King Pacific Lodge, a floating luxury hotel on the remote Pacific Coast of British Columbia, might be summed up by its ginger snaps.
Yes, there is fishing for salmon and halibut, hiking through the Great Bear National Rainforest, the bears themselves, helicopter trips to remote streams and the tops of glaciers—all the things you associate with an ultraluxe wilderness lodge. But those ginger snaps, fresh from the lodge's extraordinary kitchen and set out in a jar in the community living room, are the perfectly distilled metaphor for the place: inviting, abiding, enchanting, enthralling.
A decade ago, owner Joe Morita, the son of Sony's founder, conceived King Pacific Lodge as a luxurious hotel/fishing lodge in complete harmony with its environment. Built on a barge, it is towed each season (June to the end of September) to its Barnard Harbour location, 350 miles north-northwest of Vancouver (100 miles from the closest highway), where it is moored as a retreat for those who want to get away from it all, but aren't exactly into roughing it.
Fishing and hiking are the principle activities. Several varieties of salmon are present during the season, as well as some really big halibut. Helicopter trips from the lodge to remote streams can be arranged. You can also hike the dense rainforest with the prospect of seeing black bears. A lucky few will spot the "spirit bear," the name the local Gitga'at people use for the Kermode subspecies of black bear that carries a recessive gene for light beige fur. The lodge regards the Gitga'at as its hosts and employs several of them as guides.
Whale watching is also on the agenda, and lodge guests may be treated to a talk and slideshow by a couple that mans the local whale-watching station. Populations of orcas and humpbacks abound, and the sight of a pod of humpbacks creating a ring of bubbles as a net in which to trap and eat fish is astounding and primal. Sea lions can be found dozing or bellowing on seamounts. Bald eagles, sometimes a dozen of them in a single tree, swoop down to grab a meal from the pure waters.
But the indoors can be as beckoning as the outdoors. The 17 rooms and suites ($4,724-$12,234 for three nights) are the very definition of rustic elegance, with fine bedding and large bathrooms with whirlpool tubs. The chairs, some of which are made of local driftwood, are cushy.
The lodge's kitchen, under the command of chef Maxim Ridorossi, is outstanding. The menu could be described as Pacific Coast nouvelle and is ever-changing with the availability of local fish and meat. Grilled Hectate Strait halibut, crispy-skin wild spring salmon, roasted Metchosin rack of lamb and seared organic B.C. beef tenderloin were recent offerings.
The wine choices, all from British Columbia, are seldom available in the United States. Among the reds are Sumac Ridge Black Sage Road Cabernet Sauvignon and Inniskillin Dark Horse Pinot Noir. Among the whites are Gehringer Brothers Dry Rock Sauvignon Blanc and Wild Goose Mystic River Chardonnay. A variety of Scotches are available, as well as a small selection of Cuban cigars, including Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristo and Cohiba, which can be enjoyed on the deck. King Pacific Lodge is reached by charter plane from Vancouver in two legs. The first flies to the island town of Bella Bella. From there a seaplane takes you to the lodge. Both rides are filled with wonder.
That's what King Pacific Lodge is about: wonder indoors and out, and a damned fine ginger snap.
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