It’s raining, it’s too far away, it costs too much, I have a term paper due -- all common excuses to avoid the long trek to beautiful Tofino on Vancouver Island. The funny thing is, the journey is half the reward. After 45 minutes of being crammed in a car, driving through touch-and-go city traffic, and turning around when you are halfway there to get the sleeping bag that your buddy forgot, you will have already made it to beautiful Howe Sound where your B.C. Ferries chariot awaits. From here on out, words will be substituted for the jaw dropping scenery of the B.C. coast including glaciated peaks, beautiful ocean inlets, never ending beaches, maybe even some whales, definitely a few seals and hopefully no sharks.
Between the ferry ride (approximately one and a half hours) and the drive on the Pacific Rim Highway (approximately three hours, depending on how many logging trucks you get stuck behind), there is plenty of sightseeing to keep you occupied. Beautiful old growth forests, lakes and steep, eroded cliffs take the place of the skyscrapers, city parks and busy streets we have grown used to being trapped by. Between the beautiful ferry ride and the drive, you will already have completed the most difficult, but also possibly the most enjoyable part of your journey (as long as you aren’t driving.)
Once you get to Tofino, there are plenty of options, accommodation-wise. Camping is the cheapest and best way to spend your time -- unless there’s 20 mm of rain in the forecast. Weather pending, Bella Pacifica campground offers beautiful camping areas directly on the beach, as well as in the woods for a reasonable price. There are also many other options for campsites in Tofino and Ucluelet alike, with slightly cheaper prices available in the latter town, such as Ucluelet Campground. Ucluelet is about 15 minutes south of Tofino, but if you’re looking to pinch pennies, it’s a perfectly sound alternative.
So you’ve made the trek westward, you’ve found a place to stay, and now one of worlds’ most pristine, biologically diverse, and intensely beautiful coastlines is yours to play on -- what do you do? Besides its beautiful scenery, Tofino is most well known for its surf. The water’s cold, so grab a wetsuit at Relic Surf Shop in town -- plenty of options for boards as well, and plenty of nice guys and gals who will hook you up. Tofino has three main beaches -- Long Beach, Chestermans and Cox Bay. Chestermans is the place to be for beginners. With plenty of other people your skill level in the water you’ll feel comfortable looking like complete idiot and having a damn good time (like everyone who learns to surf).
If you’re a more advanced surfer, or the waves aren’t working at Chestermans, you’re in luck. Because of Tofinos’ complex coastline, the town offers beaches which face slightly different directions, catching swell from multiple angles. Head over to Long Beach or Cox to find the waves best suited for your level of riding and you’ll also catch plenty of beautiful scenery.
Tofino is a small town, but there is plenty of quality food to reward yourself with. Tacofino, the local taco bus is a favourite. Serving up burritos, tacos and plenty of other Mexican treats, these are a perfect post-surf snack -- for the sake of your bowels (and paddling ability), I would suggest staying away from them pre-surf -- especially when you combine them with coffee. Speaking of coffee, hit up the Tofitian for tasty, (slightly overpriced, but good) coffee and baked goods. We let them have a free pass on their price because a) they have such a damn cool logo b) you’re in Tofino, and last but not least c), you can’t deny the quality.
Along with surfing, there are plenty of beaches to explore, fishing adventures and mountains to climb in the area. When your parents come to town, make sure they get a room at Cox Bay Beach Resort, 100 metres from the waves.
If you have some extra money to spend -- or you’re lucky enough to be staying at Cox Bay with mommy and daddy there are some great whale watching tours to go on, as well as charter fishing boats to catch your own dinner.
Don’t bother looking at the forecast. Whether you are camping, staying at a hostel (check out the Surfs’ Inn Hostel) or living it up at Cox Bay, you’re sure to have a good time. I’ve been fooled a week in advance by forecasts of sunshine all weekend and been greeted with 40 millimetres of rain over two days, and seen the typical 50 per cent chance of rain for three days straight turn into three days of sunshine. This is the Pacific Northwest. Either way, you get to experience the beauty of Tofino and get in on a secret not a lot of people in the world know about. Don’t expect California weather; there’s a reason they call it “Tough City”. But, hey, we all live in Vancouver. A little rain never killed us. And we definitely all know the reward of experiencing good weather in the beautiful province we live in, and Tofino illustrates this point very well.
It might rain on you for 48 hours straight, but that will only leave you wanting to come back for more. If you get more than 24 hours of sun, consider yourself blessed. Either way, we have the unique opportunity as residents of B.C. to be surrounded by stunning scenery and amazing, relatively untouched paradises. Worst-case scenario, you are definitely going to appreciate your cozy, dry home in Vancouver more than you did two days prior. Not a lot of people know of the surf potential, beautiful scenery, delicious food and generally laid back vibe that Tofino offers. Take a weekend to check it out -- you won’t regret it.