Tofino, British Columbia is literally the end of the road—Highway 4—on Vancouver Island, but until 1961, no road existed. All transportation was by boat. Now, the village of 2000 has been discovered, featured in travel magazines for the best surfing in North America, demonstrated by Surf Sister, an outfit that specializes in getting more women on boards.
The Pacific Rim National Park provides short (1-2K) hikes, but these are eclipsed by the dramatic, privately developed (by Oyster Jim) Wild Pacific Trail that starts near the “other” town on this western coast: Ucluelet. Stunning old growth cedars and rocky headlands look out onto the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” The lighthouse, celebrating its centenary, was erected the year after a four-masted steel boat sank within sight of shore in 1905.
Fresh seafood can be found in the fish & chip joints (e.g, Wildside Grill) and the upscale restaurants (e.g, Wolf in the Fog, Shelter)—even gooseneck barnacles. The hippie holdover culture is also evident in such places as Revolution.
Whale and bear watching trips are common on board charter boats, and up to 100 people a day may take the boat ride to Hot Springs Cove for a 2K boardwalk hike followed by a mellowing dip and then lunch at the seasonal Copper Rose docked at the government wharf.
By the way, almost all hikes are on boardwalks. The Wild Pacific Trail is an exception as is the Tonquin Trail near Tofino.
It’s only natural in such a watery environment that boat books triumph. A lusty, funny memoir by Andrew Struthers, The Last Voyage of the Loch Ryan (2004), integrates his own story with lore from Torino and the surrounding towns and villages. It’s a great way to learn about Tofino, its surfing devotees, and the characters who populate the place. Why is there a metal truss around the Elk Cedar near Jamie’s Whaling Station? Struthers reveals the back-story on this and many more insider facts. He is also the award-winning author of The Green Shadow, which recounts the tussle between environmentalists and business interests in the 1990s. His latest book, Around the World on Minimum Wage, includes some Tofino stories.
Chasing Clayoquot (2004) is a transcendental meditation by David Pitt-Brooke on the Clayoquot Sound on a monthly basis, twelve essays for the year. We kayaked on the Sound, finding osprey, juvenile Bald Eagles, stars, bull kelp, and burrowing cucumbers—as well as industrial barges.
Typically, my travel books are e-editions, easier to pack and carry, but for this trip, I could not resist supporting Mermaid Tales Bookshop. With an excellent selection of local books, it also has a fine stock of books overall as well as whimsical kites.
Tofino attracts interesting individuals, and many of them seem to have finally written the books inside them. Several that follow are self-published. It’s grand that people can get their work out to audiences, but sometimes the lack of professional editing does show.
Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History, by Margaret Horsfield and Ian Kenn
Voices from the Sound: Chronicles of Clayoquot Sound and Tofino, 1899-1929 by Margaret Horsfield
Road’s End: Tales of Tofino
Salt in Our Blood
Clamming Up (Kate O’Malley Series Book) by Lee-Anne Stack
The Wild Edge
Women of the West Coast
Murder in Parksville; Confusion in Tofino by Jennifer Lafortune
The Sobo Cookbook (from the restaurant of the same name)
May Leads the Way: Trouble Near Tofino (featuring the dog, May the K9 Spy, Book 3), by KC Frantzen and TW Vanya
The Oyster that Looked at the Sky by Darcy Dobell
It’s no wonder that Tofino with its dramatic shoreline, thick forests, and beautiful Sound—coupled with the culture of First Nations and a working community—increasingly is becoming a vacation destination.