LONG BEACH LODGE RESORT
1441 Pacific Rim Highway, Tofino, B.C.; 1-877-844-7873; http://www.longbeachlodgeresort.com.
Rooms and rates: 20 two-bedroom cottages and 40 rooms from $199 to $569.
Plan a trip to Tofino and you'll inevitably stumble on the phrase "Vancouver Island's wild west coast." In the language of brochurese, this can mean pretty much anything - but once in a while the tourism hyperbole is actually warranted. That's why about a million people descend on this tiny town every year. They come to see untouched rain forest. They come to see bears that can weigh up to 600 pounds.
Then there are the waves. In summer, the surfing is gentle enough for newbies to hop on a board. In winter, well, you'd be hard-pressed to find a word other than raw to describe the power of the Pacific.
If you're a "ripper," of course, this just means you don booties before you tackle the six-metre waves. As for the rest of us? Enter the Long Beach Lodge Resort. Located on Cox Bay, where some of the most massive winter waves crash onto shore, this luxurious property includes a lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows for storm-watching. It's a cultivated approach to the "wild west coast."
Location About a 15-minute drive from Tofino. There are taxis and shuttles to various locations in and around town.
Ambience To call the vibe chill is an understatement. If you can't unwind here, consider stress-management therapy.
Clientele This isn't the place for fresh divorcées: Both young honeymooners and older couples abound. On the other hand, you can bring a dog - there are four rooms and six cottages that accommodate them for a $50 fee.
Design Maybe it's because Tim Hackett, the resort's builder, based the design on his own home in Victoria. Or maybe it's the work of interior designer Kimberly Williams. Whichever, this post-and-beam inn achieves a rare combination of hominess and elegance.
Perhaps the most impressive example is what the lodge calls the "great room." In addition to massive windows, the lounge-cum-restaurant area has a cozy granite fireplace, caramel leather chairs and Persian rugs hand-picked by Hackett.
There's also lots of West Coast wood here: beams cut and milled in northern B.C., Douglas fir tables designed by Brent Comber, and side tables made with wood salvaged from storm-damaged trees.
Rooms If you're willing to splurge, you can snag a room that looks right onto the beach. Even if you don't have a view, though, you'll hear the pounding surf from the bedrooms in the main lodge. Combine that with beds topped with fluffy white duvets and deep soaker tubs in the bathrooms and the cocoon-like effect is complete.
As for all those couples, in some rooms, the wall between the bedroom and the bathroom has a window cut into it to up the romance factor - but there are blinds for privacy, and the toilet is tucked behind the shower stall.
The rooms include a TV, DVD player and lots of reminders of the wilderness outside: The art includes wildlife paintings by local artist Mark Hobson and you'll find bird and plant books by the nightstands.
The only thing that might ruin your natural high is the sound of plates clanking if you stay down the hall from the kitchen. For total quiet, you may want a cottage to yourself. Each has two bedrooms,
a living and kitchen area with lovely wood accents and a
Amenities There's no business centre here. Although isn't that why you schlepped all the way to Tofino? Likewise, while there is a gym with basic weights, an elliptical machine and a bike, you may want to just stroll along the beach instead.
Service The dining-room servers are attentive, but don't count on the front desk to call surf schools to check class times for you. You could call this laid-back, West Coast service. Or you could say the staff here needs more training.
Food and Drink The breakfast buffet includes yogurt as thick as icing and wonderfully goopy cinnamon buns. At lunch and dinner, some of the dishes are a bit ambitious - pan-seared venison loin, for example - but you can do worse. Another option: Pick up a picnic from Breaker's Deli (250-725-2558) or a decadent scallop burger with bacon and onion rings at Wildside Grill (250-725-9453). Or try SoBo (250-725-2341) - the town's gourmet stop. Their shrimp fish tacos are not to be missed.
Things to Do The annual migration of up to 20,000 grey whales is winding up now. Otherwise take a surf lesson from Surf Sister ( http://www.surfsister.com). Water ferries also stop at Meares Island, where you can hike through an old-growth forest with moss-draped, 18-metre-wide cedars ( http://www.oceanoutfitters.bc.ca).
After all that exertion, you probably deserve a massage. The spa at The Wickaninnish ( http://www.wickinn.com), a 10-minute drive from the lodge, has treatment rooms where you can hear waves pound the beach as a masseuse pounds your back.
Watching waves crash against the windows of the lounge as you sip a nice hot toddy.
Service should go beyond a friendly smile.
This is the West Coast pile you wish you owned. It's airy yet cozy, luxurious yet informal.