Tofino

I’ve wanted to go to Tofino since I moved here (which was almost 6 years ago, good grief). It’s always described as a small town but I think you’ll find it’s a bit bigger than you expect, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Great for surfing (which I’ve never done), the outdoors (which I do a lot) and food (which I’ve done since birth). Actually, “food” doesn’t do it justice, it’s some of the best dining I’ve had in Canada!

This was also a chance to try out my new Sony a6000!

Day 1: Getting there + Ucuelet + Food Find

From Vancouver you’ll have to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and then drive the full length of Highway 4 to get there. Takes a while and you get to stop at Port Alberni and several lakes.

You’ll know when you’re close when you see the Pacific Rim Visitor Centre, there you can go right (South) to Ucluelet or left (North) to Tofino. Since it was a good break in the weather, we decided to head to Ucluelet and do the Wild Pacific Trail.

After this, and with the weather setting in, we headed up to the Tin Wis Resort for our first two days. Really nice place I have to say. Every room seemed to have an ocean view, and our one also had the grounds as well. Didn’t spend a huge amount of time out there given that we were in the middle of winter.

After that we headed into town and ended up into Tofino itself, we spotted a pub and thought “that will be a cozy place for a quick dinner”. It was Shelter, and was a full blown restaurant with a pub feel. Food was fantastic! We knew that Tofino had a reputation for good food but didn’t expect to be falling over it this way.

Anyway, home, up somewhat early the next day as the morning as it was expected to not be rainy (this was playing on our minds a bit as you can probably tell).

Day 2: National Park Exploration

We knew today would be the one we would dedicate to the Pacific Rim National Park. This is where the main set of beaches and surfing spots can be found. It’s also worth noting that I became a Canadian Citizen in October last year… so I have a Cultural Access Pass that gets me into the park for free!

Anyway our first stop was Wickaninnish Beach and the Kᵂisitis Visitor Centre. Surfers were out and we got talking to an Aussy who had moved here and done much the same thing I did 6 years ago, except she was surfing rather than skiing, and we talked about the glorious Cultural Access Pass that was saving me a few dollars a day. 🙂

Eagles started to make an appearance too, but didn’t get any good photos yet

While we were at the Visitor Centre, I read a few concerning signs about Unexploded Ordinance. Tofino, during World War II, was a military firing range and it seems not all of it went bang when it was supposed to. (As I was looking for a link for this, I found this list of UXO Sites and saw there are a few near my house!)

We headed over the rocks and went to the South Beach nearby, well worth it if you get a chance

After that, we had quite the debate about where we should go for lunch. I was firm that I wanted to go to Tacofino at some point this weekend, but Tripadvisor and several friends were mentioning the Wildside Grill. In the end, Wildside it was.

After that, we headed for Long Beach and more Eagle spotting.

Finally, we headed up Radar Hill, site of, you guessed it, an old Radar Station, where there is a memorial to Canadian Forces during the Korean War.

The views we got were not as spectacular as the ones on that page.

Anyway, back to the Tin Wis, where I managed to get a good panorama and just decided to have pizza for tea as we were going to a more fancy place tomorrow.

Day 3: Hotel change, more beaches and trails and Tacofino

No photos of this one, but I headed up to the Common Loaf Bakery for an awesome breakfast for both of it.

We roamed the beach near the Tin Wis after checking out (“roamed” sounds like a great word doesn’t it).

Then we went to the Tonquin Trail as the weather was nice and we wanted yet more roaming!

After that, we could finally scratch my Tacofino itch! Headed off to Chesterman Beach to eat it.

The Eagle eyed amongst you might have spotted a building on the peninsula, that’s The Pointe Restaurant, where we would be going later.

Anyway, we headed to our second hotel, the Pacific Sands Beach Resort. Watched the end of the Superbowl then did a little exploring on the beach.

We watched the end of the Superbowl then headed out for dinner. The Pointe was certainly fine dining if I’ve ever seen it.

Thing is, I didn’t take many photos of it. Was fantastic none the less! Excellent staff too!

Day 4: Heading home

Well it was rainy, so one last breakfast stop at Common Loaf then we headed home.

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The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Hike

This is the hike I did back in June, and have been promising to post for the last 2 months…

This trail is 47km along the South Coast of Vancouver Island, from near Port Renfrew at the Western end to about half way to Sooke.

This was the first time I’ve done hiking and camping for 10 years, and the first time ever I’ve done so fully unsupported (i.e. can’t just pop to the shops). MEC and REI were certainly my friends, lots of new kit including a North Face Cat’s Meow sleeping bag, MEC Camper 2 Tent and a whole pile of Mountain House Freeze Dried food.

