Jami

Jami

I’m a Family Travel Writer based out of beautiful Vancouver, BC. Our family adventures take take us all over BC, Alberta and the Pacific Northwest. You'll regularly see us hiking, biking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and camping our way around the province. Our passion is recreation and our mission is to explore and protect this beautiful earth of ours.

Lensball – Gaze into the Future of Photography

surfer-reflection-in-lensballPerhaps you have recently seen a photograph in an article or on Instagram with a unique ball effect, like this epic surf shot I snapped during my recent stay at Long Beach Lodge. Within the image, a small, 180-degree view of the overall scene shows up inside of a sphere, giving a reflective quality to the photo. So, how did I do this? Did I use a special software filter? No – the answer is even simpler. I used a lensball.

I was given a lensball as a birthday present from my mom and knew that Tofino was the perfect place for me to try it out.

lensball-on-beach-in-tofinoWhat is a lensball? The name is very descriptive. It is a clear crystal sphere that acts as a secondary wide-angle lens to your camera. You strategically place the ball within the photo’s frame, to add a wide-angle view of the scene into the composition.

lensball-in-surfIn 2017, Lensball, a small company based in the Netherlands, started producing lensballs as an accessory for photographers. Since that time, lensballs have exploded as an affordable, unique tool for serious professional and amateur photographers alike. Made from lens-quality K-9 crystal, the balls provide extremely high-quality image reflection.

child-on-rocks-in-tofinoThe balls are available in two sizes, the 80 millimeters, 650-gram Lensball Pro and the smaller 60 millimeters, 250-gram Lensball Pocket version that is perfect for travel. Each ball comes with a microfibre pouch to keep it safe. Prices range from $40 to $60 on Amazon.

For more examples (283,373 at time of writing), check out #lensball on Instagram. It isn’t every day that a unique photographic tool comes along at a reasonable price point. Oh, and if you happen to be stranded in the wilderness, a lensball doubles as an emergency fire starter – just use it like a magnifying glass in the direct sun. Brilliant!

Is this a sponsored post?: No. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking photos with my lensball and wanted to pass along my thoughts about it.

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Earning Laugh Lines at Long Beach Lodge

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Unknown

Some may know them as smile lines. Other, more pessimistic folks may refer to them as wrinkles. Regardless, as I sit here scrolling through the wonderful collage of photos we took throughout our weekend at Long Beach Lodge Resort, I’m suddenly very aware of the laugh lines gracing my face in each and every image.

Chasing my kids in the sand. Playing board games in front of the fireplace. Soaking in the hot tub after a long day exploring. Photo after photo, my face is covered in the same expression: bright eyes, wide smile, and long, beautiful laugh lines.

After a blessed life of many laughs and smiles, I’ve always known my laugh lines were there. But our special getaway to Long Beach Lodge was the first time I’ve really stopped to notice them. And you know what?

I’ve never felt so rich in my entire life…

woman-at-lookout-point-in-tofinoUnfortunately, I imagine many women go to great lengths to cover up or disguise their laugh lines. But I am here to tell you that you should do the opposite. Laugh lines are not something you cover up with a powder or erase with an expensive cream. They are a badge of honour that you wear with pride. A feature that tells the world that you live for those special moments and adventures. That you are constantly brave enough to take that step beyond your comfort zone, and really start living.

In my case, each laugh line represents a conscious choice to invest in quality time and amazing adventures with my family. In a world that lives in a perpetual state of “busy,” laugh lines are a true mark of prioritization. A sign that you have deliberately made time for the people and experiences in your life that matter the most.

In essence, laugh lines are the truest sign of wealth one can have.

What exactly creates a laugh line? It’s probably not what you think. Take our Long Beach Lodge trip, for example. As I continue to look back on our adventure, I’m realizing more and more that the essence of what made it so special was not so much where we went or what we saw, but the little moments that came in-between:

The anticipation levels noticeably rising in the car as we approached our destination.

The moment we first opened the door on arrival and saw our home away from home for the next few days.

The adrenaline of running towards the beach after catching the first glimpse of cresting waves.

The look in my son’s eyes as he got up on a surfboard for the very first time. A look that only comes from conquering a new skill, and a look that immediately told me that I have created a built-in “adventure buddy” for life.

The joy of letting the kids set the adventure schedule, and seeing them run and laugh, dive in the surf, play hangman in the sand, forget about TV and their electronic devices, and express true love for each other and their family.

Taking a family hike on a rustic boardwalk that led us to the most incredible point. The shared silence, admiration, and awe as we collectively took in a panoramic view of the mighty Pacific waves crashing into the shoreline, and the realization that our entire family was creating a shared memory in that exact moment.

The moment I reconnected with my husband after the kids went to bed, taking an extended soak in the hot tub while talking about the incredible journeys we’ve shared, and the many great ones to come.

And finally, after a day spent doing nothing more than playing and running around the beach, having my daughter look at me and say: “…today was one of the best days of my life.”

Laugh lines are forged in these special moments.

It’s not about any one thing. It’s not about fancy accommodations or expensive excursions. No matter how rich you may be, laugh lines are the one thing that cannot be bought. They must be earned.

But it will take effort.

Laugh lines come from taking deliberate action. From blocking off the precious time on your calendar, so that no matter how busy life may get, you are never too busy to skip out on these experiences. To build these bonds with your family. To have your moments.

Of all the incredible firsts I experienced in Tofino at the Long Beach Lodge, I am most excited about my first real encounter with my laugh lines. Because now I know that the true measure of success in my life is just a photograph away.  All I need to do is look for the lines…

Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!

Is this a sponsored post?: While our stay at the Long Beach Resort was sponsored, all our thoughts, views and ideas are our own.

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Long Beach Lodge: The Best Family-Friendly Resort in Tofino

Nestled on the Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island, Tofino has long been known as one of Canada’s premier year-round resort destinations. And having just spent an amazing long weekend there with my family, it’s clear as to how this sleepy town got such a reputation…it truly does have something for everyone! However, for all there is to do and see, one of the most incredible parts of our adventure was where we stayed: Long Beach Lodge Resort.

Location, Location, Location

cox-bay-beach-at-long-beach-resortLocated just 5 minutes outside the hustle and bustle of downtown Tofino, Long Beach Lodge Resort sits on the edge of Cox Bay Beach. Known as one of the most picturesque beaches in all of Canada, Cox Bay is truly a marvel. Its crescent shape is perpetually shaded in the whites and blues of lapping waves, which are just large enough for surfing, but still gentle enough for a family swim. Coupled with some of the most incredible sunsets you’ll ever and see, and it’s clear why Long Beach Lodge chose this exact location to build their incredible resort.

The Resort

looking-at-long-beach-lodge-resort-at-sunset-from-beachNow when I say incredible resort, I truly do mean it. Long Beach Lodge is a full amenities destination that’s great for couples, trips with friends, and families young and old. And with a variety of hotel room options, as well as a selection of large private cottages, there is a lodging style for every type of group.

In addition to world-class lodging, Long Beach Lodge Resort has an incredible list of activities and amenities right on the resort grounds. From the 24-7 beach access and the surf club to the Great Room Restaurant and Lounge located right off the lobby, there is no shortage of amazing things to do and see (and eat!) during your visit.

