by Rachel Dodds
Built in 2008, the Black Rock Resort is set along the rugged rocky Pacific coastline- home to the beautiful Pacific Rim National park and over 22km of sandy white beaches. This area of the world could be described as raw and natural and some may wonder who lives out here let alone visits but there are some gems to discover – Black Rock is one of them.
The area of Tofino and Ucuelet on the western coast of Vancouver Island is now well known. The earliest tourists to the area arrived in the late 1880s. These hardy travelers toured the area on steamships transporting miners and fur traders; however, it was not until a logging road opened access to the area in 1959 that news of the area’s rugged beauty, including long sandy beaches and spectacular surf, quickly spread. Soon surfers and hippies were pitching their tents and setting up camps on the variety of beaches in the area. In 1970, Pacific Rim National Park was established and the park soon attracted even more visitors to the area.
With the area being known for its natural surroundings, sustainability rolls off the tongue in this part of the world. Black Rock is a large resort with 133 rooms, and it has been asked if this type of development is sustainable for this area. The resort did originally have a negative image when it first opened as the locals were worried about the scale of a big resort in a small community. Things have changed since then. Now the resort employs 60% of its 135 staff locally providing much-needed year round jobs. The resort attracts mainly older couples or young families and those who care about and want to be one with nature. Over 80 weddings are held at Black Rock Resort every year and weekends year-round are often at capacity. Walking out of the restaurant you are right on the Pacific Rim trail within a minute of access to the rocky beach or cliff top trails. There is no surfer crowd here, and the place is definitely quieter than nearby Tofino, but it is geared to those who want to relax, chill out and unwind.
The resort is run by General Manager Adele Larkin who feels more like an old friend than a manager: “We do whatever we can to make things special for you. I want this place to be charming… Without pretense.”
And she does. Traveling here with a 14-month toddler I feel like I have been beautifully taken care of. I expected a crib in room, high chair and child friendly recommendations provided but I didn’t expect every member of staff to smile and engage with my daughter and Adele herself taking a few minutes to play peek a boo with her in the restaurant. Adele loves that young families are staying in the community and clearly loves both the area and the resort. Adele talks about the hotel as if it is part of her family. No wonder Black Rock can boast 37% repeat visitors each year.
Although to the eye Black Rock is not what I would call ‘eco’, the resort practices some wonderful initiatives. Adele’s attitude clearly promotes a responsible mindset and she claims that many ideas come from her staff, not just the top. There is geothermal heating in all common areas and most of the decorative wood is reclaimed from construction. Major efforts have taken place to reduce waste and over 90% of the landscape has been re-naturalized to showcase the rustic feel of this coast. Over $150,000 was spent to retrofit all the property’s lights and now LED lighting saves over $20,000 a year in energy consumption. Efforts are made to be car-free as the resort is close to town. Bicycles are provided free of charge and there are electric car plug ins. Small efforts like motion sensors in washrooms, re-purposed menus as notepads, switching off the propane lobby fireplace and the use of biodegradable room amenities help the environment too.
Almost all possible supplies and food are sourced locally (Vancouver Island) and almost all seafood is Oceanwise and meat grass fed and free range.
“You can’t really talk about sustainability or make any claims to making things better if your food is mass produced,” says Adele.
These eco initiatives are nice but it is the community efforts that make you realize that this is a special place. Adele herself is on the executive board of the local aquarium and local businesses are promoted widely by staff. The aquarium is small but great for children as there are container pools to allow kids to touch the sea life. It’s also one of the few that is catch and release. Black Rock Resort supports multiple local charities and if you are visiting in spring try to make it around Easter as they organize the community Easter egg hunt. The day before staff do a beach clean up and last year 8,000 eggs were hidden on the beach for the hunt.
If you can’t make it in spring and want to avoid the summer crowds, then fall is also an option. Recently seen to be competing with Tofino for the famous storm watching, you can take advantage of a storm watching package which provides an umbrella, generous gift certificate for their delicious restaurant, and a couple of travel mugs to keep your beverage warm while watching the waves crash on the rocks.
Rachel Dodds is the Director of Sustaining Tourism