On the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, there’s a well-kept secret. With a local population under 2,000 people, insiders know that Tofino combines the best of other travel destinations into one small town. You want surfing? Tofino has it. Indigenous art and history? It has that, too. Plus whale watching, epic pine trees, pristine beaches, abundant sport fishing, cool summers and mild winters–the list goes on. There’s no bad time to visit this ancient coastline cove, but in the summer, tourists cause Tofino’s population to quadruple in size, so plan accordingly. (And share judiciously.)
Crystal Cove Beach Resort
Let’s set the mood. Nestled among towering cedars older than time itself, Crystal Cove Beach Resort charms with rustic log cabins that line a path to the Pacific Ocean. But even better, the resort is home to 60 well-appointed RV sites, complete with 30-amp power, water and sewer hook ups, plus picnic tables and fire pits at each site. In true Pacific Northwest fashion, morning drip coffee at the resort is free, and so is the WiFi, so you can share the gorgeous views with friends all over the world.
Amenities are well cared for, including clean showers, on-site pay laundry, a playground for the kiddos, and immaculate grounds with enough foliage to provide privacy between sites. And while you may not book a cabin yourself, Crystal Cove Beach Resort would be an ideal location to have a reunion with friends or family who don’t own RVs. There’s plenty of space and variety for all levels of “roughing it,” but book in advance–this is the number one accommodation in town.
RV sites start at $55 in the off-season and $72 in the peak season (for 2020), with nominal charges for pets and more than two occupants per RV. Click here to request your spot.
Long Beach stretches 10 miles down the coast of Vancouver Island as part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, meaning it’s a beautiful, untouched seascape. Locals will tell you it’s magical—a claim even skeptics can believe—because the sheer volume and variety of natural wonder is enough to make anyone feel like a kid again.
Children and adults alike will love watching surfers dance on advancing waves, carving through the water like fairytale heroes. Keep your eyes peeled for scuttling crabs, starfish, sea urchins and rainbow-encrusted shells on the beach, the perfect activity for any budding sea witch or crustacean lover. Parents take note—this is the perfect place to grab a few candid shots for your scrapbook or holiday card, especially as the sun starts to set over the ocean.
Parks Canada provides a wealth of information about local marine life, enough to inform even the most curious child. They may not even realize they’re learning, though. Long Beach is so captivating and awe-inspiring, your kids may be too busy making lifetime memories to recognize your masterclass on seashore ecosystems.
With inlet views, a fire pit, and heat lamps all over the vast patio, Shelter Restaurant could be a very romantic dinner for two. Or fun for a group of friends or a much-needed respite for a family with kids–alcohol optional. It’s popular because the food is good and the price is right, and its popularity lends it a bustling, noisy joy where kids will not be out of place. Of course, try their seafood options. (You are on the ocean.) There’s even an entire section of the menu dedicated to “local waters.” But there are also great vegetarian, vegan and gluten free plates here too, and an abundance of fresh food that feels both decadent and nourishing. Take advantage of the beer flight from local Tofino Brewing Co. and let the friendly servers treat you to a meal to remember.
Other must-stops for food include the food truck, Tacofino Cantina, SoBo, Wolf in the Fog, Chocolate Tofino (also an ice cream shop), and Tofino Coffee Co. Don’t miss Feast Tofino, a refreshingly low-key yet incredible food festival featuring chefs and cuisine exclusively to the area.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve Trails
Because it’s a national park, Pacific Rim offers unparalleled hiking for people on a spectrum of abilities. You can choose to traverse beaches or rainforests, seek out hikes with steep inclines or easy terrain, and walk along a smooth boardwalk or brave wild land with exposed roots, mud and difficult footing. There are dog-friendly trails and paths more suited for solitude and contemplation, and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve does a good job of letting you know ahead of time which is which.
The reserve claims more than 126,000 acres across undisturbed wilderness and undeveloped beaches, allowing you to experience what nature was like before human interference. Which means, keep an eye out for bears, wolves and cougars, along with high tides that wash out trails after an extended rain. As always, remember to check the weather before heading out; you’re still in a rainforest, after all.
Henry’s Carving Shed
Before you even arrive at the carving shed, traces of Henry Nolla are all over town. Work from this Master Carver graces the Common Loaf Bake Shop, the Village Green and the Roy Henry Vickers Gallery. And while Henry himself passed in 2004, his influence may very well be immortal, living on through the community of local wood carvers he mentored and trained.
Stop by to witness the old-fashioned process of carving wood with hand tools, in real time. Make no mistake, this is art, but art without pretension, where a humble carver can take an idea and a piece of the land and turn it into a magnificent example of human ingenuity. There’s something sacred about man and nature working together to create something new and beautiful, and the very best part is that you can take a piece of it home with you. Thanks, Henry.