There is a small town where the road meets the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island’s Esowista Peninsula at the 49th parallel. A place where the culture is chill and simple, unspoiled by chain restaurants, stores, and multi-lane highways (and intentionally works to stay that way!). I have been here a number of times since coming to B.C., but never get tired of its rugged beauty and a culture that I think epitomizes the west coast attitude. As we turn onto the two-lane highway towards Tofino, from the “junction” between Tofino and Ucluelet (“Uke” for short), a verse from Victoria artist, Mike Edel’s song goes through my head;
“Go as far west as you can
through the evergreens until your feet reach the sand
and only stop, when you think your heart has found
a piece of sacred ground”. (song: St. Columba, from his recent India Seattle album)
This is first and foremost a surfing town (which I’ve tried a number of times but still consider myself a beginner; able to stand up for only a few seconds even after all these years!). But surfing is not the only activity in this outdoor lover’s paradise. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy birding, hiking, camping, whale or bear watching and fishing. In the past, I have hiked some really beautiful trails here, which is not hard to do in B.C. When I see old growth trees, hundreds of years old, it makes me want to touch them, and feel connected to something sacred and ancient. To me, this is the most beautiful place on Vancouver Island, where the sand is like fine powder and stretches for kilometers, gently ‘kissing’ the ocean waves. I can easily spend hours on the beach. It is like manna for the soul.
Tofino, British Columbia, (originally named after a famous Spanish Rear Admiral, Vincente Tofino), with a population of less than 2000 inhabitants in the winter, swells to over 20,000 on any given summer day. Despite these numbers, this place has managed to maintain its down-to-earth, free-spirited feel. Winters in this rain forest area host curious storm watchers, and serious surfer competitions, making it a year round destination (albeit a wet one in the winter!).
Along the highway into Tofino, we pass through a national reserve, the Pacific Rim National Park; home to Long Beach, which spans 16 kilometers along the coast. The wildlife here is abundant, and I spot a young black bear on the side of the road. Even after all these years, this is an exciting sight for me. When we arrive at Long Beach, the parking lot is packed with cars, but the beach is so large that it doesn’t feel crowded. We walk for a few hours, watching children and dogs frolic in the surf, and surfers trying to catch a wave. The sand is warm and hard packed under my feet and the ocean air is salt-tinged and fresh. This is the epitome of relaxation and my stress instantly melts away after our long, 5 hour drive from Victoria.
As a self professed foodie, one of the things that I love about Tofino is the food. There is no shortage of independent restaurants, cafes and food trucks preparing fresh, local dishes with care. Seafood is abundant, but there is definitely something for everyone. One of my personal favourites is Sobo. Their smoked salmon chowder and homemade cornbread are the perfect combination after a day on the beach, and their large, flour-less chocolate cookies, which always sell out, are incredibly gooey and decadent.
If you enjoy high quality craft beer like we do, the Pacific Northwest is teeming with exceptional breweries, and Tofino is no exception. Tofino Brewing Co. exudes that west coast vibe, and their small batch offerings are of high quality and unique; some of which are infused with local ingredients such as bull kelp, pine or spruce. We tried a flight that included their Kelp Stout and the Spruce Tree Ale. Their tasting room is open daily and the staff is super chill, friendly and helpful (note: this is a working brewery and not a bar, so the daily limit per person is one pint/flight in the tasting room). The brewery was a short bicycle ride from where we were staying, just outside the town, and we were able to take the dedicated bike path that extends from the town of Tofino all the way to Cox Bay Beach.
As you will soon discover through my posts, I really enjoy photography, so I’m always on the lookout for a great subject. If you go to Tofino and enjoy photography, be sure to catch a sunset. We finally decided on Cox Bay Beach after scoping out a few other beaches, and I’m glad we did. The colours of the sky reflected in the water and on the beach were spectacular! It was an ideal way to end a perfect day.