Runway Expansion Attracts New Groups to Wickaninnish Inn, Vancouver Island

After a recent $3.7 million expansion to the Tofino Airport runway, The 75-room Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, Canada has never been more accessible. The property is a luxurious 5-star resort overlooking Chesterman Beach on the outskirts of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The lush green landscape, extremely personable service and immediate private beach access won us over, not to mention the majestic Ancient Cedars Spa and award-winning Pointe Restaurant facing the sea.

Some say that the destination is also one of the greenest places in North America, like Managing Director Charles McDiarmid, who we spoke to this week.

PREVUE: How is group business at Wick Inn?

CHARLES McDIARMID: Groups take two approaches. We do a lot of exclusive events where groups will buyout the inn for 3-5 days. If it’s not an exclusive group we will take no more than 30 guestrooms at a time for a group because we have only 75 rooms. We don’t want the leisure guests to feel that they are at a party that they were not invited to.

How accessible is the inn?

Access to Tofino is simple. You can fly or drive in easily. It’s typically a 3-hour drive from Nanaimo. You can fly in via scheduled service from Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal. There are daily services from Orca Airways 3-4 flights a day. The service is usually 8-passenger planes. For larger groups, they charter a plane. The airport is 15-minutes from the inn. There are three 5,000-foot concrete runways. It’s a rather large airport. The federal government finished a $3.7 million upgrade to the primary runway. It’s 5,000 feet long and 100 feet wide. You can fly in almost any kind of corporate aircraft.

Can you tell us about the local area and why groups love to book the inn?

It’s the most beautiful landscape on the western coast of North America. We just hosted DBRE, a commercial real estate group, for an exclusive buyout group this past June. They were with us three years ago and they returned this year. The reason that they chose us and chose to return for the second time is because of the beauty of the landscape, the access to the outdoor, personal service and great comfort. There are incredible culinary experiences. You can be out salmon fishing and then feast on what you caught earlier in the day.

We also have a tremendous range of outdoor activities: surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, seaplane tours, etc. You drive through Pacific Rim National Park to get here. Nature viewing, bear watching, bird watching, whale watching—it’s all-accessible in Tofino. For groups, one of the ultimate draws is to get away from the hectic life of the city. The beauty of Platwood Sound and the ocean that stretches for 14,000 kilometers [8,700 miles] across the Pacific surrounds you. That’s a big part of the attraction.

Is there private beach access?

We are on Chesterman Beach, the largest beach outside of Pacific Rim National Park. The beach is 2.5 miles long and you’re located directly on the water. The entire beach is residential. So we are the only resort that has access to the beach.

We also have a totally private beach. We are located on 100 acres of land. Right out the backside of the property, within easy walking distance is the road access to the private beach. Because the coastline is so rugged, the only way to get there is through our property. We do events on that beach for groups. It faces south and is away from the west winds. You’re protected because the land sits higher and the vegetation shields 700-800 yards of the beach from the wind.

What are some unique outdoor programs for groups?

We have a carving shed where an artist will create totem poles or canoes right in front of you. Groups can have a hand in participating in the completion of the work. With some instruction they can use the tools and help the artist create something beautiful.

I would recommend taking a group out to Hot Springs Cove. The amazing hot springs pour out of the forest and cascade into pools right down into the ocean. It’s hot! You’re right in the middle of the rainforest. To get there you go by boat or floatplane. You walk 20 minutes through a cedar plank pathway, right through the forest. They are all-natural pools. It’s an amazing experience, it’s the kind of thing that makes the west coast so unique and really beautiful.

Speaking of floatplanes, if a group wants to do a fishing trip, send them up to Pretty Girl Lake in the heart of Clayoquot Sound. You’ll be surrounded by gorgeous forestland and fishing in about 15 minutes.

Can you tell us about the spa?

The Ancient Cedar Spa is about 1,800 square feet. It includes Cedar Sanctuary, one of the two double treatment rooms that look right out to the ocean. There are four additional treatment rooms. The steam room is decorated like a sea cave. It’s amazing. The seats are all heated, so the benches are warm between steams. There are hand blown starfish from a local artist that are backlit by fiber optic light. It’s very different and very special. It’s always part of a group experience. Everyone always wants time in the spa.

What kind of meeting facilities are there on property?

We have a 720-sf multiuse room for groups. We can do up to 50 pax for a sit down meal. We also have a boardroom for up to 12. One of the things that we have done when we hosted all the managers of Relais & Chateaux North America, we used a nearby facility that is only a 3-minute bus ride away. That space is an option for larger groups that might need meeting space. The space is 4,000 square feet.

The Pointe Restaurant hosts buyouts for groups between 30 and 160 pax. The restaurant has two separate buildings, the Pointe building and the Beach building. A popular event is a mixer on the opening night where the group will take over all three floors of the restaurant. We will have food and wine stations and finish off with dessert on the beach level. You’ll walk out on the patio in front of the Driftwood Cafe and enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean.