Clayoquot Wilderness Resort - Unique floating lodge and a spectacular outdoor wilderness retreat

Tofino, British Columbia

Bedwell River Valley Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is a place we liked quite a lot, and is in fact two separate resorts under the same eco tourism banner. It is in fact a floating hotel/lodge with extensive fishing, hiking etc as well as a wilderness outpost where you live in luxury tents and enjoy hiking, fishing, horseback riding and more. Both resorts that are separated by about a twenty minute boat ride are the brainchild of a Canadian with deep pockets, Rick Genovese and the general manager John Caton, a modern day cowboy who runs the outpost along with his two sons. John's wife Adele is in charge of the lodge, which is different in concept and style from the outpost. Genovese, a former broker who now lives in Monaco, visits the resort at least four times a year and is passionate about this venture. Most trips that last about four to five days are split between both places, eliminating the sense of routine that some high octane guests undoubtedly feel wherever they go. The lodge also has a relaxation room with a television, a facility that is apparently rarely used.

A new state of the art spa called the Healing Grounds features all the massages you could ever want in a four or five day stay including the 3,500 years old Shiatsu massage that can last up to ninety minutes. The finger-pressure massage is designed to reduce muscle tension by concentrating on the body's acupuncture points and meridian lines. Very effective, but you might want to try the Hot Rocks massage, from the native Indian tribes in the area who have used this method for centuries. Basalt stones gathered from beaches throughout Clayoquot Sound are gently heated then used to deliver an all-over massage. The sauna was still being built during our stay, but will be up and running next season.

Bedwell River Outpost

Clayoquot is situated about a half hour boat ride from the idyllic surfing town of Tofino, which is served by Canada West Airlines' tiny six seater aircraft. We barely made it in that day, and only the pilot's local knowledge prevented us from being diverted almost 100 miles North due to the low cloud cover that blanketed the tiny Tofino airport. On arrival at the lodge, guests are shepherded into their room and from there on in the adventure begins. Activities are planned the night before for each guest, while they sit down to enjoy a gourmet meal prepared by innovative chef Timothy May. May uses all fresh West Coast ingredients in his cooking, and is extremely passionate about his delicately prepared cuisine. He has been at Clayoquot since they first opened the doors to this great adventure. He works ten days straight and four days off, and when he arrives in the morning by speedboat he stays around all day and night until the final dinner has been served, before heading back by boat to his family in Tofino. He is also planning to open his own restaurant in Tofino, but is such a valuable asset to Clayoquot, that he will at the very least stay on as executive chef.

He has an open kitchen in the dining room where up to six diners can sit on the counter and look directly onto the kitchen as his delicacies are being prepared for consumption. His cuisine includes organic greens and herbs from Nanoose Farms just outside Nanaimo, and organic berries and honey from Port Alberni. He also uses exclusively Free-Range Chicken and Muscovy duck from the Cowichan Valley, Dungeness crab, Wild Pacific Salmon, Roasting Oysters, Sea Scallops from Clayoquot Sound, Wild Mushrooms from Vargas Island, Sea Asparagus from Cypre Bay and Fir Buds from the back yard.

Bedwell River Outpost

One knock on him is that he refuses to incorporate the "fusion" style of cooking so popular right now in trend setting Vancouver and Los Angeles, his only concession to that style being Roasted Snap Top Carrot and Ginger Soup with fresh Thyme and Creme Fraiche. The roasting oysters he uses are absolutely delicious and can take as long as five years to cultivate. I also enjoyed his strong preference for roasted parsnips - another rarity in North America. Aside from Rob Feenie of Lumiere fame, he is also the only chef in Canada I know of offering a fresh sorbet between courses - a nice touch that helps clear the palet preceding a main course.

The Outpost at Clayoquot is as remote as a place as you can get. When you get off the boat at the landing you are picked up in an old pioneer horse wagon, and taken the short trip to the tents where you settle in readiness for your adventure. In case you need to keep in touch with the outside world, there is a recreation tent that has an internet hook up, but the three days we were there I never saw anybody use it. Horseback riding is another buzz at the Outpost, where even the beginner will feel safe trekking through the slippery rainforest with these sure footed animals. John Caton is an excellent guide and rider, and once you have tried it, even if you have never been on a horse in your life, you're likely to want to do it every day. Not content to rest on their laurels, the folks at the outpost are planning a farm where they will be able to rear and grow their own food, along with additional hiking trails and much more. The hiking trails have to be hacked out manually, adequately marked and then maintained almost on a daily basis as the undergrowth just grows too rapidly in such a climate.

The food at the Outpost is slightly different to the intricate offerings at the lodge, more of a down home feel to it, but excellent all the same. Judy Walker, formerly an assistant at King Pacific Lodge, is the chef in charge. She enjoys her new found freedom a lot, and what we liked about this set up was that even if you cruise down for a late breakfast, she has no problems in preparing whatever you want as you weigh up the options for the morning activities. That might include a hike behind the camp in the unique and fantastic setting of the Bedwell River, but a word of advice. Always take a bear horn with you, and if possible a guide either of the human or canine variety. We made the mistake of starting out too late in the afternoon, and yes you guessed it, got lost. Luckily, four hours later just as night was coming in fast, we found our way back, but already the camp had started to organize a search party. A great sense of relief was experienced by all concerned, as the prospects of spending a night in a damp, dark, rainforest was not turning us on at all.

888.333.5405, or
250.726.8235, or

Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts on the web

Mike Hepworth, October 2002

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