One of our favorite places to stay on Vancouver Island is the gorgeous Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre, whose Grotto Spa was deservedly awarded the title of the #1 spa in British Columbia by Spas of America. It boasts two different award-winning restaurants, the most extensive resort Recreation Program in British Columbia, and is seated amongst three kilometers of beautifully sanded beach.
Tigh-Na-Mara comes from the Gaelic for ‘House by the Sea,’ and the resort has its roots firmly in the rich tradition of inn-keeping. What is now 192 handcrafted log rooms and extensive amenities was once a single tent over 70 years ago. While the progress is unmistakable, the resort has carefully maintained its rustic charm.
We selected this tranquil place for a two-day treat during our honeymoon camping trip to Vancouver Island. What a beautiful place to lay in luxury for a midway point in our 3-week camping trip!
Welcome to Tigh-Na-Mara
Tigh-Na-Mara perfectly balances a sprawling set of amenities with cozy and rustic charm, set across 22-acres of rejuvenating douglas fir and arbutus forest with sweeping ocean views across the Strait of Georgia.
No matter what experience you are after, you can find it all here. Some of the warmest waters in Canada alongside a fine-sanded beach provide for the beachgoers amongst you, while 10,000 square feet of corporate meeting space set in the majesty of forested Vancouver Island will make even the dullest corporate retreat a breeze.
You do not even have to leave the comfort of your hand-built rustic bedroom to enjoy the sight and sound of the lapping ocean if you don’t want to, with oceanview rooms available to make the most of both the in and outdoors.
To find out just how ideally situated Tigh-Na-Mara is, skip to the end of the article for a handy list of things to do in the surrounding area.
How to Get to Tigh-Na-Mara
You can find Tigh-Na-Mara tucked close to Parksville on Vancouver Island, around the middle of the island on the east coast. This puts it just a 30-minute drive northwards from Nanaimo and just over a two-hour drive northwards from Victoria.
If you are heading from the lower mainland of British Columbia, you can take BC Ferries which offers awe-inspiring insight into the varied landscape of this coast. It also gives you a great chance of witnessing some of the natural inhabitants here, such as whales, seals, orcas, and various seabirds.
The resort even offers pickups from the ferry terminal to take the stress out of your journey. Prices usually start at around $50 for two people, each way.
The Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara
We can’t go any longer without speaking about the incredible spa services offered by Tigh-Na-Mara. Across 20,000 square feet of sprawling bliss, not only will they go the extra mile to nourish your body and mind, but they will also tantalize your palette with an endless in-robe tapas experience that is unlike anything else you will find in Canada.
The spa treatments include pedicures, manicures, facials, massages, and body treatments. These are specially formulated to put a focus on locally sourced, natural West Coast ingredients.
As well as these, spa-goers will enjoy access to the Grotto Mineral Pool, which is kitted out with a whirlpool and cool-splash waterfall. The whole area has been specially designed to faithfully recreate the atmosphere of a traditional natural stone grotto. Again, no opportunity for nourishment is wasted, with the waters infused with detoxifying natural minerals and trace elements.
The Relaxation Lounge will give you an opportunity to fully decompress, with healthy refreshments served to you in between treatments. After all this, you can enjoy maybe the most exciting aspect of all…
…we are talking about the endless tapas experience of course! Up in the Treetop Tapas & Grill area, you will be served incredibly exciting miniature dishes overlooking the surrounding panoramic forest views. Again, you can keep your robe and sandals on as you are served a selection of seventeen different tapas plates. These feature a balance of both local and international influences, made with the best ingredients available, and handmade by a team of dedicated chefs with a focus on intriguing combinations of flavors.
But flavour is not the only order of the day. The menu has also been specially formulated to include ingredients that boast antioxidant properties, which fight the damaging impacts of free radicals and keep the body in tip-top shape. Many of the dishes also cater to vegan, dairy-free, and gluten intolerance dietary requirements.
Once you have finished dining, you are even encouraged to re-order your favorite plates or top the whole thing off with a little bit of indulgence in the form of a well-selected chocolate plate.
If you want to get in on this magic, advance booking will be necessary. We would recommend booking between 4 and 6 weeks ahead of time to ensure you get the time you want. Both full and half-day packages are available.
Please note that due to the Covid-19 situation, all travelers will be required to have proof of vaccination in order to use the Grotto Spa and restaurant facilities. You must have a booked treatment in order to access any of the amenities at The Grotto Spa.
The Range of Rustic Rooms Available
Tigh-Na-Mara is designed to cater for you no matter what your idea of a spa getaway looks like. As such, there are a range of different rooms available to suit your specific needs!
As standard, every guestroom will come with your very own private balcony, patio, or decking area. While none of the rooms carry air-conditioning, shade from the beautiful woodland and all-year sea breezes provide a natural cool.
Primely located right on the wooded bluff which overlooks the nearby Coastal Mountains and the Strait of Georgia, there are a number of beautiful Oceanview suites and studios available.
The exact specs of each room vary depending on which you pick, which is a testament to the handcrafted rustic nature of each of the rooms here. However, there are amenities galore such as large comfortable beds, fireplaces, kitchens, and dining areas across the various possible selections. Again, the size of the room will depend on which you book.
If you are with a larger group, there is also the option to book adjoining rooms and studios together. It is best to ask your reservationist ahead of time for these bookings to avoid any disappointment.
