Storm watching, surfing lessons, whale watching – Tofino on Vancouver Island is… Canada’s Wild West!
Wearing my hotel-branded yellow raincoat, I walk to the beach at Cox Bay on Tofino on Vancouver Island and look out at the wild waves of the Pacific Ocean, dotted with brave surfers.
The sound of the ocean is immersive, like cinema surround sound. I record it on my phone, hoping it will take me back here once I get home, far from the restorative healing properties of the sea.
Getting here isn’t easy, involving a ferry and a five-hour winding road trip or seaplane flight from Vancouver.
As you float over the Pacific Rim National Park and the Clayoquot Sound from Vancouver to Tofino, expect your stomach to drop and churn during the descent. But if travel was ever part of the experience, it’s here, where one of Canada’s westernmost cities clings to what feels like the edge of the world.
In Tofino everything is connected to the water. The way it cuts you off from the mainland, surrounds and nurtures wildlife, and creates dramatic waves and gusts that draw visitors from all over the world to storm watches.
Fiona Tapp explores Tofino, a district on Canada’s Vancouver Island where ‘everything is connected to the water’. Above is the port of Tofino
A bird’s-eye view of Clayoquot Sound, which travelers can fly over by seaplane
The area offers whale watching opportunities, notes Fiona. She says Tofino ‘feels like the edge of the world’
I’m staying at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort, where you’re steps from the ocean and can learn to surf and enjoy a Scandi-style hydrotherapy circuit, starting with wood-fired barrel saunas, then an invigorating dip in the Pacific and a rest on the Adirondack -lounge chairs.
The storms that attract visitors also cause inconveniences such as power outages. Chocolate Tofino is offering 50 percent off its gelato before the lights come back on; What better way to weather a storm than with a spoonful or two of Hammerhead, their secret recipe flavor?
Tofino is located near the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region and on the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples. The therapeutic qualities of the region are well known to the original custodians, who have lived here for more than 5,000 years.
Fiona walks to the beach at Cox Bay (above), where she looks out ‘at the wild waves of the Pacific Ocean, dotted with brave surfers’
The region’s waters produce ‘dramatic waves and storms that attract visitors from all over the world to storm watches,’ says Fiona
Fiona stays at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort above, where guests are ‘just steps from the ocean and can learn to surf’
During a nature walk with Elder Moses Martin, of Clayoquot Wild, I see beautiful cedar totem poles being carved. The company also offers whale watching excursions and trips to Hot Springs Cove to hear stories while soaking in the healing waters of the sacred pools. Sail from here and there is no land until Japan.
Pacific Sands is relaxed yet luxurious with beachfront accommodations, cozy fireplaces and enormous soaking tubs.
One evening I walk to Pettinger Point for dinner along a cedar boardwalk with beautiful ocean views. My Dungeness crab dinner was pulled from the ocean minutes before it was cooked in salt water over an open fire. Research shows that being close to the ocean or ‘blue spaces’ is beneficial for mental wellbeing, helps reduce stress, and the rhythmic pull of the tides can help you find balance and calm. It worked for me.