Dreaming of Tofino

Hello friends


This summer we were fortunate enough to spend some of our summer holidays in Tofino. This is one of our favorite places on earth that we have traveled to many times over the years. There's just something about heading to the West Coast of Canada and dipping my toes into the Pacific Ocean. It transports me to another dimension. I think it is because this body of water also touches, directly and indirectly, the shores of places I love like: Hawaii, Cook Islands, Australia, and New Zealand. When I had posted a picture on Instagram of us making it to the ocean, my cousin from New Zealand wrote "hello from the other side!"



Combers Beach, Vancouver Island

Tofino is a small community running along the Wild Western side of Vancouver Island. While there, we also visited the Pacific Rim National Park and the community of Ucluelet. The nature that calls this place home is incredible. It's where the Rainforest meets the Ocean. Vibrant and lushes green forests filled with ferns, mossy floors, and lichen dripped stumps as well as, Old-Growth Cedar Trees that for centuries have not given up their quest to grow tall enough to meet the sky.


Rainforest Walk

Then there are the Shorpine trees that are sturdy and determined to grow from the rocky cliffs. Their windswept shape and scars show the years of battle with ferocious winter storms as they hold on and stand their ground in an attempt to survive another season.



Shorepine

There's life everywhere in plain view and hiding in these forests. Warning signs are everywhere reminding people that while in this paradise there are bears, wolves, and cougars who make this place their home and to be mindful of that.

The ocean is frigid and most dare not to enter without a wetsuit to surf the waves. But, on a hot summer's day, a dip in the calm bay at Mackenzie Beach is not completely unheard of.

There's something about this area on the far West Coast of Canada that slows my heart rate down. Looking out onto the Pacific Ocean is my perfect meditation, staring out onto the horizon wondering if there's somebody looking back at me in a distant land.

This week I will chat a bit about what we experience this time in the Tofino area. I will write about the Pacific Rim National Park another time.


Tofino Tips from #nuekeadventure2021

From the mainland, we always take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver to Nanaimo, Departure Bay. It's an easy area to navigate if you are not used to the big city and is surrounded by green and mountains falling into the strait. A perfect place to begin your holiday to the Island by car. Google maps indicate that it is about a 3-hour drive on Highway BC-4W from Departure Bay to Tofino. However, guaranteed it will take a lot longer as there are sights to see along the way and the pace of the road can be slow.



Horseshoe Bay, North Vancouver

On our way to the Coast, we always make a little detour to Coombs for a walk around this quirky little town. It is famous for The Old Country Market whose roof is made of grass and if you're lucky you'll see goats feasting and maintaining the lawn. "Goats on the Roof!" Right behind the store, there's a donut shop called " Billy G's Doughnut Shop". They serve a Maple Donut with Bacon, Cinnamon Twists, and a Pina Colada donut just to name a few. Guaranteed there will be a lineup to get in. We also always visit Coombstock - Coombaya The Hippie Store to check out their clothing and other hippie items. There are lots of novelty items with VW Vans on them. The owner used to have a store in Inglewood years ago but moved to the Island for a slower pace of life.


The next stop after Coombs for us is MacMillan Park to explore Cathedral Grove. Here you walk among the Old Growth Forest of Hemlock and Cedar Trees up to 800 years old. They've built a new boardwalk amongst the trees since we visited last, a way to protect Mother Nature from Humans.



Cathedral Grove


As of September 2021, there's still construction at Kennedy Hill. During the week the road is closed from 5 am to 7 am and from 11 am to 3 pm. You need to navigate around these times. I did not do my research on this closure when I booked our accommodation in Tofino, but we lucked out as I booked our VRBO on a Sunday. On the weekend there's no chunk of time where the road is closed and there's a traffic light that alternates the traffic flow.


Once you arrive at the end of the highway, you have a choice to turn right to Tofino or left to Ucluelet. As you head towards Tofino you will travel along the highway through the Pacific Rim Provincial Park.


The highway runs between the rainforest and the Pacific Coast. Every once in a while you have a glimpse of the ocean to confirm that you have truly arrived on the other side.


The Tofino Information Centre is a great place to stop for research excursions. I was told that it's a great place to book your whale-watching tours. Most companies are around the same price, depending on the type of boat you would like to take. The tourist center is able to pull up all of the companies and find a date and time that suits you. The agent also told me about a Kayak trip to Meares Island which is a nice day adventure. We did not get to go but it was highly recommended by a friend of mine to take the trip if budget allowed.


