How many times have you heard a certain location is the best place EVER? I’ve lost count. But in all honestly, Tofino is undoubtedly one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth. A hidden jewel, or rather a diamond in the rough, shining brightly on the far western Pacific coast of Canada.
This small surfer town – with only approximately 2000 inhabitants – is untouched by the modern world. A secluded slice of ‘reality’, where natural beauty and wildlife still reign strong and where traditional values, respect and a harmonic relationship with wildlife is held at its core. Tofino’s rough-and-ready, shabby chic facade has made it a hot-spot for surfer-dudes, nature-lovers and adventurers, as well as those wanting to escape the world and get back in touch with nature.
Just some 50 years ago, Tofino was better known by fishermen and wandering hippies, until it was opened up to the rest of the world when Highway 4 was established and the Pacific Rim National Park was opened in 1971. Today, spectacular winter storm-watching on the expansive rugged beaches are known the world over, and it was voted the best place to surf just four years ago by Outside Magazine. For a small town, it pack one hell of a punch on all the senses and emotions. Although there are millions of reasons Tofino is the greatest place on earth, here are the top three.
- Pacific Rim Rain Forest
James Cameron, writer and producer of the award-winning film Avatar reportedly found his inspiration in the Pacific Rim Rain Forest – and there’s no guessing why. Situated just 24km from Tofino and 17km from Ucluelet on Highway 4, this ancient coastal rain forest holds a rare ecosystem, in which moisture-laden ocean breezes strike steep coastal mountains, creating fog, drizzle and rain. As a result, wildlife thrive, such as 1,000 year old cedars, redwoods and spruce trees, as well a carpet of ferns and grasses.
There are two boardwalks on either side of the highway. The wooden raised walkways meander through an ancient utopia of age-old trees covered with fluorescent green moss and mushrooms. Despite bordering the highway, the kilometre long walks are completely secluded, with just the faint sound of the ocean, rustling leaves, trickling water and singing birds to keep you company.
Pipped as one of the wettest places in North America, waterproof attire is a way of life. Be sure to pack something weatherproof. Although the leafy canopy is nature’s own umbrella, it’s not called a rainforest for nothing.
2) Whale Watching
Whale watching is one of the major attractions of Tofino, and for good reason. Not only do you bare witness to the ocean’s giants in their natural feeding habitat, it also provides a unique opportunity to see otherwise inconspicuous wildlife. Bald Eagles, Bears, Sea Otters, Seals and Sea Lions are frequent visitors and highly respected, local residents. Reassuringly, in no way do the tours encroach on the animal’s personal space, allowing them to go about their daily business, without human intrusion. Tours also provide interesting facts and figures, as well as insider information on the sights and scenery you just can’t get in the tourist books.
Tours last approximately 2-3 hours, in which you can fully appreciate the ginormous scale of the densely-packed forested coastline. Weaving through uncountable islands and gawping at mountains magically appearing from the hanging morning cloud-cover, spouts of water from the whale’s’ blowholes can been seen in the distance. Upon reaching the whale’s feeding area, the engine is turned off and you are left in silence, amazed by their graceful nature and occasionally praised with their colossal tales breaching the surface as they dive deeper – a real jaw-dropping moment.
A word of warning. The sea can get pretty choppy, even on sunny days, so sea-sickness tablets for fellow sufferers may come in handy.
3) Food and Drink
Who’d have thought this small town could house so many culinary delights. From its very own brewery, chocolate, ice cream and a bountiful supply of seafood from the ocean; Tofino is a foodie’s heaven on earth. It even has its very own Food and Wine Festival, held in June every summer. Similarly to much of British Columbia, organic, wholesome meals are celebrated and passion is expressed through food. There are seemingly hundreds of independent restaurants, bakeries, smoke-houses and cafes to choose from.
Due to its location, obviously the seafood is exceptional. Special mention goes out to the Ice House Oyster Bar located on the waterfront, which serves fresh fish caught daily (you can literally watch them hauling their catch as you eat) and champions sustainable, passion-felt food – not to mention a delightful selection of cocktails and craft ales.
Tofino is a town which enlivens all of the senses. An opportunity to escape the day-to-day mundanities and explore something so pure and relatively untouched. The relaxed nature is contagious, making this small, historic fishing town a top destination, whether it be for a weekend break or long summer holiday escape. Let the ocean breeze blow away the cobwebs. Nature’s calling – and Tofino has all the answers.