge’s eight dogs accompanying us on this walk will no doubt warn us.

Maui, a friendly, blue-eyed husky who loves to chew on rocks, eventually signals interest in something off our path, but it turns out to be a moss-covered moose skull. Though not a bear, the moose’s skull reminds us that we are in a wild land.

That particular course and skull later shows up in an unexpected place – the dinner menu, which features a decadent dessert called the Bedwell Forest Floor, consisting of cocoa barry, sourdough sprinkles, garden mint, and cherry sorbet.

Executive Chef Asher Blackford explains that the “tent trail,” which starts where the boardwalk ends and skirts the river, was his inspiration for the dish, which mimics the moose skull and woodland features like twigs, moss and rocks.

Another dish, Elderflower and Creme Fraiche, is inspired by the snow-capped mountains Blackford saw when he first flew into the lodge.

“Our food philosophy is more of an extension of the daily experience. We like the connection between the food and the guest experience. Earthy, funny and wise are the three worlds that I like to associate with my food. I get inspiration from Mother Nature and local produce,” he says.

And while flavor is obviously important, the chef and his staff pay particular attention to plating, as the chef firmly believes that “people eat with their eyes”.

“The coating is very organic, more landscape-style than perfectly textured,” he says.

And for those guests who want to try finding their own food, the kitchen prepares the wild mushrooms, crab, fish, and shrimp they bring back from their guided excursions.

While my daughter and I did not opt ​​for a fishing adventure and enjoyed our freshly caught marine bounty, there were still many delicious choices to be made on the lodge’s ever-changing menu. Favorites included ceviche made with locally caught whitefish, wild salmon with puttanesca sauce, and line-caught halibut. This is the place for a seafood lover like me.

In hindsight I regret not trying my hand at fishing but it was impossible to do everything considering all the adventure options.

Part of the luxury experience is that guests receive a personalized itinerary and can choose from excursions such as hikes through ancient forests, horseback riding to alpine meadows, and sea kayaking. But don’t miss the Sights of the Sound lodge’s signature boat excursion. On our half day tour we saw a coastal black bear darting over rocks in search of crab and other crustaceans and gray whales feeding in the shallow waters off Cox Bay.

The choice of adventure and five star treatment in BC’s wild country made a visit to Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge the trip of a lifetime and leave no doubt as to why this province rightly deserves its reputation as “super natural BC”.

The lodge will reopen on May 12th and will last until the end of September.

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