There are three main beaches in the Tofino area: Cox Bay, Chesterman Beach, and Mackenzie Beach.


We visited Cox Bay on our second day as the girls had signed up for Surf Lessons with Surf Sisters. This is a popular beach for surf lessons and by 9 am, it was pretty busy. The girls were in a beginner Day 1 and Day 2 course as it had been 3 years since their last lessons. There was some teaching on the beach and then they were out for over an hour catching waves. They really enjoyed the course but all agreed they wish they had signed up for a 3rd lesson so they could go out further and ride longer back to shore. The teachers were very knowledgeable and super nice. The girls would definitely sign up again with this school when they find themselves visiting Tofino again.



Cox Bay


The closest beach to the cottage we stayed at was Chesterman Beach which is about a 10-minute walk away. This is a great beach to take a stroll on. When the tide is out you can walk to Frank Island. There are private properties on this Island and you can't climb on it, but I was so fascinated by it as I couldn't imagine living out there, especially during storm season. I watched a couple of Bald Eagles who found a home on one of the trees. Looking towards the shore you get beautiful views of the mountains that tower to the East. There were many surfers playing in the water here and I found it a perfect place to watch the sunset.



Chesterman Beach



Frank Island



Mackenzie Beach is a calmer beach and better for those who like to paddleboard or kayak. There's a surf shop by the Best Western called Tofino Paddle Surf, right at the beach. It was truly the best deal in town. We rented a paddleboard for 2 hours for $25.00. It was just enough time for all of us to enjoy a paddle (the girls went on together) on a hot summer day and because we felt it was such a great deal, we rented a paddleboard the next day as well. I personally love this beach to explore the sea life when the tide is out. You can find many interesting sea life clutching to the rocks, waiting for the water to return. We saw many different colors of starfish. We explored this little cave area that had the most beautiful polished green rocks. It's a popular beach as there are a few hotels and private campgrounds located on it. But, I always find that these beaches never feel super crowded and you can always park yourself quite away from other groups. You definitely can stick to your bubble.



Mackenzie Beach


Starfish Mackenzie Beach

We chose to stay in a cottage through VRBO that was across the street from Chesterman Beach and two driveways down from Hotel Zed. It was a great location in the rainforest. It had two bedrooms and a loft, two baths, kitchen, living room, and a big deck and good size property outside. It was the most reasonable accommodation I could find in the middle of the summer for the 5 as I waited until March to book. However, we really enjoyed this spot and felt lucky it was still available and we would return again. I highly recommend booking even further in advance for the summer season. The other seasons I don't believe you have to book several months in advance.




In the past, we have stayed at the Ocean Village Resort on Mackenzie Beach when the kids were little. They are known for the accommodation that looks like a quonset, but far from it. They have kitchenettes in most of the rooms with some beautiful views of the water. They have a swimming pool which the kids really enjoyed as an alternative to the cold Pacific Ocean in May.


Years ago Thomas and I stayed at Middle Beach Lodge which caters more to adults. It's a beautiful property with its own private beach. It has been over 20 years since we have stayed there, but it was memorable. We even had a friend paint us a picture of the view from our room. Just looking at the website today makes me want to go back with Thomas and hang out in a treehouse and look out onto the ocean, waiting for an orca to swim by...(sorry, got lost in my thoughts).


The girls and I have also camped at the National Park Green Point Campground. It's not a very big park but if you are lucky you can find a spot overlooking Long Beach. This was in 2017. I had to book on January 9th to score a spot at this campground and if you weren't on the ball first thing in the morning, you probably wouldn't be able to book anything by the afternoon. The campground only has roughly 114 sites, so in the big picture, not very many for a short season. It was really a pretty campground, lushes and green. Definitely make sure your tent is waterproof and I would recommend bringing a dining tent...if you are tenting that is. When we camped there we had two days of clear and then the torrential rains came for about 36 hours. We had our old tent and unfortunately, we were lying in a puddle by the second morning. We have a way better tent now we purchased for New Zealand. We took staying dry as a top priority.


Lastly, I will chat about a couple of places we ate at. This time around we made most of our meals in our cottage to stay on budget, plus it was hard to get into restaurants. Like everywhere else, the hours were limited for most restaurants due to the shortage of staff. Touristic places like Tofino, Banff, Fernie, Whistler depend heavily on travelers from abroad who come to Canada on holiday work visas. Quite often in the past the chances of you having someone from Australia serving you was pretty high. I imagine it's the same way in Australia and New Zealand with many Canadians taking a gap year to work and travel.


