Vacay.ca has teamed with Aboriginal Tourism of British Columbia to profile a series of culturally enriching fall adventures in the province. This article by deputy editor Rod Charles is the latest in the series.
Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
One of the best ways to have an unforgettable vacation experience is to load it up with welcoming people who are keen to share their knowledge and insights of the places they call home.
When it comes to warm hosts, the men and women of British Columbia’s Indigenous communities are experts. For them, whales, grizzly bears, rivers, artwork, and good food are not just recipes for a successful vacation — they are part of a cherished way of life.
Away from the bright lights of the cities and congested roads of urban centres, the options to let go and have fun in Canada’s western playground are endless. You can hang out with a sea lion at Kwa’lilas Hotel or step back into history and see petroglyphs at Spirit Bear Lodge.
At the end of an enjoyable day, sit back and tell jokes with your new friends at Hiellen Longhouse Village’s outdoor BBQ or impress your friends back home by purchasing awesome gifts at the Dockside Smoked Fish Store during a stay at House of Himwitsa.
If you’re looking for a getaway that has everything from crazy ocean experiences to forest meditation, head west and immerse yourself in Indigenous culture and be amazed. Here are 10 unique experiences to consider for your fall getaway. Members of Aboriginal Tourism BC operate all of these lodges, hotels and resorts.
Spirit Bear Lodge
How’s this for a unique stay? Head to the ancestral lands and traditional territory of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais peoples and explore the natural habitat of the world’s only Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy. Located in Klemtu, Spirit Bear Lodge offers 4-7 day tour packages in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest on BC’s wild coast.
At Spirit Bear Lodge, education becomes part of your vacation experience. See the rare spirit bear and majestic grizzly while viewing petroglyphs and totem poles. Enjoy the hatchery and when the day is over, kick back and relax in the lodge, where each room comes with a king-size bed, private bathroom and jaw-dropping views.
Address: 300 Spirit Bear Drive, Klemtu
Best Western Tin Wis
On majestic Mackenzie Beach off Clayoquot Sound, the Best Western Tin Wis Resort has a wide variety of activities. If you love hiking, bear watching or shopping or just relaxing over an excellent meal, Best Western Tin Wis is where you need to be. Located just four kilometres (2.5 miles) from local galleries, shops, and culinary delights, this Tofino hotel is owned by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and features well-appointed guest rooms, each fully equipped with a 37-inch TV, high-speed wireless Internet access, and a gorgeous view of the ocean. Whale-watching tours, hot springs, deep-sea fishing, paddle boarding and kayaking are just a handful of activities that will leave you breathless.
A trip to Tofino is also a wonderful way to discover the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, who have fished for salmon, cod, halibut, seals and whales have called the west coast of Vancouver Island home for over 10,000 years. Tofino has several galleries and authentic experiences that will allow visitors to dive deep into this culture.
One organization that can help with your discovery is Spirit Eagle Experiences, an organization that offers guided tours and experiences into the traditions of the Nuu-chah-nulth.
Address: 1119 Pacific Rim Highway, Tofino
Sasquatch Crossing Eco-Lodge
Sasquatch Crossing Eco Lodge, located in Sts’ailes, a 20-minute drive east of Chilliwack, features comfortable accommodations with warm and inviting hosts ready to share their lovely 87-acre property featuring peaceful trails and places to meditate. This gem includes a secluded waterfall that provides green energy to the property 10 months of the year. At the end of the day, settle down in one of nine guestrooms. Sasquatch Crossing Eco Lodge offers complimentary breakfast to its guests.
The lodge is located in Agassiz, a small community located in the Eastern Fraser Valley region that is home to the Agassiz-Harrison Museum and Visitor Information Centre. Open from open to the public from the May long weekend to Thanksgiving weekend in October, the Agassiz-Harrison Museum and Visitor Information Centre is housed in one of Canada’s oldest standing wooden Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) stations.
Address: 15500 Morris Valley Road, Agassiz
Camp, fish, watch birds or just gaze at the stars with friends and family at Cluxewe Resort, located in the land of the Kwakiutl people on the north end of Vancouver Island. Activities include golfing, birding, wildlife viewing, kayaking, hiking, and a grizzly bear-watching tour. When the day is over, head for the Cluxewe Waterfront Bistro and a mouth-watering new menu. Stay in one of the cottages and relax as you listen the Pacific Ocean crash gently into the shoreline.