For those of you who really want to get away from it all, we can’t recommend Tigh-Na-Mara’s standalone rustic cottages enough. They are set within the surrounding beautiful pine forest and beautifully furnished with authentic rustic log furniture.
Again, there are several different options available, from standard one-bedroom cottages to duplex and two-bedroom varieties. These will have slightly different amenities from one another, but all come with at least a queen bed, living room, full kitchen and dining area, fireplace, bathroom, and private decking area as standard.
The rustic cottages are also where you will find your pet-friendly accommodation, so if you have brought a furry companion along with you – don’t worry, Tigh-Na-Mara also accommodates for them!
Spa Bungalow Rooms
If you have booked a spa trip alongside your visit (which we highly, highly recommend doing!), it doesn’t get much more convenient than staying in a beautiful spa-side bungalow room. Nestled in amongst the tranquil forest, it is just a few seconds to walk to the pampering halls of the Grotto Spa.
Once again, these are available in studio, two-bedroom, and suite varieties.
Jedediah Studio Rooms
Although we would have loved to stay in a rustic cabin, this was the only space available when we booked and the rooms were lovely. The Jedediah Studios can be found in a centrally located two-story building. You will be right in amongst all of the pleasures that Tigh-Na-Mara has to offer.
All the rooms in Jedediah Studios come equipped with a queen bed, a living area with a separate Queen Murphy Bed, kitchenette, dining area, full bathroom (with a heated tile floor), gas fireplace, and either a private balcony or patio. The rooms have 380 square feet for you to relax in. (Blanket not included! That blanket helps keep us warm in our iKamper, you can buy it here.)
Tigh-Na-Mara’s Dining Options
As well as the mind-blowing endless treetop tapas experience we mentioned earlier, there are also several other dining options at Tigh-Na-Mara. You will find something to suit your needs whether you are looking to sink into a cocktail lounge, eat from a set menu, or even order takeout.
Cedar’s Restaurant and Lounge is Tigh-Na-Mara’s primary award-winning eatery. Under the instruction of Executive Chef Eric Edwards, you can pick from a menu lovingly planned and prepared using local and regional ingredients to create exotic international dishes and new twists on old favorites. From appetizers and entrées to your favorite cocktail, craft beer, or fine wine – you can get it all at Cedar’s. They even offer a takeout option if you can’t quite make it to Tigh-Na-Mara but still want to sample the wares!
We both ordered the NY Striploin to celebrate our honeymoon and were so excited to devour it, we forgot to take photos!
This holiday season you can also try the exciting Turkey-To-Go scheme from Cedar’s and let them take the stress out of your big family meal. That’s right, you can have an expertly prepared turkey dinner, stacking with all of the fixings, delivered directly to your door.
Tigh-Na-Mara Beach Access
Tigh-Na-Mara has its own private beach access for you to enjoy. It was just starting to pour rain when we were there so we were unable to capture the full beauty of this beach for you, but here’s a little glimpse.
The Nearby Rathtrevor Beach
As Tigh-Na-Mara is a seaside resort, it would be wrong of us not to give you a sneak peek and a good idea of what to expect at nearby Rathtrevor Beach.
The beach is part of the larger Rathrevor Beach Provincial Park, which stretches across 347 hectares and has a rolling 2km of seashore. The beach is extremely popular, especially in the summer months. During low tide, the sea retreats back almost a kilometer, giving you and your family plenty of space to relax and enjoy the beach even during high season – which is great considering that Rathtrevor Beach is one of the most popular holiday destinations on Vancouver Island!
We were there when it was quite windy and the beach itself didn’t wow us, although the park is very beautiful.
You will also find plenty of amenities at Rathtrevor Beach if you are taking a day trip. A large day-use area provides the perfect picnic spot, while campsites only a 5-minute walk away could be the next spot on your expedition after Tigh-Na-Mara!
Please also note that if you are taking advantage of one of Tigh-Na-Mara’s pet-friendly rooms, that dogs are not allowed on Rathtrevor Beach.
Other than the beach, the rest of Rathtrevor Provincial Park has plenty to explore. Rolling Douglas Firs play host to beautiful greenery and wildlife, especially birds. Rathtrevor is famous with birdwatchers, as during the spring months seabirds gather for the annual herring spawn. The beach is also one of the best places on Vancouver Island to spot migrating Brant geese from February through to April.
Finally, if you have any wildlife enthusiasts in your family who aren’t afraid of creepy-crawlies, Western Thatch Ants create incredible mounds and towers here around August and September.
What Else Is There to Do Near Tigh-Na-Mara Resort?
If you do manage to tear yourself away from the immersive and rejuvenating spa experience (and the endless tapas!), the prime location of Tigh-Na-Mara means you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to additional activities to fill your day with.
To plan the perfect action-packed getaway, please have a browse through our list of suggestions below:
- Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours
- Sea Kayaking, Sea Adventures and Tours
- Horne Lake Caves
- Milner Gardens and Woodlands
- Mount Washington Skiing and Snowboarding
- Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife Watching Tours
- Deep Bay Marine Field Research Station
- North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre
- Parksville Museum
- Qualicum Beach Museum
- Morningstar Farm
- Fairwinds Golf Club
- Coastal Island Fishing Adventures
- The Old School House Arts Centre