Back to the wilderness

Back to the wilderness

A decade on, this Vancouver Island retreat is better than ever.

Words by Ute Junker

Photos supplied

Originally published in Traveller


Forty-five minutes. That is how long the sea plane transfer from Vancouver to Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, on the west coast on Vancouver Island, lasts and my nose is pressed against the window for every single one of those minutes. One jaw-dropping vista follows another, as forest-clad slopes plunge down into verdant valleys before rising up to snow-clad peaks.

I have taken this trip before, around a decade ago, so I know where we are going. Even so, as the plane begins to descend over a magnificent sound encircled on all sides by verdant forest, I search in vain for any sign of the lodge. Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge – accessible only by boat and plane –virtually disappears into the landscape. It isn’t until we enter our final loop that we the small dock sitting at the end of the inlet comes into focus.


This seclusion, and the sense of disappearing into the surroundings, was one of the things I loved about Clayoquot on my first visit. The camp was a very different property back then, upgrading from a camping to glamping experience, with en suite bathrooms added to the tents. Now that Clayoquot is run by Australia’s leading luxury lodge company, Baillie Lodges, I’m on my way back to see if this new version can match up to my memories.

We step off the plane and into a horse-drawn cart, clopping along a dirt path with trees rising high on either side. When we arrive the lodge’s hub, The Cookhouse, the camp’s entire staff are waiting, waving a greeting. The camp dogs also bound in, equally excited to have new guests.


I’m surprised to find how little has changed, although the addition of a chic new lounge and bar, complete with a rooftop area, immediately catches my eye. When I am taken to my tent it is clear that the Baillies’ $2 million makeover has been less about starting afresh, more about finessing the details. The tent interiors are more inviting than ever before, the outdoor shower beneath the trees is still an experience, and the tented spa is a glorious addition. The food has also been lifted to the next level, with options at the three-course dinner including everything from a bowl of dashi broth with koji pork meatballs, wakame and yuzu pangrattato to seared scallops with guanciale and XO sauce.

The essence of Clayoquot has always been about getting active in the great outdoors, with adventures ranging from canyoning to horseback riding through the temperate rainforest. The lodge is only open between May and September, which happens to be peak wildlife season – on a cruise in the sound we spot black bears and whales, sea lions and sea otters.

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