The Cottages

cottage-at-long-beach-lodge-resort-in-tofinoDuring our stay, our family elected to stay in one of Long Beach Lodge’s private cottages. And boy were we happy with that decision. Walking into the cottage, we nearly had to pick our jaws up off the floor!

kids-in-private-hot-tub-at-long-beach-lodge-cottageAt 1,000 sq. ft., this spacious two-story cottage boasted everything we needed from a true home away from home. The ground floor master bedroom featured a beautiful bathroom with soaking tub and separate shower. And right outside the master, a large, private hot tub awaited us!

master-bedroom-in-long-beach-lodge-cottageUpstairs, bedroom number two was perfect for the kids, as it had an incredibly comfortable king size bed that lulled them to sleep the second they rested their heads at night.

kitchen-and-living-room-inside-long-beach-lodge-cottageThe living space was highlighted by a large gas fireplace and comfy couches, all of which was near the full kitchen and dining area. From cooking private, healthy family dinners, to playing board games in front of the fire, this cottage was the perfect basecamp for adventure.

Bring the Whole Family

outside-view-of-long-beach-lodge-cottageNeedless to say, the Long Beach Lodge Resort Cottage was the perfect place for our family of four. However as we came to learn, the resort actually features several different furniture layouts for its cottages, including an option for a second bedroom with two double beds instead of a king, meaning a family of six could all sleep very comfortably! Coupled with the fact that Long Beach Lodge is pet-friendly, it’s clear that the resort is the perfect place for all two and four-legged family members.

The Surf Club

boy-and-girl-walking-to-beach-with-surf-boardsWhile our family is no stranger to the ski-in/ski-out resorts that dot Canada’s Rocky Mountains, Long Beach Lodge was our first ever introduction to surf-in/surf-out.

Located just outside the hotel on Cox Bay Beach, the Surf Club Adventure Centre is the destination for fun for the entire family. Walking into the club, the friendly staff got us suited up and equipped with rental surfboards custom chosen for our size and skill level. From there, it was off to the beach to begin our private surf lesson.

boy-and-girl-surfing-in-tofinoAfter getting a feel for the boards on the sand, we took to the waves and tried our hand at the famed Cox Bay surf. The entire family had a blast! One of the most memorable experiences of our life for sure.

hot-tub-at-long-beach-resort-surf-clubAfter getting our fill of the waves, it was time to come back in. This is where the Surf Club really shines. After so much time in the cool Pacific waters, we were ready to warm up. Thankfully, the Surf Club has a beautiful spa-style bathroom and changing room where we could walk right into a nice hot shower, wetsuit and all. After warming up and ditching the suit, we then were able to walk right over to a private hot tub for a proper post-surf soak. What a treat!

The Great Room Restaurant & Bar

restaurant-long-beach-lodgeFull of massive windows that offer breathtaking ocean views, The Great Room Restaurant & Bar is the ideal location for refuelling after a long day of adventure.

great-room-sitting-areaIn addition to world-class fine dining all evening long, The Great Room offers a wonderful Happy Hour each and every day. Settling into the cozy, Canadian-lodge feel, our entire family was able to enjoy this time together each evening. Mom and Dad took advantage of some ridiculously cheap adult drinks, while our kids got to join in the fun by picking something special off the restaurant’s kid-friendly “mocktail” menu.

board-games-and-drinks-on-tableDrinks in hand, we snagged a couple of board games from the front desk and had our family fun in front of the large fireplace as we watched the sun go down over the horizon.

All Beach, All the Time

sunset-in-tofinoAnother wonderful feature of this resort is it’s private beachfront. With its quiet setting on Cox Bay Beach, Long Beach Lodge offers guests unrestricted access to the waterfront 24 hours a day. Whether it’s for an early morning surf or swim at dawn’s first light, or an evening campfire to watch the sunset with your family, the beach experience here is second to none!

World-Class Hiking

boardwalk-trail-in-tofinoVancouver Island is full of many natural wonders, and Tofino is no exception. Thankfully, Long Beach Lodge has a variety of family-friendly hiking trails and boardwalks that lead right up to the hotel, making family hikes as simple as lacing up your boots.

beach-lookout-in-tofinoThe last night of our trip, our family took a walk out to Pettinger Point. Weaving through a canopy of natural growth, the old wooden boardwalk twisted and turned until it eventually led us out onto the point itself. From there we were given one of the most breathtaking views of the ocean and sunset that we have ever experienced. A must-do when you visit Tofino!

The SandBar Bistro

burger-and-beer-at-sandbar-bistro

Photo Credit: Long Beach Lodge Resort

Our visit was just in time for the season opening of The SandBar Bistro, a beachside retreat offering amazing refreshments all summer long. Whether it’s for a warm post-surf coffee or a snack and ice-cold beer, the SandBar Bistro is the perfect place to relax, enjoy, and unwind without ever having to take your eyes off the ocean.

Extra! Extra!

seating-area-overlooking-beachIt would take me a novel to fully describe all the amazing amenities that Long Beach Lodge has to offer. In addition to everything discussed thus far, there is a seemingly endless list of fun activities offered year-round at the resort. From friendly games of beach volleyball to family movie nights and beach parties, the hotel staff does a wonderful job of making sure that everyone feels at home and has something fun to do every single night during their stay.

Plan Your Visit – Tips and Tricks

father-and-son-playing-on-beach-in-front-of-long-beach-lodge-in-tofinoMy first tip for anyone thinking about visiting Long Beach Lodge is simple: GO! I promise you it will be an amazing trip.

Like all Canadian adventures, the weather is something to be considered when visiting Tofino. While your mind may race to August as being the ideal month to enjoy it here, the locals actually refer to this month as “Fogust” due to the heavy fogs that roll in off the Pacific.

Our May trip was met with incredible weather that reached upwards of 25 degrees with plenty of sun, so don’t be afraid to look at off-season visits. Same goes for storm season. As many returning guests at the resort shared with us, what may be limited in terms of outdoor activities is more than made up for in the incredible sights, sounds and smells brought upon by the natural beauty of the storms.

Our trip to Long Beach Lodge Resort in Tofino was the perfect long weekend for our family to relax, recharge, and most importantly, spend some quality time together. Families shouldn’t be limited to one long trip a year to reconnect. By finding opportunities to travel to someplace special together – even if just for a night or a weekend – you’ll ensure that bonds are always being strengthened, and memories are always being made, year-round. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the whole point of travel?

I certainly think so, and I am happy to add Long Beach Lodge Resort to our family’s list of perfect weekend getaways!

Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!

Is this a sponsored post?: While our stay at the Long Beach Resort was sponsored, all our thoughts, views and ideas are our own.

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Surf’s Up at the Surf Club Adventure Centre

You’ve certainly heard of “ski-in/ski-out”, but have you ever heard of surf-in/surf-out? I hadn’t. That is, until our time at the Long Beach Lodge in Tofino. Tucked right next to the hotel, directly on the shores of the Cox Bay Beach, lies Long Beach Lodge’s Surf Club Adventure Centre – one of the most incredible concepts I have ever seen in vacation adventures.

While surfing in Tofino is quite popular, it’s not always the easiest activity to dive into…especially as a visitor. Typically, if you want to surf the waves here, you have to get in your car and drive to the beach, picking up a rental board and wetsuit along the way. Upon arrival, your family then changes right in the parking lot (glamorous, I know) and heads down to surf. Once done, everyone strips off their soaked wetsuits back by the car, doing their best to keep warm as you towel off the brisk ocean water. Then, cold and tired, you have to drive your rentals back, and finally, return to your hotel to warm up.

