Trip Report:: Tofino

Aug 8th, 2007, 11:58 AM
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Trip Report:: Tofino

My husband and I are just back from Vancouver Island, where we visited Parksville and Tofino and want to thank those who gave me ideas, from current to past threads. Here are our thoughts and experiences for people going to Tofino in the future. I’ve broken this into segments so it won’t be too long.

Part 1. Parksville: Due to timing, we decided to stay the first night in Parksville, at the Tigh-Na-Mara resort. We had a spa bungalow room. It was a very nice northwest style room, with a large tub that opened into the room and a big fireplace. We had a kitchenette, couches, and table on a patio out back. It opened onto a forest, but the main highway was out back, with associated traffic noise.

The resort has lots of little cabins that would be great for family gatherings. The beach just down the steps from one of the resort building is sandy, very wide and flat, with some of the warmest water in the PNW. People can stand quite far out in the water, as the slope is so gradual. The resort has organized activities for all ages and a well-known spa. We didn't have enough time there to take advantage of much. We skipped the magic show the night we arrived, but I did yoga overlooking the beach in the next morning. That was great! Then we left for Tofino.

Coombs: On the way, we visited Coombs and saw the famous market with “Goats on a Roof.” What a hoot! It is right up there next to “Wall Drugs,” only more eclectic.

Cathedral Grove: We walked through Cathedral Grove en route. It is a lovely old growth forest in McMillan Provincial Park.

Next Tofino.

Orcas is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 12:03 PM
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Part 2. Tofino was in a beautiful setting and we had a wonderful vacation. We were surprised by the number of Europeans and the dearth of people from the US. The town has galleries, restaurants, but is mostly a base for water based activities and visiting the trails and beaches of Pacific Rim National Reserve, which one passes through on the way to Tofino.

Middle Beach Lodge: We planned our trip only 1 ½ weeks in advance and were lucky to get to stay at Middle Beach Lodge, as it was my first choice. We would definitely stay there again. We stayed at the “Resort at the Beach,” which is their “adults only” lodge. What a fantastic setting, with a private beach at your doorstep! Breakfasts were included and were good, served in a large common area of the lodge with a big fireplace. We ate dinner there one night and it was truly excellent and very well priced. The Lodge is not luxurious. The rooms are small with no closet. The sink was located in the room. We hung our clothes on hooks on the wall. But the price was good for Tofino, location phenomenal, guests interesting, food excellent, and the ambience was warm. For a higher price, I believe Middle Beach Lodge has fancier units. We had what we needed, though, and were quite pleased.

Adventures: We booked kayaking through the lodge but the rest of our adventures in town. There are many outfitters in town and they was more flexible re times. We did kayaking though Weigh West (through the lodge). We went on the four hour trip to Meares Island and on the boardwalk trail through the old growth forest there. It was lots of fun. We went whale watching and bear watching through SeaTrek, with First Nation Guides. The whale watching was a good way to get oriented to the coast line and the beaches of the Pacific Rim Park. We saw humpbacks but from a distance. We got quite close to rocks full of dozens of sea lions, which was very interesting. We particularly enjoyed bear watching in the inner sound area. We hadn’t seen bears in the wild and we got to see plenty, from very close up. The black bears go to rocky beaches at low tide and turn over stones looking for crabs and other food. Our boat nearly docked up on the rocks, where the bears were feeding.

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Aug 8th, 2007, 12:10 PM
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Part 3. Botanical Gardens: We enjoyed visiting the Botanical Gardens, where there are lots of fun sculptures, as well as plants to learn about. We thought the Bog Trail in the park was quite interesting. We enjoyed walking on the beaches. We drove to Ucluelet to see it and walked on the Wild Pacific Trail – really lovely. The views from Radar Hill were good.

Food: We understand there are more “papered chefs” in Tofino than anywhere else in Canada and that was easy to believe. As I mentioned, the Lodge meal we had was extremely good. We also ate at Sobos, the Botanical Garden’s special “taco stand” and restaurant. It was amazingly good. And Schooners was also extremely good. We ate at the Wickininnish Visitors Center (not the Lodge), which had great views, but the food wasn’t as good as the other places we ate. We’ve heard the Lodge has excellent food but we missed that one.

Weather: Foggy in the mornings and largely overcast, though we had sunbreaks. We had fleece and rain gear, but also wore shorts some. It was mostly cool. Nights were very pleasant.

Orcas is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 12:16 PM
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Part 4 and Final. Ferry Trouble: We were fortunate to be able to book an extra night at Middle Beach Lodge, when we found out Monday was a Canadian holiday and all the ferry reservations were booked. The ferries save space for a certain percentage of cars without reservations, but we didn’t want to take the chance of having to wait several hours and we had the flexibility to stay.

So, we made reservations for the ferry for the next day without a problem. Ironically, the ferry we booked on had technical problems and was taken out of service on Monday (the holiday). The day we arrived, BC Ferries had cancelled all runs of that ferry, including ours. By the time we found out, all other reservations on all ferries out of Nanaimo were taken.

We tried to get on the next available ferry at Departure Bay but were turned away as they were completely booked for the next two ferries and had nowhere for cars to wait for the third ferry. We proceeded to the terminal at Duke Point, where we had originally had our reservations. We got in line and waited almost five hours for the next ferry. We enjoyed chatting with the people selling things under a big white tent. Even got to meet a local author who was selling her mystery there.

Happy Border Crossing: The good news was we got through the border in five minutes.

Because of the ferry problem, the trip took us over 12 hours to go from Tofino to Seattle. The ferry trip is relaxing, but one still must count on a day to travel in each direction from Seattle - 3 hours to drive, the border crossing (allow 30 min to 1 hr), 45 minutes to wait at the ferry, 2 hours to cross on the ferry, and 3 1/2 hours from Nanaimo to Tofino.

Tofino is a great destination, unique in the PNW. From Seattle, you need at least four days to go, including the drive. We are glad we had three days there, though two would have been okay. More would also have been wonderful. We hope to go back before long, but there is so much to see, so much to do!
Orcas is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 12:23 PM
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Thanks for the report, I was wondering how your trip went! I'm envious that you were at Middle Beach, I really love that place. I also find it interesting that so few Americans know of Tofino--even here in the Seattle area--and yet it's so well known in Europe and other parts of the world.

Sorry to hear about your trouble with the ferries--it always adds an element of the unknown when ferries are part of the mix so you need to be prepared for anything as you found out.

And I agree--more time in Tofino is always a good thing! My last trip there was at Christmas--we rented a house for five nights and it still wasn't enough ;-).
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