Tofino, or “Tuff” as the locals call it, is the perfect place to hang for a staycation long weekend. Whether your a surfer or not, you’ll enjoy its vast of expanse of beaches, laid back vibe and fresh ocean air. And ohhhh man, especially the fresh crab. Tofino is especially popular amongst Whistler folk, who adapt well to the ocean lifestyle. Hell, I even saw a Voleurz sticker in Cox Bay parking lot. That Whistler-based ski/snowboard film company sure gets around.
Located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino is a favourite surf vacation spot for mainlanders and tourists, and even Vancouver Island dwellers themselves.
From Whistler, we headed south to Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal and hopped the 6:30am ferry across to Departure Bay in Nanaimo. Three hours later, we were setting up camp in Bella Pacifica Campground.
I’ve camped at a lot of different sites in Tofino, but this is definitely one of the prime locations as it’s only a two minute walk to the MacKenzie Beach. While not a surf beach, it’s the perfect place to have an evening Frisbee session, a Bacci game, or just hang out and watch the sun set. The village of Tofino is only a five minute drive from this campsite, while the surf beaches of Cox Bay, Chesterman’s and Long Beach are all less than 10 minutes away.
If you’re looking for a more relaxing getaway, you can find fairly reasonable rates at local B&Bs, hotels, hostels and lodges. Larger groups can even rent an entire house for a fairly reasonable price. That being said, we decided to “rough it”.
Remember, there ARE bears on Vancouver Island. In fact, one happy little black bear decided to scope out our site while we were setting up. We all freaked out and ran inside the car, waiting for him to take off.
Thankfully, the weather changes so quickly on the coast that the weather forecast calling for a rainy weekend was wrong. We had nothing but blue skies and sunshine all weekend long. With onshore winds, the surf was a bit choppy, but it was still fun to get out and play.
If you don’t have your own gear, there are tons of surf rental shops in Tofino, so just do your research. Our friends usually hit up Long Beach Surf Shop as they seem to have the best multi-day wetsuit/board combo package.
Surfing is a year-round activity in Tofino and the biggest waves come in the winter. But, if you’re not into surfing, there are plenty more activities to enjoy. Tofino is home to whale watching tours, flightseeing tours by float plane, a variety of hikes, bike trails and fishing excursions, among other activities. “Storm watching” is also a popular activity in the fall and winter months. Who wouldn’t want to cozy up in front of their beachfront window with a tea and watch the storms rage outside?
Regardless of how you’ve spent your weekend, a great way to end it is to grab some fresh crab from the docks. We’ve been continuing that tradition for years and it’s always one of the highlights of the trip.
There are a few places that sell fresh crab, including the Co-op grocery store but we go to the place that’s down the big hill from Long Beach Surf Shop. For about $60 you can buy 4 whole crabs. To cook them, you’ll need to have a big metal pot and fill it about 3/4 full with water. Once the water is boiling, put the crabs into the pot and let them cook until the shells turn bright orange. Melt some butter with garlic, and eat like you’ve never eaten before. Fresh, delicious and satisfying.
A few days at the beach does wonders for stress relief. Tofino is truly a jewel of a spot and it’s right in our backyard.