Hidden Gems: Tofino, British Columbia

Originally Published in the PacSafe Blog

136886831Millions of people visit British Columbia every year.  But a very, very small percentage of those people make the trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island.  In a way this is a good thing, as having the coast inundated with millions of tourists would ruin the splendor of the area – it’s remote, wild setting is part of the appeal.  That said, there is still plenty of room for more visitors without the entire place turning into the next venice beach.

Vancouver Island in itself is a spectacular place that would take years to explore to its’ full potential.  The diversity of plant and animal life, as well as recreational opportunities, are worth volumes on their own.  But Tofino is unique and special on it’s own accord and is definitely a must-visit if you are anywhere on the area.

The town of Tofino itself is limited in growth.  It sits at the end of a peninsula, with its only land border to the south being the UNESCO world heritage site of Pacific Rim National Park.  This means that the town will (hopefully) be forever confined to the laid back, easy going atmosphere that it enjoys today.

153262345Mostly full of surf bums and aging hippies, the area draws an eclectic mix of people who do not care for the city lifestyle and instead want to live hand in hand with nature.  Some of the old, pre-touristy Tofino still exists through the fishing industry and you will find the tough-as-nails backwoods folk, but they are a bit different than your average hick – they seem to have a genuine respect for nature. Everyone in town has a smile and is happy that you are there to boost their economy, as long as you return the respect by treating their town well.

Pacific Rim National Park sits directly to the south.  The main highlight of this park is Long Beach, a 17km stretch of white sandy beach that you can barely see from end-to end.  If you are lucky enough to be here on a clear day, you will see the ocean disappear into the distant horizon.

If you visit in the winter, you will be likely be witness to the ocean’s power in full force.  Winter storms can see waves over 20ft high crashing into the rocky and sandy shoreline.  For the surfers out there, let’s just say that it pumps here just as good as anywhere on the pacific ooast, but with no people whatsoever.  OK maybe a few people, but all locals with an uncharacteristic warm hospitality for surfer-types that are usually known for possessiveness.  Be sure to wear the thickest wetsuit you have though… as well as gloves and booties.  The water here is extremely cold, even in the dead of summer.

Other activities exist here, from whale-watching to hot-springs visits.  Even if you just like to mosey around town you will appreciate the laid back artisan lifestyle that abounds in the town center.  There is even a fun skatepark for the kids and kids-at-heart.

If you are visiting anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, Tofino should be at the top of the list.  If you do go, please let us know how much you liked it – I am yet to meet someone who has been disappointed.