Resorts & Retreats Awards 2023

Best Wilderness Adventure Guest House 2023 - Northern BC & Women's Wilderness Retreat of the Year 2023 - Canada Located at the mouth of the Skeena River, only 25 minutes from Prince Rupert, Cassiar Cannery is surrounded by outstanding wilderness, beauty, and biodiversity in some of the most favoured fishing grounds in British Colombia. We find out more from Justine Crawford as she shares her harrowing journey with us following the Resort and Retreat Awards 2023. Nestled within the estuary, Cassiar Cannery was the longest consecutively operated salmon cannery on the West Coast of North America, not skipping a season from 1903-1983. After going bankrupt in 1983, the cannery went into decline, until it was taken over by Justine Crawford in 2006. “It was a gigantic mess!” she exclaims. “As we started to restore the former manager houses, they went out into the market as vacation rentals. In 2016, we started to host Experience Cassiar Cannery – a curated selection of experiential programmes in the shoulder seasons.” Now, the cannery’s guest houses are plush and luxurious, drawing interest from the likes of Mike and Anne Howard, “the Guinness World Record Holders for the longest traveling honeymooners” who featured the establishment in a book called Comfortably Wild. “We are one of 40 properties highlighted from North America down to the Caribbean and only one of three Canadian properties highlighted for glamping,” Justine enthuses. As well as the Experience Cannery Programme, the venue is also renowned for hosting women’s retreats, with a variety of immersive activities focusing on relaxation and rejuvenation. These retreats offer ladies the opportunity to unwind, decompress, and reconnect with their inner selves whilst being surrounded by nature’s splendour – Giving them the chance to retreat from the hustle of everyday life whilst reinvigorating their spirit with daily meditation, yoga, and sumptuous meals. “It’s unusual for women to do nothing,” laughs Justine. “But on these retreats, ladies can wake up at their leisure, have an uninterrupted coffee and a read of that book they just can’t quite find time to open, hang out with their sister, mom, or besties on the deck, or just have a chance to be by themselves for a couple of days. The Women’s Relax is designed for just that – a chance to decompress and do nothing – unless they want to.” There are a range of other programmes available at Cassiar Cannery too, including Ecology Week, a nine-day programme exploring the natural world; the Skeena Adventure where jet boats head 150km down the Skeena River listening to the poignant songs of one of Northern BC’s most beloved musicians; and an Artist-inResidence programme where Justine and the team host a 10-day and a 20-day artist who comes to deep dive into their art, do some sort of public outreach, and then donate a piece of art to the Cassiar Cannery Collection at the end. Cassiar Cannery is one of the few properties that has embraced experiential programming and is leading the way across Canada as a case study to showcase what can be done to a business with the right attitude and determination… not forgetting the little personal touches. “With strong attention to detail, both our guest houses and our programming is quite thoughtful,” Justine muses. “We are known for excellent customer service and have many repeat guests. We place little bouquets of fresh Cassiar Cannery flowers and local greenery into our guest houses and that is one thing that many guests remark on along with the really comfortable beds with lux linens too.” Justine is a recent widow, having sadly lost her husband during the Covid pandemic. Not only this, but all operations ceased during the subsequent lockdowns too. Now manning the historic wooden site alone, she is learning a lot as she goes. But one thing that really strikes you about Justine is her sheer determination to keep Cassiar Cannery going. “Most people expected me to leave as this is a very challenging site after my husband passed away,” she says. “But we worked very hard to get to this point and I’m not prepared to give up!” For this reason, we are delighted to have rewarded Justine for her hard work with not one, but two prestigious titles in the Resort and Retreat Awards, these being Best Wilderness Adventure Guest House 2023 – Northern BC, and Women’s Wilderness Retreat of the Year 2023 – Canada, respectively. Now, as the future is looking brighter, Justine is reaching out to others and extending her breadth of knowledge in order to help those in similar situations to herself. “My provincial tourism DMOs are recommending me for consulting to help other operators add more to their businesses. For example, I am currently advising a woman who would like to add an artist-in-residence programme to her business. I really enjoy helping other operators and because I am also an operator, I think I have good practical insights into both the front and back ends of tourism.” Contact: Justine Crawford Company: Cassiar Cannery Web Address: