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Long-weekend getaway to Tofino, B.C.

Courtesy of Pacific Sands Beach Resort Image by: Courtesy of Pacific Sands Beach Resort Author: Elle Canada

Travel

Long-weekend getaway to Tofino, B.C.

The belch-like sounds emitting from the dozens of sea lions is obnoxiously loud and the stench is unreal, but the performance they’re putting on is quite captivating. It’s like a show at a marine theme park, but instead of diving and doing flips because that’s what they’ve been trained to do, these endearingly whiskered creatures are simply full of the joys of life.

They’re cavorting right beside (and under) the Zodiac boat I’m on for a whale-watching tour a couple of kilometres off the coast of Tofino, B.C. a mecca for nature lovers, surfers and hippies alike. We’ve just been hanging around several migrating grey whales and are about to head back to the harbour – but not before Eugene, our guide, takes the Zodiac into high speed for an exhilarating ride over the swells.

READ MORE: Inspiring Instagram accounts that make you want to travel

Three days earlier, I arrived with the evening sun and settled into Beach House 27 at Pacific Sands Beach Resort, about six kilometres south of town. The cosy two-bedroom house is located right at the edge of the beach and has a jaw-droppingly lovely view. The master bedroom has a two-person Jacuzzi bath – set high enough so you can still take in that incredible view. I would have gladly spent my entire time here sipping wine on the deck and strolling the beach at sunset — but there’s far too much to do and see.

From outdoor adventures at Hot Springs Cove to a gourmet dinner at Wolf in the Fog, one of Canada’s best new restaurants, here’s my must-do list for a long-weekend (or longer!) in Tofino:

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Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to explore: “Downtown” Tofino

On the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino is a combination of sea, sand, forest and snow-capped mountains, making for dramatic scenery almost everywhere you look. Even the Tofino harbour and townsite has old-world charm. (Don’t expect to see a Starbucks or McDonald’s in this town.) READ MORE: Portland black book: An insider's guide to Oregon

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Ciara Rickard

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

What to see: Local sea life

These steller sea lions are fairly common in the area and spend hours basking in the sun on rocky outcrops in the water. They put on a great show for us, diving and somersaulting and shouting. I like to think they were saying hello. READ MORE: New Zealand's art deco time warp

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Getty Images

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

What to see: Hot Springs Cove

Hot Springs Cove is a magical place at the ocean’s edge where a fault in the earth’s surface has created natural hot pools fed by a steaming waterfall. The springs can only be reached by boat or sea plane, both scenic journeys, and I went by boat with Jamie’s Whaling Station, a one-stop shop for outdoor adventure. READ MORE: What to do on New Zealand's North Island

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Ciara Rickard

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

What to see: Sea otters on the way to Hot Springs Cove

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife during the hour-and-a-half boat trip to Hot Springs Cove. My guide, Chris, was full of stories and facts about the area and coached my group on how to spot, among other things, sea otters: “You’re basically looking for floating teddy bears,” he told us. “They’re the cutest things in the ocean.” Sure enough, we came across one, casually hanging out on his back in the water. His cuteness was, as promised, “awww”-inducing. READ MORE: Inspiring Instagram accounts that make you want to travel

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Getty Images

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to explore: The boardwalk at Hot Springs Cove

Once we reached land, the remainder of the journey was by foot on a boardwalk through a mossy old-growth rainforest; enormous hundreds-of-years-old trees and oversized glossy leaves give it an otherworldly feel. Strolling the path, it’s hard to know whether to look down to read the many personalized carvings in the planks or look up at the beautiful rainforest all around. This cute example doesn’t escape many people’s notice. Apparently, she said yes. READ MORE: Weekend getaway to Portland

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Ciara Rickard

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to explore: Soaking at Hot Springs Cove

At the end of a 30-minute walk, I emerged at a clearing near the water’s edge and crossed over a steaming hot stream running down the slope toward the pools. Clambering over the slippery rock to get into them is a little tricky, but once I sank into the 50C water, bending and manoeuvring into awkward positions in a bikini felt 100 percent worth it. READ MORE: 15+ of Canada's best beaches