As anyone with kids can tell you, this blueprint has disaster written all over it! Cold, tired kids make for cranky kids. And cranky kids tend to miss out on all the little moments that make adventures like learning to surf so special.

That is why the Surf Club Adventure Centre is one of a kind. It strips away all the hassle, and makes learning to surf with your family easy, convenient, and most importantly, fun!

Easiest Way to Surf

boy-and-girl-walking-to-beach-with-surf-boardsAs mentioned, the Surf Club Adventure Centre at Long Beach Lodge mirrors its experience off a ski-in/ski-out concept. Meaning that surfing is as simple as just walking a few short steps to the beach from your hotel room or cottage.

As soon as you walk in, you are greeted by super friendly and knowledgeable staff that gets you ready to go with all the essential rental items. No getting in the car. No stopping on the way to pick up boards or suits. It’s truly the easiest way to get into the sport. And with kids, the easier it is to start, the more likely it is that they’ll have a great time.

Gearing Up to Go

changing-room-at-long-beach-lodge-surf-clubOnce greeted by the Surf Club staff, we proceeded to give them all the information they needed to get us geared up properly. Height, weight, age, experience level, etc. From there, they quickly returned from the back with clean and dry wetsuits for all four of us and set aside a set of surfboards custom chosen for us to ride that day.

To get suited up, our family proceeded to walk into the club’s changing rooms…and quite honestly, we couldn’t believe what we saw. The Surf Club boasts the most incredible, spa-quality facilities. It really was amazing! Everyone had a nice locker to secure their belongings, and plenty of space to comfortably change into their wetsuits (no more parking lot dancing for us!).

It was such a pleasant departure from what we expected and set the tone for a wonderful afternoon.

Learning to Ride

girl-and-boy-learning-to-surf-on-beachIn addition to its great facilities and selection of quality rental gear, The Surf Club offers both private and group lessons as well. Our family had booked a private lesson for the four of us, and so suited up in our wetsuits, we departed for the beach to meet up with our instructors for the day, Tom and Chance.

Spreading out on a plot of pristine sand, we began our lesson on the shore. It was clear from the beginning that not only did our instructors know what they were talking about, but they were so incredibly passionate about teaching others to surf. As many parents may know, there is a vast difference between an instructor who is comfortable teaching kids and one who is not. Our two instructors were fantastic with my children. You could tell they had a ton of experience with a younger audience, turning much of this on-shore lesson into a kid-friendly experience that included games, prizes and more. I cannot thank Tom and Chance enough for all they did to make my kids enjoy this learning experience!

Surf’s Up

boy-and-girl-surfing-in-tofinoAfter getting in plenty of practice with surfing’s “up-down” skill, it was finally time to hit the waves. While mom and dad definitely enjoyed our time out on the water, the best part of the experience for us was watching our kids. They were having SO much fun! With the great lesson on shore, both of them were able to get up and surfing nearly right away. And with that came the hooting, the hollering, and the biggest smiles I have ever seen grace their faces.

Ever since I was a little girl, the ocean has always been a very special place for me. Now, to be here with my family in this beautiful secluded oasis on the Pacific, watching my kids have the time of their lives riding her waves, I couldn’t have been happier or more proud. Such a wonderful experience.

Time to Come In

boy-bringing-in-surf-board-after-surfingAfter getting our fill on the waves, it was eventually time to come in and say goodbye to water for that day. However, it was not yet time to say goodbye to the amazing experience at the Surf Club Adventure Centre. Walking merely steps back from the water to their facility, the staff promptly took our boards to clean and store. From there, we all walked back into those glorious spa-like facilities, wetsuit and all. With large steamy showers that have plenty of room to change, guests are encouraged to walk right in with their suit so they can immediately begin to warm up from the cool Pacific waters. We were then able to leisurely take off the wetsuits and hang them up nearby for the staff to clean once we were gone.

hot-tub-at-long-beach-resort-surf-clubWIth showers done, we had one final treat in store at the Surf Club – a private hot tub! Climbing in, our family got to warm our bones, and share all the memories from our time out on the water that day. It was the perfect cherry on an already amazing sundae!

Our afternoon at the Long Beach Lodge Surf Club Adventure Centre was something we will never forget. From the incredible facilities, the surf-in/surf-out concept, and all they did to make surfing an enjoyable experience for our kids (as well as mom and dad), I really cannot think of a vacation adventure that could top this.

Carving out time during your travels to learn something new is a wonderful gift to give yourself. And for our family, we could not have been more thankful for the gift we received, and the unique experience we had during our afternoon at the Surf Club Adventure Centre.

Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!

Is this a sponsored post?: While our stay at the Long Beach Resort was sponsored, all our thoughts, views and ideas are our own.

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Touring Tofino: Marine Adventures with Captain Josh

Nestled right on edge of the Pacific, no trip to Tofino would be complete without an adventure out on the water. Thankfully, one of the many benefits of staying at the Long Beach Lodge Resort is that the property has its own boat available for guided tours! Usually, resorts like these will outsource their guided tours, but The Long Beach Lodge prefers to keep it all in house, allowing them to provide quality control and the best experience for their guests.

dog-on-whale-watching-boatArriving at the Tofino marina, we were greeted promptly and kindly by Captain Josh, a 20-year Tofino native that – as we would soon learn – knows the area like the back of his hand. Seated directly next to Captain Josh was First Mate Scout, a beautiful, friendly nine-month-old Husky. Needless to say, we hadn’t even left the marina yet and my kids were already loving the animals!

long-beach-lodge-resort-in-tofino-marinaAs we boarded our vessel for the morning, Captain Josh presented us with a difficult decision. Long Beach Lodge offers both Whale Watching and Bear Watching excursions depending on the season. Since we were right in-between each season, it was up to us to decide: do we hit the open water in search of whales, or stick near the coast, eyes wide for black bears?

captain-joshIn the end, we decided on the whale watching excursion and could not have been happier with our decision, as we ended up seeing a whole amazing variety of wildlife!

The Whales

whale-spouting-from-blowholeFirst up on our list of wildlife were the stars of the show: the whales! Specifically, we came upon a Gray Whale, a massive creature native to this Pacific region. Hearing the sound of the massive blast of air leaving their blowholes is something our family will never forget. Truly amazing!

The Sea Otters

sea-otterAfter checking off the big guy, Captain Josh brought us closer into shore to see if we could find some other varieties of native species. My daughter is obsessed with sea otters, and so she was over the moon every time we came across a sea otter. We even saw one otter doing battle with a brave seagull trying to steal his lunch from right out of his hands! But the highlight of this stop had to be witnessing the iconic image of an otter couple taking a nap while holding hands. So cute!

The Bald Eagles

bald-eagle-in-tofinoCruising to our next location, Captain Josh (and Scout, of course) were quick to point out the massive number of bald eagles flying about. Josh made sure to really take advantage of this time and create a teaching moment for us, sharing fun facts such as female bald eagles being larger than males, and the fact that these creatures pick a mate for life.  Eyes scanning the various groupings of eagles, we came across a beautiful “teenager” as Captain Josh called him. A young (5 or so years) bald eagle, who was nearly full grown in size, yet still was completely brown, his white head feathers not yet developed. Such a cool sight!

