Although I love to visit exotic locations all around the world, I have to admit that my home country is a vast, magical place with rugged beauty worth exploring. Let me entice you with a peek at five very special resorts located in some of most breathtaking areas of my home province of British Columbia, Canada.
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Tigh-Na-Mara (Gaelic for “Resort by the Sea”) is a spectacular eco-resort found on the East Coast of Vancouver Island, Parksville. This 22-acre woodland property by the sea is about 30 minutes north of Nanaimo. Here, you will find giant Douglas fir, and cedar and arbutus trees towering above the scenic shores of the Georgia Strait.
Tigh-Na-Mara has 192 handcrafted log guest rooms, a grotto spa with an “endless tapas” bar and two award-winning signature dining rooms. One of my favorite luxury indulgences is to head to Parksville for a long weekend.
Within a short drive of the resort, you have the choice of hiking through the old-growth forests of Cathedral Grove at McMillian National Park or admiring the waterfalls of Englishman River Falls. Little Qualicum Falls is also nearby.
After your nature walk through the forest or by the sea, you won’t want to miss the Grotto Spa at Tigh-na-Mara – voted best in Canada. After enjoying a facial and a hot-stone massage, I was joined by my partner in the mineral pool of the grotto spa for a relaxing dip. Then we headed to the restaurant located on the top floor of the building to indulge in a delicious dinner consisting of “endless tapas” or “small plates”.
For $59/person in addition to your spa treatment, you will be served a delightful variety of gourmet dishes, both hot and cold, which can include seafood, duck, pork, chicken, lamb, bison, and vegetarian dishes. The idea is to encourage conversation and part of the fun is sitting at the table in your spa robes and slippers– no street clothes allowed.
Back at our log cabin, feeling totally relaxed and satiated, we savored a glass of wine from one of the local vineyards while enjoying our wood fireplace. The oceanfront cabins have million-dollar views.
Tigh-Na-Mara is a lovely place to spend a weekend over New Year’s as well a fun place to come in the summer months.
Tigh-Na-Mara was recently awarded the 2017 Eco Star Award for accommodation. This honour recognizes a business that is demonstrating action to reduce waste, energy, water consumption, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. There is nothing sexier than a luxury resort that is eco-conscious!
Less than 90 minutes east of Vancouver, BC is the charming resort town of Harrison Lake. This is a great spot to try a variety of water sports, head hiking on the winding trails or rent a kayak. Harrison Lake is a pristine area surrounded by mountains. Golfing, fishing, and biking are also available. Where to stay? Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa of course!
What I love about this place are the 5 different hot spring mineral pools available to guests. The Salish Coast Indians valued these springs for their rejuvenating and medicinal effects. You can enjoy these warm pools in all kinds of weather thanks to the covered walkways.
The pools are kept at different temperatures with two indoor and three outdoor pools (one is “adult only”). It is great fun soaking in the hot pools in the winter months seeing the steam rise from the water’s surface.
Harrison Resort has a fine dining restaurant called the Copper Room. Here you will find a traditional menu and a large dance floor. The Jones Boys have been playing toe-tapping dance music here for many, many years. After a busy day of activities and soaking in hot springs, ending your evening in the Copper Room listening to the “golden oldies” and sipping champagne is icing on the cake. Harrison Resort is great any time of year and is suitable for the whole family.
An hour southwest of Victoria, BC, Sooke Harbour House is one of Canada’s best luxury lodges. Sooke Harbour House has earned a Green Tourism GOLD Award for its sustainable practices and promotion of eco-tourism.
Sooke Harbour House (SHH) offers 28 wonderfully unique rooms from which to choose. Each room boasts stunning views of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. You will appreciate the original art, antiques and handcrafted furniture that gives each room a special “flavour”.
Most rooms come with jetted soaker tubs or hot tubs as well as wood-burning fireplaces and luxurious beds and linens. You can also book a relaxing massage, facial or pedicure in the comfort of your own room.
The award-winning dining room at SHH serves local, seasonal and organic foods. You will find cheeses, breads, wines and wild game and seafood on the daily changing menu – all supplied by local farms, vineyards, fishers and artisans. One of the most enticing things about SHH is their “3-acre rare herb and edible blossom garden”. The scent of the lavender in June is heavenly!
If you are keen to go a bit further afield, the UNESCO World Heritage Yoho National Park is an 8-hour drive from Vancouver or a 2-hour trek from Calgary, Alberta. A rugged wilderness area with towering rock formations and spectacular waterfalls, Yoho (a Cree expression meaning “awe and wonder”) boasts 28 different peaks taller than 3000 ft. It is simply stunning! Nearby is Emerald Lake with its turquoise waters that beckon you to paddle, hike, swim or even snowshoe in the winter.
Cathedral Mountain Lodge is the perfect sanctuary for a tranquil, romantic getaway. Don’t look for TVs or phones in your heritage log cabin – there are none. Everything about this eco-lodge is conducive to exploring the wonderful surroundings.
The dining room is a feature of the main lodge with its panoramic views and floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. Daily breakfast and afternoon tea and cookies are included in the price of your stay.
For a small extra charge, the staff at this Rocky Mountain resort are happy to provide you with a tasty lunch to take on your hike or a “s’more’s kit” to enjoy by the outdoor fire pit. Graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows – yum!
For a luxury weekend getaway in Northern BC, you must check out the first-class accommodations offered at Tweedsmuir Park Lodge. Take the inside passage ferry up to Bella Coola or book your 70-minute flight from Vancouver. This scenery is awe-inspiring any way you choose to travel.
This eco-friendly lodge is located close to the Great Bear Park where the outdoor adventures include fishing, bird watching, heli-skiing, nature hikes, horseback riding, scenic river drifts and grizzly bear viewing. The Lodge also offers a First Nations Valley Tour which takes you back 10,000 years as you walk through the giant cedar forests and view the petroglyph stone carvings with your Nuxalk guide.
Tweedsmuir Park Lodge boasts 9 timber-framed chalets with stunning views of the Coast Mountains. The dining room features a delectable menu of West Coast inspired International Cuisine. The Lodge has packages that include your choice of activities. We enjoyed floating down the river with our nature guide telling us about the flora and fauna of the region.
We had a private guide take us on a walking safari to see the grizzly bears. And see them, we did – fortunately from a safe distance. But at Tweedsmuir, you can see bears from the veranda of your own chalet. This resort is truly “wilderness” and the animals are free to roam about as they choose. I particularly loved the 30’ high viewing platforms scattered around the property in the forest and on by the riverside. Just climb the stairs to the top for a spectacular view of the river and the critters!
About the Author:
Shannon Lee is a physician, musician, foodie and globetrotter from British Columbia, Canada. In her spare time, she can be found performing with her band, INGLEWOOD, doing the New York Times crosswords or planning her next luxury vacation!
Follow her on her website.