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Into the Wild at a British Columbia Resort

Tucked away in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest, Nimmo Bay offers both adventure and refined relaxation.



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IF ALL ROADS lead to Rome, no roads lead to Nimmo Bay. There are no power lines, no phone lines, no cell service at the resort. There is Wi-Fi, but you can always lie and say there isn’t.

Electricity comes from a forceful waterfall in the woods, near the property’s hot tubs. It was the magnetic roar of this waterfall that first drew Craig Murray to the site in 1980. Craig and his wife, Deborah Murray, originally opened Nimmo Bay Resort as a rustic heli-fishing lodge with a single float house. Most guests of this now luxury wilderness resort arrive by a series of seaplanes that carry them into Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest temperate rainforests in the world, a protected area the size of Ireland. Due to limited visibility on the day of our arrival, my group boated in, passing through channels between lush islands. At one point, I asked a staff member what one of the islands was. She was baffled by the question; it was just nature.

Ian McAllister, a conservationist and filmmaker who spent decades working in the area, told me, “Temperate rainforests are one of the rarest forest types found on the planet.” He said this unusual combination of ocean and land climate supports the area’s astounding biodiversity. On land: wolves, grizzlies, and the “spirit bear,” a white bear resembling a polar bear, considered sacred by the Tsimshian people, who have been living in the area for nearly 5,000 years. At sea: orcas, whales, otters, and seals.



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The original resort’s small rooms were lit by kerosene lamps, with meals cooked by Deborah over a propane stove. Despite this modesty, unparalleled fishing had drawn the likes of George H. W. Bush and Richard Branson. But in the early 2000s, the lodge was on the brink of going out of business. And Fraser — Craig and Deborah’s eldest son, who had grown up at Nimmo Bay — had an idea for an entirely different direction: a “wild and refined” luxury resort offering fine dining alongside custom adventure and wellness experiences. With the financial support of two key guests, he built gorgeously appointed stilted cabins and an elegant floating dining room. But he didn’t try to market the resort. “I knew that someone would see what we were doing, and people would come.” Though, he told me, “Nobody was on board at first; there were battles every step of the way.” It took Craig, in particular, a long time to come around.

If Craig is an old-school outdoorsman, Fraser is a Willy Wonka of the wilderness, constantly scheming up unusual guest experiences. Every morning, program director Dallas Buhr appeared at our table to ask, “So what would you like to do today?” and then, depending on our answer, dispatched a crew of staff into the woods. Like a military tactical team, they loaded boats, pulled out kayaks, or ferried wellness items out to floating docks with saunas and hot tubs on them.


My favorite activity was the Snorknic, without question. It’s a dining experience where you snorkel for plump sea cucumbers, spot prawns, and green uni, which are then prepared at an exquisitely set floating picnic, complete with a fire and Champagne. While Fraser cooked our finds over a yakitori-style grill, he let the floating dock loose in the current. I felt rich, not with money, but with natural resources and experience.

One of the most remarkable elements of Nimmo Bay is its relationship with the area’s Indigenous community. Nimmo Bay sits on unceded First Nations’ land and the resort’s programming is created in coordination with Irvin Speck of the Gwawaenuk Tribe, who works as a guardian of the area and is likely to become chief this fall. “If we’re going to a beach, we ask Irv first to make sure it’s not a sacred site,” confirmed Liam McIlvenna, one of Nimmo Bay’s guides. Staff undergo yearly cultural awareness trainings and weave their learnings into guest programming. The dining room is decorated with traditional Gwawaenuk art by Speck’s uncle and father, and Speck himself can often be found there. The vibe is that the place doesn’t belong to Nimmo Bay; we’re all just lucky visitors.

While there, I hiked in a way I never had before: slowly. McIlvenna encouraged us to take notice of the plants that appeared on our dishes every night: the jelly fungi preserved for pastries, the salal berries that adorned the appetizers, the balsam from the cocktail menu. While swimming, I recognized the bull kelp that came tempuraed on top of a Japanese egg custard. I learned how to measure the age of moss and the Indigenous practice for harvesting balsam sap. We smelled everything, reaching our hands into decomposing logs, pulling out the nutritious, pungent compost. We climbed over nurse trees — giant fallen cedars that allow other plants to grow on top of them. Everything in those abundant woods is involved in the great churn of life. I was no longer passing through the landscape, I was in it, of it.

The forest made me think of Fraser and his father. Older, regal fallen trees feeding the new lifeforms taking root, transforming the forest. It also reminded me of something Speck told me over balsam tea prepared as his ancestors had — something his grandmother used to say when they encountered different cultures or ideas: “There’s no right way or wrong way, just different ways.”

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Our Contributors

Laura Smith Writer

Laura Smith is the deputy editor of Departures. Previously, she was the executive editor of California magazine and has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, and many more. Her nonfiction book, The Art of Vanishing, was published by Viking in 2018.

Dexter Hake Photographer

Dexter Hake is a freelance photographer living in Oakland, California. His work has appeared in various publications such as The New York Times, California magazine, Ballena Blanca, and more. He also has numerous commercial clients in the Bay Area, mostly focused within the food and beverage industry. His favorite film is Kodak Portra 160 VC.


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