Doggone Getaway: Wickaninnish Inn
Perched above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean on the West coast of Vancouver Island, sits the spectacular Wickaninnish Inn -- a dog-friendly retreat at Nature's edge.
Written + photographed by J. Nichole Smith
On the west coast of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, you will find the Wickaninnish Inna secluded location with an international reputation of excellence. Named for a Tla-o-qui-aht chief, the Wickaninnish’s namesake is far from the only unique characteristic of this four-diamond, four-star landmark that ties it to its cultural heritage and geographical home. From the raw materials, from which the Inn is built, to the historic letters and maps that hang in the Lookout Library, nearly every surface of the Wick tells of her delicate balance between ancient forests and relentless seas and the people who define her past, present, and future.
Masterfully hand-picked by managing director Charles McDiarmid, it’s the little details that enhance your visit to the Wick. Each day, a sprinkling of dried lavender is vacuumed into the carpets and every room is equipped with binoculars and Helly Hansen rain gear for unlimited use. At each night’s turndown, you will be provided with a forecast for the weather the following day. Every doggie guest receives his or her very own plush bed situated by the fireplace, as well as a basket of goodies including bowls, water, bags, biscuits and towels (as well as a generous excess of treats, pats and scratches at check-in).
Beyond the walls of the Wick lies the rugged frontier beauty that defines the Pacific coast. You’ll find rows of gnarled hemlocks and cedars on your left, the frothy surf of the Pacific Ocean to your right, and a blanket of fine white sand at your feet. Feel free to indulge your pooch who at this point, will be panting and prancing with anticipation to be let off leash. As always, be sensitive to the native wildlife and don’t let your deliriously joyful dog chase the shorebirds or other local fauna.
When you return to the Inn, you will find a doggy shower station to wash that lovely sand from both you and your pooch, complete with a stock of plush “dog house” towels to dry off. If you are extra soggy, head to the Inn’s Driftwood Coffee Lounge, where you can stack your boots and rain gear in the drying closet and sip your double tall, soy vanilla latte by the fire. Your boots, your pooch and your spirits will be warmed up in no time.
If you’re hoping for more land than sea, be sure to explore the Rainforest Loop Trail. Ask the Inn to schedule an interpretive walk with Giselle of Tla-Ook Cultural Adventures. She’ll share the history of the area, details of her First Nation’s heritage, and some tasty samples of hemlock needles or salmon berry root. This short loop starts and ends at the Inn’s carving shed where you can meet Lyne Desrosiers and Giselle’s father, Joe Martin. When we met them, they were crafting an authentic, Nuu-chah-nulth canoe. Be sure to say hello to Joe’s dog, Deuce, who’s likely to be wandering the beach or lounging just outside the door.
After your outdoor exertions you will be ready for some indulgence of the food and drink variety. Get your canine companion settled in his crate, in your car, or with a member of the Wick staff, and prepare to be dazzled by the culinary experience that awaits you. The Wick’s Pointe Restaurant is wrapped in picture windows, allowing a 240° view of Chesterman Beach and the open ocean. Chefs John Waller and Nick Nutting offer a constantly changing menu of fresh seafood and locally grown organic produce, complemented by a selection of west coast wines.
The spectacular cuisine is accompanied by more sensory delights: For the eyes and fingers, hand-woven table runners, locally-carved wooden plates and hollowed-stone candle holders; for the ears, waves crashing outside are broadcast inside. After dinner be sure to make time for a soak in the over-sized tub (complete with Aveda bath salts) or better yet, book a visit to the Inn’s Ancient Cedars Spa where you can enjoy a variety of Aveda treatments. If you also brought the human love of your life, we highly recommend a couple’s massage in the oceanfront cabin.
Once you’re finally ready for bed, we suggest you follow the advice of the Wick’s founding father, Charles, and “sleep with the fire on, and the door open. This way you get a warm glow and sound of the surf all night long.”
The Wickaninnish Inn
500 Osprey Lane
Tofino, British Columbia
Stay at the Wick in the summer to enjoy round-trip flight service on Kenmore Air between Seattle and Tofino, crab feasts on the beach and Tofino in bloom (but book early).
Stay at the Wick in the winter for solitude, magnificent storm watching and off-season rates.
Photographer and writer J. Nichole Smith owns Dane + Dane Studios; Olivia the harlequin Great Dane owns J. Nichole. Together, they can be found on various photographic adventures for CityDog Magazine and other publications.