Ruffin’ It Meets Luxury in Beautiful British Columbia

Discerning Dogs Flock to Tofino’s Dog-Friendly Wickaninnish Inn

By Si Si Penaloza


Photo credit: Wickaninnish Inn

Nothing compares to the love an adventurous dog has for the beach. At the seaside, your dog is the Emperor of all things salt and sand – swimming, digging, running and rolling. Tofino, British Columbia, had been on my radar for years. My ultimate wish was the Wickaninnish Inn, a legendary Relais and Chateau property perched on the western edge of Vancouver Island.

A world-class haven for hand-crafted holistic lifestyles, welcome to life in the sweet, slow lane. The Inn has hosted many high profile guests on personal family vacations. Helmed by impressive hotelier and dog lover Charles McDiarmid, this gem is perennially named among the world’s top resorts in Condé Nast Traveler awards. A consummate pro, McDiarmid has been driving the company’s high standards on sustainability from the beginning. He has surrounded himself with the best of the best across all departments, and it really shows. In recruiting creative leadership, he inspires such respect from staff that they carry out his directives with monastic discipline.


Photo credit: Wickaninnish Inn

The Wickaninnish, or “the Wick” as it is dubbed fondly by locals, is on many a pet lover’s’ bucket list. The resort also offers a bevy of indoor dogs-welcome areas, like the library where you can kick back with the pup, dive into a smoldering novel, and an even smokier scotch. The property features two buildings, the Wick at the Pointe and the Wick at the Beach. The Wick at the Pointe is ground zero for once-in-a-lifetime storm watching and romantic stargazing on calmer nights. If you’re more of a beach bum, the Wick at the Beach offers direct access to Chesterman beach through the Driftwood lounge.


Photo credit: Wickaninnish Inn

The Inn’s “Ruffin It” package provides a plush dog bed and a basket full of doggie necessities, including dishes, towels, baggies, treats, a Chuck-It, and of course, a copy of Modern Dog. Upon arrival, you will be met by the valet who will already know your dog’s name. Unwind and appreciate the sensational views and hand-crafted amenities for both human and canine in each pet-friendly room. When it’s time to play, wrangle up your pooch and the Chuck-It and hit the infamous Chesterman beach, regarded by surfers as Tofino’s most spellbinding panorama of breaking waves. Impossibly smooth sand makes Chesterman the perfect beach for dogs; there is little danger from jagged rocks or urban debris. Trekking back from the beach, you’ll find an utterly charming dog-wash station complete with shower, towels, and eco-friendly dog bags.

For the more adrenaline-fuelled traveler, Surf Sisters is the top outfit offering intuitive teaching techniques, appropriately thick wetsuits and quality boards. CBC personality, Rick Mercer, clearly had a ball with the Surf Sister team on one of his jaunts to Tofino. Catching your first wave is one of life’s all time great thrills, and once you stand up for the first time you’ll taste the delicious feeling. If you’re not careful, you’ll be instantly and insanely hooked. This happened to me at Surf Sisters; with over 100 combined years of teaching experience, this crew of all-female instructors takes you from beginner to surfer in a safe and supportive environment. The tribe of plucky instructors look too cool for school driving around in their signature pink gear and pink VW van.


Photo credit: Wickaninnish Inn

After a morning of pounding waves, you must surrender to the Ancient Cedars Spa at Wickaninnish Inn. Its atmosphere is otherworldly and diaphanous; a true escape from everyday cares. The first thing to know about posting Wick selfies to your Instagram is that everyone – even those who quite like you – will secretly loathe you for it. Reason enough to go straight away. You may as well announce you’re also being treated to a midnight, in-suite couples massage with Michael Fassbender. Yet when you’re dining on the terrace, while a tangerine sunset illuminates the sky, it’s hard to recall the rest of the world even exists – much less fret over what it might think. Sheltered by the forest fringe, the spa’s views of the Pacific coastline are rather off the dial. Nutrient-rich seaweed is hand-harvested off the coast of the spa’s own setting of Vancouver Island, producing certified organic SeaFlora Skincare.


Photo credit: Wickaninnish Inn

After a languid afternoon in the spa, head in to enjoy an epicurean journey at the Pointe Restaurant. The octagonal dining room is mostly windows and provides an iconic view of Chesterman Beach. While your dog can’t exactly venture into the fine dining room, The Wick Inn offers dog-sitting on request, should you not wish to leave him alone. The Inn’s locally-inspired cuisine and service culture has generated well-deserved worldwide buzz. Talk about an epiphany on a plate: spot prawn escabeche with Okanagan peaches and corn pannacotta. We can’t recommend this hotel more highly.