Elite Escapes

Grizzlies, glaciers, gourmets: British Columbia's best luxury lodges

Chuck Thompson, CNNPublished 18th December 2015
(CNN) — Some vacationers want to get as far away as possible from cities, cars and crowds.
For others, a vacation's not a vacation if it doesn't involve princely thread counts and wines personally selected by a private chef to accompany every gourmet meal.
There are places, of course, that accommodate both types.
These lodges in the remote Canadian wilds of British Columbia's Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region combine luxury isolation amid staggering scenery, with sides of grizzly viewing, glacier flight-seeing, horseback riding, salmon fishing, heli-skiing and just about anything else you can imagine doing in one of the world's most pristine mountain environments.

Echo Valley Ranch & Spa

Echo Valley Ranch: Don't let the lumber-centric look fool you. There's much more going on here.
Like a lot of British Columbia retreats, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa is surrounded by soaring mountains, pine forests and dramatic valleys -- i.e, the best of BC scenery and solitude.
The twist at this see-it-to-believe-it retreat is the eclectic tastes of its Canadian-Thai owners, Norm and Nan Dove, who spared few costs in creating a nowhere-else-like-it luxury blend of First Nations, Canadian cowboy and Thai cultures.
And have managed to turn it all into a wonderland that somehow fits right in with the rugged landscape.
The large and intricate baan Thai (Thai house) looks like it belongs on the grounds of a temple.
That's because it was built by Dr. Pinyo Suwankiri, one of the masters of traditional architecture in Thailand.
And, yes, pretty much everyone bugs out their eyes and says "Whaaa?" when they see this magnificent classic Thai structure plopped in the middle of the Canadian wilderness.
Similarly, Echo Valley worked with top local First Nations artists to put together one of the most impressive private collections of native art in the province.
Masterful masks, carvings and paintings are displayed in guest rooms and around the main lodge and associated buildings.
Canadian ranch culture plays just as big a part in the vibe and activities -- horseback riding, gold panning and fly fishing excursions along the Fraser River start from the property's real working stable.
Incredible meals in a large wilderness lodge -- with special authentic Thai cuisine nights with banquets created by Thai chefs -- complete the unique experience.

Tweedsmuir Park Lodge

In addition to its historic main lodge, Tweedsmuir Park Lodge has 11 private chalets ... and bears.
There's classic Canadian lodge, then there's Classic Canadian Lodge.
Tweedsmuir Park Lodge is the living definition of the latter, with a historic main lodge (and 11 modern chalets) shouldered by massive granite peaks within the confines of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, BC's largest protected park.
A charter member of the Magnificent 7 Luxury Wilderness Lodges of Canada, this historic pine-and-stonework lodge was originally built in 1929 as a hunting lodge.
It was rebuilt in the 1950s with expanded offerings and more recently thoroughly modernized as a retreat aimed at visitors looking for eco-friendly experiences.
River floats, biking, First Nations guided hikes to ancient petroglyphs and autumn grizzly spotting from a safe viewing platform on the property are typical daytime activities.
"One of the big advantages we have is that we are so easy to get to: no float planes, no extra hotel nights before getting to the actual lodge, no boat shuttles," says the lodge's Tim Wilkinson. "Within three hours of Vancouver airport, you can be floating down the Atnarko River watching bears catch salmon right on the property."
There's more only-in-BC adventure on the nearby Monarch Ice Field and Coast Range mountains -- incredible serrated peaks, glaciers and otherwise inaccessible wonders are just a short helicopter or float plane flight away.
Inside tip: Ask for a heli-tour with ace pilot Richard Lapointe, a former team coordinator with the Canadian Snowbirds aerial acrobatics demonstration squadron.
In winter, Tweedsmuir Park Lodge's sister company, Bella Coola Heli Sports, runs an internationally acclaimed heli-skiing operation that specializes in small group heli-skiing.
Skiers and snowboarders from around the planet come to ski the legendary terrain surrounding the lodge.

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort

Nimmo Bay Wildnerness Resort: Luxury on and in the water.
Fish in a pristine ocean bay for wild Pacific salmon in the morning.
Heli-hike and eat lunch on a massive primordial glacier in the afternoon.
Do a little grizzly viewing before happy hour on a custom-built dock on a private inlet along the BC coast.
Finish the night with dinner prepared by a world-class chef -- maybe that salmon you caught earlier in the day.
That's paradise to owners Craig and Deborah Murray who, back in the late 1970s, dreamed of building the quintessential BC Coast lodge.
They quit their jobs -- logger, waitress -- and managed to pull off the feat with their now globally celebrated Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort.
Among many awards, this stunning spot is one of the Magnificent 7 Luxury Wilderness Lodges of Canada, a National Geographic Unique World Lodge and on the Andrew Harper "Top 10 Best Fishing Lodges in the World" list.
In the heart of British Columbia's 19-million-acre Great Bear Rainforest, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is a surreal pocket of luxury -- a cluster of tricked-out cabins floating on the water -- in the midst of some of the wildest habitat on the planet.
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