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.

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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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