Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 27, 2022
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Wilderness revival

A new breed of Canadian lodges is bringing comfort to the backcountry

Head out from any Canadian city and you can be in the wild faster than in almost any other industrialized country. If you make a point of putting a little distance between you and civilization, you can get into some seriously remote terrain with relatively little effort

So it's not surprising that a new kind of cabin fever is sweeping the backwoods, one which has less to do with black flies and bad plumbing, and more to do with luxury accommodations and great food.

Whether you're looking for mountain heli-lodges, floating ocean spas or Arctic fine dining, you can explore luxury in some of the country's most beautiful and remote surroundings.

The North
Dalton Trail Lodge, Haines Junction, YK
(tel: 867-634-2099;
Snug beneath majestic snowcaps, this Swiss-run lodge offers 21st-century comfort — including vintage wines, gourmet game meals and Internet access — in primeval surroundings. The St. Elias mountains, Canada's tallest, rule over spectacular Kluane National Park, a lost world of grizzly bears, hurtling white water and the largest glacial icefields outside the Poles. The emphasis here is on floatplanes and King-Kong size sportfishing — king salmon go over 27 kilograms and catching 10 in an afternoon is an everyday occurrence.

Rates for meals and accommodation start at $230 per day. A seven-day eco-adventure is $3050; one-week king salmon fishing packages are $2700.

Blachford Lake Lodge, Great Slave Lake, NWT
(tel: 867-873-3303;
Discovering this roadless resort near Great Slave Lake takes a floatplane and a sense of direction. Set in the heart of the taiga, the sprawling spruce and moose country north of 60, the lodge has a gourmet chef, astronomy room and golf course. There are enough rooms and cabins for 35 guests, each equipped with a goose-down duvet. The month of August is the time for Northern Lights — night skies here lie within the most active part of the giant aurora oval. The resort also offers cultural weekends with the Dene Nation.

Rates range from $249 to $425 per day, excluding airfare. An eight-day, all-inclusive cottage stay with a return flight to Yellowknife is $2749. The lodge has deals on Canadian North and First Air for flights from Calgary and Edmonton.

Arctic Watch Lodge, Somerset Island, NU
(tel: 877-272-8426/819-459-1794;
Located 800 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, this unique resort — the most northerly in the world — offers heated cabins with full plumbing. Summer guests kayak, river raft, hike, mountain bike and drive ATVs through the incomparable scenery of mountains, tundra, white water and pack ice. Bask in the midnight sun (the weather's a gentle 15°C), fish for Arctic char that the kitchen can transform into sushi, or wander beaches littered with whalebones and artifacts of the ancient Thule Inuit. Polar bears, muskox, caribou, seals and whales are all close by. Each July, you can get within a few metres of 2000 migrating beluga whales. Week-long packages are $4000 (excluding airfare).

Western Canada
King Pacific Lodge, Princess Royal Island, BC
(tel: 888-592-5464/604-987-5452;
Fly north for this extravagant floating hotel hidden off the Great Bear Rainforest, south of Prince Rupert. The King Pacific is as opulent as it gets: with only 17 rooms and a wraparound deck, accommodations range from 55-square-metre rooms with slate tubs to the two-floor Princess Royal Suite. The full-treatment spa has saunas and therapeutic pools. Award-winning champagnes and wines accompany gourmet dining.

Great Bear is the home of the white Spirit Bear, a black bear subspecies with a recessive gene (best seen in September). Activities include whale watching, sea kayaking, saltwater trolling, fly-fishing, wildlife viewing, heli-hiking, floatplane excursions and nature seminars. All-inclusive three-day rates start at $4095 per person.

Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, Jesmond, BC
(tel: 800-253-8831;
This place flies you in to spend sunburnt days in the saddle with working cowboys and devotes the spicy nights to the world of The King and I. The wonderful staff are Thai, the delicious food is Thai, and the spa experience could only be from Thailand. The explanation? One of the owners hails from Thailand. Echo Valley is an Asian fantasy come to life in the High Chaparral. All-inclusive three-night packages start at $700 per person.

Rafter Six Ranch Resort, Exshaw, AB
(tel: 403-673-3622;
Cowboy traditions meet the high country in the Rockies, known as the best place for horseback thrills and alpine trail rides. The Rafter Six, the best of the area's many dude ranches, sits at the feet of the Bow and Kananaskis Valleys, an hour and a half from Calgary. The grand lodge has 18 rooms with log frame beds; also available are four-person cabins and six-person chalets with fireplaces. There are restaurants, saloons, shops and a Western museum. Guests enjoy rodeos, and ponies are available for kids. Riding packages are tailored to every taste; backcountry trips are offered. Double occupancy rates start from $159 per day.

The Inn & Spa at Heartwood Manor, Drumheller, AB
(tel: 888-823-6495/403-823-6495;
This small resort is a multifaceted gem. Period suites filled with antiques are the setting for champagne and chocolate breakfasts. At the spa, herbal baths, stone therapy and body polishing are all available. Waiting outside are canyon hikes and dinosaur bones in a hard-bitten land of wind, sky and bizarre rock spires. Hunt for fossils with the pros, or sip a cocktail as pronghorn antelopes race the sun to the horizon. All-inclusive packages start at $569 per person for two nights. Two hours of dinosaur hunting with paleontology experts is $120.