The Sea Lions

sea-lionsNext up were the sea lions. As our boat approached the shore, we made out a group that was at least 100 members strong. Hands down, this was my favourite sight of the tour. Watching these giants lay out, catch a nap, play with one another, and bark and slap in an effort to dominate the best spots on the rocks was truly something special. Very rarely does it seem like you get to watch an animal in their native habitat. But this was one of those rare occasions, like finding yourself immersed in a National Geographic!

The Birds

kids-viewing-eagles-through-binocularsAs we began our cruise back to the Tofino marina, we passed quite a few varieties of native birds. Captain Josh amazed us with his vast knowledge of each of these species, sharing great facts about where they nest, what they eat, and so much more. Our favourite had to be cormorants. These deep-diving birds are British Columbia’s version of penguins, and who doesn’t love seeing penguins! A great treat for my kids, as well as mom and dad.

boat-in-marinaAfter seeing this amazing variety of air, land and sea animals, it was finally time for us to wave goodbye to Captain Josh and the Long Beach Lodge vessel. Our whale watching experience was incredible. We saw such a great variety of creatures and learned so many wonderful things from our local expert. It is truly amazing that this is something offered directly by the resort, and another reason why Long Beach Lodge is the absolute premiere Tofino resort destination!

Learn more about our Tofino adventures in these articles!

Is this a sponsored post?: While our stay at the Long Beach Resort was sponsored, all our thoughts, views and ideas are our own.

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9 Things to Know Before Your Trip to Nunavut

To experience Canada’s Nunavut is to choose to explore the Arctic hands-on, up close, and personal. Not because it’s the trendy travel destination on everyone’s list but because you want to explore Canada’s North and get to connect with the people and the places that make Nunavut so special.

While I had many expectations of my adventure including epic landscapes (check) and amazing people (check), I also realized upon landing that like any new destination, the community had its own culture and idiosyncrasies that were waiting to be discovered.

Here’s a list of the top 9 things that entertained and surprised me that will help you be prepared before you land in Iqaluit, Nunavut!

1. The $7 Taxi

No matter where you’re coming from or where you’re going, a taxi in Nunavut will run you $7 per person. No per-km or per-minute charges…it’s just the way they do things there. But keep in mind that if you’re travelling alone or with just one other person, these taxi’s supplement your $7 by picking up additional passengers along the way. So, while you’ll still get from Point A to Point B, you may need to stop by Point C to drop off passenger D along the way.

A little strange at first, sure. However, this was a great way to see some interesting places and meet some interesting people while on my journey!

2. The Inuit Artists

inuit-artisit-in-nunavut

World Renowned Inuit Artist Mathew Nuqinqug in his workshop in Iqaluit. Mathew invites you to visit his workshop and view his items for purchase. His art has been featured in the Paris Fashion show and is displayed in galleries across Canada. Photo Credit: Jason Nugent

From the second your plane lands, you meet Inuit merchants selling art, clothing and hand made souvenirs. From traditional paintings and sculptures to scarves, jackets, dolls and more, you’ll see just about everything you could possibly want as you are greeted by sellers.

While your instinct may be to brush these individuals off as you might do in touristy areas of larger cities, it’s important to note that here in Nunavut, these merchants are part of the local culture, and it’s a great opportunity to support them. So, if you see something you like, get it! Not only will you save 50% over what you’d pay in a tourist shop in town, but these merchants have a much greater selection and truly unique art. It’s a win-win for everyone!

3. It Really Is Cold

woman-standing-outside-in-cold-nunavut

Photo Credit: Jason Nugent

As an outdoor enthusiast with a lot of experience in cold weather and gearing up, even I found myself cold during some of our outings. Adventurers be aware and come prepared, and be sure to work with local guides who can provide you with the right gear when heading out into the cold Arctic for adventures.

4. Look at the Houses Closely

house-in-nunavutBecause of the permafrost, Nunavut is unable to bury pipes underground. As such, all the homes there work on tank systems, with one tank for water, and one for sewage. Each tank has a 1-day capacity, and water and sewage trucks roam around every single day refilling water and hauling away the waste.

Interestingly enough, you’ll notice each house in Nunavut is equipped with a special red light out front that once the float on the water tank is suspended goes on, indicating to the water companies that a stop is needed! Ingenius!

Knowing that water is a commodity, you’ll want to be aware of how much water you are using and that once used up, that you’ll have to wait until the next day before you get more. This is especially true in the smaller towns.

5. Nunavut is Very Multi-Cultural

stop-sign-in-nunavutWhile Nunavut is of course dominated by the Inuit, I was quite surprised to encounter an incredible amount of diversity in the places I visited. While many may not have been born to the native Inuit tribe, they have certainly felt the call of the wild, and have made this place their home.

Thankfully, conversing was not as difficult as I had imagined. In addition to the native Inuktitut language, English and French are also widely spoken.

6. Visit During the Toonik Tyme Festival

singers-at-the-toonik-tyme-festivalEach spring, Nunavut celebrates the end of winter with a two-week long Inuit celebration. From music to food to crafts to throat singing to dog sled racing and so much more, the Toonik Tyme Festival was a real treat to attend.

Arriving on opening night, we were treated to a full slate of traditional dancing and throat singing. We even got to watch a special Inuit Fashion Show, which I can honestly say was something I never thought I would ever witness in this life. However, I am so glad I did, as it was one of the highlights of my visit. This fest is a must-attend!

7. Functional Fashion

seal-skin-coat

Photo Credit: Jason Nugent

Upon arrival, it was clear that this wasn’t a place where folks donned their leather jacket for a night on the town. It didn’t take long to notice that seal skin is the fabric of choice in Nunavut.

I, like many, had some trepidations about this. However, you quickly learn two things related to seal clothing: 1. It really is that cold in Nunavut, and seal jackets provide wearers with incredible warmth, and 2. Using the skin of a seal is the way Inuit honour the animal before they eat it. Not only does the skin make for a beautiful, warm coat, but in the eyes of the Inuit, wearing this jacket is the ultimate sign of respect.

8. The Scenery Will Take Your Breath Away

woman-walking-in-nunavut

Photo Credit: Jason Nugent

One of the things I still can’t quite wrap my mind around is the scenery in Nunavut. Snow-capped peaks, jagged ice mountains, and the bluest water you’ll ever see, the landscape is unlike any other place on earth. Truly remarkable!

9. Vegetarians Be Warned!

muskox-stew

Muskox Stew

As I quickly learned on my trip, the traditional fare of Nunavut revolves heavily around meat. With the nature of the climate, no fruits or veggies grow naturally there, meaning they all need to be flown in. While this, of course, does happen, and you are able to find pretty much everything you like from home, meals still tend to go very heavy on the protein. Lots of fish, mussels, arctic char, plus local delicacies like caribou and muskox round out most menus.

Nunavut is such an incredible part of Canada that I am so glad I was able to experience and explore. The interactions and connections made with both the people and the environment are ones I will never forget. Keep these 9 things in mind when you visit Nunavut and your trip will be exceptional!

Check out my other Nunavut adventures and learn more about us!

Is this a sponsored post?: Yes, while my trip to Nunavut was sponsored, the opinions and views in this article are strictly my own.

