The Best Seat on Long Beach
By Chris McBeath
It was a curious sight: they looked like bits of wreckage floating beyond the rollers, bobbing in and out of sight as they waited for the right swell to bring them to shore. Then suddenly, as the water rose and transformed into a tidal wave, its crescendo crashed towards the beach, and carried with it a line of boarders criss-crossing atop the white surf, like choreographed dancers in a sea-staged spectacle.
From my armchair advantage, raised just above the beach, the entire cast of surf, sea and sand lay at my feet. Without doubt, it was the best seat in the house - this nook in The Great Room of the just-opened Long Beach Lodge because it lies at the very edge of its namesake, and one of the best surfing beaches on Canada's West Coast.
Set beside Cox Bay, between the pristine beauty of Pacific Rim National Park and spectacular Clayoquot Sound, this lovely 43-room, cedar-shingled lodge provides guests with unpretentious, luxurious comfort. Accommodation is offered both on the beach so you can practically surf to your door (these are also pet-friendly), and on the first and second floors where views range from stands of rainforest to a seascape that lulls you to sleep at night. All guest rooms come with first class amenities such as fireplaces, extra-deep soaker tubs, private patios, wildlife books on the local fauna and flora, and Helly Hensen raingear - a thoughtful touch since showers in this part of the world can come and go almost as fast as it takes for the local blue heron to fly across the bay.
The food, too, is superb. Executive Chef Lisa Ahier, an honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, brings a handcrafted touch to the lodge's West Coast cuisine. Using only the freshest of seasonal, locally grown organic ingredients, she creates a menu that changes daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And every day, expectations are high since she and her husband, General Manager Artie Ahier, have received accolades for their team-man-ship from publications such as Departures, Food & Wine, and Gourmet magazines; and two of Lisa's recipes have been recognized in America's Best Recipes 2000 and 2001. Although don't be surprised if you see Lisa waiting on tables. Dressed less like an award-winning chef, and more like a bellhop in her pinstripe dungarees and pill-box hat, Lisa thrives on customer contact, and bustles between kitchen and dining room with such warmth and hospitality that staff and guests alike are utterly charmed!
With Tofino and Ucluelet only a few kilometers away from the Lodge, outdoor adventure abounds year round. Kayak or boat through nearby islands, hike rainforest trails scented with cedar and Sitka Spruce, enjoy whale-watching excursions, or simply ramble along a beach that seemingly never ends where you could well come across colonies of sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks and tidal pools filled with purple sea urchins, fiery red blood stars, and gooseneck barnacles.
For me, however, it was hard to move from the comforts of the Lodge's Great Room, its massive granite fireplace and exposed Douglas Fir post and beams providing a distinct West Coast ambiance to the Long Beach Lodge experience. Add to this a terrific collection of West Coast Art - paintings, carvings and sculptures which are all for sale - and it becomes a veritable gallery showcasing the talents of outstanding local artists.Conversation areas, made up of overstuffed chairs and low coffee tables are remarkably private, and beg you spend an hour or two over a board game, jig-saw puzzle or a book. The only distractions are those that can be seen through the room's floor to ceiling windows: gulls which perch on the deck railing, an eagle that might swoop across the water to a look-out snag at the end of the bay, or a surfer completing his run with an expression of such exhilaration that your imagination starts to tease you along that maybe, just maybe, you might try it for yourself. Then you'll sink lower into your seat, until the thought dissolves ?.. at least until tomorrow.
If You Go:
Long Beach Lodge Resort
PO Box 897
Hosts: Artie and Lisa Ahier
By car: B.C. Ferries accommodates travelers from Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay terminals to Duke Point or Departure Bay. General Information for sailing schedule is 1-888-BCFERRY (223-3779)
Take Island Highway #19 across Vancouver Island to Tofino, BC. Travel time from Nanaimo is approx. three hours. The Lodge is located about 5 kilometers outside of Tofino, and is well sign-posted.
By plane: North Vancouver Air (800/228-6608; www.northvanair.com) and West Coast Air (800/347-2222) fly to Tofino, from Vancouver and Victoria. Northwest Seaplanes (800/690-0086; www.nwseaplanes.com) flies to Tofino from Seattle.
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