The Prairies
Eagle Point Lodge & Marina, La Ronge, SK
(tel: 888-332-4536/306-425-2273;
This northern big-lake resort is all about the water. Explore 1000 kilometres of shoreline where every bend is a frontier and every bay is empty. Relax in your own log cottage, or captain a houseboat (which sleeps six) through the 1300 islands dotting the 64-kilometre-wide lake. The waterfalls and wilds of La Ronge Provincial Park are close by. Cottages start at $175 per day. Motorized, fully equipped houseboats that sleep four are available from $2360 per week.

North Knife Lake Lodge, Thompson, MB
(tel: 888-932-2377;
It's the lure of leaping fish in mirror-like lakes that fill floatplanes to this deep woods resort 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Only 16 guests at a time experience this one-of-a-kind fishery featuring trophy northern pike and lake trout. The lake offers 45 kilometres of backwater bays, boulder-strewn shorelines and manicured sand bars for fly-fishing. After paddling along the lake at sunset, return to the wood-fired hot tub and a meal by award-winning cookbook authors. In addition to fishing, spot birds, bears and belugas on an eco-tour along Hudson's Bay. Four-day Amer-ican-plan fishing packages are $3395 per person. Seven-day stays at one of the river outposts start at $1400 per person, quad occupancy.

Central Canada
Kesagami Wilderness Lodge, Cochrane, ON
(tel: 888-234-8882;
About as far from Toronto's streets as the moon, this fly-in resort is definitely closer to the caribou and wolves framed by its picture windows. Kesagami is the place to tackle James Bay's summer monsters — river sturgeon, brook trout and prize northern pike. Full-service cabins are offered, and the lodge has staterooms with deep baths. There's also a bar, movie lounge and BBQ restaurant serving moose. Non-anglers are welcome at nature seminars. Seven-day packages range from $1600 to $2400.

Hummingbird Hill Country Spa Retreat, Astorville, ON
(tel: 800-661-4976/705-752-4547;
This unique, small, boutique resort is located in northeastern Ontario cottage country. A stylish counter-culture survivor, it's housed in two remarkable, hotel-sized, cedar geodesic domes built in the 1970s. Once a private home, everything here has been imaginatively handcrafted with an enthusiasm still evident in the resort's award-winning flower gardens, spa treatments (including hot chocolate massage and body sugaring) and inimitable cuisine (featuring brie in puff pastry with hot pepper jelly and basil scallops). Horse riding, hiking and canoeing are offered. Double occupancy rates start at $115 a day. One- to two-day spa packages start at $350.

Odyssée Boréale, Lac Sébastien, QC
(tel: 866-772-2882;
Giving out latitude and longitude numbers instead of an address, this eco-adventure resort in the Saguenay is the new breed in the deep woods. A refined approach to wilderness combines back-of-beyond pursuits with "green" ideas and award-winning dining. Lodge rooms and chalets are designed with Scandinavian flair, and meals are game meats and chic nouvelle cuisine. Astronomy courses and archery are offered along with outdoor activities and nature seminars. Two-night packages with return flight to Montreal are $2530 per person; four-night packages, $3440 return.

Atlantic Canada
The Ledges Inn, Doaktown, NB
(tel: 877-365-1820;
In July, 12-kilogram Atlantic salmon gather in the river in front of the inn, filling "cold water pools" reserved for guests. There's also boating, the New Brunswick Trail, and Kouchibouguac Beach. Those who want food with a bang have acres of habitat to hunt woodcock, wildfowl, pheasant and grouse.

Life's gentler side includes massages along with fireplaces and king-size beds. The dining room offers four-course meals of fare such as warm blueberry-duck salad, fresh cedar-planked salmon, and scallop aumonière with brie. Salmon fly-fishing on the Miramichi River runs from July 1 to October 1. Packages start at $425 per person per day in the spring, $500 in season.

Trout Point Lodge, Kemptville, NS
(tel: 902-482-8360/749-7629;
Trout Point is only 40 kilometres from Yarmouth, but it is remote enough that access is a narrow dirt road. An eco-lodge with Italian tile, the resort is on a 80-hec-tare wooded estate bordering two rivers and a wilderness preserve. Enjoy water activities and wildlife watching, along with hot tubs, culinary lessons and a dining room specializing in French, New World cookery. The Louisiana proprietors recently published a recipe book to accompany their on-site cooking school, which is one of Canada's best.

The Inn at Spry Point, Souris, PEI
(tel: 902-583-2400;
Facing away from the pastoral charms of King's County, the 45-hectare peninsula of Spry Point juts into the sea, setting the tone for secluded walks. Over two kilometres of undeveloped shorefront invites exploration, as do trails that traverse red-clay cliffs where visitors can get a great view of the Northumberland Strait. There are kayak rentals and three four-star golf courses nearby. The inn's 15 rooms have canopied king-size beds and sitting areas, most with private balconies. The contemporary dining room features locally grown organic vegetables. Room rates start at $185.

Quirpon Lighthouse Inn, L' Anse-aux-Meadows, NL
(tel: 877-254-6586/709-634-2285;
As hard to get to as it is to pronounce, Quirpon (mumble it like "harpoon") is worth the effort. Bolted across the jagged top of sheer cliffs, this former lighthouse keeper's residence is now an impeccable period inn that guards the Labrador Strait and amazing Iceberg Alley. In summer, drifting armadas of "bergs" collect close to shore amid squads of humpback and minke whales. Sea kayak with orcas, slap a paddle at 12-metre humpbacks and slip through the sculptured world of the iceberg flotilla. Double rates are $325 for a standard room, $375 for a suite. Outfitting fees are extra.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.