Rugged and moody Tofino

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From Victoria, Andy and I hired a rental car and drove the four and a bit hours upwards towards Tofino. There were road closures for a hill clearing, but we were lucky to time our arrival with the opening of the road so we got to drive straight on through. Tofino’s surrounds were a bit more spread out than I had anticipated; I was glad we had a car. 

Tofino is the surf capital of Canada. I was really looking forward to seeing these prized waves, as well as dipping my toes into some sand. While we were visiting, the weather in Tofino could only be described as moody, which is something I think the residents of Tofino are quite accustomed to. It rained off and on, the sky was heavy and it wasn’t until the day we were leaving that we saw some actual sun. Typical! It felt appropriate though, and the moodiness certainly added to the town’s charm.

We stayed in a really cute (and spacious) Air BnB, just a few blocks from the Wolf in the Fog and walking distance to most of the town. It was handy being so central, especially because I think it would be easy to stay somewhere in Tofino which felt much more disconnected. 

The town of Tofino is only small. It has a permanent population of 2000 people and grows significantly in the summer months. There is a cute little farmers market and a whole bunch of artisan shops selling beachy arts and crafts and other luxury goods. There is only one road in and out. The locals are proud of where they are from and I’m sure they all own good rain jackets!

One of our mornings in Tofino was spent bear watching. We rose early (6.30 am) in order to catch the low tide, which is when the bears come down to the shore looking for crabs, fish and other protein sources. We cruised through the Clayoquot Sound with our driver and two others, spotting eagles, seals, sea lions and herons. Our eyes were constantly scanning the horizon, looking for wolves and bears. 

Our first sighting of a bear was of a juvenile bear (he was no longer with his mother, but still had a bit of growing to do) clambering along the shore, overturning large rocks as though they were mere pebbles. He was not bothered by us; bears in the area don’t perceive boats to be a threat because all they ever do is stop, watch and then move on. We managed to get really close, especially for when he sat down under a fallen tree and started tucking into a feast of barnacles. You could hear him crunching so loud and clearly – it was a very cool experience! 

Moving on, we coasted around some of the bays checking out the scenery and all the while keeping an eye out for bears. Our surroundings were pure magic: it was so quiet, the water was so glassy and the land with all of its bays was incredibly majestic. It didn’t take long before we spotted another bear, another juvenile, padding (and slipping) his way along the shore line on as he foraged for protein. We learnt that seafood is the bears’ predominant protein source; for the rest of the day they just nibble mostly on berries. 

We really didn’t want the trip to end, but the rain was starting to set in and we were starting to feel the cold. We boated back to shore, feeling more than content with the intimate experience we had just shared with the bears. I couldn’t think of a better way to view such mesmerizing creatures – so close, but in their natural habitat and not a threat to us at all.

Even though the weather wasn’t particularly cooperative, we spent a chunk of time beach hopping around what Tofino has to offer. We had planned to do more of a hike between the beaches, but we got freaked out when we went past a handmade looking sign that read ‘cougar in area’. Our nerves increased as for the whole duration of the first portion of the track, we didn’t pass a single other person! We ended up driving our way around the rest of the beaches. It was pretty chilly, so it surprised me to see just how busy the water was. Surfers, literally hooded and booted up (in wetsuits) dotted the water along beaches that seemingly never ended.

We also headed down to Ucluelet, a beach town at the other end of the peninsula. The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve lies in between and is home to a number of hikes. We didn’t buy a pass due to the weather, as we did not anticipate spending much time hiking (and there were enough hikes closer to Tofino that we could do for free). We did a walk around the lighthouse in Ucluelet in literally the pouring rain, before scoping out the different beaches in the area and heading home to put on some dry clothes! 

I really didn’t want to leave Tofino, especially because the day we left was so sunny. All of the restaurants we visited were quality (read my food post here) and there were so many more that we didn’t make it to. It is a lovely escape from the city and I can’t wait to go again. If we make it in the summer months’, I am determined for us to surf, and if we go in winter, we will snuggle up and indulge in Tofino’s favourite winter activity: storm watching!

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