One other thing, other than Hannah, I didn’t know any of the people I was hiking with… So how best to get past that when I first met them? Well, just appear generous! So after having met them and not really saying very much, I say aloud “I’m going to Starbucks… anyone want anything?”

This was met with confused stares, long enough for me to think “what on earth did I just say that was so bad!? Did I hear some words but they heard others” etc…

Christina promptly broke that uncomfortable silence by blurting out “Oh you’re British!”

Everyone fell about laughing at that… and I’m told Brandon mentioned after I had eventually gone to Starbucks “you know you have to hike with him for 3 days…”

Actually, I’ll quickly cover names, me, Hannah, Brandon, Christina & George, Eva & Václav and we would meet Stephen (our guide) in Victoria. Off on the ferry we go, and we decide to film a mini-documentary as we go, so we were interviewing each other on the way!

George filming, Christina directing and Václav giving his interview

We get to Victoria, meet Stephen, pack up the gear, head out to the trailhead at Sombrio Beach (we decided to miss the first section as it wasn’t that interesting). On the way we realised our sense of humour was kind of bonkers, but similar!

Off we go! Václav, Christina, Hannah, Brandon and Eva posing here!

Sombrio Beach!

After George and Stephen were done setting up our car shuttle, we departed, for the first day of doing 12km with 20kg backpacks! First stop was water, and Stephen certainly knew where to find it…

Glad I had the waterproof Lumix TS3 for taking this one!

In case you’re wondering, we were using Stephen’s MSR Sweetwater MicroFilter Pump and Drops. It’s great to have as much water as you like, just take a couple of those 1L bottles, one can be purifying (the drops need 20 minutes to work) while you drink the other.

This was the first of many views like this we had!

And nothing like a good direct look down off a suspension bridge!!!!

That was what the bridge was crossing…

Another great view! This, for 3 days straight!

Quite a few bits of the trail were essentially logs, either as bridges (like this one) or turned into stairs…

Chin Beach was where we stopped at for the first camp site, but this was the view to the West…

It seems we had some neighbours too!

And it seems I can make fire pretty well!

The camp sites were rather good. In general, you had a private area, cleared of brush, separate from the other sites and windbreaks near the beach facing side. We could easily put up the 4 tents we were using! They also had long drop toilets (which we tried to work out which stank least as soon as we arrived), and bear-proof caches nearby.

Food wise, we had all packed pretty different, but one of the clear favourites from sampling everyone’s was the Mountain House Buffalo Style Chicken Wrap Fillings I brought (along with wraps, that are pretty hiking friendly by the way), followed closely by the Beef Stroganoff Hannah had that evening! For breakfast, porridge/oatmeal worked well:

This was my breakfast creation, and it was great! Oatmeal with Raising & Cranberry Trail Mix stirred in.

Day 2 was by far the hardest day. Plenty of up and down hilly outcrops, virtually no flat sections. See that section on the map between Chin Beach and Bear Beach? Most difficult. Yep, it was.

Didn’t take many photos of this bit, so here’s another view

So we get to Bear Beach, our second camp, and what do we find? Dragster tyres!

Those will be good for a photo, so I jump up onto them, forgetting that 20kg pack I had on my back. This put me off balance and I went arse over tit off the back!

Hannah took this one… I was on the floor behind the tyres, laughing so hard I couldn’t say I was OK, probably what made Brandon come over…

Not to be beaten…

This is what I was going for (Hannah’s photo again)

Just who on earth leaves dragster tyres on a beach!? (That’s Olympia National Park in Washington,USA in the background)

That is Cheese cake mix that’s being prepared by Stephen… unfortunately, the smoke from the fire was so acrid that most of us could only stand it for about a minute…

That evening we played the most dodgy game of “Continue the Story” I think ever has been played.

Setting out on day 3!

These were those log stairs I was talking about earlier…

The trees were getting a bit nuts

Finally we hit Mystic Beach, our stopping point, because that evening we wanted some drinks! So we got the cars back and headed to Port Renfrew… where we found out about this!!!

Stanley Cup Final Game 5 Result!!! CANUCKS WON! (this is before they rioted remember)

So, lots and lots and lots of booze bought from the only bottle shop in town, we headed back for a night of very drunken fun and games!

Nom! This was dinner!

Anyway, after getting very hammered, the next morning was a well deserved hungover breakfast at a place Stephen knew, called My Chosen Cafe. More than worth going to if you get the chance! Ate like a horse I tell you! Was nice to get the phone back (even if it had turned itself on in my pocket and drained it’s battery) and some clean clothes on!

All in all, great trip… wow my writing style is bad these days…