 

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Nunavut: Experience the Spirit of the Arctic

Standing in the middle of the Arctic ice, wind rippling around me, and nothing but a small wood shack and a tiny fishing hole to call home, it dawns on me: I’m exploring one of the most remote regions on earth, and yet haven’t even left Canada.

For centuries, this top-of-the-world destination has been a well-kept secret. A place that was inhabited solely by the Inuit communities born there, as well as a few very brave explorers looking for the ends of the earth. But the secret is out, and Nunavut is quickly becoming a can’t-miss travel destination. A place to explore the coldest, most remote stretches of our planet.

In fact, Nunavut has even found itself onto prominent travel lists such as The Top 10 Alternative Destinations as well as Fodor’s 2019 Best Places to Travel Guide. Having experienced this wonderful place in person, I do very much want to encourage everyone to make it their mission to visit. However, I do this with one caveat: if you’re going to come to Nunavut, come for the right reasons.

If your intentions for Nunavut is to simply “cross it off your list” – to snap a few photos and buy a few souvenirs – then I must politely ask that you reconsider. Nunavut is not for the light-hearted traveller looking for an instagrammable moment. It’s a place where life has gone on for thousands of years without losing its unique culture. Yet like many places that become “hip”, bucket-list travel destinations, the influx of the wrong kind of tourist can rob this uniqueness from them in a blink of an eye.

If you do come to Nunavut, come for the people. Come for the culture. Come to engage with the community. Come to experience the spirit of the Arctic. And come because it’s small, quaint, and less accessible. And do your part to keep it that way.

If These Ice Walls Could Talk

ice-wall-in-nunavutStanding 12 meters above the sea level, these ice walls patiently guard the coast, awaiting the sea to rise to meet it with the turn of the tide. The contrast of the bright blue sky against the crisp white ice makes for picture perfect photography but also begs viewers to stop and recognize the power of mother nature working behind the scenes.

The towering cliffs of Frobisher Bay greet tidal swings of 26 to 39 feet twice a day (the second highest tides in the world after the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia). The view looking over hundreds of kilometres of frozen Arctic ice begs the Canadian in me to ask: “Is this where the phrase ‘From Far and Wide’ originated from in our National Anthem?”

The cold air in your lungs is a temporary condition of adventuring to the Arctic, but the scenic imagery and sense of awe will stay with you long after you’re back in your warm home.

Adventure Awaits in the Arctic

woman-dogsledding-across-the-arctic

Photo Credit: Jason Nugent

One of the best ways to embrace the spirit of the Arctic is to take part in adventures that immerse you in the landscape and allow you to explore as the locals do. Winter activities include everything from dog sledding and snowmobiling, to snowshoeing, kite skiing, igloo building and more, with local guides that will outfit you, and take you out to explore the region. Visitors can expect a fully immersive experience, from riding shotgun in the dog sled to steering their own snowmobiles. Along the way you’ll learn the significance of the land and the history of the space you’re exploring, and also learn why and how they are protecting it for generations to come.

Embrace the Spirit of the Inuit

As soon as you touch down at the airport and are greeted in Inuktitut, you’ll be welcomed into a community where Inuit culture is a thriving cornerstone of daily life. From the building design and outdoor art to the food, the clothing, the mix of traditional and contemporary music, and the beautiful, beautiful art (it’s reported that Nunavut has more artists-per-capita than anywhere else in the world), everywhere you turn you’ll be connecting with the Inuit way of life.

Connect with Canada’s History

hudson's-bay-company-building-in-nunavutThe Nunavut area plays a rich part in Canadian history, with roots that go back many centuries. The iconic Hudson’s Bay Company launched one of its first outposts here all the way back in 1814. By the 1870s whaling and fur trading were major industries here, and while the whaling died out in the early 1900s, fur trade continued to thrive.

During WWII, the American’s built an Air Force base on the Kooiesse Inlet. This, along with the relocation of the original Hudson Bay Outpost, and the settlement of Frobisher Bay was born. The population here rose as high as 1,200 (with about 40% of that being Inuit) during the Cold War. To support this growth, the Canadian government shipped in teachers, doctors, administrators and more.

In 1987, the community changed its name back to the original Inuktitut name Iqaluit. And in 1995 Iqaluit was chosen to be the capital of the new territory of Nunavut — which officially came into being on April 1, 1999.

As you can see, this remote place has quite the Canadian history, and is the perfect place to reconnect with your roots!

There is Incredible Closeness Within the Community

town-of-iqaluit-in-nunavutNunavut has an incredible, deep sense of community. Living in such a remote area, it’s clear that everyone makes a point to take care of one another. They lend a hand when needed, and are always there for their neighbours. Even more amazing is that they do the same for visitors to their village. My group and I obviously stood out as tourists, yet no matter where we went, locals were coming up to us asking if we needed anything, or if there was anything they could do for us. It was a heart-warming display of compassion and care for others.

“I’ll Stay While I’m Happy…”

kevin-a-guide-from-inukpak-outfittersOne of the most profound moments of my adventures up North was connecting with adventurers who intended to only come for a short visit but ended up calling Nunavut home. Being such a remote place – with chilly temperatures for the majority of the year –  I just had to ask our guide Kevin: “What makes Iqaluit home for you?”.

Kevin responded: “We promised ourselves when we moved here that ‘we’ll stay while we’re still happy,’ and 17 years later we are so lucky to be a part of this amazing community and thrilled to be raising our family here. Will we stay forever? If we’re happy! This place has been such an incredible home and we love being a part of it.”

Kevin wasn’t alone, Martine from Inukpak outfitters also came for a one-year stint and 17 years, a wedding, and 3 kids later, now owns one of the busiest adventure companies in town.

I love the spirit of exploring new places and these adventurers’ willingness to dedicate themselves to the mantra “I’ll stay while I’m happy”. If only we could all embrace this willingness to play big roles in communities, and remaining there so long as we are fulfilled…it’s a great lesson to take away!

Nunavut is a place that cannot be described on a page or captured on a lens. The magic is in the people, in the land they call home and the activities they partake in daily. A unique mix of culture, adventure, and beauty that is unlike any place on earth. For anyone with a sense of adventure, I suggest you pack your bags and go experience the spirit of the Arctic first hand. I promise it’s a trip that will stay with you for a lifetime…

Check out my other Nunavut adventures and learn more about us!

Is this a sponsored post?: Yes, while my trip to Nunavut was sponsored, the opinions and views in this article are strictly my own.

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The Rush of Racing Snowmobiles Through the Arctic

Just a few days earlier, I was standing in my kitchen making lunch for the kids…

Yet here I was, with a 150hp metal beast racing me across jagged ice fields and around the frozen ice peaks of the Arctic Ocean. Looking out into the vast nothingness that laid out on the horizon, -30° air whipping in my face, I couldn’t help but ask: is this all a dream?

Thankfully, it was very much real. And it was all thanks to Inukpak Outfitting.

As part of my journey to Nunavut, I knew I just had to find myself back on a sled. An avid snowmobiler as a kid, I felt this was the perfect time to reconnect with this childhood passion and explore the incredible terrain of the Arctic. To make this dream come true, I was connected with Nunavut’s own Inukpak Outfitting – one of the most well-respected, reviewed, and revered guide companies in the entire province.