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Ciara Rickard

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to explore: Whale-watching

After zipping myself into a “cruiser suit,” warm, full-body coveralls that also function as a life preserver, I joined a small group on a Jamie’s Whaling Station Zodiac boat to go find some whales. The ride itself was great fun, but when we spied a spray of water shooting up in the air a couple hundred metres from the boat, our guide, Eugene, slowed down and cut the motor so we could enjoy the show. It was a group of grey whales, who migrate from Mexico to the Arctic each spring, and, keeping a safe distance, they swam around, surfacing regularly. “They’re curious about us,” said Eugene, explaining why they were staying nearby. I love that. We go whale-watching and the whales come human-watching. READ MORE: Weekend getaway to Miami

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Getty Images

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to eat: Wolf in the Fog – the cocktails

While waiting for my table at Wolf in the Fog, which has been named one of Canada’s best new restaurants, I had a White Pine Cove cocktail – a delicious concoction of gin, mint, lime, pine and egg white. READ MORE: Travel video diary of Kamalame Cay private island in the Bahamas

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Ciara Rickard

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to eat: Wolf in the Fog – the food

“Is everything phenomenal?” asked German, my delightful plaid-shirt-clad Colombian server (who is in Canada for grad school), as though everything being just “okay” was not even possible. And from the potato-crusted oyster on grated apple and truffle to the baked halibut with nettle gnudi to the ling cod and shrimp sharing platter, every bite was exceptional. The final course was a butterscotch brulée with raspberry gelato, a mouthwateringly good twist on a classic. READ MORE: Weekend getaway to Las Vegas

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Christopher Pouget Photography

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to eat: Shelter

Tofino’s Shelter restaurant is a buzzing space with all the warmth and relaxed atmosphere that naturally comes with rustic wood interiors. The large deck with a view over the harbour is the perfect spot for a glass of vino at sunset or an alfresco meal. Recommended for a casual dinner: the winter vegetable and arugula salad and the ling cod burger with basil coleslaw. READ MORE: ELLE Editors' favourite Canadian brunch spots

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Courtesy of Shelter

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to snack: Common Loaf Bake Shop

Common Loaf is a super-cute bakery and café in town. They’ve a great lunch menu, and their muffins are the best I’ve ever had. Bar none. READ MORE: Tales from an adventuress

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Courtesy of Common Loaf Bake Shop

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to eat: Tacofino food truck

Tacofino is the little food truck that could. Established in 2009 in a parking lot behind a small collection of shops off the highway (look for the “Live to Surf” sign), its food is so good that it now has outposts in Vancouver and Victoria too. The Baja-style fish tacos are one of the reasons I’m daydreaming about moving to Tofino. READ MORE: Weekend getaway to Brooklyn

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Getty Images

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Where to stay: Pacific Sands Beach Resort

There isn’t a single bad view at Pacific Sands Beach Resort. This is a place where the accommodation is as much a part of the holiday as the activities – where the prospect of sitting on your deck at the end of the day almost eclipses the joy of seeing whales, soaking in hot springs and hugging trees. READ MORE: Weekend getaway to Long Island City

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Ciara Rickard

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

The best view: Pacific Sands Beach Resort

Pettinger Point, from which this photo was taken, is reached via a short walk through woods on the Pacific Sands property. It offers stunning views and rocky banks at the water’s edge that are fun to clamber over. READ MORE: Take this quiz to discover your adventure style

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Ciara Rickard

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Must-see: A Tofino sunset

A sunset stroll on the beach at Pacific Sands is a must. It really is this pretty. READ MORE: The 12 music festivals in Canada to know about this summer

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Ciara Rickard

Escape to Tofino, B.C.

Must-see: Tofino at twilight

Twilight in Tofino gives everything an air of mystery. As I sat on my deck back at Pacific Sands, steaming cup of tea in hand, the only light I could see was coming from the moon and the glowing neighbouring beach houses. The sound of the surf was relaxing and soul-soothing, and I knew I’d be leaving my balcony door open later so I could drift off to sleep with it in my ears. READ MORE: Explore your adventure style

Image by: ELLE Canada By: Ciara Rickard Source: Courtesy of Pacific Sands Beach Resort


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Long-weekend getaway to Tofino, B.C.