Arriving at T'ai Li Lodge feels like a sweet reward, not only because you're surrounded by spectacular scenery, but also because you've come so far to see it. Getting here involves an adventure―either a seven-hour car and ferry ride from Vancouver or a two-hour floatplane hop from Seattle. Once you arrive, rest easy and dispense with the do-not-disturb sign. You have this Canadian sanctuary all to yourself.
Though secluded, T'ai Li Lodge has long been a refuge. Nearly a century ago, a small cabin sheltered travelers. Today, the rebuilt rental overlooking Desolation Sound has the feel of an old forest camp. Except for the 1,600-square-foot lodge and two additional sleeping quarters, you'll see no signs of civilization here. No cars zipping around. No above-ground power lines to block the view. No concrete, just naturally worn walkways.
Outside T'ai Li (loosely translated from Chinese, the name means "a peaceful mind leads to a clear vision"), the jagged, snowcapped Coast Mountains rise above North America's Pacific Coast waters. Everything seems wilder and more dramatic out here―a feeling enhanced by a dense, towering forest of firs and cedars bordering the lodge. Guests can enjoy big-water views from the driftwood logs scattered along the shore or bask in the solitude from the open-air deck or screened porch. "People often just sit outside and stare into the scenery," says owner Carol London, who rebuilt the lodge with husband Steve three years ago.
But you don't have to be outdoors to connect with nature at T'ai Li. Every room (including the baths) delivers an ocean vista. "Each window has been carefully placed to frame a view," Carol says. The understated decor, blending exotic and local woods and Pacific Rim architecture, keeps rooms informal and comfortable.
For those who can tear themselves away from the lodge, the island offers a wealth of outdoor activities. Take a short hike to the top of Easter Bluff for a spectacular 360-degree view of Cortes Island. Or plan a day trip to Mansons Lagoon and explore tide pools filled with sea creatures, or to Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park, a favorite of seabirds. If you stay on the property for an afternoon of swimming, sailing, or kayaking, be prepared to share the sea with the otters and seals that cavort in the mild waters. Land lovers can drive 10 to 20 minutes from the lodge to find art galleries, a museum, a farmers' market, and four restaurants that offer fare ranging from casual to fine dining.
Whatever you choose to do with your time at T'ai Li Lodge, you're sure to return home refreshed. But don't expect to look the same as before you came. "People's faces visibly change after their visit," Steve says. "You can see the stress of an urban lifestyle melt away, and a look of total peace is left in its place."
(published September 2008)