Sonora Resort, Desolation Sound, B.C.

Wilderness deluxe.

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Whether you like your thrills on fishing boats, bear trails or sea-lion rocks, there’s adventure to be had at the ultra-luxurious Sonora Resort. After a 45-minute flight from Vancouver, I arrive at the contemporary and eco-friendly resort on Sonora Island, located in the sheltered, glacier-fed Desolation Sound Provincial Marine Park.

Each of the Relais & Châteaux property’s 12 themed lodges has common lounges with vaulted ceilings, grand stone fireplaces, garden patios and rooftop balconies with hot tubs and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding mountains.

Sea Lion Pointe, a brand new private lodge, was opened in 2008. The 10,000-square-foot extension is equipped with four suites, nanny quarters, a chef’s kitchen and a home theatre. The house is packed with technology, but guests have discovered that lighting control and audio/video systems can be user-friendly. The work of B.C. artists—from a sea lion sculpture to a kelp-inspired mobile to a series of totem poles—fit perfectly with the West Coast architecture and spectacular setting.

During a five-hour fishing expedition on a Grady White and a 90-minute eco-tour in an 8.5-metre inflatable boat, I come to truly appreciate the wilderness surrounding Sonora. From the Polaris, an enthusiastic guide points out bald eagles, a mink, two brown bears, seals, a sea lion rookery and, my favourite, a school of Dall’s porpoises. They are among the fastest swimmers of all cetaceans, reaching speeds of 55 kilometres an hour, and their steep-angled turns thrill me.

Through the autumn season, thanks to the cooperation of the Homalco First Nations, you can perch on a three-metre-high viewing stand and watch grizzlies in their natural habitat, catching salmon and playing with their cubs. September and October are said to be the best months for grizzly spotting.

On return from a day of eco-activity, I indulge in sizzling tapas on the outdoor grill while taking in a fiery sunset. Chef Matt Stowe, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, skillfully creates an upscale haute-cuisine multi-course tasting dinner and an à la carte menu that change daily and, depending on season, may include Dungeness crab or Atlantic lobster from the dock’s holding tank, a Pemberton beef sirloin or Fraser Valley lamb loin prepared sous vide. Stowe might also arrive at your outdoor excursion to provide some rustic fare by firing up some salmon on the grill. Watch for specialty cooking events, which include guest chefs such as Canada’s first Iron Chef winner, Rob Feenie, and restaurateur Umberto Menghi.

B.C. resorts may have a reputation for superspas, but not many are two-level, multi-room affairs like Island Currents Spa at Sonora, where massage rooms, warm outdoor mineral pools, and two large decks overlook the ocean. I succumb to a 60-minute, tension-relieving massage. It works; I fall asleep dreaming of Dall’s porpoises and the zigzag pattern they trace.

Photos: Darren Bernaerdt.

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September 19, 2009