by Nick Watkins
  • 7 minute read
  • April 24, 2024
Why British Columbia is the perfect holiday for a digital detox

When you’re out on a boat off Vancouver Island, it’s tough to decide what’s more beautiful – the creatures beneath that move gracefully through the Pacific Ocean waters or the calmness of the towering trunks of the hillside forests that surround you. 

British Columbia is one of the world’s most naturally stunning places, with miles of ancient cedar trees, misty mountain roads and colourful seasonal scenery, making it hard to stop taking pictures.

You’ll find yourself constantly torn between wanting to capture every moment on your phone and reminding yourself to put your device down and be present in the moment because experiences like these don’t come along all too often. 

Once upon a time, Tofino was a little-known town on Vancouver Island. Few people visited, which meant the locals relied on fishing and logging to keep its humble economy stable. However, being situated in an area of such outstanding natural beauty meant it wouldn’t be that way forever. When word slowly got out about British Columbia’s best-kept secret, it became a haven for in-the-know adventure seekers looking to explore the rugged coastal wilderness and enjoy its sprawling vistas. 

A forest canopy by Jeremy Koreski

The sixteen-hour flight from the UAE to Canada might feel like a lot of effort but, in fact, it has never been easier to get to British Columbia from the Emirates – Air Canada has recently added Dubai as a non-stop destination from Vancouver. Emirates Airline also flies directly to Toronto, where a connecting flight soon takes visitors on to Vancouver, but it’s from Vancouver Harbour that the adventure really begins. The hour-long seaplane flight to Tofino is almost as mesmerising as the activities you’re heading there to experience first hand.

There’s a unique feeling when taking to the skies in such a small aircraft. The pilot is just a few feet away from you and you’re almost certainly guaranteed a window seat – just as well, because the view beneath is pretty spectacular. 

The Clayoquot Sound, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, is a series of remote islands surrounded by forestry – including the huge Pacific Rim National Park that spans over 500 kilometres. Arriving by seaplane is a surreal experience – not least because you are sharing the same perspective as Vancouver Island’s famous bald eagles that soar effortlessly through the air. 

Reaching Tofino, though your adrenaline may be pumping as you touchdown on the glassy water and take in the surrounding forests, a much-needed rest is in order. Trust us, flying this way can seriously takes it out of you, so remember to take a bit of time to recuperate. 

When deciding where to stay, it’s best if you’re clued in about the happenings of 1996. It was back then that Wickaninnish Beach (a secluded little shoreline stretch), was closed and turned into an interpretive centre. However, for a group of big-thinking Tofino residents, this idyllic hideaway wasn’t being utilised properly. So, armed with a vision and a dream, they began construction on a new luxury resort. 

Later that same year, the Wickaninnish Inn opened its doors, and it still stands at the same spot today. With the Ancient Cedars Spa added due to demand from guests who couldn’t get enough of the location, the hotel is still a hotspot almost thirty years on. The iconic Inn welcomes adventure lovers from all over the world looking for an authentic outdoor wilderness experience, with a luxury twist. 

Surrounded by 100 acres of ancient forest, guests have the choice of two buildings, the Pointe Building, which boasts expansive coastal views, and the Beach Building, located – you guessed it – on the beach. In truth, it doesn’t matter which one you stay in, because you’ll find yourself sat on the balcony or staring out the window in awe of what’s before of you. The sound of the Pacific waves crashing against the rocks is the perfect tonic after a long day of travel. 

Chesterman Beach Loft Room by Kyler Vos

The rooms are real treat for the senses too, with gigantic bathrooms housing deep tubs (ideal for soothing weary minds), as well as separate double walk-in showers, promising unspoilt views of the ocean from both. Heated tile flooring is an added bonus too if you’ve left your slippers by the door. 

From the comfy king-sized bed, you can either watch the large flat-screen TV or, better still, light up the fireplace and watch a real-life nature show unfold outside your window. The mantelpieces above the fireplaces in each of the Beach Building’s 12 suites are of particular note. Each one hand-carved to perfection, these are definitely the focal point of the stunning wooden lodges. 

