As tidal waters flowed in and out to the Straight of Georgia, two deer moved delicately through the high grasses of Nanoose/Bonnel Estuary on Vancouver Island. If we squinted our eyes—or looked through binoculars—Alan and I could observe a pair of bald eagles surveying the scene from the top branches of a tree near the edge of the water. Standing on the balcony of The View Suite at Inn the Estuary, we watched as life in the tidal estuary played out before us.
Does this scene sound as if we were miles from nowhere? On the contrary, Alan and I were experiencing the best of both worlds: the relaxing peacefulness of romantic accommodations that felt as if we were in a wildlife sanctuary and a convenient location where the historical, cultural and dynamic food scene of Nanaimo, British Columbia, is located just a few miles away.
The moment Alan and I saw Inn the Estuary’s website, we knew that this was the place for us. Owners, Marianne and Harold Robinson, have created a home worthy of Architectural Digest. The building melds into a setting where the environment is the star, although the architecture could certainly stand on its own merit.
In 2008, the Robinson’s saw potential in a piece of land on the edge of the water in Nanoose Bay. They began a controversial project of tearing down a dyke and reclaiming the land, which has resulted in a wetlands that houses 200 species of plants and 190 species of animals and birds.
Harold Robinson says that during storm season, or when there are extreme tides, the inn is almost completely surrounded by water. As he puts it, “We brought the estuary to us.”
Inn the Estuary offers 3 well-equipped suites—each luxury unit includes a flat screen television, cooking area, electric fireplace, air conditioning and outdoor jetted tub on a secluded patio or deck. And each suite comes with an expansive view that feels as if you are in the landscape rather than simply looking at it. Although no breakfast is served, if you let the Robinson’s know your preferences, the makings for a self-catered breakfast will be waiting in the refrigerator of the suite upon your arrival.
The Inn the Estuary is conveniently located between Nanaimo and Parksville/Qualicom Beach, which means that there’s plenty to see and do—from hiking, biking or boating to more adventurous pursuits like ziplining. Since Alan and I were visiting as guests of Tourism Nanaimo, we spent most of our time eating our way through the Nanaimo Bar Trail, shooting off the canon at the Bastion and exploring the pocket beaches, organic farms and locally-sourced restaurants of Yellowpoint Road.
If you’re looking for a restaurant close to Inn the Estuary, we recommend The Rocking Horse Pub, where we enjoyed two delicious meals.
By the time Alan and I left Inn the Estuary for adventures on Vancouver Island’s West Coast, we were already talking about a return trip to the inn for a writing/photography retreat. Besides, on this visit, we weren’t able to take advantage of the free bicycles (with helmets) or kayaks provided by Inn the Estuary. And I still want to walk the wooden deck over the wetlands to sit on the bench at the edge of the water and just be.
Read the rest of our Road Trip to Vancouver Island articles to create your own itinerary to this lovely part of the world.
Disclosure: Tourism Nanaimo and Inn the Estuary provided this travel experience, however the opinions are our own.