Vancouver Island's Wickaninnish Inn Hails Storm Watchers

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Reed Travel Features

TOFINO, British Columbia -- The recently opened Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island here is offering air and accommodations packages for clients wanting to ride out the storm season in style.

Storm-watching is particularly spectacular on the west coast of Vancouver Island because of the punch the systems pack as they roll in from the Pacific.

"You get 25-foot waves coming in, and the way the inn is perched out on a rocky promontory, you feel as if the wave is going to crash in on the restaurant," Victoria Pratt, a spokeswoman for the inn, said. "But the inn is protected by another rocky promontory."

The storm-watching stay is part of the inn's No-Stress Express packages, which take advantage of new winter air service from Vancouver to Tofino by North Vancouver Air.

The roughly four-and-a-half-hour drive, including ferry transit, from Vancouver to Tofino is cut to under an hour by flying.

Further reducing the stress meter, clients can park their car for free at North Vancouver Air's executive terminal at Vancouver Airport and use an executive lounge at the airport. Only a 30-minute advance check-in is required.

"This is why it's called No-Stress Express," Pratt said. "You get on a plane and, bingo, you're there."

North Vancouver Air, a small, family-owned carrier, offers scheduled flights to destinations throughout British Columbia and charter flights to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. as well as to destinations east of British Columbia, such as Alberta.

Other No-Stress Express packages are planned around whale-watching season (March through June) and the summer season (July through Sep-

tember).

"The storm-watching is really the thing now because of the drama of the season," Pratt said.

"So from now until March, you have the storm season, and then you have the whales returning in March through June, so you have two neat things that sort of drift together at this point."

Prices for the two-night storm-season package, which are valid through February, start at about $225 per person, double.

The rate includes accommodations, roundtrip air from Vancouver and transfers to and from Tofino Airport to the 48-room Wickaninnish Inn, a "natural destination" property located on Chesterman Beach at the gateway to Clayoquot Sound and the Pacific Rim National Park.

A four-night, air-inclusive package starts at about $294 per person, double.

Because of the beautiful scenery to be experienced on the rugged coastline and heavily forested interior of Vancouver Island, clients might well be advised to opt for the four-and-a-half- to five-hour drive from Vancouver, especially if they have never made the transit across the Strait of Georgia on one of BC Ferries' convenient and comfortable vessels.

The cost of transit on BC Ferries is approximately $19.75 for a car and one passenger and about $4.85 for each additional passenger.

The fastest driving route for clients departing from Vancouver is to take the ferry from the Horseshoe Bay terminal (about 25 minutes north of Vancouver) to Nanaimo, about three hours away from Tofino.

Clients traveling across the border from Washington state should take the ferry from the Tsawassen terminal (about 25 minutes south of Vancouver) to Nanaimo.

Other travel options, depending on the time of year, include a ferry from Port Angeles, Wash., to Victoria, British Columbia, and the Victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria.

Tofino is about a four-hour drive from Victoria, the heavily British-influenced provincial seat of government that is a must-see on the island.

Traveling though Victoria also makes a day trip to Butchart Gardens a worthwhile possibility.

Those who want to drive can take advantage of a midweek rate special at the Wickaninnish Inn.

Clients who stay two nights and pay the rack rate (which starts at approximately $89 per night) get the third night at half price. Clients who stay for three nights at the rack rate get the fourth night free.

The air-inclusive packages are commissionable at 5% to travel agents, but agents receive the standard 10% commission on the room-only packages.

The oceanfront Wickaninnish Inn, which opened last August but until 1977 was in operation about seven miles south, on Long Beach, features 180-degree views of the Pacific Ocean.

Each room has a private balcony, handmade furniture, a gas fireplace and an oversize, deep-soaker tub with a separate shower.

Twenty-six of the rooms have the deep-soak tub overlooking the ocean.

Other room amenities include terry robes, goose-down duvets and two-line telephones.

The inn's chef, Rodney Butters, uses herbs from an on-property garden and dives for fresh seafood in the waters below the property to contribute to his menus at the Wickaninnish's Pointe Restaurant, which has a 280-degree view of the ocean.

Conference facilities also are available at the property.

For more information or to make reservations, contact the Wickaninnish Inn at (800) 333-4604.

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