Culinary highs and big waves in Tofino
“Great Canadian Weekends” feature customized itineraries of the nation’s finest destinations prepared by Vacay.ca, the Concierge to Canada. Travellers looking to get the most out of their stay will want to follow these tips and ideas from our travel experts. The series continues with a trek to British Columbia’s Pacific wonder.
Story by Katie Marti
TOFINO, BRITISH COLUMBIA — August is when Tofino is most likely to spin its magic on you. A month filled with clear skies, long sun-drenched hours and warm temperatures, August gives you 31 days to learn why this Vancouver Island community is so special. Nestled on the Pacific Ocean and amid Clayquot Sound and the Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino is a wonder of ecological riches. Named Vacay.ca’s No. 6 Place to Visit in Canada for 2013, Tofino also features plenty of manmade delights to discover, too. Not the least of which is the special hotel you will stay at during your visit.
DAY 1 IN TOFINO
FRIDAY, 4 PM, CHECK-IN AT THE WICKANINNISH INN
Address: 500 Osprey Lane
Driving distance: From Tofino Airport, 11 kilometres (10 minutes); from Victoria, 315 km (4.5 hours); from Nanaimo ferry terminal, 205 km (3 hours); from Vancouver, 285 km (6 hours, includes 90-minute ferry crossing).
What you need to know: This is as good as it gets in Tofino, if not just about anywhere. Clean lines and modern decor somehow fit right in amid ancient cedars and the raw, rugged coastline upon which the resort is perched. Founded by one of the key players in the establishment of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, there is a natural, regional influence in every inch of the Wick, from the marine artifacts on display in the Lookout Library to the locally harvested seaweed used in several of the decadent treatments on tap at Ancient Cedars Spa.
Bonus: Sometimes the weather in Tofino takes a turn for the torrential. Luckily, the Wickaninnish is the perfect spot in all the land to sit and watch the storm roll in from the comfort of your leather wing-back chair, glass of BC VQA chardonnay in hand.
FRIDAY, 6 PM, DINNER AND DRINKS AT THE POINTE RESTAURANT
What you need to know: The simple luxury offered at the Wickaninnish Inn is seamlessly extended throughout the property straight out to the Pointe Restaurant, where a team of culinary wizards led by executive chef Warren Barr and chef de cuisine Nicholas Nutting has refined local dining to perfection. Developed in collaboration with the Tofino-Uclulet Culinary Guild, an effort spearheaded by local food evangelist Bobby Lax, the entire menu is a celebration of Vancouver Island bounty in all its glory. “At the Culinary Guild, we’re working with locals and restaurants alike to raise the bar a little bit,” explains Lax. “It’s not like we’re all about more expensive food, necessarily, just really good food. We all like to eat well here in Tofino.” If the Pointe is any indication, his story certainly checks out. Nutting offers a weekly tasting menu in addition to an array of à la carte delights, the likes of which include freshly shucked “outlandish” oysters from Quadra Island ($18) and Tofino halibut straight off the boat ($36).
Cost: The four-course tasting menu is $80, plus an additional $59 for wine pairing. À la carte appetizers range from $15-25 and main dishes cost between $28-36.
Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Rank: 41 (2013), 29 (2012)
DAY 2 IN TOFINO
SATURDAY, 9 AM, FREEDOM COVE TOUR WITH TOFINO SEA KAYAKING
Address: 320 Main Street
Driving distance from the Wickaninnish Inn: 5 kilometres (7 minutes)
What you need to know: This is a featured tour offered by long-time local experts Tofino Sea Kayaking. Clayoquot Sound is one of Vancouver Island’s crown jewels: stunning by boat, with its calm waters and abundance of marine life. Your full-day adventure will reveal hidden treasures like the floating gardens of Freedom Cove, and includes a picnic lunch from Tofino’s favourite take-out kitchen and catering outfit, Red Can Gourmet. Prepare to be wooed by all there is to love about the West Coast.
Cost: $225 per person, including lunch and all necessary equipment.
Pro tip: Reservations are highly recommended. Visit www.tofinoseakayaking.com or call 1.800.TOFINO.4 (803-4664) for information.
Cool fact: This July marked the 20th anniversary of Midnight Oil’s protest of logging in Clayqout Sound. The Australian activist rockers joined environmental protesters to help stop development in the temperate rainforest. The Oil also joined Canadians Daniel Lanois, the Tragically Hip and others in recording “Land” — a song whose record sales went toward supporting protesters and aiding in the fight for environmental protection and stewardship in this sacred place.
