16 Mar Tofino

Tofino is on the outer western edge of Vancouver Island. As a sea kayaker I have long heard tales of Vancouver Island and the epic outdoor scene there, the Broken Group of islands and Johnstone Strait, both well known for kayaking and their wildlife, especially migrating orca whales. But I had never heard of Tofino until I discovered it one day browsing maps, looking for an adventure.  I spotted this dot far away from everything on the Pacific side of the island where, curiously, the road simply ended. Intrigued, I read online about this magical place well known, as it turns out, for its signature beaches, whale watching, kayaking and world class surfing. So a trip was planned for a weekend there.

Taking a ferry from Anacortes, Washington to Victoria, B.C. was the first leg through the San Juan Islands followed by a road trip on the long, lonely, but beautiful Highway 4 to it’s end. All together it’s about 197 miles from Victoria to Tofino. Much of the trip is surrounded by mountains.  We passed by crystal clear lakes and eventually wound our way through the Pacific Rim National Park between the villages of Ucluelet and Tofino. The park with its rocky headlands, iconic beaches, and pacific surf, and weathered tempered by the island’s rain forest in the backdrop is one of B.C.’s most popular summer destinations.

Beyond the Park, another 10 miles or so up the road, lies the tiny hamlet of Tofino. Tofino’s year-round population, just shy of 1,900, triples during the summer months as the tourists and outdoor enthusiasts pour in. The town itself seems to have rebounded from an older resource-based economy and is becoming a prosperous resort destination. One can see that developers have discovered this place and it is quickly changing which is great if you are visiting but maybe you would feel differently if you lived there a long time. But now, in 2016, it is still a very charming town in a setting that is visually jaw- dropping. Surrounded by water on three sides with a curtain of cloud-shrouded mountains rising up in the background the views are breathtaking. While tour and pleasure craft fill the harbor it’s still observably very much a working harbor with fishing boats spread out in every direction.

Here you will also find happily a lot of good food, coffee, brews,  and longtime resident Julie Lomenda’s 600 Degrees baked fresh bread and pastries which she sells at farmers’ markets and to various restaurants. You will also discover a great variety of lodging available for every budget and terrific outdoor opportunities to whale watch, kayak, bike, hike, visit local hot springs, surf, paddleboard  and golf.

The big attraction are the beaches. Miles of them stretch out before you with lots of public access. Surfers are drawn to the challenging surf and waves. Because it’s located outside of the shadow of the Olympic Peninsula, Tofino’s beaches get the full impact of waves rolling in off the Pacific Ocean. This in turn gives it the best surf in Canada and makes it a destination for surfers from all over Canada and the world. The water is consistently cool at around 50°F, making surfing a year-round activity and Tofino home to a permanent surfing community.

Tofino is a place to go back to. There is so much more to explore and enjoy than a short stay allows. As remote as it is it offers endless outdoor opportunities for those who love nature and adventure and some of the finer amenities that one usually finds in a larger and more sophisticated enclave.