Last year at times felt apocalyptic for many, myself included. Prior to the pandemic, my peripatetic lifestyle had me on the road 350 nights a year. When my traveling came to a hard stop, I had ample time to think about which hotels and resorts are best equipped to handle disaster striking. I'd like to be somewhere far away from too many other humans, with an ample supply of food and water and ideally some way to defend myself if necessary. Frette linens and great views are certainly appreciated even if the flat-screen TVs don't work anymore and nobody's offering turndown service.
Primland, Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Spread across 12,000 sprawling acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this resort is both self-reliant and secluded. The nearest commercial airport is 90 minutes away in Roanoke or Greensboro and it's six miles from the entrance gate to the lodge.
When the late French-Swiss billionaire Didier Primat first purchased Primland in 1977 it was primarily for lumbering, and he sprinkled some rugged hunting cabins across the grounds. Only in 2009 did the posh lodge, fine dining restaurant and spa open, attracting a new clientele of first-time hunters and adventure enthusiasts. Primland is still an impressive hunting resort, with 40 hunting dogs – English Pointers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Brittany Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers – along with even more shotguns and rifles. Pheasants are the most popular game for guest hunters, and those birds are admittedly purchased and brought onto the property, but there are ample wild turkey, deer, grouse and rabbits that roam the grounds and the chef regularly forages for ramps, ginseng and a multitude of mushrooms to garnish dishes at Elements.
The resort has its own water supply from three wells and several ponds. Supposing that nobody needs to irrigate the golf course during the apocalypse, that's a lot of water for drinking and bathing. On a recent visit, I sped around the property on an RTV and my knowledgeable guide Michael Leftwich told me he'd been working at the resort for 16 years. Many of his camouflage flannel-clad colleagues have also been at Primland for at least a decade with intimate knowledge of the land.
Another unique asset is the powerful Celestron CGE Pro 1400 series telescope. Under normal circumstances, this telescope combined with the area's low light pollution offers an extraordinary stargazing experience at the observatory on a clear day. Visit during the waning moon phase for the darkest night sky and best chance of seeing other galaxies up to 27 million light years away. There's nothing this high-tech available at other resorts and Primland has passionate astronomers on staff to guide guests. But more importantly, if aliens are attacking, you'll have a clear glimpse of what's coming.
Sonora Resort, British Columbia
For a resort that bills itself as offering “exciting activities” and “endless adventure” the apocalypse could actually be a boon. After all, what could be more exciting and endless?
There are plenty of wild salmon swimming in the water around Sonora Resort, a Relais & Chateaux property on its own private island in the straits between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. Fishing is one of the most popular activities and if you catch a chinook salmon that's more than 30 pounds, you get to put your name on the Tyee leaderboard. With seven wells on property, plus multiple streams around the island, there's also an ample supply of fresh water. When I visited last summer, I went for a hike and found several patches of sweet, succulent salmonberries and thimbleberries too without even trying. I'm told you can even eat spruce tips from the trees or use them to make a spruce oil, a Pacific Northwest alternative to olive oil. The chef's garden supplies herbs, spices and vegetables too.
There are no guns or other weapons on the island, but hopefully nobody will disturb you and you can live a peaceful existence away from the debris of modernity. Hatha yoga class in the cedar longhouse each morning will rejuvenate and relax you, almost as much as a restorative massage with locally harvested seaweed and Canadian balsam fir oil. Balsam was first used by Canadian First Nations to treat a variety of ailments. The end of the world could be a good time to return to ancient ways.
Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland
This remote island is the most Northeastern inhabited part of North America. Fogo Island was built on cod fishing and didn't have electricity until the late 1960s. To this day, most islanders use wood stoves to heat their homes. Self-reliance is in the blood of the 2,607 residents.
When Fogo Island Inn opened in 2013, this previously unknown destination became a hotspot for the international jetset. But unlike other trendy resorts, Fogo Island is a social enterprise, with all profits going to the Shorefast Foundation, dedicated to ensuring the economic and cultural resiliency of the community.
The inn's contemporary architecture is striking against the stark ocean backdrop. All the furniture at the inn is built at the woodworking shop across the street and quilts are hand-sewn by locals.
There are seven seasons here – the usual suspects plus pack ice season in March, trap berth season in June and berry season in September and October. I visited during berry season a couple years ago and had the most glorious time foraging for more than a dozen varieties of berries, many of which I'd never seen or heard of before. Cloudberries were my favorite – bright orange berries that tasted like creamy sour apple. There are reliable sources of fresh water and ice for cocktails comes from icebergs. Food is ample, with fish, produce and plenty of wild moose, caribou and sea birds. Although many on the island have guns for hunting, there has not been a murder here in 400 years.
“Certainly we’d miss the rest of the world if something catastrophic happened,” says Fogo Island Inn founder Zita Cobb. “We wouldn’t have bread made from wheat anymore, but who needs bread when we have potatoes?”