Tacofino... You can't go to Tofino without going to the Tacofino Food Truck in the parking lot behind Live to Surf, by Mackenzie Beach. We decided to get takeout after the girls had a morning on the water learning how to surf. I volunteered to wait in line. I waited and waited and waited. But, I was OK with that because I knew that in the end I would at some point be holding a Fish Burrito filled with tempura lingcod, rice, beans, salsa, cabbage, chipotle mayo wrapped in the tastiest tortilla. So, how long did I wait? Well, it was 2 hours by the time I had the family's order in my hand. That's a very long time I bet you are thinking. Yep, but so worth it. I went in with the attitude I knew it would be a wait, so I just enjoyed my time in line. I met many people from BC and had some good chats. Thomas and Sydney were waiting on the sidelines for me under a shady tree as it was a hot day. Maya and Riley had made the right decision to stay back at the cottage and wait for our arrival. At one point Thomas had texted me asking if we should order more food for later...but burritos are not the same the next day. The girls had the Crispy Chicken Burritos with fried thighs, rice, beans, guacamole, cilantro, cabbage, black chili mayo, sriracha, and lime juice, and Thomas had the Beef Burritos with Hopcott Farms beef, rice, beans, salsa, cabbage, chipotle mayo, and sour cream. I was intrigued by the Gringas and so I ordered a Pork and Kimchi version. A gringa is a white flour tortilla with cheese and some kind of meat and then grilled. Oh man, it was so delicious. We could have eaten more but I was not ready to wait in line again. I highly recommend having one of your meals from Tacofino. I think we have gone at least once on the last 4 trips. Remember, you are on Island Time.



Tacofino Original Truck


Fish Burritos and Pork & Kimchi Gringa

In the same parking lot is Tofino Chocolate. This is an awesome little chocolate store with the most delicious handmade gelato. We visited there a couple of times as Mother Nature provided hot summer days for our trip. I had the Maple Pecan Praline which was so good. The chunks of pralines were huge. Some enjoyed the Lavender Honey and one even took the risk and tried the Hammerhead gelato which is a mystery flavor since 2017 and has never been revealed. Check out their website for their chocolate delights that can be mailed to you.


Thomas and I had a date night at Roar, the restaurant at Hotel Zed located just by the cottage we rented. We sat outside as it was a nice evening. We had a delicious Vancouver Island Seafood Board which had hot smoked salmon, candied smoked salmon, grilled prawns, tuna tartare, and seaweed salad. For my main course, I had the Spice Crusted Albacore Tuna with smoked tomato, chickpea quinoa tabbouleh, charred orange, and Thomas had the Charcoal Beef Chuck Burger (yes burger) with pork crackling, edam, iceberg lettuce, roasted garlic aioli, brioche bun, cooked to your level of “done-ness” & comes with charcoal roast potatoes. We shared a nice bottle of wine which was really affordable to complement the meal.


At Hotel Zed I minded my way to the lady's room through the hotel lobby. What to my wondering eyes would appear....a VW Van made out of driftwood! It was incredible, this piece of art depicting a vehicle I love and made with pieces of weathered, soft wood that I have some kind of weird connection to. There were two gentlemen looking at this sweet ride (that didn't go anywhere) and were showing me how the doors opened and that you could probably sit inside. They were excited about this piece of art as well.



Driftwood VW Van at Hotel Zed

The hotel also had these little retro rooms set up, perfect for picture taking. Of course, Thomas and I had to have a photo session.



The future looks bright....



Chillin'

Disappointedly enough, I didn't take any pictures of the town of Tofino itself. It is a pretty little harbor town with a surfer/hippie vibe. There are many shops to explore but due to restrictions, the number of people these shops could let in at a time was very limited. It's a nice town to walk around for a few hours and Riley did hit the skate park. In the past, we have eaten at The Schooner Restaurant (a great spot to escape the rain), Sobo, and The Shelter Restaurant, all places we really enjoyed.





I can probably go on and on ...but I will end it there for today. If you have never been to Tofino, I highly recommend this Wild place. For the first time traveling there, we did not have a huge downpour of rain or continuous rain for days. This is very rare. We have visited in the spring, summer, and early fall. All wonderful seasons to visit. The average temperature in the summer is usually around 19 degrees Celcius, but we had warmer. Always be prepared with a rain jacket and warm clothes, because the dampness can be cold to the bone. We always go there with the attitude it will probably be coldish and will probably rain. So, when the weather is warm, sunny, clear, and beautiful it feels like a gift.



Sunset at Chesterman Beach

Have a beautiful day

Rikki


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