Inukpak is an Inuit word that translates to “gentle giant”. As soon as I met founder Louis-Philip Pothier, I immediately saw why the company was named as such. A towering man, Louis-Philip is as kind a person as one could ever meet. Together with his wife Martine and a handful of professional, experienced guides, they run Inukpak Outfitting – offering a variety of Nunavut adventures, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, kite skiing, ice fishing, igloo building, dog sledding and so much more.

Before I knew it, I was racing snowmobiles through the arctic!

 

Investigating Igloos

woman-in-igloo-while-snowmobiling-through-the-arcticBefore we took off on our snowmobile adventure we made a quick stop to Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park. Martine had gotten word that many of us had never seen a real-life igloo, and so she drove us right up to one for us to experience it first-hand. This was one of the many moments of this journey that felt surreal – like it was ripped straight from a movie. Since I was a little girl, I had always heard of igloos – learning about them in school, and building my own crude versions with friends in snow banks. Yet here I was, laying my hands on a real-life one. Such an incredible experience!

Gear Up and Go

woman-in-gear-for-snowmobiling-through-the-arcticUpon arrival at Inukpak’s headquarters, it was immediately clear that we were going to be facing some pretty harsh conditions out on the trail. Thankfully, the team was there to ensure each of us in our group of riders was equipped with everything we needed to tackle the trail. Working from our feet to our heads, each rider geared up with socks, boots and special outer boots. From there, it was pants, snow pants, and shells, base layers, jackets, and outer coats, then face masks, balaclavas, toques, helmets, goggles and more. While most of our group came prepared with all their own winter gear, Martine was kind enough to lend odds and ends for those that were missing any elements of the complete Arctic riding ensemble.

After gearing up, Martine got us all familiar with our snowmobiles, and then we were off – departing their Apex headquarters and heading out into the Arctic.

Navigating the Ice

looking-at-map-before-heading-out-on-snowmobilesAs Martine explained, this area of the Arctic has the second largest tidal swings on Earth. Meaning that constant shift in water level creates for some crazy terrain. As we reached the edge of the ice, we could immediately see what she was talking about. Bashed-up and jagged, it took us all some time to get used to this unique riding surface. Thankfully, Martine was there with us every step of the way, guiding us on how to best navigate and become comfortable with this style of riding. With her help, it only took a few kilometres before we were all riding like pros!

Middle of Nowhere

woman-on-sled-snowmobiling-through-the-arcticAs we continued to ride further and further towards the horizon, I was struck with just how open the landscape was. It really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, and a humbling reminder of how incredible this planet really is, and how much beauty Canada has to offer. Thinking about all the warm weather summer adventures my family takes around the parks of Vancouver, I couldn’t begin to comprehend that this Arctic wonderland was actually part of the same country. Truly incredible!

The Ice Wall

ice-wallContinuing our ride, Martine guided us to a massive ice wall. As we came to learn, this ice actually does a disappearing act with the tide. When the tide is out, you’re greeted with the massive wall. Yet when the tide comes back in, the wall all but disappears. Massive sheets of ice, just bobbing up and down with the tide…another example of the incredible natural wonders of the Arctic!

 

Break Time

lunch-on-the-ice-while-snowmobiling-through-the-arcticWe continued our journey, riding hard for many more kilometres, and taking in the sights of the landscape and the famous Inuksuk sculpture that dots it. After a while, Martine knew it was time for us to rest our legs and warm our bellies, and so she guided us to a sheltered bay for a break. From her stow bags, Martine produced the most incredible lunch spread for us – amazing smoked Arctic Char, warmed caribou stew, trail mix, chocolate covered almonds, cheese, crackers, coffee, tea and so much more. Quite honestly the best spread I have ever had on an adventure like this, and the perfect fuel to keep us going for the remainder of the trip.

Tracks by the Pond

polynya

Photo Credit: Sarah Rogers

Back on the sleds, Martine guided us towards a large polynya – a body of water surrounded by sea ice that never freezes. We stopped for a bit so that she could explain to us why these polynyas are so important to the local wildlife, serving as the main hunting ground for polar bears and seals. Unfortunately, we were unable to see a polar bear in the flesh that day, however, we did have the amazing experience of coming upon a fresh set of polar bear tracks – possibly just one or two days old.

Sitting there admiring the massive size of these bear’s paws, knowing that hours before (and likely, hours later), they’d be roaming this space looking for food for themselves and their cubs, I couldn’t help but be hit with that sense of wonder and awe that had become so prevalent throughout my journey to Nunavut. Everywhere we turned, I was seeing something and experiencing something for the very first time. Truly wonderful…

After our track sighting, we made our way back towards Apex and the Inukpak Outfitting headquarters. While I was tired from a full day of riding, I was so sad to see the day come to an end. My time with Martine and our fellow adventurers exploring the Arctic was something out of a dream. An experience I’ll never forget, and one that will forever reshape how I feel about Canada and the planet as a whole.

Want to learn more about Inukpak Outfitting, and potentially book a journey of your own? Check out their website!

Check out my other Nunavut adventures and learn more about us!

Is this a sponsored post?: Yes, while my trip to Nunavut was sponsored, the opinions and views in this article are strictly my own.

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On Top of the World: My Day Dogsledding Across the Arctic

With a quick pull of the throttle, I shot across the ice, navigating the high-powered sled over the jolting bumps and around the jagged ice peaks. Though I’m decades older now, the feeling was immediately reminiscent of being 12 and racing snowmobiles with my family at British Columbia’s Green Lake. Only this time, instead of seeing my Dad trying to pass me out of the corner of my eye, it was something I’d never quite seen before coming into focus. A white, furry flash…

10 Canadian Inuit Dogs

While a typical Friday for me involves getting the kids off the school and catching up on work in front of the computer, I spent this past Friday checking something special off the adventure bucket list: dogsledding across the Arctic with some of the world’s most incredible adventurers. The experience was like something out of a dream, and one that will forever change my perception of what it means to explore…

The Location

town-of-nunavutMy adventure began high up in Canada’s Nunavut province. Here, on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, I met my guide for the journey, Sarah McNair-Landry. A professional expeditioner, and the first woman to be recognized by the International Polar Guides Association as a Master Polar Guide, I can say with certainty that Sarah is one of the fiercest explorers I have ever met.

Growing up with the Arctic Ocean and a team of sled dogs in her backyard, Sarah has been exploring the far reaches of this planet her entire life. Now, with her partner Erik Boomer, she runs Northwinds Expeditions, a company with a passion for the cold, offering incredible adventures across the North and South Poles, as well as leading scientific expeditions, film crews, photographers and more.

Gearing Up

Arriving at Sarah’s House in Nunavut, you are led into the attached Northern Expeditions Gear Room, where your adventure begins. Eyes are immediately drawn to the incredible photographs of adventure lining each wall. Dog sledding across the Arctic. Kite skiing in Greenland. Driving tractors to the South Pole. Each image gives you a sense of wonder and a shot of adrenaline, knowing that you are mere minutes away from experiencing one of these incredible adventures in person.

One of my main concerns when deciding to take this journey was the idea of having to buy all sorts of specialized gear. Thankfully, Northwinds Expeditions had me (and all their guests) covered. Their Gear Room is filled with all the speciality cold-weather exploration gear you could possibly need, meaning I just needed to show up in my normal ski gear, and they took care of the rest. Special pants, over-boots, over-gloves, over-coats and more, I put on this second suit of cold weather armour and got ready to take on dogsledding across the Arctic.

