Nimmo Bay: The Ultimate Resort
At Nimmo, it quickly becomes apparent that I have the permission to be free like a child, relieved of the pressures and responsibilities of adult life.
The liquor store in Port McNeill wasn’t the place I expected to run into four dedicated yogis. But there they were: the group I would be getting to know over the next three nights at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort.
The truth is, though, that my Nimmo Bay adventure began well before I discovered that even committed yogis will set kombucha aside for a full fledged bacchanal; it began the moment I pulled my car onto Highway 19 on Vancouver Island and pointed it north.
The geography of Vancouver Island’s northwest corner is a lot like the people who inhabit it — intriguing, isolated, and doesn’t suffer fools. But from the moment you pass Campbell River and lose reliable cell reception — ergo contact with the outside world — a profound sense of seclusion overtakes you. And by the time the twisting Island Highway plunges you into the Nimpkish Valley and lands you, finally, in Port McNeill, whatever world in which you exist has been left well behind.
After threatening to pour all morning, the sun broke through by lunchtime, and we piled aboard two, five-seat floatplanes. Our craft spluttered to life, chugged into the sheltered harbour, then worked itself up into the air and buzzed out over the Queen Charlotte Strait towards Nimmo Bay.
It’s common to remember the big moments in your life: your first kiss, your first car, your child’s first cries; I will never forget first setting eyes upon Nimmo Bay. Sounds like hogwash, right? Only if you haven’t, too, descended from vivid blue skies gently to set down on a salty Pacific inlet surrounded by the pristine, lush coastline of B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest with 10,000-year-old glaciers in the near distance.
There, tucked respectfully amongst nature’s majesty, is Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, its wooden cabins, float houses, and helicopter landing pads doing as little as possible to interlope on the geography around them. Though I’ve never been to Nimmo Bay before, I have an overwhelming feeling I’ve come home.
Despite his best efforts, Fraser Murray, general manager of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, cannot find us a bear to spy on tonight. Fraser grew up at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort. He was just a four-year-old boy when his parents Craig and Deborah piled him and his little brother Clifton into a float plane and moved there. Then, the “resort” was a solitary float house his father had dragged across the Queen Charlotte Strait — the first step in the older Murray’s dream to build a sustainable tourism destination.
But this afternoon the tide is high and the salmon are running inland, so Fraser is fairly sure we won’t be bear lucky. Too bad, but it hardly ruins the afternoon. We’ve been cruising up and down the inlets for an hour on The Dance, a 36-foot boat, watching eagles and sea lions, pondering petroglyphs, and taking deep inhalations of the oxygen-rich coastal air. Each of us is incredibly content to sit with our glass of wine and stare out at the scenery.
Before dinner, we return to our inter-tidal cabins to freshen up. I quickly discover the reason you need not pack much when you come to Nimmo: they provide everything from rain gear, hiking boots, umbrellas, and flash lights to hair dryers, shampoo, and fluffy robes with big hoods on them. My home for three days has a water view, loft bedroom with dreamy queen-size bed with gorgeous linens and thick blankets, and the soothing sound of the nearby waterfall.
We convene in the dining room, a two-minute stroll from the cabins, for each meal. Arguably the heart of the resort, the vibe in the communal lodge is serene. Maps and First Nations artwork hang from every wall and instruments are propped up about the room. Books to pique all curiosities are within arm’s reach of comfortable chairs and sofas. To eat, we sit at a custom-made wooden dining table set beautifully with artisanal glassware, sturdy flatware, and soft dinner napkins; an incredible feast is laid out on a nearby table.
Originally, Deborah cooked for Nimmo’s guests. Now they have Sandy, Nimmo’s cheerful, culinary queen. Her menus are mouth-watering: salad nicoise with pan-seared albacore tuna and kalamata olive puree; grilled venison chop on crushed fingerling potatoes, cambazola, and crispy yams; honey lager-steamed mussels with sweet tomato basil sauce; sockeye salmon with caramelized soy and sesame soba needles and spicy green beans. I could go on and on.
By the time we were tucked beneath fuzzy blankets in Adirondack chairs on the floating fire dock, the stars were pricking through the inky night sky.
After I reluctantly roll out of bed and pull on comfortable clothing, I make my way to the main lodge. Already set out on the table: scrambled eggs with quinoa, the tastiest bacon I have ever eaten, gluten-free muffins, hand-made granola, fruit salad, and French-pressed coffee from B.C.’s Saltspring Island. Sandy is a legend.
The four heli-pads at the resort are meant for the Jet Ranger choppers that whisk fishing-focused guests from sea level 30,000 feet up to land in salmon-filled rivers and trout-rich lakes. For us, however, they’re idyllic outdoor yoga studios. We lay down our mats, and Tracy leads the class through a gentle flow in the morning sunshine.
Afterwards, we take out the kayaks and slide stealthily up to the shoreline and into shallow tidal pools that were inaccessible on the big boat — perfect for bear spotting. Only my paddle cutting into the water breaks the silence and I am blissfully unaware of the time that passes.
Later, I explore the resort, poking my nose into the tiny gift shop and the games room (pool/snooker table, board games, wood stove, and satellite TV) before finding myself in the Memory Room. There, I find dozens of letters hung, framed, on the walls.
“Nimmo is a gateway through which we all can step and instantly be in touch not only with nature, but also with ourselves,” reads one. “I believe you must be the Fountain of Youth, the Givers of Freedom, and the Gods of Play,” lauds another. I am captivated by words I’m seeing typed beneath the letterhead from some of the world’s biggest corporations: Boeing, McDonalds, Rubbermaid, and American Airlines, not to mention William Shatner, Richard Branson, and George Bush Sr.
After morning yoga, we congregate at The Dance and head off again. We throw anchor in a small cove, navigate some rocks to shore, and from there, it’s straight up a fern-lined path once used by loggers to transport trees from a lake well above sea level to the ocean. At the top of the hill, we push through the dense vegetation and are rewarded with an explosion of sunshine sparkling off fresh water. The only sign of humanity is a weatherworn dock, which we plunk down upon to nosh on the gourmet picnic Sandy has provided.
Back at Nimmo that afternoon, we do what none of us has time for in the city: absolutely nothing. I settle into the deep couch and get lost in Finding Nimmo, the book written by Craig that condenses his life’s project into a few enchanting chapters.
Our last dinner, an Asian-fusion feast, is served outside at the large communal picnic table before we take an evening yoga class on the fire dock. For the first time in 48 hours, the outside world creeps back in when I worry that I’m ruined for yoga anywhere else on earth after practicing in a place that feels a lot like heaven.
Before bed, we hit the hot tubs. They’re deep, made of cedar, and sit at the base of the waterfall that cascades down Mount Stephens and powers Nimmo Bay resort. We sit toasty in the tubs and feel the cool spray of the falls on our faces.
I lie in bed after my alarm goes off, willing myself to remember the weight of the blankets and the sound of the waterfall outside my window. I bathe outside, beneath the rainfall shower in the fresh spring air. Then sit on my porch one last time.
As I watch the tide retreat from beneath my cabin, my mind returns to the words on the Memory Room wall, and I finally piece it together: the waterfall is the fountain of youth, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is the giver of freedom, and nature is, of course, and will always be, the God of play.
Nimmo Bay is only accessible by air or by water. Several options are available depending on your departure point. See nimmobay.com for details.