Storms & Spas Of The Pacific
By Chris McBeath
From Mexico to Alaska, there is no better place to storm-watch than from the west coast of Vancouver Island. And at the Wickaninnish Inn, perched on a rocky promontory between old-growth forest and the pounding surf of the open Pacific Ocean, they've turned storm watching into an art.
Advertised largely through word of mouth, the award-winning Wickaninnish Inn lures hundreds of people to its shores just south of Tofino, with the promise of skies so wild they are barely imaginable. The storms here transform the horizon into an angry Turner seascape, rolling towards the shore with thundering waves, howling winds and sheets of rain that lash up against the Inn's cedar siding. Grandstand views can be had in every room through thick, floor to ceiling windows. And because of their double glazing, there's an added, almost surreal dimension of being enveloped by a storm in virtual silence.
To feel the experience almost as a dream, visit the Inn's Ancient Cedars Spa. Overlooking sea-splattered, salal-covered rocks, it is a sanctuary within what is already one of the finest getaways on the coast. The designers have virtually brought the outdoors inside, in an approach that extends to the treatments themselves which all incorporate a mix of earth minerals, sea salts or essence oils. And they start immediately upon arrival.
Every guest is given a foot soak in copper pot-latch pots in a welcome that rinses away the outer world in preparation for the treatments ahead; Thalassotherapy, Hot Stone Massage, aromatherapy with forest scented oils and Jin Shin Do to name just a few.
For those who prefer to touch the experience, nearby Pacific Rim National Park and Long Beach are arguably the most inviting. They're far away from 20th century pressures, a place where you can walk for hours without encountering anything but driftwood and a few soaring bald eagles. You can smell the wet trees here and you'll want to touch the moss webbing that hangs like lace from their boughs. Along the 11 kilometer stretch of sand, huge rolling waves carry in a wealth of fascinating sea life, leaving it behind in hundreds of tide pools and rock crevices. And when the waves whip up a fine mist, the whole scene is touched with a rugged magic.
Home to fisherman and loggers as well as artists, wilderness enthusiasts and urban escapees, nearby Tofino is intriguing. A bustling fishing village in summer, with an eclectic mix of cappuccino bars and sushi restaurants, fish boats, surfers and float planes. Tofino's red wharf is also gateway to Clayoquot Sound, the largest intact, ancient temperate rainforest left in the world. Radar Hill, just south of the village, can be reached by car and is a lofty lookout point from which to contemplate the entire region. After a day's exploration, you'll be ready to relax in the warmth, beside your own private fireplace, or from your oversized soaker-tub from where you can watch the sun sink into the horizon of your private view (window coverings would simply spoil the scene).
Then it's on to enjoy the other big draw to the Inn - its cuisine. Chef Rodney Butters showcases superb coastal dishes of locally-caught seafood, organic produce and West Coast wines with such artistry that dinner becomes a multi-course affair with food. In fact, dining at the ocean front, gazebo-styled Pointe Restaurant is so sought after that to ensure a spot, make dinner reservations when you make your room booking. And pray for storms.
If You Go:
Call 1-800-333-4604 for information and reservations
web site: www.wickinn.com
The Wickaninnish Inn is a 5.5 hour drive (including a two-hour ferry ride) from Vancouver or consider a special fly-stay package to Tofino with North Vancouver Air.
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