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Tigh-Na-Mara – The House by the Sea

April 18, 2020

Tigh Na Mara Exterior at twilight

Contributor Maureen Littlejohn shares details of one of her favourite Canadian luxury hotels – the exquisite Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort & Conference Centre on beautiful Vancouver Island


Entering my suite at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort & Conference Centre (pronounced Tie-Na-Mara, a Gaelic phrase for ‘House by the sea’), one thing caught my eye and wouldn’t let go. Striding across to the balcony door, I yanked it open and took a deep gulp of fresh, salty air. The panoramic Strait of Georgia view had me mesmerized.

After getting my fill of the gorgeous landscape, I surveyed the woodsy chic suite, which was also spectacular: king bed, sectional sofa in the comfy sitting area, gleaming kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a deep bathtub in the living area.

Located on 22 acres outside the town of Parksville – one of the best places to visit on Vancouver Island – the resort was opened 70 years ago and has since become a popular vacation spot for families and couples. The conference centre also draws corporate groups and I was told there were 70 weddings on site last year alone.


A luxury suite at Tigh Na Mara Ballenas with views over the ocean
Tigh Na Mara’s cozy suites boast incredible ocean views


Driving to the suite, I had noticed log cabins dotted the property along with low-rise buildings. The main desk told me there were 192 guestrooms altogether. The cottages were nestled under towering Douglas fir trees and had decks and BBQs while the suites (like mine) featured spacious balconies with water views. There was free Wi-Fi and an indoor pool, but the three kilometres of sandy beach with what the brochures called ‘the warmest swimming waters in Canada’ was the only place I wanted to be.

Warm water splashed over my feet as I peered down at live sand dollars and minnows trapped in the puddles. I had been to shallow beaches in the Great Lakes before, but I had never seen anything like this flat plain of sand skimmed with slowly receding water. It was the perfect playground for children and a delightful place for adults to slow down and enjoy nature.


Tigh-Na-Mara’s Spa and Hydrotherapy Treatments


Later, to relax, I booked a treatment at the resort’s Grotto Spa, named the #1 spa in Canada by Spas of America. Before dipping my toes in the mineral pool, I had a facial featuring the Éminence organic skin care line. The products’ faint citrus scent was divine.


Ocean view from a room at Tigh Na Mara  resort
Just one of the many spectacular views at Tigh Na Mara resort


The spa building also housed the Treetop Tapas & Grill where I noshed on a few small bites of local, fresh seafood. While I eyed some couples partaking in the ‘All You Can Eat Tapas’ package, I figured I’d have to save room for that the next time.

After my facial, I tried the hydrotherapy in the grotto, complimentary with every 60-minute treatment. Constructed to look like a glowing, blue-hued cave, the space featured mineral pool, hot tub, and cool showers (the Nordic way to get blood circulating). After an hour of paddling around, I was as relaxed as a baby seal.


Enjoying Vancouver Island’s Local Edibles


At dinner in Cedars Restaurant, I indulged in mushroom caps stuffed with shrimp, roasted garlic, green onion and cream cheese as a starter, then dug into a main of seared scallops and bacon with squash purée and watercress. Delicious. Chef Eric Edwards was born in North Vancouver and is inspired by Vancouver Island’s local edibles. His speciality is to prepare rustic dishes with a contemporary spin.

“It’s about creating delicious food with fresh, clean flavours, maintaining the integrity of the ingredients and caring about who you’re preparing the dish for so their culinary experience is special,” he explained.


Chef Eric Edwards plating dashes at  Tigh-Na-Mara
Tigh-Na-Mara’s Chef Eric Edwards preparing the day’s dishes using fresh local produce


Back in my room, tucked into the pillow-like bed, I drifted off to sleep with the hypnotic sound of soft waves drifting through the balcony door. What were they whispering? Could it be Tigh-Na-Mara?

To learn more about this ‘Riley Recommended’ luxury resort on Vancouver Island, visit their website at




Riley Contributor Maureen Littlejohn has been writing about entertainment, lifestyle and travel for longer than she’d care to disclose. Currently, she is Executive Editor of Culture Magazin (no e!).