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Tofino, Vancouver Island

by Nicollette M Loizou

If you’ve never been there then you might think that Tofino is an obscure toffee based chocolate bar instead of perhaps the best reason for visiting a remote corner of Vancouver Island. As any traveller to Canada will know getting around the country cheaply usually involves a lengthy bus journey but it’s not such a hardship in this case. In autumn it’s like looking at a fire in slow motion as you pass through the ochre and cinnamon tinged trees.

Tiny Tofino is on a point and being completely surrounded by water gives it a slightly insular feel that’s charming or provincial depending on your views. It has an edge of the world feel to it partly enhanced by the pockets of Native communities that still exist there. It’s not for you if you want night life or shopping - there is just the one pub and the town attracts bohemian types with anti-capitalism being a popular discussion point. Whole food bakeries abound and hemp items make something of a star turn instead.

It’s all part of a long established alternative lifestyle that spreads through most of the laid-back North West coastal region. This has produced its own folklore that some of the scattered, tiny islands off Tofino are being economically driven by pot growing surfer dudes capitalising on the lax police presence.

This is probably a myth especially as the area’s economy seems to be less romantically based on whale watching trips and whilst this part of the Pacific has plenty of the creatures don’t neglect their mates. Look out for other Tofino inhabitants like the huge Dungeness crabs, the languid sea otters, acrobatic salmon, shy bears, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them eagles and the fascinating colours and shapes of the washed up shells.   

But perhaps the best thing about Tofino is that it gives you a chance to become marine life yourself with the help of Hot Springs Cove. This row of rock pool sized hot springs in the ocean become progressively warmer eventually leading to the main scorcher. It’s great to just sit in this one on a cold winter day being simultaneously baptised by the sizzling water falling from the above rocks.

More magical nature in the form of a temperate rain forest exists just beyond the hot springs. Completely enveloped in triffid style plants and gigantic trees it is sometimes hard to spot a glimpse of daylight when you’re in its sometimes claustrophobic midst. It’s beautiful but can never really eclipse the true star of Tofino, the wide mysterious ocean itself.

Rooms with lovely views of the Pacific are available at the Whalers at the Point guesthouse despite the fact that it’s just a humble hostel. Featuring wooden floors it’s only 22 dollars a night for a comfortable single bed. The rustic feel of the hostel is perfect to come back to after exploring Tofino’s unpolished beaches, broken mountains and seductive landscape.

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