In a Nutshell: Set among old-growth forests in a pristine Canadian Pacific environment, the all-inclusive Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge offers guests a respite for travelers in the Pacific Northwest. Guests stay in luxurious canvas tents constructed in the style of early 20th-century prospectors. A full suite of amenities offers ample opportunities to enjoy the spectacular Clayoquot Sound environment. Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge is an ideal destination for travel card rewards enthusiasts looking to make lasting memories and enjoy natural experiences.
The city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, is at the heart of a great Pacific Northwest urban area. But a short 45-minute seaplane flight takes adventurers to an entirely different environment characterized by its decidedly non-urban qualities.
On the west side of Vancouver Island, off the city’s coast, Clayoquot Sound transports visitors to a diverse ecosystem of temperate coastal rainforests and old-growth conifer forests. The rugged coastal shores of the Pacific aren’t far away.
Flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest abound. Big trees, black bears, and whales, among other sights, exist as they have for millennia, in harmony with each other and with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation peoples who have inhabited the sound for more than 2,000 years.
The Nuu-chah-nulth gave the sound its original name of Tla-o-qui-aht, the source of the anglicized name Clayoquot. On one of the many inlets in the sound sits Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, a luxury camping settlement that reflects the harmony of its location.
Guests at Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge immerse themselves in unforgettable nature in ways that stretch beyond the everyday experience of constant change. They engage with the natural world on its own terms, in all its raw beauty.
Travelers stay in canvas tents similar to what early 20th-century prospectors favored when they panned for gold in Vancouver Island’s western inlets. In contrast to the hard life of the prospectors, however, Clayoquot’s modern guests enjoy luxuries that also reflect values of sustainability, conservation, education, and local bounty.
“Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge offers guests unforgettable off-grid immersion in pristine Vancouver Island wilderness,” said Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge General Manager Sarah Cruse. “Our all-inclusive lodge promotes time spent with the ones who matter most.”
Clayoquot Sound: A UNESCO Protected Biosphere
As a UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserve since 2000, Clayoquot Sound is one of nature’s great amphitheaters, where old-growth conifer forest surrounds remote inlets, private bays, and small islands. The rich landscape, untouched by time, supports thousands of species. For guests, the lodge is a staging area for experiencing this vast wilderness.
“From hiking in ancient forests to canyoning through gorges and meeting black bears, whales, and orca in and around Clayoquot Sound, the lodge offers incredible nature encounters,” Cruse said.
It’s an environment far removed from the steel and glass of the Vancouver area. The lodge resides in an ideal location at the northeast end of a seven-mile-long deepwater fjord at the mouth of the Bedwell River. Large trees, including Western Hemlock and Western Red Cedar, dominate the landscape.
More than 300 large animal inhabitants include the American black bear, cougar, American mink, and gray wolf. Gray whales, orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, and California sea lions call the sound home.
The lodge is located in the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation territory of Ahousaht. Since its founding in 1995, the Clayoquot team has fostered a partnership with the Nuu-chah-nulth based on friendship and a mutual desire to honor, celebrate, protect, and educate guests about the region’s natural and cultural heritage.
Seafood and plants, fruits, and vegetables harvested from the reserve make their way to the Clayoquot Cookhouse. Seafood includes fresh fish, crabs, and scallops. Produce includes foraged wild mushrooms, turnips, radishes, cabbage, and berries.
“Pulling up a seat at the open kitchen is a highlight for many guests as they witness premium local produce transformed into a world-class dining experience,” Cruse said.
Camping, Dining, and Adventure in a Luxury Retreat
The dining experience extends beyond sustainably produced breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to a premium selection of area wines and examples from other renowned wine-growing regions. The cuisine reflects a contemporary local multicultural style, and menus change daily. Sunset drinks on the rooftop lounge are a highlight.
Guests enjoy contemporary luxury in 25 campaign-style white canvas tents overlooking Clayoquot Sound or old-growth forest featuring outdoor verandas that allows them to soak in the serenity. Tent selections range from 517 to 592 square feet of living space.
“Some include open-air showers for forest bathing in the truest sense,” Cruse said.
These leisurely accommodations invite contemplation and reading, but Clayoquot Sound is the best reason for making the journey to Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge. Accordingly, the lodge makes a variety of well-thought-out outdoor experiences available to guests.
Signature experiences include canyoning through the valleys and waterways that run to Clayoquot Sound. Guests paddle board up the glacier-fed Bedwell River to a waterfall channel and several hidden waterholes. Salmon gather in those places, offering snorkelers and swimmers a glimpse into their lifestyle.
The Sights of the Sound experience is a half-day boat tour in search of whales and bears living their best lives among the bounty of Clayoquot Sound. Bears are often seen at water’s edge during low tide, rummaging for crabs and other crustaceans. Guests can then venture further out for close-up views of whales, porpoises, seals, and sea lions.
Guests appreciate prepared gourmet lunches on the many available hiking, canoeing, and kayaking excursions. Bespoke helicopter tours are available. And guests especially love to meet the lodge’s team of friendly horses and dogs.
“A horseback journey through gorges and valleys and across rivers is a wonderful way to experience the landscape,” Cruse said.
An Unmatched Natural and Cultural Destination
The waterfront Healing Grounds Spa features two treatment rooms, a massage tent, a yoga and meditation room, cedar hot tubs, and a sauna in a relaxing outdoor space. It’s an ideal resource for starting the morning off right or renewing oneself after an experience in the sound.
A variety of all-inclusive rates and packages include dining and beverages, signature guided experiences, one 60-minute massage per person, turndown service, in-room amenities, and laundry service.
Amenity tents and the waterfront lounge are always available. Peak season runs from June through September, with savings available during briefer shoulder seasons in spring and fall.
A horse-drawn wagon shuttle transports guests to the lodge from the seaplane landing area. Guests may also access the lodge via its 12-seater vessel, The Norwester, which takes a 35-minute journey from the nearby town of Tofino.
The lodge was recently refurbished and is ready to accept a full complement of 50-60 guests. Travel card rewards enthusiasts and adventurers who commit to the journey reward themselves with an experience unlike any other, a chance to commune with nature in the land of the Nuu-chah-nulth.
The team at Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge is available to serve guests throughout their stay and can tailor the experience to suit personal preferences to make the most of every guest’s time. Follow-up emails help the team continue to tailor and improve the experience. The lure of the wilderness is strong — and guests sometimes return for multiple stays.
Undoubtedly, those who revisit the lodge aren’t the same people they were on their first arrival. Something about being up close to the raw beauty of the Pacific Northwest changes visitors.