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A short airborne jaunt north of Vancouver brings you to the remote Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resortone of the most luxurious destinations in B.C.
Way back in the ’70s, a pair of wandering misfits dropped roots in a forgotten corner of British Columbia. Deborah and Craig Murray, young refugees from Ontario, newly in love and with a baby on the way, took a step away from convention to carve a life out of a wild pocket of the province’s west coast. They were drawn by talk of a wonderful waterfall that Craig believed could help them sustain their little family with not just fresh drinking water but hydroelectric power as well.
Three decades on, the tiny lodge they built has found sure footings in its home in the secluded Broughton Archipelago, 300 kilometres northwest of Vancouver. That’s as the crow flies, but planes take a more circuitous route, so if you’re visiting Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort today, you’re likely to fly over the Inside Passage to Port Hardy, where one of the lodge’s helicopters or float planes will whisk you just above the treetops the 18 minutes across the Johnstone Strait.
And when you arrive? What began as a humble staging area for days of fishing and nights of whisky from the bottle has grown into a world leader in luxurious adventure. National Geographic recognized Nimmo Bay at the start of this year as one of its 24 inaugural Unique Lodges of the World (Canada’s only other contribution is the Fogo Island Inn off Newfoundland), calling it “the very definition of a secret hideaway.” It’s a fair description, though words can go only so far in capturing the extreme, isolated beauty of the setting—so absurdly majestic you’d be forgiven if, when you step onto the dock from your Grumman Goose, you burst into laughter at the audacious, unreasonable splendour of a half-dozen chalets stilt-set over the intertidal zone, their faces to the sea, their backs to the mid-coast’s forested grandeur.
Stays aren’t cheap. (You’re starting at $3,000 a night per couple, with flights, accommodation, food, and adventuring thrown in.) But if you commit the cash, this is a guaranteed life memory. It starts with little things, like fresh-baked cookies in your chalet, wine chilling in the fridge. Each day’s itinerary is built to your interests, and the range is impressive for a lodge with only 18 guests (and the same number of staff). Like to fish? Nimmo Bay was built as a fishing resort, and thrived for its first two decades on U.S. corporate jaunts until Lehman Brothers ruined expensed trips for everyone. The area’s still packed with rivers—50 of them thread across 130,000 square kms accessed by helicopter—that are themselves packed with so much salmon and steelhead and char and trout that you could pull a hundred out in a day, guides say. Then put them back: Nimmo Bay is strictly catch-and-release.
You can’t gut your prey, but you can eat their cousins. Chef Sandi Irving (ex-Sooke Harbour House) feeds you from the moment you land, making a priority of regional ingredients and foraged fresh foods. (Wines are B.C., too.) Dinner our first night started with smoked salmon on the floating dock alongside G&Ts with Victoria Spirits gin bearing disks of cucumber, then into the communal dining lodge for albacore on an heirloom tomato salad with arugula vinaigrette, followed by halibut with bacon cabbage rolls and roasted red pepper cream and fresh asparagus. To finish, a vanilla-honey cheesecake with birch syrup ice cream, berries and Italian meringue—all prepared by pastry chef Brooke Lodge in the bakehouse floating next door. Nights finish back on the dock, lolling like walruses in Adirondack chairs pulled up to the fire pit, blankets and wine generously to hand, as the stars flicker into view.
If fishing’s not in the plans, guides are well versed in all aspects of back-country adventure. Wildlife is plentiful, so, gourmet picnic in hand, head out by boat for grizzly watching (this is the Great Bear Rainforest, after all) or by helicopter to track wolverines on the nearby glaciers or by kayak in search of porpoises and dolphins or on foot up the side of nearby 5,000-foot Mt. Stephens.
Where Nimmo Bay excels (beyond top-tier accommodations, killer food, faultless service and apex views) is in the relationships the guides have with local experts. If it’s possible to get your fill of back-of-beyond fly-fishing and extreme-solitude kayaking in the first days, bookmark time for more cultural pursuits. The area’s First Nations are enthusiastic resort partners; Mike Willie will accompany you to Alert Bay or into the forest to tell the history of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. At 80, Billy Proctor has spent his entire life in the area; visit his museum of found objects and go foraging with help from his friend Nikki van Schyndel. If traditional artmaking is your thing, accomplished carver Henry Speck is only a boat ride away.
Reluctantly heading to the Port Hardy airport, I run into Craig Murray, the man responsible for this magical enterprise. You must be so proud, I say. The perfection of the setting, the unbeatable fishing, the chalets and food. Nah, he says. This place isn’t special because of all that. “It’s the people,” he says as he walks me onto the tarmac. “The rest is just sticks and nails.”
Clayquot Wilderness Resort The nicest tents you’ll ever sleep in (nice enough for Ryan Reynolds and ScarJo) are a 60-minute seaplane trip from Vancouver. wildretreat.com
Sonora Resort You can actually helicopter the 50 minutes to this Desolation Sound gem, giving you more time to kayak or get massaged. Or take cooking classes or practise archery or… sonorareort.com