By Keith Edwards
After several hours of driving through the steep-sided valleys that thread their way through the dense rainforest, my first glimpse of the ocean crashing onto a pristine beach is nothing short of arresting. It occurs to me that this Tofino view is unchanged from the one that Captains Vancouver and Quadra saw in the 18th century. Except, perhaps, for the surfers.
Bethany at Wickaninnish Inn’s reception, clearly accustomed to this reaction from her arriving guests, gently brings me back to the business at hand. Within a few moments I’m in my suite nibbling on salmon (smoked, candied and glazed), French bread and a flagon of Port (duly noted as a tradition of the sea).
Charles McDiarmid, the owner of the now legendary Wickaninnish Inn, tells me that his father, George, a newly minted doctor, came to this then remote logging and fishing community intending only a brief sojourn. He stayed and raised a family. In 1971, with admirable foresight, he purchased 100 acres on Chesterman Beach. Charles, then working for the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle, wrote a business plan, and in 1996 father and son opened the new Wickaninnish Inn and The Pointe Restaurant. In 1997 they were awarded the coveted Relais & Châteaux designation. A second building followed, bringing the room count to 75—and the rest is history.
It’s all about terroir
McDiarmid’s mantra: Bringing elements of the outside in, incorporating the spirit of the surrounding old-growth forest and the ocean, and using natural textures. After we chat, I start to notice his almost subliminal earthy style in the rough-planed wood trim, sea shells and natural stone, the stunning views of the ocean from the bathtub and shower, and the ease at which I can leave the patio door open to be sung to sleep by the rolling surf. Thoughtful, practical touches include ornithologist-grade binoculars and a full set of foul weather gear for storm watching. There’s got to be a surfboard around here somewhere.
A walk on the wild side
The next morning I hike the Schooner Cove Trail in Pacific Rim National Park. Boardwalk planks, and lots of stairs, give way to some of the prettiest wild coves imaginable. Then I’m on to the village of Ucluelet, where I stop to chat with a man on the dock painting his boat. It turns out he came here nearly 40 years ago from Ontario to go fishing and forgot to go back. It’s that sort of place.
A nod to responsible dining
Dinnertime at The Pointe Restaurant is when Executive Chef Warren Barr works his magic. Celebrating progressive agriculture and farm practices, undiscovered wines and a dedication to preserving our oceans, the focus is clear. I start with a Clayoquot spot prawn escabèche that, improbably but deliciously, combines elderflower, chilli, pea, lemon balm and white chocolate. A glass of Blue Mountain Pinot Noir goes well. My main course is a delicate pan-roasted, line-caught lingcod, perfectly paired with a glass of La Frenz Dry Riesling. All in a day’s work!