Meeting the Dogs

After gearing up, Sarah and Erik led the group through a quick orientation of what we could expect on our dog sledding adventure. We learned about the dogs, the sleds, the conditions and more, ensuring all of us were comfortable with what we were about to experience.

With the size of our particular group, Sarah mentioned that we would be taking turns on the dogsled, with the rest of the group riding alongside on snowmobiles. Asking if any of us were comfortable piloting a snowmobile of their own, my hand immediately shot into their air, as I have been dying to ride again ever since my childhood cruises at Green Lake. With the drivers settled, Sarah and Erik brought out their snowmobiles, attached the Qamutiik – the traditional dog sleds used to carry people and supplies – and we were off to meet the dogs.

As we began our journey over the Arctic ice to meet the dogs at their camp, I couldn’t help but revisit one of the main thoughts I had before coming on this adventure: is this humane for the dogs? Well, my concerns were immediately put to rest the second we came upon the dog camp. These dogs went absolutely wild when we arrived, jumping and howling like they had been waiting all their lives to see us. And much like your dog at home when you bring out the leash, the second Erik pulled out their sled harnesses and the pups knew it was time to run, they couldn’t contain their excitement!

While Erik was harnessing the dogs, Sarah gave us a brief introduction to these beautiful creatures. From a distance, I assumed these were Huskies, but it turns out that these were actually Canadian Inuit dogs, which have been used and bred in the region for thousands of years. Though closely resembling Huskies, Sarah explained the key differences between the breeds, including the most important feature: a denser fur to handle the severe cold of the region.

Preparing for Takeoff

As Erik prepared to harness the last two pups, he looked around and asked the group if we were ready to go. “Of course we are!” we responded. We were excited to get going on this adventure!

While Erik appreciated this enthusiasm, he re-asked his question: “No, are you ready…”. As it turns out, these dogs are so excited to run as a pack, that the second the last one is harnessed, they take off like a rocket.

Message received, the first group of riders hopped into the qamutiik, and I hopped back on my snowmobile ready to tackle the first leg with horsepower instead of dog-power.

Even though Erik and Sarah had prepared us for what was about to happen, I didn’t believe the launch of the sled would be quite as epic as described. Well, little did I know I was I about to eat my words. With the final dog harness attached, the pack took off like a rocket! It was incredible – such a sight to see. I immediately found myself eating their dust, and had to quickly hit the throttle to catch up to the pack.

Touring Around

For 45 minutes, we rode hard. It’s difficult to articulate the terrain and the feeling of the frozen Arctic Ocean. It’s everything and nothing, all at once. As we cruised across dense, many feet thick ice – being led by dogs wanting nothing more than to show us their home – you become deeply connected to the environment. Massive ice mounds and snow drifts dot the surface, and all around you are hit with the rush of the bluest skies and crispest air you’ve ever breathed in your entire life.

After several kilometres cruising behind the pack, Erik motioned to me that I should speed up to the front, as the dogs love a good chase. I dashed ahead, watching the dogs’ eyes light up (and their legs speed up) as they saw their owners’ familiar snowmobile. I put some distance between myself and the pack so that I could stop and take a photo of the sled approaching. This was the first instance I had to truly appreciate the incredible speed at which these dogs run…by the time I took my photo, they had nearly caught up already! It took a quick burst of acceleration to ensure I wasn’t tackled by the pack and the sled!

Break Time

Shortly after, we came together with another one of Northwinds Expeditions’ dogsled groups and took a much-needed break – both for the riders and the dogs!

This far into the middle of the Arctic, I would have been happy with a little water and a granola bar. However, Sarah and Erik really pulled out all the stops for this group, providing us with a delicious little picnic of tea and warm apple cider, crackers, cheese, chocolate covered nuts and more. It was such a wonderful break in the middle of nowhere, and the perfect chance for this group of adventurers to pause, take a breath and let it all sink it.

Changing Things Up – Dogsled Time

woman-on-dog-sled

view-of-dogs-from-the-dog-sledWith the break over, it was time to make our way back on the second leg of our journey. Now, it was my chance to abandon the snowmobile and trade it in for the much more traditional way of travel – the dogsled.

Climbing into the front of the sled, I couldn’t help but smirk as I realized I was seeing these dogs from a whole new angle…a rear angle, that is. Settled in, Erik yelled “Mush!”, and we were off once again, flying across the Arctic ice.

Being in the sled was the most incredible experience – equal parts of joy and adrenaline. You develop an immediate connection with the pack of creatures up front, realizing that – to a certain extent – you are at their mercy. That’s not to say these dogs aren’t well trained. Actually, quite the opposite. As Erik yelled “Right!”, the dogs would veer right. Yelling “Left!”, they would do the same. It was at this moment that I fully appreciated just how much these dogs live to serve. While their minds and bodies are in total control of the sled as they guide you across their homeland, their hearts are most definitely with us back there in the basket.

As we approached the camp, the dogs sensed home was near and pushed forward with a final jolt of energy. Racing to a stop where we had begun our journey hours before, I – like everyone in our group – had smiles plastered across our faces. Did we really just dogsled across the Arctic? Was this all a dream?

Thankfully, it was absolutely real. And it was all made possible by Sarah, Erik and the incredible folks at Northwinds Expeditions. Nature, adventure, adrenaline and more, this journey had it all. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience, and one that I would recommend everyone add dogsledding across the Arctic to their travel bucket list.

To learn how you can take this same incredible trek across the Arctic, be sure to visit their website.

Check out a video of my adventure:

Check out my other Nunavut adventures and learn more about us!

Is this a sponsored post?: Yes, while my trip to Nunavut was sponsored, the opinions and views in this article are strictly my own.

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Exploring the Magical Mix of Business and Pleasure at the Marriott Marquis San Diego

I never, ever want to leave…

This was the phrase stuck on repeat in my head all last week. I was in sunny San Diego for a major social media conference and was very much enjoying a nice spring thaw after a long Canadian winter. But even more enjoyable than the much-missed sun was my home away from home for the week – the beautiful Marriot Marquis San Diego, which is without a doubt one of the most amazing hotels I have ever visited!

