Monday, February 16, 2009

Things to do in Tofino

As promised, I've collected some tips for your next trip to Tofino. There are no secrets exposed here. Really, I've just compiled the advice I usually give my friends so I can direct them to this post next time they ask. I'm a very efficient person.

For those of you who don't know, I lived in Ucluelet for six months and Tofino for seven months about five years ago. Michael spent the summer with me in Tofino, in between semesters at SFU.

1. Surf some waves
I didn't go surfing during this last trip to Tofino because I guess I've realized that I'm not really into the wet suit and the salt water in my nose. That being said, I really think everyone should give it a try at least once. Even if you don't manage to stand up, catching a wave is still exhilarating from a horizontal position. I've taken two surf lessons in my day, and I think this is the best way to introduce yourself to the sport, the local conditions and the etiquette. I don't have a particular surf school to recommend, so let me know if you do.

2. Splurge on a trip to Hot Springs Cove
If you want to get on a boat at some point, I think a trip to some hot springs trumps whale watching and fishing. The boat ride is followed by a 30 minute boardwalk hike. I've only been once, in the winter, and it was glorious. Ananda and I joined a small group of volunteers who prepare the hot springs for public use (the winter waves fill the springs with all sorts of debris).

3. Treat yourself to a steam at the Wickaninnish Inn
I had the pleasure of experiencing the steam room at the Ancient Cedars Spa when it first opened, and I've been talking it up ever since. It costs 15 bucks for locals and 30 bucks for everyone else. That price gets you a locker with a robe, towels and sandals and access to the small peppermint-infused steam room, tiled showers (and all manner of Aveda products) and an outdoor area where you can take a break from the steam and listen to the waves and/or look at the stars (we went after dark during this last visit). This is a luxurious treat, friends. I couldn't find any information about it on the hotel website, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

4. Hike through the rain forest
My favorite hike is the Willowbrae Trail. Even though it's in the Pacific Rim National Park, you don't have to pay to park at the trail head. You'll find Willowbrae Road 2 km south of the Ucluelet/Tofino junction. There is no sign on the highway, so be on your toes. Turn west onto Willowbrae Road and drive straight to the parking lot. It takes 15-20 minutes to get to the Florencia Bay beach. Parks Canada tells me that this historic trail was part of a two day travel route between Ucluelet and Tofino before the road was built in 1942. The tide was in last weekend, so we just shivered at the bottom of the stairs before heading into Ucluelet (see next tip).

5. Make some time for Ucluelet
You should really visit Ukee, even if it's a quick stop on your way to Port Alberni (hey, it's only a short detour). Things have changed since I lived there, so I can't recommend any specific restaurants or shops, but I can tell you that it is a beautiful little town. Also, the Wild Pacific Trail is worth the trip all by itself.

6. Read some local publications
The Westerly is the little newspaper that I worked for when I lived in Ucluelet and Tofino. You should pick up a paper copy at the Co-op for some local happenings. You can see the modest office if you follow my advice and head into Ucluelet. Tofino Time is a great monthly magazine that features local events and columns.

7. Watch the sun set over some dessert at Long Beach Lodge
I had the best dessert of my life at Long Beach Lodge: a cherry chocoate pudding cake made to order. I could leave it at that, but I'll also add that the Great Room, where you'll eat your dessert, is great (as in grand), and the view is exactly what you might imagine.

8. Fill your belly at SoBo
SoBo was closed for the winter during our latest visit, which ruined our plans to eat every meal there. We were sad. Michael was lucky when he was in Tofino for work last fall; he had two meals at the new(ish) location near the Common Loaf Bakery.

9. Wake up with a croissant at the Common Loaf Bakery
Zoe and Ananda introduced me to this weekend tradition when we all lived in Tofino. Zoe, Michael and I prefer the chocolate croissant and Ananda is all about the almond version. She's crazy. During this last trip we had croissants hot from the oven on Sunday after a walk down to the Main Street Dock. Even if you don't get a croissant, you should probably go to this bakery because it's a Tofino staple. I like to check out the community bulletin board whenever I'm in town.

10. Enjoy a chocolate or two from Chocolate Tofino
This chocolate shop opened when I still lived in town, and since I wrote a story about it and its lovely owner, it will be forever endured to me. His parents were working when we popped in, and they were so sweet. We just got a couple of chocolates for a little treat, but I hear they have great sundaes in the summer. You'll find the shop outside of town, in the subdivision where Beaches Grocery is located.

Do you have anything to add? Mom and Dad? I'm sure you have a few suggestions up your sleeves.

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