March 15, 2018
If you’re craving a Mother Nature reconnect, you’ll find it in the mountains of British Columbia—a quick flight or scenic drive from the American West….
By Tiffany Lewis November 14, 2017 #php comments_number('0 Comment', '1 Comment', '% Comments'); ?> #php echo wpb_get_post_views(get_the_ID()); ?>
Beaches and forests may not be on your radar outside of the warm summer months, but Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve boasts year-round pleasures to coax you out into nature when the sun is hiding. Here are five don’t-miss experiences to enjoy in the off season.
One of Pacific Rim’s finest viewpoints is Radar Hill, site of a former radar station dating back to the 1950s. Most of the park is either in the forest or down by the water, so what’s special about Radar Hill is that you’re up above the tree line, giving you a sense of the area’s stunning geography. A sign at the top identifies visible landmarks, and this is a fabulous place to catch a sunrise or sunset. There are some stairs, but the viewing platform is a five-minute walk from the parking area, so access is quick and easy.
With its location on the Island’s west coast (it’s nothing but open ocean from the beach all the way to Japan), Pacific Rim is arguably the best place in BC to observe the power of nature as winter storms pummel the shore. Huge windows at the park’s Kwisitis Visitor Centre, located at the south end of Wickaninnish Beach and open weekends in the winter, offer an excellent, sheltered vantage point, as do several of the area’s resorts. Want to test your water resistance? You can also bundle up and watch from an outdoor deck.
The same exposure to the open ocean that makes this area a great storm-watching destination makes it a popular place to surf. Vast stretches of sand serve as staging sites for beginners and pros alike as they suit up in neoprene and grab their boards. The scenery here is spectacular, and there is a feeling of community among local surfers. Several shops in the area offer lessons and equipment rentals, and multi-day intensive surf camps are also available. Some combine surf lessons with things like accommodation, and other activities such as yoga and hiking.
The lushness of BC’s coastal rainforest makes a ton of sense when you experience it—wait for it—in the rain. And all you need is a little GORE-TEX® and some appropriate footwear to get you started. The park offers a number of excellent trails, but if you want to keep your trek short and sweet, try the Rainforest Trail. There is a Loop A and a Loop B option, each about a kilometre (0.6 mi) in length. Interpretive signs along Loop A emphasize forest cycles, and Loop B signage focuses more on the forest’s structure and its inhabitants.
Loop B is closed for the winter of 2017/18 as it undergoes some maintenance, but Loop A has been updated and is open and ready for exploration.
More than 300 species of birds draw avid birders to Pacific Rim all year long. Huge numbers of shorebirds stop here as they travel along the Pacific Flyway from as far south as Latin America, en route to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. Sandy beaches and mudflats in the park’s Long Beach area give them a place to rest and refuel. Armed with binoculars and a checklist, you can also stake out rocky shorelines, thick forest areas, bogs, and meadows in hopes of a rare sighting. Year round, you are likely to see bald eagles, Steller’s jays, belted kingfishers, and pileated woodpeckers. Spring brings western sandpipers, warblers, and several kinds of geese. In fall and winter, look for trumpeter swans, snowy owls, and the odd rare migrant bird that finds itself blown off course by a winter storm.
Pacific Rim sits at the end of Highway 4, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Access from the mainland is via BC Ferries, followed by a three-hour drive from Nanaimo. Alternatively, you can fly into the Tofino-Long Beach Airport, which services Tofino and Ucluelet, and rent a car.
Before you head out, brush up on your coastal safety knowledge and be CoastSmart.
Featured image: Surfing on Long Beach, Pacific National Park Reserve. Photo: JF Bergeron
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