Saturday, January 28, 2023 Jan 28, 2023
49° F Dallas, TX
Cover Story

Princess Royal Island, British Columbia

Enjoying the great outdoors doesn’t mean you have to rough it. British Columbia’s King Pacific Lodge allow guests to tap into their adventurous side in style.
By Jennifer Chininis |

The lodge is docked at an uninhabited island.
photography courtesy of King Pacific Lodge

WHY GO: Sometimes you need to travel outside of your comfort zone. For me, vacation typically involves sunny skies, azure waters, and rum-infused cocktails enjoyed on the sandy beaches of a luxurious seaside retreat. But my proclivities are forever changed, thanks to King Pacific Lodge, A Rosewood Resort, nestled in Barnard Harbour of Princess Royal Island in British Columbia, amid the wilderness and wildlife of the Great Bear Rainforest.  Here I found a fondness for adventure—but I didn’t have to give up first-rate accommodations, haute cuisine, or fine wine. I simply traded sunbathing and swimming for salmon fishing and saltwater kayaking. Besides, fleece is a lot more forgiving than a bathing suit. NOT YOUR AVERAGE FISHING LODGE: By far the most popular way to wile away the day is fishing, whether trolling for Chinook, coho, or pink salmon in the saltwater surrounding the lodge, or fly-fishing in remote streams and river estuaries, which are accessible only by helicopter. While some are seasoned fishermen, 40 percent of the guests who catch a fish do so for the first time, as was the case with a Manhattan mom and her teenage daughter, who hooked a 20-pound beauty her first time out. But after a hard day of reeling, rather than returning to bare-bones accommodations only to prepare lunch over a makeshift stovetop, guests shed their red waterproof coveralls and jackets, settle into an armchair in front of the fire with a glass of British Columbian wine in hand, and wait for a to-die-for meal. (I can still taste one day’s lunch of a plump tuna steak, seared medium rare, served atop chickpea salad.) All the while, someone else is cleaning your day’s catch and flash-freezing it to ship it back home. BEYOND THE BAIT: Some diehards spend all day on a fishing boat, trying to outdo other guests or trying to best their own catches. Although we hooked a Chinook on our first morning out, we figured one good salmon was enough to boast about. There are simply too many ways to see Great Bear Rainforest. So, morning two, after a made-to-order breakfast of poached eggs and bacon, we hopped into kayaks, dressed in head-to-toe rain gear, and paddled our way around the rim of the island. Along the way our guide spoke intelligently about the indigenous flora and fauna. Looking down, we spied colorful starfish clinging stubbornly to rocks just beneath the surface of the clear waters. Looking up, we spotted bald eagles perched high in the treetops. Soon we disembarked from our vessels and hiked through the rainforest dense with vibrant green vegetation that absorbed our footsteps like a sponge. Though we didn’t see one that day, a bear had left its paw print in our path—a close enough encounter for me. THE SPORT OF RELAXATION: Not every activity at King Pacific Lodge involves the type of exertion typically associated with exercise. One lazy afternoon we climbed back into the boat, but this time for a leisurely cruise to Cornwall Inlet to visit the Longhouse, a meeting place for the local Gitga’at people, where they gather for special events, feasts, and to discuss important matters. Our guide that day was a Gitga’at himself, a quiet fellow who spoke only when he had something significant to say—the perfect partner for an afternoon of quiet reflection. Interestingly, despite the magnificent surroundings and endless opportunities for outdoor exploration, the spa stays booked—even though there are never more than 28 people at the lodge at one time. So if you’re dying for the Princess Royal Hot Stone Massage, you’d better alert the spa therapist early. Another of my favorite pastimes was watching the sunset from an Adirondack chair on the wraparound deck, an event that took place long after a spectacular three-course supper—it could be wild mushroom tortellini, red wine-braised halibut, and apricot frangipane tart with black tea ice cream—because sunset in these parts is around 10 pm. Then I’d grab a handmade chocolate from the nightly assortment of confections and head upstairs to slumber. SUNNY SENDOFF: Trouble with the rainforest is, well, it rains. But, if you’re lucky, you’ll see both sides of the weather spectrum, and the sun will break free from the clouds at least one day. Such was the case our last morning, when we finally got up in the helicopter (for safety reasons, the pilot won’t fly when it’s overcast) and zipped over to Wolf Track Beach. The beach—the kind that calls for a lightweight jacket and sturdy shoes, not an umbrella and flip-flops—is reachable by boat, too, but nothing beats the views from above, especially when two orcas are playing in the Pacific below. Once we landed at Wolf Track, our trusty guide spent the next hour pointing out starfish, sea anemones, mussels, and other sea creatures nestled in the rocks lining the shore while we collected seashells. Then we pulled up our socks and started hiking through the trees, determined to reach the island’s highest point so we could look out over the horizon—and snap a few once-in-a-lifetime photos. Then it was back down to the beach, where our full-service guide—not only does she know about anemones, but she can hike with the best of them and take pictures like a pro—spread out a blanket, unfolded two chairs, and set up our gourmet picnic lunch, complete with a bottle of local wine. Then she left us alone to enjoy our last meal—and say goodbye to the place where I fell in love with the outdoors.

Earth First
Since the lodge’s inception, president Michael Uehara and owner Hideo (Joe) Morita have been dedicated to maintaining an eco-friendly wilderness retreat that leaves the lightest possible imprint on the land and sea. The lodge itself is mobile—it’s docked at the uninhabited Princess Royal Island only during the five-month season—and returns to its permanent location with recyclables in tow, so as not to disturb or pollute the surroundings. King Pacific Lodge was also the first tourism business in British Columbia to sign a working protocol with the indigenous people, the Gitga’at, who have served as stewards of the rainforest for centuries. One-third of the staff is from Hartley Bay (like our captain, pictured left), the Gitga’at’s home, and eight Gitga’at youth are mentored at the lodge each year. Uehara has worked tirelessly to promote conservation of the area, which culminated in the establishment of the Great Bear Rainforest Park—twice the size of Yellowstone—last year.

Now, KPL has taken its ecological responsibility one step further: the resort intends to reduce the resort’s carbon footprint by 50 percent over the next five years. The plan includes offsetting employee travel and guests’ air travel, plus the installation of a river-hydro plant and solar power for the lodge’s power needs and using suppliers who conduct their own program of carbon reduction. Uehara hopes these efforts will inspire the hospitality world to help protect the environment. We’re just glad that there will always be a vibrant—and clean—rainforest to explore.

Kayaking is a refreshing way to start the day.
photography courtesy of King Pacific Lodge

King Pacific Lodge, A Rosewood Resort

Rates (approximate, depending on conversion from Canadian dollars): $3,700-$9,400 per person for three nights; $4,800-$12,400 per person for four nights; $7,600-$21,500 per person for seven ights. Rate includes accommodations, meals, beverages and open bar, guided activities, champagne welcome reception, and round-trip flights from Vancouver. Spa, helicopter excursions, and conservation surcharge extra.
What To Bring:
Attire at the lodge is casual, and fleece, hiking boots, and warm socks are musts. The best way to handle the swinging temperatures is to layer, and quick-drying pants and tees come in handy, as you’ll often end up in the rain. The lodge provides waterproof overalls and jackets, baseball caps, and knee-high galoshes—all of which you’ll appreciate not having to pack.