Pacific Sands Beach Resort
With the promise of surfing and one of the best waterfront patios in the country, there's what to do in Tofino, B.C.
Cloistered in a tangle of towering evergreens and the sound of crashing surf, Tofino, B.C., doesn't share its wonders easily. The trip from Vancouver is two hours by ferry, then another four by car, traversing highways, regional roads and, finally, a narrow necklace of pavement strung along mountains. But the payoff eclipses the journey, as the tourist influx—Tofino's year-round population of 1,800 swells to 22,000 in the summer—will attest.
Where to stay
After the long haul to Vancouver Island's westernmost outpost, my family and I needed the kind of re-energizing that comes from the wild Pacific, but we also craved the rustic luxury that Tofino has cultivated for years.
The Pacific Sands Beach Resort, one of the original luxury lodges in Tofino, meets both sets of demands with accommodations that range from studio kitchen suites (as low as $200 a night during the winter storm season) to beach houses. Both offer the chance to freshen up in a double-soaker bathtub while peeking at the ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows. Nightly s'mores roasts and summer BYOB salmon bakes round things out, making the resort your family's playground.
As idyllic as the grounds are, we couldn't resist grabbing the free bikes, available to guests renting beach houses, and heading to town for some predinner snacks and drinks at two buzzed-about spots. The Tofino Brewing Company, a local-ingredient- obsessed, surfer-run gem, has a tasting room that's packed with both tourists and locals deciding between such curious brews as Kelp Stout and Hoppin' Cretin IPA. Can't choose? Just order the flight to try them all.
Next, indulge in apps and sundowners (Tofino's answer to happy hour) at the new Ice House Oyster Bar. It offers one of the best waterfront patios in the country, with a panorama of wheeling bald eagles and fishing trawlers against a jaw-dropping backdrop of mountains and ocean.
Cap the evening off with dinner at Wolf in the Fog. Open since June of last year, this rustically elegant venue appeals to foodies, surfers and families alike. My family loved sharing the massive portions, as well as choosing from the best of the local bounty: foraged mushrooms, seaweed salad and the signature potato-crusted Beach Angel oysters.
Well fed and rested, we set off the next morning on the five-hour Sea to Sky tour to Hot Springs Cove, geothermal waters that have been spilling into northern Clayoquot Sound for thousands of years. We enjoyed an action-packed day of spotting orcas and sea lions, hiking and relaxing in the hot springs. Local tour operator Jamie's Whaling Station made the adventure a can't-miss for us when our eight-wayear- old got to fly shotgun on the floatplane ride back to Tofino.
Learn to surf
Of course, you can't visit the West Coast without riding the surf. Our three-hour class with Surf Sister Surf School started in front of the shop's whiteboard, moved to pop-ups on the sand and ended with rolling waves that pushed our giant boards toward the shore—and Canada's surf city deeper into our hearts.
Check out these five amazing West Coast dishes from Tofino, British Columbia.