Few places can boast being as memorable and busy as Yellow Point Lodge has been for nearly 80 years; and Richard Hill, owner and operator of the lodge for 33 of those years, couldn’t be happier about it.
Located on the waterfront on Vancouver Island, just 25 minutes from Nanaimo and right around the corner from Kulleet Bay, there are so many routes to get to Yellow Point, it’s almost dizzying. But that’s part of its charm. What also sets Yellow Point Lodge apart from other vacation destinations is its limited vacancies and that it has no off-season, according to Hill. “We have a 99 per cent occupancy rate through the year.” While some of the smaller cabins that lack the amenities for winter lodging are closed seasonally, the rest of the lodge is typically near full up.
A Rebel without a Wi-Fi Code
“We get so many repeat visitors, it’s incredible,” says Hill. “Our record holder is from Seattle, been coming here since 1954 without one gap year.” Staying at Yellow Point Lodge has become a return destination for many; guests come back time and again because the operators have prioritized experience and value throughout the years. Hill and his team pack a lot into modestly priced bundles that can accommodate almost any vacation budget. Weekend packages include meals, tea-times and access to all the recreational activities guests can fit into a day. From bikes to kayaks and tennis rackets, there’s no shortage of things to do in all weather. Or, guests can unplug and retreat from society for a few days, and the lodge accommodates this type of experience too.
“We’re trying to keep a bit of the old world alive,” says Hill, noting that they don’t provide Wi-Fi service. “People know what they’re going to get,” he says of this cozy corner of Canada where people come to recharge and reconnect with one another and nature. Hill says he gets to see all kinds of people from different walks of life and that’s his favourite part of running the lodge—being able to meet such a variety of people with vastly different lifestyles and watch them all come together and share a meal.
Yellow Point Lodge provides visitors with comfortable, rustic accommodations with set menus each day—guests don’t want to miss the dinner bell and come to know what to look forward to. “Everyone is looking forward to the roast beef on Saturday and the seafood buffet on Friday,” says Hill. And by sticking to a set menu, it helps keep food costs down.
Special accommodations for guests with dietary needs have to be given to the kitchen staff in advance, and foodservice for these guests is individualized, right down to, for example, having separate toasters for gluten-free breadstuffs. “Our staff is very focused and very considerate because some of them also have special dietary needs too,” explains Hill.
Almost everything that Hill and his team can source locally, they do. Living in a rural area and having been in business for as long as they have has led to long-time partnerships with farmers in the area. “There are people near us that raise turkeys, grow potatoes, corn, berries, honey and eggs,” he says. “There’s going to be some things we can’t get, like six prime ribs every week from the neighbours or bags of sugar, but we get everything local we possibly can.” And just about everything served at the lodge is homemade.
Hill makes it all sound easy and matter-of-fact. Maintaining supplier relationships over the years is about making sure you pay your bills on time and treat each other fairly. In turn, Yellow Point Lodge turns a lot of customers, happy ones at that.
The biggest challenge that Hill and his staff had to overcome was during the 1980s when only three months into managing the place, the main lodge burned to the ground. “It was a very deflating moment,” says Hill. “Watching the windows blow out, flames belching out the windows, and I realized in that moment, this is gone.” Standing with his father on the patio while everything was going up in flames, they talked about what to do next. Hill says it was the only thing they knew how to do—running a lodge. So, they decided to build another one. It was a difficult year, but with the help of their crew, members of the community and even some of the guests volunteering, they were able to put their beloved operation back together. Some of those helping hands are still guests to this day.
Almost everything that Hill and his team can source locally, they do. Living in a rural area and having been in business for as long as they have has led to long-time partnerships with farmers in the area.
Yellow Point Lodge is a throwback to a quieter time where guests look forward to simple, good cooking, making new friends, epic relaxation or outdoor adventures. Knowing itself, operating honestly and keeping it simple while genuinely becoming part of the eco-system around it—Yellow Point Lodge’s success serves as a road map for other restaurateurs to follow.