Escape to the Wild Side

After leaving Tofino, it took days for us to get the sand out of our clothes and the salt out of our hair. But one thing we’ll never get rid of: the unshakable feeling that Tofino’s connection to its land, ocean, and community create an oasis and the perfect escape from our busy lives.

The Trans-Canada Highway might end in Tofino, but our Tofino escape is just beginning. Soaring rainforests create lush backdrops to 35 kilometres of surfable beaches. Come hang loose in Canada’s year-round surfing capital. Think Hawaii, but with a toque!

Follow these Pacific directions to your destination

We hop on a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. From there, it’s a scenic three-hour mountain drive—if we don’t stop and sightsee. But like carving across an endless barrel, the journey itself is half the fun.

Our first stop? The community of Coombs, which manages to pack in more artists and galleries per capita than anywhere else in BC. At the Coombs Old Country Market, we get a handful of snacks (the imported cheeses are a must-have) and an eyeful (don’t miss the family of goats grazing on the roof).

We take our snacks down the road to Little Qualicum Falls. The walking trails lead us through rocky gorges with numerous cascading waterfalls. We pause for a picnic selfie, the waterfalls’ roar echoing through the ravines.

Port Alberni, a fishing town nestled on a deep-water ocean inlet, is next. We stretch our legs browsing the pungent fish markets hawking fresh-caught crabs, halibut, and salmon. Depending on the month, lucky visitors can watch salmon jump at Stamp Falls or safely observe bears foraging on the river from the comfort of downtown’s Victoria Quay.

Close encounters of the wildlife kind make us giddy. Little do we know there’s much more of that awaiting us a couple more hours down the road in Tofino!

Endless summer, endless imagination

A lot has changed since the first tourist hitched a ride on a steamship and landed in Tofino in the 1800s. But some things are eternal here: the allure of nature, the tight-knit community, and the rugged unpredictability of the ocean. We chatted with the locals (known as Tofitians) who shared why Tofino has captured their hearts and imagination.

A sea of possibilities

“When I moved to Tofino I was searching for adventure,” says Liam McNeil, an expert sea kayaking guide. What he found was a refuge. An escape. “The community welcomed me, along with so many other eccentric personalities, into this diverse and vibrant town perched on the edge of the world.”

With a salty breeze at our back, it’s easy to flee from the hum of modern life into the ocean. “Kayaking in the Tofino region offers unparalleled access to world-class waterways,” says McNeil. Beginners can safely glide across glassy ripples in sheltered coves, while more adventurous paddlers can make a break for the whitewash. “Try extreme surf kayaking on miles of sandy beach,” suggests McNeil.

Islands dot Tofino’s coastline, inviting us to disappear with the tide into an oasis of blues, greens, whites, and grays. “There’s a beautiful blanket of fog in the early mornings,” McNeil says. “As you slip out into a world of white, you watch the mists pull back, revealing green slopes of forests, glacial-topped mountains, and vibrant intertidal life.”

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