If you live in Canada and you haven’t been to Tofino – what are you waiting for? And if you don’t live in Canada and haven’t been to Tofino – well, what are you waiting for?
We first discovered Tofino 25 years ago, but always there was the pull from the swell of salt n’ sand, misty mornings and a slanting sun. It was time to return.
Located on the tip of a peninsula off of the western point of Vancouver Island, Tofino sits within Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The town has transformed from fishing village to a thriving logging town, to tourist haven, boasting wild natural scenery, an ancient rainforest (yes, I said rainforest) and sandy beaches. Talk to any of the staff at local shops and eateries and you’ll find they all came from somewhere else but one stop in remote Tofino, perched on the Pacific Ocean hooked them, and they didn’t go back. Their eyes lit up as they talked about how, once the summer tourists leave, surfers arrive in winter and that’s when the ‘real’ surfing takes place.
It starts with the breathtaking drive (and I’m sure a hair raising one in winter) winding through the mountain pass and valley. Perhaps this is nature’s way of forcing us to unwind before we get there. Over the last 25 years, Tofino has grown up. Quite nicely. While still maintaining it’s coastal charm, the area has become a surfer’s haven.
We became a little addicted to watching them from our condo balcony at Pacific Sands Resort and along our beach walks.
While in Tofino, if you’re not a surfer, you can count on a few other great experiences. We didn’t take any of the many day trips offered for whale watching, fishing and archipelago cruises, but focused on exploring Pacific Rim National park and local beaches.
The hiking, through various points in Pacific Rim National Park will have you winding along trails, through dense cedar forests like this:
Only to arrive at an ocean front and this:
It’s also difficult not to be a little awestruck at the sun setting into the ocean.
There’s plenty of campgrounds and resorts from luxury to budget conscious only a short drive from town.
Tofino has attracted some top chefs and foodies. Each and every restaurant experience matched the one that came before, all inspired by what nature has granted them right along their own shoreline. When reading the background on each of the restaurant owners, you’ll find all are passionate advocates for local, farm and the ocean freshness from the surrounding wildnerness.
Wolf in the Fog boasts a small plates menu, however, you better bring your large appetite. It was difficult to decide what to share and we only wish we were staying in town longer to head back in to sample their dessert menu. We were lucky enough to squeeze in without a reservation, the restaurant was bursting both inside and out on the patio and upper deck.
When you arrive at Shelter, you’ll want to sink into the front patio’s lounge furniture perched by an enormous fire. The multi-level restaurant had the most mouth-watering selections of salads and seafood.
SoBo was our last dinner stop. What started as a catering food truck has now become one of Tofino’s top restaurants. This is another restaurant you want to sink onto the patio and enjoy the fire. Known for their fresh soups and wood-fired pizza their dedication to presentation in their entrees was evident.
If you don’t believe in the power of word of mouth marketing, just ask the owners of Tacofino, operating their food truck from the back corner of a parking lot off the Pacific Rim Highway. There’s no sign on the small highway plaza indicating where to find them, but find them we did, along with a steady stream of tourists lining up to experience the best fish tacos ever. Honest.
One hasn’t experience Tofino until you’ve been to Common Loaf. THE Bakery is an institution, we still remember it from our visit 25 years ago, so we were happy to discover it all over again, albeit in a new location. Be prepared for more line-ups in peak times. Staff warned us that we wouldn’t be the only ones stopping in early in the morning to take some of their deliciousness with us for the drive back home.
With all the goodness bursting off the menus, we couldn’t leave without picking up a cookbook full of locally inspired menus.
Finally, everything about Tofino calls for a Haiku:
The tide is calling
Rain forest trail, rolling waves
It’s time to go back