Detailed woodwork is a running theme throughout the Inn’s buildings. Rooms feel akin to luxury log cabins and the nearby spa and restaurant are so cosy and relaxing they’re hard to leave, even with nature’s finest landscape tempting you from the other side of the glass. 

When it’s time to eat – which, frankly, can be any time of day, because The Pointe restaurant has magnificent panoramic views of the ocean to enjoy at all hours – there’s a fine-dining seasonal menu to suit your needs. Ingredients here are as fresh as they come, obtained from local sources and loaded with flavour. The seafood sharing plates practically come straight from the ocean, with the chilled seafood platter, Vancouver Island Oysters and ‘Northern Divine’ Caviar service all incredible options. 

If you’re not in the mood for sharing, fear not. Main courses include roasted beef tenderloin with optional foie gras, confit halibut with black truffle, or our personal favourite – the charcoal grilled sablefish served with an intrinsically sweet maple and mushroom glaze. 

Now, whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or not, it would be a crime to leave without trying one of the desserts. Our choice is the spiced apple with caramelised honey and pecan Joconde, which feels like the heartiest choice when you’re next to the roaring fireplace at the centre of the restaurant. That said, there’s no shame in ordering the ’coastal dark’ – a decadent chocolate ganache cheesecake mousse and cocoa nib served with sea buckthorn sorbet. If you can’t choose, just order more than one and work it off in the great outdoors. 

To that end, there’s plethora of nature activities to enjoy in Tofino, one of the area’s biggest and most popular of which is whale watching, with people coming from all over the world to catch a glimpse of and marvel at these magnificent marine mammals existing in their natural habitat. 

Orcas by John Forde

A short drive from the Wickaninnish Inn takes you to Tofino harbour, where you’ll take a boat out onto the water for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Between March to November, you’ll get to witness grey whales migrating to the Arctic on a 22,000-kilometre journey, which sees up to 20,000 whales stop, rest and feed along Tofino’s coast. 

As well as the grey whales, the area also attracts groups of humpback and killer whales. The unmistakable black-and-white orcas travel in groups of up to 60 and can reach speeds of 45 kilometres an hour, despite weighing up to 10,000 kilogrammes each. 

That said, when exactly the orcas show up is a bit of a lottery, so you can count yourself lucky if you spot them. However, you’re guaranteed to see plenty of other marine wildlife. Seals and sea lions bask on the rocks, and sea otters swim playfully in the water. And it’s not just in the water that nature thrives here – there’s plenty to see on land too. 

Tofino offers immersive wildlife tours where you’ll encounter families of black bears on the hunt for food. Black-tailed deer can also be spotted often, while wolves and cougars roam silently and are very rarely seen, so keep your eyes peeled. Another popular activity is hiking along the trails in the Pacific Rim National Park. Hikes here will take you through a whole host of different terrain, and they are of varying levels of difficulty. After so much adventure and excitement, a leisurely sunset stroll along Chesterman Beach is the ideal way to bring your day to a close. 

British Columbia is one of those bucket-list locations that seems too good to be true. With devices and technology playing such a big part in our daily lives, any destination that acts as a distraction from staring at a screen must be something special. 

A roaming bear by Izabela Elias

Even a few days here will be enough to remind you that life is best lived in the present and through your own eyes.

Vancouver Island offers so many wonderful outdoor adventures and the heights of luxury indoors, that you’ll soon forget about mindlessly scrolling through social media. Instead, you’ll want to concentrate on filling your mind with nature’s images that need no filter. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline-fuelled adventure or a luxury hideaway where you’re one with nature, British Columbia has you covered. 

It’s little wonder then that this corner of the world has become a sanctuary for those looking to relax, unwind, reconnect with nature and swap the glare of the screen for the glow of the wide open ocean. 

Visit and follow @wickinnbc on Instagram.

Next In