Located right on the San Diego Marina, this hotel seamlessly mixes business and pleasure in a way I have never quite seen. As you approach the sleek, modern glass façade of the building, you can’t help but feel as though you’ve arrived. Though I would come to learn that the hotel was built in 1987, you’d swear by its modern, timeless look and feel that it was brand new. The only thing that tips you off to the age of the hotel is the staff. Providing the most incredible levels of customer service, it was no surprise to learn that some employees have been working at the Marriott Marquis for over 30 years!

front-of-hotelWalking into the lobby, I felt immediately at home with the warm, modern décor. With plenty of space and comfortable furnishings to spread out and take a phone call, fire off some emails, or have an informal business meeting, it was no surprise to see many fellow conference attendees milling about the lobby. Seems like I had picked the right place to be!

hotel-lobbyAs I approached the Registration Desk, I was greeted with a warm California smile from a friendly young woman named Stacy, who promptly welcomed me to the Marriott Marquis. Stacy asked if I had ever visited the property before, and when I replied that this was my first time, you could see her face light up. It was like she was about to share some sort of magical secret with me…which I would soon learn was exactly the case. Stacy began to explain all the various amenities of the property, and within seconds it was clear that this gorgeous lobby was just the beginning. It seems that I had merely scratched the surface of all the amazing recreation, relaxation, fitness, dining, and other amenities all located within the property.

destination-amenties-fee-cardAs a frequent traveller visiting hotels across North America, it came as no surprise when Stacy mentioned the resort’s Daily Destination Amenity Fee, as I encounter these all the time. However, I was surprised when she began to explain all the items that were included in the $30 daily fee. Actually, “surprised” is too small a word. I was floored as Stacy explained that my amenity fee included all of the following:

  •         One-hour bike rental
  •         One-hour kayak or paddleboard rental
  •         High-Speed Internet
  •         Instructor-Led Fitness
  •         $10 Food and Beverage credit to Starbucks or the exchange
  •         Two featured glasses of “Sommelier Select Wine”

All in all, the Marriott Marquis San Diego packs in $120 worth of goodies into their amenity fee. Sure beats the typical hotel offering of a slow wifi internet connection and a lukewarm cup of coffee the next morning!

Completing the check-in process, I made my way towards my room, taking note of the several lively, trendy restaurants located just off the lobby, making a mental note to check them out later. I proceeded to ascend the elevator, eventually reaching my floor and my room. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with a beautifully appointed, spacious room, as well as the most beautiful view of the harbour and the Pacific Ocean. Up until this point, the Marriott Marquis San Diego had been all business, with the sleek entrance and modern, bustling lobby. But here in my room, I caught a glimpse one of those secrets Stacy had smiled about during check-in: the beautiful, tropical oasis right out the back door.

looking-down-at-lit-up-poolDown below, I took in the view of the most gorgeous pool I have ever seen. Sitting there, as if being hugged by the curves of the hotel itself, the spacious, scenic pool and dual hot tubs were glistening with the reflection of the sun setting on the Pacific. And just then, as if on cue, the pool lights turned on, illuminating the masterpiece in all its glory.

This was it. I had died and gone to heaven…

The next few days were incredibly busy. However, as much as I was enjoying the conference, I found myself eagerly awaiting the end of each afternoon session, knowing that the end of the day meant I could return home to my beautiful hotel.

Thankfully, as busy as I was, I was still able to explore nearly every nook and cranny of the Marriott Marquis San Diego during my time there. What all did I find? Let’s take a closer look…

The Pool

After my first glimpse of the tropical pool oasis from my room, I knew I had to spend as much time as I could down there. As I walked down to the pool area for the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder how they managed to create such an isolated paradise with a major city sitting right outside the front door. It honestly felt like I had stepped onto a remote resort in Hawaii.

The pool itself was a balmy 80 °F (26 °C), making it perfect for a March dip. In the evenings, the dual hot tubs became the destination of choice for weary business travellers and families alike, all coming together to enjoy a nice warm soak and a few laughs among new friends.

poolside-loungeAs if that weren’t enough, there was also a poolside restaurant: Tequila Bar and Grille. Perfect for a relaxing, tropical drink or a tasty bite after a long day, this spot was the place to come for happy hour.

Health & Wellness Center

inside-fitness-centreWith my evenings spent poolside relaxing, drinking, and eating, I made a point to reserve my mornings for a much-needed workout. Thankfully, the Marriott Marquis San Diego doesn’t just have your standard hotel fitness centre – it has a full-blown, modern health club!

This health and wellness centre was so impressive, I am actually going to write a whole separate blog on the facility, as a couple of paragraphs won’t do it justice. But to summarize, this was honestly a whole lot nicer than any fitness club of which I have been a paying member.

A modern room with rows of what looked like brand-new equipment, there was no shortage of cardio or strength training to be found. Solo workouts, not your thing? Not to worry, because there is a whole separate classroom with instructor-led programs (which are included in your resort amenity fee)! And to top it all off, a tranquil yoga room to stretch and practice your best Warrior Pose as you prepare to greet the day ahead.

Dining Options

Smack dab in the Baja California region, one would expect some excellent local cuisine while visiting San Diego. In this regard, the Marriott Marquis did not disappoint. In addition to the tasty snacks and meals I was able to grab poolside at the Tequila Bar and Grille, the hotel also houses Marina Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant specializing in modern comfort food.

food-at-marina-kitchen-restaurantWith a Head Chef that trained in Spain, and spends every morning meticulously picking out fresh catches at the Tune Harbor, the meals at Marina Kitchen were absolutely incredible. Tasty and hearty, classy yet non-pretentious, my dinners here were absolutely divine. Could not recommend more!

wine-cellarA wonderful glass of wine pairs well with the delicious food offered at the Marina Kitchen! Their wine cellar is impressive and filled with a large variety of both local and international wines. It’s no surprise as to why their destination amenity fee includes a wine tasting!

As if all the full-service restaurants weren’t enough to keep you full, the Marriott Marquis San Diego offers one more 24/7 food option unlike anything else. Dubbed The Exchange, this “modern room service” is the first of its kind for a Marriott. Think of it as a fresh, modern take on grab-and-go meals. With plenty of delicious, reasonably priced sandwiches, salads, drinks and snack items, there is something for everyone at The Exchange. And best of all, you can grab whatever you like at any time of the day!

Basecamp for Family Adventures

girl-on-bike-outside-marriott-marquis-san-diego-hotelWith all this talk of sleek, modern amenities and dining options, you may get the impression that the Marriott Marquis is an adults-only resort. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, this resort is the perfect basecamp for your family’s San Diego adventures!

midway-aircraft-carrier-san-diego

Photo Credit – sandiego.org

The harbour right out the back of the hotel offers a great selection of family-friendly water activities, including boat rentals. Nearby, beautiful sandy beaches are awaiting your family for a day of fun in the sun. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can grab the ferry over to Coronado Island to check out its great shops, restaurants, beaches, and Naval Base. Or head on over Seaport Village to take in the iconic Midway Aircraft Carrier!

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Birch Aquarium. Photo Credit – sandiego.org

In addition to all the great water-based activities, San Diego city offers tons of family-friendly treasures as well, including the Birch Aquarium, the world-famous San Diego Zoo, museums, restaurants, shopping and more. No matter what you and your kids enjoy, there is no doubt you’ll find it in San Diego.

And of course, if you just feel like staying close to home, the Marriott Marquis goes out of its way to make sure kids and parents alike feel welcome, with countless activities and special events offered throughout the year. From kid-friendly arts & crafts sessions to poolside family movies during the summer, the hotel staff does an incredible job in making families feel at home.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long into my stay at the Marriott Marquis San Diego that I found myself repeating I never, ever want to leave… in my head over and over again. Because honestly, who would want to leave such a paradise? From all the modern business amenities and comfortable, well-appointed rooms, to a state-of-the-art fitness centre, incredible dining options and 5-star resort pool, the Marriott Marquis San Diego is truly a world class hotel and resort offering the quintessential San Diego experience. An experience everyone and every family should have at least once in their lifetime.

Are you thinking of planning a family vacation and are looking for places that have it all? Check out these recommendations!

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JamiExploring the Magical Mix of Business and Pleasure at the Marriott Marquis San Diego
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