Feeling more adventurous? Get outside! A unique feature of Cluxewe Resort is the camping, featuring 147 sites ranging from tent only to full and partial hook-ups for campers and RVs.
And if you have time catch the 40-minute ferry ride to Alert Bay and checkout the U’mista Cultural Centre and Museum where visitors can discover the tradition of potlatch.
Address: #1 Cluxewe Campground Road, Port McNeill
Wya Point Resort
Whether your interest is hiking, sitting back and enjoying the stars or savouring a delicious meal, Wya Point Resort will appeal to the keen traveller who seeks a unique experience. In Ucluelet, Wya Point Resort offers lodges, yurts and camping experiences, fishing charters, whale-watching tours, and the Ucluelet Aquarium. With secluded sandy coves, clear water, and hidden rock pools, the beaches at Wya Point provide endless recreational fun. Get acquainted with the Ucluelet First Nation (also known as the Yuu-tluth-aht First Nation) and immerse yourself in their living culture amid a beautiful setting on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Be sure to check out the Reflecting Spirit Gallery, a consignment fine art gallery that showcases works by Vancouver island artists and art of West Coast First Nations.
Address: 2695 Tofino Ucluelet Highway, Ucluelet
Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge/Cape Mudge Resort
Located on Quadra Island, a 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River, Tsa-Kwa-Luten lives in a region teeming with life, Indigenous history, and a strong spiritual presence. Created by the We Wai Kai Nation, this lodge offers architecture, art, and culture based on traditional Kwagiulth values. A wonderful stop is the The Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre where visitors can see the Petroglyphs and learn about the culture from elders.
When evening arrives, enjoy a varied selection of gourmet west-coast cuisine. All dining areas offer spectacular mountain and ocean views.
Address: 1, Lighthouse Road, Quathiaski Cove, Quadra Island
Meaning “place to sleep” in the language of the Gwa’sala Nakwaxda’xw people, Kwa’lilas Hotel offers exceptional dining and activities in the breathtaking landscape of northern Vancouver Island. In Port Hardy, the hotel is set against an eye-candy feast of mountain ranges and pristine forests. See marine mammals such as whales and sea lions on a wildlife tour, participate in workshops on drum making and cedar weaving, or check out the Port Hardy Museum. When the sun goes down and the stars come out, feast on an Aboriginal-inspired cuisine in the property’s restaurant.
Address: 9040 Granville Street, Port Hardy
House of Himwitsa
This lodge brands itself as the First Name in Fairly Traded First Nations Art. Himwitsa Native Art Gallery has award-winning masks, carvings, and jewelry. The House of Himwitsa features items that will bring life to your home and gifts that will thrill family and friends. Speaking of shopping, be sure to check out the Dockside Smoked Fish Store for a wide variety of tasty treats before heading home. Items include Wild Smoked Sockeye Indian Candy, Wild Smoked Chum Honey Garlic, Lobster Pâté and Estevan Solid White Albacore Tuna in extra virgin olive oil.
When you are finished discovering what the art gallery and fish store has to offer, head for one of four spacious suites at Himwitsa, with fluffy queen-size beds and an inspiring view of Clayoquot Sound.
Address: 300 Main Street, Tofino
Haida House at Tlaal
Haida House at Tlaal offers everything you need for a thrilling fall vacation on Canada’s west coast. Lose yourself in this stunning region known as the “Island of the People.” Ancient rainforests with pristine rivers will soothe your soul and awaken your senses. Unique packages are available at Haida House at Tlaal, including alpine adventures and helicopter tours.
At the end of the day enjoy a traditional Haida tapas-style meal with local seafood, game meat, and forest harvests.
Address: 2087 Beitush Road, Tlell
Hiellen Longhouse Village
Located in Tow Hill in Haida Gwaii, Hiellen Longhouse Village features traditional Haida-style cedar, hemlock, and spruce longhouses that provide comfortable accommodations that can easily sleep four. Owned and operated by the Old Massett Village Council’s Economic Development Team, this pet-friendly locale has a gas stove top, an outdoor BBQ, and a wood-burning fireplace. Visitors can hike to Tow Hill, explore beautiful Naikoon Park, or rent a car to further explore Haida Gwaii.
Address: Tow Hill Road, Masset