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Sonora Resort: The Ultimate Experience in Wilderness Luxury

lauren regan lifestyle travel May 14, 2024
Sonora Resort: The Ultimate Experience in Wilderness Luxury

By Lauren Regan.

Castaway on one of Canada's Discovery Islands, this one-time fishing retreat is now one of the jewels in British Columbia's crown.

My partner Chris and I visited Sonora in September as part of a trip that took us through the pine forests of Banff National Park, past the snowy peaks of the Rockies along the Icefields Parkway, and finally across to the bustling seaport of Vancouver, where we would fly to Sonora Resort. We were looking forward to three nights of wildness chic, an extensive wine menu, and, top of my list, wildlife.

You see, Sonora Resort offers more than a Michelin-starred menu and five-star hospitality. The island offers opportunities for endless adventure, from seeing grizzly bears fishing in their natural habitat to spotting orcas patrolling the coastlines and watching bald eagles circle overhead. It is the perfect combination for anyone looking to combine a taste of the true Canadian wilderness with elegant accommodation and world-class hospitality.

Nestled off the coast to the northwest of Vancouver, the only way to arrive at Sonora is by air or sea. As we came from Vancouver, we opted for the resort's private helicopter service that takes guests from the Skyservice Terminal of Vancouver International's South Terminal. We took off for the 50-minute flight with six other guests, soaring above the archipelago of islands scattered below before circling the island to get a good view of our surroundings and coming into land. It's hard not to gasp when you first see Sonora from the sky. Beginning in 1979 as a rustic fishing lodge, Sonora Resort has transformed into a luxury wilderness destination that could be straight from a James Bond movie.

On arrival, we were met by guest services before being whipped away in a buggy to Reception, where we were greeted with an arrival drink, an introduction to the island, and the chance to get involved with a wide range of activities from whale watching, fishing, ocean kayaking or treatment in the wellness spa. From there, we were shown to our room (loaded up with a welcome bottle of the local sparkling wine – which was delicious - and a bag of complimentary snacks) to get settled in.

Our room looked out over the bay, and as we unpacked, sea lions played lazily in the shallow waters underneath us, and the drizzle didn't stop a dip in the hot tub before heading down to dinner. Sonora Resort is all-inclusive, and the menu and wine selection would have any foodies mouth-watering. The dishes are inspired by the West Coast and all it has to offer, and the team creates incredible dishes using whole ingredients local to the area. If you've been fishing that day, you can even ask the chef to create a dish using your catch – you can't get fresher.

Fish is, of course, plentiful on the menu; how could it not be? The team also sources organic meats and seasonal vegetables to cater to every palate. Months later, we will talk about one incredible cod dish that was out of this world, and throughout the week, everything we tasted complimented the surroundings in a surprising and modern way. The restaurant itself offers a high-end, fine dining experience in a way that is so relaxed you feel right at home. Guests ranged from dressed to the nines for special occasions to the right of the hiking trail, with everyone receiving the same attentive, personal treatment from the young and enthusiastic front-of-house team.

We had one big reason for visiting Sonora in the fall. Bears. Grizzly bears, to be precise. On our second morning, we headed to the dock and met our skipper, who took us on a short boat ride up the inlet to meet the Homalco First Nation guide. From the boat, we were lucky enough to spot a pod of orcas making their way across the bay, and before we knew it, we were hopping in a mini-van and making our way up through the ancient rainforest to where we were hoping to see the bears fishing for salmon, trying to bulk up as they prepared for the winter months.

As we drove through the forest, our guide told us stories about the people and animals that have called the island home for centuries, pausing to point out elk sheltering in the trees and then our first bear. Not a grizzly, but a black bear out foraging for berries in the bushes close by the first viewing platform. Up we climbed and…nothing. No grizzlies. After waiting patiently to see if they would appear, we made our way to the next viewing platform and the next with no luck.

I had started to resign myself to maybe not spotting them. Nature is unpredictable and all that, but at the last viewing platform,15ft or so above the river, we saw her. A female brown bear picked her way down the stones and looked for the perfect spot to start her lunch. Soon, she was joined by five others, all choosing their perfect fishing spot and keeping a wary eye on the others so no one could make off their catch. It was magical, a memory we will treasure for the rest of our lives – made only better by another guest who turned to the guide and asked with all seriousness, "What kind of animal they were?". To this day, I'm not sure what tour she thought she had booked.

On our final day, we spent the morning relaxing in the hot tub before hiking to Florence Lake, an easy 5k stroll through the island's flora and fauna. Stopping to watch the sea lions and seals jumping in the surf, we reflected on our incredible experience and planned our next trip to this magical island. Our adventure continued on Vancouver Island, so we left Sonora by boat, which was direct to Campbell River, where we could pick up our hired car and drive down the coast to Victoria.

As Sonora faded into the distance behind us, there was a call on the radio: "Boats be aware, HB in the bay." My ears pricked up—did that mean humpback? As we scanned the water, HB himself jumped out of the blue and hurled itself back into the water, seemingly waving its fin as it sank beneath the waves. It was the perfect goodbye to an exceptional place, which, hopefully, we can return to one day.


 Lauren Regan is the founder and creative director MOLE, a PR and creative consultancy founded to help SMEs and non-profits worldwide find their identity, craft great stories, and shape their future.

Lauren has over 15 years of experience as part of in-house marketing teams in the non-profit and travel sectors before joining an award-winning creative agency as creative director. An avid storyteller and believer in the power of big ideas, Lauren has crafted award-winning campaigns for household names and has worked with teams in various sectors, including homes and gardens, property, family attractions, food and drink and non-profit, both in the UK and the USA.

After starting her career in the arts and culture sector, Lauren believes that the best ideas don't come from the biggest budgets and whatever your business hurdle, sometimes an outside perspective and a creative approach is all you need to scale it.

Fun fact: She once dressed as The Gruffalo on BBC Breakfast.


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