There’s just something fun and funky about Tofino, BC. Its chill atmosphere and laid-back groove set the pace to take on as much or as little adventure as you like. Taking the trip in early July, I got to enjoy the journey west across Vancouver Island to this ocean paradise which is an adventure in itself as you transcend through beautiful and diverse surroundings, winding your way down from mountains to sea. An incredibly scenic drive with massive old growth forests, glacier blue creeks, and majestic mountain lakes; this rite of passage indicated that I was about to embark on a very special place.
Arriving quite late at our hotel in Tofino, the Best Western Tin Wis, my husband and I had just enough time to sneak in a night cap on our ocean-view balcony and gander over the brilliant starry night while small beach bonfires slowly dwindled out as guests called it a night. There is nothing better than having the ocean lull you to sleep and every guest at the Tin Wis gets to experience this with all rooms oceanfront and private balconies or patios. The rooms are spacious and modern with a mini-fridge and floor to ceiling window complete with sliding door. Upon arrival, I immediately sensed the familiar relaxation of a Caribbean-escape and was thrilled to discover it right here on Canadian ground in my own province, British Columbia.
We woke up the next morning to blue skies and the stunning oasis of Mackenzie beach, one of the smaller beaches in Tofino known for calmer waters ideal for stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Shared with just a couple other resort properties, Mackenzie beach is intimate yet offers plenty of space for a family picnic, game of Frisbee, or even a bike ride along its horseshoe-shaped sands. One side of the beach wraps behind a high-tide island that in low-tide, you can walk the extended beach to a craggy cove and seek out tiny sea creatures or just enjoy the waves splashing against the volcanic rock.
After taking a day to unwind and letting the beautiful surroundings inspire me, I was ready to take on the adventure I had come to Tofino for – a first crack at surfing. There are many quality surf shops to choose from between Tofino and Ucluelet (just 30 minutes south on the Pacific Rim Highway) such as the Westside Surf Shop and the popular Surf Sister School who my husband had a fantastic experience with the previous summer. Conveniently located at the Tin Wis, however, we had to take advantage of Tofino Paddle Surf shop. After a quick introduction, friendly shop owner and my instructor for the day, Catherine Bruhwiler-Temple got me suited up with wet suit and board (though somewhat arduous like putting on a pair of wet jeans on a hot, humid day, the full body wetsuit and booties are ideal for the cooler northern-Pacific waters) and we headed to South Chesterman beach to catch the afternoon high tide.
Catherine was easy-going and incredibly encouraging from land-training to the water. Knowing it was my first time ever catching a wave, she was thrilled to even see me ride the board on my stomach which was a unique experience for sure. We spent the afternoon playing in the surf and enjoying the clear and refreshing ocean under the hot sun and it didn’t take long to feel the exhaustion from this full-body, adrenaline pumping activity. After my lesson, chatting on the beach with Cath (as the many locals we ran into called her) I found out that not only had she been in Tofino since she was one year old and came from a family of surfers with two brothers owning surf businesses in town as well, but also that she had just claimed the title of Canadian Surf Champion at the recent Rip Curl Pro event that had come through Tofino this past June. Incredibly humble about this impressive cred, Catherine shyly giggled as I slowly pulled my jaw back to close after learning I had haphazardly been introduced to the surf by Canada’s best female surfer – cool.
Though I’m far off from mastering the pro-techniques that have been handed to me, (somewhat simple in theory, much harder in reality), I had an absolute blast playing in the waves for the next few days and roaming around Tofino enjoying the eats, treats, and sites that this groovy town offers. Being on the ocean, I was naturally drawn to the seafood-fare at many of the highly reputable and recommended eateries in the area. My new found love for fish tacos was inspired by my first tasting at Tacofino, a cleverly-named and popular food truck serving up amazing fresh to-go grub, and had me craving more delicious sea-samplings such as ling-cod burgers, fish and chips, seafood chowder, and even scrumptious spot prawns at establishments including the Wildside Grill, Jacks Waterfront Pub, RedCan Gourmet, and Shelter Restaurant.
Through recommendations from the various friendly locals we met along the way, I got to know about niche experiences that Tofino offered. On tap at most restaurants in town, I had sampled some of the Tofino Brewing Company’s wares but learned that I could also visit their store front and sample other selections on the spot and even buy a ‘growler’ jug to fill up with my favourite and return for refills. The local Saturday market also came highly recommended and I indulged in a delicious baked good and fresh local coffee from two of the many vendors who offered various food, artisan, and clothing items to browse. Next door to the market is the very active community skate park and as I sipped on my delicious coffee, listened to the market music, and watched the local talent of all ages rip it up in the park; I got a true feel for the precious, relaxed culture of Tofino, BC.