'Roughing it' on the Sunshine Coast

Rockwater Secret Cove Resort offers home comforts in a tent

HALFMOON BAY, B.C.When it rains, you can sit in your tent and listen to the patter of drops on the canvas, look out through the flap at the water dripping from the trees and pretend youre camping deep in the forest.

But instead of having lumpy ground under you, youre lying in a queen-sized bed with 220-thread-count sheets. When you get up you walk on a heated slate floor. Instead of going days without a proper wash your in-tent choices are a rainforest shower or a hydrotherapy tub. Youre still in a tent, but its a 43-square-metre tent that costs $80,000.

And when you leave it for something to eat, instead of cranking up the gas stove, you walk five minutes through the forest along an elevated boardwalk to a four-star dining room overlooking the ocean. I forgot to mention the tents also have flush toilets and free wi-fi. If this is your sort of camping, thank scotch.

The idea for these tents13 of them, strung through the forest on a rocky point of land, connected by a 900-metre raised walkwaycame to Kevin Toth while imbibing a tasty single malt. Toth, whod been a general manager at Fairmont hotels, doodled the design for the tents on a napkin. He was looking for a way to jazz up Lord Jims, a 55-year-old fishing and hunting lodge he and some others had purchased in 2004 on B.C.s Sunshine Coast, 20 kilometres north of Sechelt. (From Vancouver, by car and ferry, it takes about two hours to get here.)

It needed a hug and a half, when they bought it, says Karen Maxwell, Toths sister-in-law. It hadnt been updated in a half-century and there were still moose heads on the walls.

The new owners renovated the existing 11 cabins and the 14 rooms in the lodge itself, cleaned the 13-metre pool, erected the tents, improved the restaurant and renamed the whole thing Rockwater Secret Cove Resort. Maxwell, now the resorts director of business development, added a spa.

The moose heads may be gone, but vestiges of the past linger, most notably in the spectral presence of Ole, the former owner, who can sometimes be seen on the steps between the lounge and the dining room. Hes not scary, says Maxwell. He always has a smile on his face. He had a really good time here.

Another notable, more corporeal, visitor is Joni Mitchell. She lived in Cabin 11 for a year while her house was being built a couple of kilometres away, and stops in for a meal or a massage occasionally.

To help ensure the resorts tranquillity, only adults are allowed in the tents. But even though theyre well spaced, their walls are still canvas, and sound carries. Also, the Rockwater has become very popular for weddings. If you want silence, or something close, best to avoid those days. Otherwise, its pretty much everything some of us think camping ought to be.

If you go...

For more information on Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, visit rockwatersecretcoveresort.com. For info on travel in British Columbia, visit the Tourism B.C. website at hellobc.com.

John Masters is a member of the Meridian Writers Group.