Photography and writing by Samantha Lego
With long stretches of sandy beaches, world-class surfing and hundreds of thousands of acres of unruly rainforest, it sounds like an exotic and tropical paradise. Except this location is found right in our backyard.
Tofino may have started as a sleepy fishing village on the tip of the Esowista Peninsula on Vancouver Island, but has since grown to be a centre for outdoor enthusiasts, artists, nature lovers and historians.
The popular tourist destination is a local and international favourite with its small town, beach vibes and dramatically beautiful scenery. Yuppies, hippies and everyone in-between flocks to Tofino for beautiful summers and stormy winters, solidifying itself as the jewel of B.C. and arguably all of Canada.
Although accommodation ranges from luxurious lodges to happening hostels, the best way to experience Tofino is to get a group of friends and rent a cabin for your stay. Using VRBO lets you explore a range of options from surf shacks on the beach to cabins in the woods. These quaint, rustic homes epitomize the true charm the town has to offer.
While Tofino is full of coffee roasters, cafes and quaint seafood restaurants, the staple – and only meal you really need – is Tacofino.
Founded by a couple who wanted to combine their love of travel with their west coast roots, Tacofino started out as a truck in the back surf shop parking lot on the highway between Chesterman and MacKenzie beach. Now it has extended to permanent stores in Vancouver, a truck in Kelowna and the iconic truck in Tofino in its original location.
Enjoy your meal on the long, outdoor picnic tables. It’s sure to draw a crowd regardless of the weather.
If you want to dine indoors, check out Sobo or Wolf In The Fog for delicious seafood fare. Better yet, treat yourself with Chocolate Tofino’s handcrafted, originally flavoured chocolate selections. There’s nothing more satisfying than ending a day of surfing with a wildflower honey ganache.
With an open door policy that extends to shoeless locals and dogs, Tofino Brewing Company is hip, urban, and provides visitors with an array of delicious brews. Try them all with a flight while you sit back and revel in the amount of man buns and surfer hair present. When you’re done ogling, take your favourites home in custom growlers.
Just making the drive in is a highlight in itself. The three-hour stretch from Nanaimo will take you through Pacific Rim National Park. You’ll lose sight in the density of the trees, come upon rugged coastlines and experience hundreds of waterfalls along the hairpin turns on the iconic Highway 4.
Yet the payoff is worth the daunting commute. In summer, soak up the sun on remote sandy beaches. Hike to the plane crash or go whale watching and spot humpback, grey and orca whales as they migrate through the coastal waters.
As the weather cools, storm watchers gather from October to February to watch colossal swells pound into the shoreline. Tofino boasts some of the most dangerous currents in Canada.
It doesn’t stop the hoard of surfers from beginners to advanced, from grabbing their wetsuits and dashing into the freezing Pacific waters. Summer swells tend to be small whereas winter waves can be massive, drawing international attention.
Immersed in the unhindered beauty of British Columbia’s wilderness, this small town leaves a big impression.
Samantha Lego is a recent deportee falling back in love with her home country. She enjoys poking fun at Vancouver stereotypes while ignoring the fact that she is one. You can usually find her drinking beer on weeknights (for science!) and laughing obnoxiously at her own bad puns. Read more of her writing here: samanthalego.com