Take a Walk on the Wild Side: The Wickaninnish Inn

I’m dangling over the raw, pounding Pacific Ocean on Canada’s westernmost shore. Two bald eagles soar above and a seal rides the foamy surf. “I’m glad they’re putting on a show for you today,” says Charles McDiarmid, managing director of the Wickaninnish Inn, near Tofino on Vancouver Island, B.C.

Nature’s summer blockbuster is taking place outside the 240-degree, wrap-around windows of the inn’s Pointe Restaurant. It’s perched on a rocky crag that juts into the water. Snugged right up against the glass, I have the best seat in the house. A gray whale flirtatiously flips its fluke and Charles tells me sea lions, river otters and minks are also known to take a bow. Inside, a rustic elegance prevails —cedar post and beams hold up 20 foot ceilings, a circular copper fireplace sits stoked, ready to be lit after dusk, and speakers pipe in nature’s soundtrack from microphones situated outside the restaurant.

The cuisine is as spectacular as the wildlife. Clayoquot Sound, which the inn is next door to, produces some of the country’s finest clams, mussels, sea urchins, Dungeness crab and scallops. I nibble on the salmon tartar appetizer, spread on crunchy flat bread and sprinkled with lime, sea salt, caraway and dill. The deep, sunset-red flesh melts in my mouth. Chef Andrew Springett represented Canada at the Bocuse d’Or 2003 and was a member of the team that won the gold medal at the World Culinary Olympics in Germany in 2000.

Everything about the “Wick” is top-notch. A Relais & Chateaux property, its 75 rooms and suites are nestled next door to the Pointe, hidden in an old growth forest and overlooking two-miles of driftwood-strewn beach. The on-site Ancient Cedars spa, while diminutive, is so private and romantic Conde Nast readers named it one of North American top 50 resort spas this year.

It may be wild, but woolly it sure ain’t.

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