10 of Canada’s most unique hotels in natural settings
It’s no secret that Canada is revered for its spectacular landscape and out of this world nature, but most people believe the only way to enjoy it up close requires a trailer or a tent.
Whether you’re looking for a glamping adventure or an upscale base from which to discover the natural beauty of a particular region, there are a number of extraordinary lodgings across the country that allow guests to commune with nature in innovative and luxurious ways. So, ditch your tent and head to one of these truly unique hotels.
Hôtel de Glace, Valcartier, Qué.
Since opening in 2001, Québec’s Hôtel de Glace (ice hotel) has attracted more than one million visitors, and for good reason. Crystalline ice sculptures, a spa with outdoor saunas and enormous snow vaults combine to make this a truly unique experience. Choose from standard rooms or suites, and consider tacking on an experience like a behind-the-scenes tour of the hotel or a visit to the Valcartier Vacation Village Winter Playground.
Free Spirit Spheres, Qualicum Beach, B.C.
You may have had a tree house as a kid, but we guarantee it wasn’t like these. Suspended in a coastal rainforest on Vancouver Island, the Free Spirit Spheres are oversized orbs that are held up by suspension ropes and tethered to three different trees (like a tripod in midair). The spheres are made of wood and fibre-glass and the interiors are simple and tasteful, with innovative space-saving furnishings like Murphy beds and loft beds, as well as bathrooms. When you’re not marvelling at this feat of engineering, you can explore the Horne Lake Caves or go on a ziplining adventure.
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Tofino, B.C.
Just call this “luxury gone wild.” Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is an eco safari-inspired experience that allows guests to explore and connect with the Ahousaht First Nation by providing access to the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO heritage site. Accessible by floatplane, the resort comprises a series of luxury tents that house guest accommodations, as well as a dining hall, games rooms and a waterfront lounge. There are equestrian, marine and hiking experiences, as well as a unique helicopter adventure. If you’re just looking to bliss out, the on-site Healing Grounds Spa offers wellness treatments and yoga.
Fogo Island Inn, Fogo Island, Nfld.
If you want to feel like you’re at an extreme end of the earth (the Flat Earth Society considers this one of the four corners of the world), this is the place to be. Located in the Labrador Current, halfway between the North Pole and the equator, Fogo Island Inn offers spectacular views of Iceberg Alley from its 29 suites with floor-to-ceiling windows (the fact that the building itself sits on stilts facilitates the views). Take in the bold and contemporary architecture and enjoy a National Film Board of Canada movie in the cinema, or explore the island’s ancient trails teeming with wildlife like caribou, foxes, puffins and beavers.
Trout Point Lodge, Yarmouth, N.S.
Nestled in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Nova Scotia’s Acadian Forest, Trout Point Lodge puts a luxurious spin on outdoor adventure. Kayak, canoe and fly fishing outings are counterbalanced with a spa that offers a variety of massages. It’s named one of the world’s 10 best fishing spots and has a renowned catch-and-release program. Choose from “haute rustic” guest rooms or a two-bedroom cottage featuring Eastern Spruce logs, beam ceilings, and amenities like stone fireplaces and private patios.
Elements Luxury Tented Camp, Renfrew, Ont.
The ultimate in glamping, Elements Luxury Tented Camp features eight tents and six tiny homes with all the add-ons expected from a luxury hotel, including turn-down service and upscale linens. Step outside your exceptional natural accommodations and revel in the exceptional nature of the Ottawa Valley. You can hike groomed trails, go paddleboarding at a nearby private beach, kayak, canoe, zipline or take a guided tour of the Bonnechere Caves.
Flora Bora Forest Lodging, Emma Lake, Sask.
These three-season yurts (they’re not open in the winter) sit among 30 acres of forests and trails in the Boreal Forest. Each Flora Bora canopy-tented abode sleeps up to four people, and features a private bathroom, kitchen and outdoor patio. The proximity to Emma Lake means there are a variety of water activities on offer including boating and canoeing, while land lovers can enjoy spectacular bird watching, star gazing and hiking.
Lazy Bear Lodge, Churchill, Man.
Billed as a “northern wonder,” Lazy Bear Lodge is as impressive as its surroundings. Built entirely from wood reclaimed from a fire in the Boreal Forest with recycled windows from an 1800s Hudson’s Bay Trading Post, the lodge reflects the beauty of its surrounding Arctic Tundra while also boasting unique indigenous cuisine like elk, arctic char and bison. But Lazy Bear’s true draw are its guided expeditions. In the summer months, an arctic tour gives you an upclose look at the 60,000 Beluga whales that fill the Hudson Bay, as well as the polar bears that are leaving the site for the summer. In the fall, a two-day adventure takes you on the tundra, tracking and observing polar bears. Not enough adventure? Tack on snorkeling or kayaking in the summer.
Inn on the Lake, Whitehorse, Y.T.
If you’ve always dreamed of seeing the Aurora Borealis up-close, look no further than Inn on the Lake. On Marsh Lake and only a 35-minute drive from Whitehorse, the inn was once an abandoned log structure that was transformed into a “rustic chic” destination that boasts sweeping cathedral ceilings and decks that offer spectacular views (not to mention it has garnered accolades from Martha Stewart). Almost all of the rooms (including two apartments that are a three-minute walk from the lodge) offer views of the lake and the Aurora Borealis, and activities include snowmobiling, dog sledding and hiking, as well as year-round visits to the Takhini Hot Springs.
Sundance Lodges, Kananaskis Country, Alta.
For a uniquely Canadian experience, head to Sundance Lodges in Alberta’s majestic Rocky Mountains. Settle into a Sioux hand-painted tipi or a trapper’s tent equipped with wood frame beds, kerosene heaters and lanterns. Step outside into the forested environs and enjoy an adventure camping experience that includes rock climbing, fishing, mountain biking and whitewater rafting, among other things. You can bring your own camping equipment or rent it on the spot, and the site also offers hot showers and coin-operated laundry facilities.
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