SATURDAY, 7 PM, DINNER AT SOBO
Address: 311 Neill Street
Driving distance from Wickaninnish Inn: 5 kilometres (7 minutes)
What you should know: It’s an obvious choice, given that Sobo has been getting more than its fair share of positive press, from a Top 10 Best New Restaurants nod in En Route magazine to making Vacay.ca’s Top Restaurants in Canada list for two years running. Who can argue with a menu fully stocked with local and artisan everything? Once again, in conjunction with the Tofino-Uclulet Culinary Guild, such favourites as the Left Coast Seafood Stew ($33) and Turkey Pepperoni Pizza ($15) feed the local economy as much as they do the hungry souls who make the cross-island trek to gather around the table at Sobo.
Cost: Soups and starters range from $7 to $16 and main dishes go for between $15 and $33.
Vacay.ca Top Restaurants in Canada Rank: 91 (2013), 41 (2012)
DAY 3 IN TOFINO
SUNDAY, 9:30 AM, SURF LESSON WITH SURF SISTER
Address: 625 Campbell Street
Driving Distance from the Wickaninnish Inn: 4 km (5 minutes)
What you should know: There is no feeling quite like catching your first wave and riding it into shore, fist pumping and woohoo-ing all the way. With students ranging in age from 6 ½ to 71 years old, Krissy Montgomery and her crew at Surf Sister aim to offer a fabulous surfing experience to anyone who’s keen to give it a whirl. Montgomery is stoked to have been around to see the business grow in leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings in 1999. “It all started with a girl, a cellphone and a truck. Now we’ve got a full store front, 25 employees and an in-house brand,” she says, beaming. Montgomery attributes much of the company’s success to the growing popularity of the sport itself. “When the movie Blue Crush came out, we saw a huge jump in bookings and sales,” she says with a laugh. But after spending an afternoon in the waves at Cox Bay with two Surf Sister instructors and half a dozen other rookies, it’s clear to me that they’ve built a thriving operation not by resting on the laurels of a trendy surf culture, but by delivering quality lessons in one of the most stunning and accessible classrooms imaginable. I’m still washing sand and salt out of my hair a week later, but the smile on my face threatens to stick around for quite a bit longer.
Bonus: Everything needed to have a great morning in the surf will be organized and delivered to the beach by the lovely ladies of Surf Sister. All you need to do is show up and shred.
Cost: $79 for a three-hour beginner lesson, wetsuit and surfboard rental included.
SUNDAY, 1 PM, LUNCH AT TACOFINO
Address: 1184 Pacific Rim Highway
What you need to know: Tofino is the unoffical fish taco capital of Canada. (True story: The last time I was here, I stayed for 10 days and ate fish tacos six times.) Tucked way in the back of a little complex that includes the Tofitian coffee shop and Live to Surf retail store is an orange bus that sells Mexican food. Tacofino is the town’s original and in my mind best maker of fish tacos. Now with two trucks in Vancouver and a permanent restaurant called the Commissary in that city’s east end, the owners have come a long way from the original modified school bus from which they still pedal their wares in Tofino, but one thing remains constant: nothing complements a surf session better than a couple of fish tacos from Tacofino afterwards.
Close second: The Wildside Grill, located in the same courtyard across from the surf shop and sort of hidden under a canopy of trees, is also phenomenal. (Go with the ling cod tacos, three for $13 or $5 each.)
SUNDAY, 3 PM, NATURE HIKE AT SCHOONER COVE
Address: Just north of Long Beach, off Pacific Rim Highway
Driving Distance from the Wickaninnish Inn: 3.5 kilometres (5 minutes)
What you should know: This is a beautiful, easy walk through huge old-growth cedars out to a quiet, secluded beach. Gaze and wander to your heart’s content. Bring a camera, a blanket and a bottle of wine. It’s that kind of spot.
Cost: Absolutely free. (You know what they say about the best things in life …)
SUNDAY, 6 PM, DINNER AND DRINKS AT SHELTER
Address: 601 Campbell Street
Driving Distance from the Wickaninnish Inn: 4 kilometres (5 minutes)
What you should know: With a great location in the heart of Tofino and trendy, modern decor, it’s no wonder this is the place to be in town. Mingle with salty-skinned surfers over Roasted Peace Country Lamb Sirloin ($30) and Meares Island Chowder ($12), and raise a pint of Tofino Brewing Company’s Tuff Session Ale to toast an unforgettable weekend on Canada’s far west coast.
Cost: Dinner menu prices range from $11-$33.
More About Tofino, BC
Airlines: KD and Orca Airways service Tofino Airport directly from Vancouver.
More Info: Visit the tourism board’s website at www.tourismtofino.com or telephone 1.888.720.3414 (toll free).
When to Go: August and September are excellent times to be in Tofino because the waters are warm and there is much less rain than at other times of the year.
More Tofino Coverage on Vacay.ca