72 HOURS ON BC’S STUNNING WEST COAST
Vancouver Island is home to the Pacific Rim Highway and the West Coast’s year-round paradise of Ucluelet, Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park. From breathtaking coastal shores, surfing all year round, storm-watching, wildlife and more. Black Press Media’s Baneet Braich and Leaha Hammond packed up to go make the most of an unforgettable West Coast experience.
Due to COVID-19, international travel is not an option but that does not mean we can’t safely explore beautiful B.C. Our challenge was to make the most of a 72-hour trip to Tofino. Both being first-timers to Tofino, we packed up in a yellow Volkswagen bug with a surfboard between us (neither knowing how to surf) and headed to the Tsawwassen BC Ferries Terminal. First stop was Nanaimo to pick up our sweet ride for the trip.
THE HIGHLIGHT VIDEO
THE ROAD TRIP RIDE
Steve Marshall Ford in Nanaimo surprised us with quite the roadtrip vehicle: a lifted 2018 F-150. We were both on a whole new level of driving. A spacious cabin provided enough room for all our belongings in the back and for Leaha to take her roadtrip nap. The truck definitely stood out in Tofino but in all it showed we were there to have a good time! Ford Employee Pricing is on right now – check out Steve Marshall Ford Nanaimo for their latest vehicles.
GOOD EATS. REALM FOOD CO.
Driving into Parksville, it was time for lunch. Leaha and I decided to visit Realm Food Co. for local and wholesome good eats. Their flexible menu offers the farm-to-table local tastes of Vancouver Island. “It’s ethical, sustainable, food that does you good,” says owner James Hannah.
From sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads to bowls and tacos, Realm offers a variety of flavours no matter the appetite. The Island efforts of local farmers are an essential part of Realm’s menu.
“We’re lucky to know them. Their values align with ours and that matters to us,” says Hannah.
I took on some crunchy, creamy and very flavourful chicken tostadas while Leaha went with the classic grilled cheese. She also immediately loved the bohemian vibes walking into Realm. For Hannah, Realm became the new chapter of his life after graduating culinary school. Check out the menu here!
After a quick stop in Port Alberni for some jujubes and gas, Leaha and I drove straight to Ucluelet. For a picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean we visited the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse. The current lighthouse was built in 1915 and the bunker-like structure of the lighthouse was made to withstand massive storm-generated waves. Waves and splashes of sea foam crash on jagged rocks surrounding the lighthouse. Walk the Wild Pacific Trail Loop Trail and for some extra history walk another three kilometres to Big Beach Park for the remains of a large sailing ship driven ashore in the late 1800s.
A Wave Away: Our accommodation for the trip.
Hear it from the locals.
The sun was going down and we headed to our accommodation for the weekend. Driving closer to Tofino, landscapes of B.C.’s sandy shores were peeking out. Such beautiful beaches!
Our hosts Julia and Scott welcomed us to their stunning vacation home. Their property is conveniently located in downtown Tofino across from the marina and a local surf shop. Find out more about it here for bookings. But before we settled in they told us to go catch the sunset at a local gem called Tonquin Beach.
Day 2 started with a classic English breakfast from 1909 Kitchen, with an incredible view overlooking Tofino’s marina. Next stop was Tofino Bike Co. to pick up two beach cruisers. These neat bikes are belt drive (not chain drive) and make for a smooth, soft and quiet ride on the beach. Biking on the beach is a must-do in Tofino.
Tofino Bike Co. is conveniently located near many of Tofino’s beaches, including Chesterman Beach and marks the halfway point from downtown Tofino to the end of the multi-use pathway at Cox Bay. We took the bikes to Chesterman beach and was it ever gorgeous. Seems like no matter the time of day, surfers are riding the waves in Tofino.
TUFF CITY RADIO 90.1 FM
Cycling through downtown we met up with Cameron Dennison the radio host of Tofino’s Tuff City Radio station, which also has an international audience tuning in. Dennison’s been the FM voice of Tofino and Ucluelet for the last 10 years, showcasing the diverse voices of Vancouver Island and Canada’s West Coast. From jazz, reggae, Indigenous hip hop and metal, to catching up with locals, Dennison is constantly highlighting perspectives on the Island. To get your Tofino vibes on, listen live here or radioplayer.ca.
TOFINO MAYOR JOSIE OSBORNE
“This kind of setting, it’s so restorative, it’s rejuvenating.”
As we were leaving the radio station, Tofino’s mayor Josie Osborne was outside and we had a chat. She says many people come around to Tofino expecting a vacation but soon enough, whether it’s two years later or 20, they find themselves returning to call Tofino home. “I think we’re really fortunate. This is a small remote community perched on the edge of the West Coast and yet we have big city amenities – we have fantastic food, we have stores, and things to do that you maybe wouldn’t have in a town of 2,000 people,” she says.
GOOD EATS. SHED TOFINO
For lunch we headed to the iconic Shed Tofino, known for burgers, bowls, brews and an inviting West Coast atmosphere. We absolutely loved our burgers…juicy and crisp chicken, soft brioche buns, and their special Shed sauce…seriously incredible. Enjoy high-quality ingredients sourced from local farmers and waters. Be in the heart of downtown Tofino enjoying good eats on the open patio or take out. Shed Tofino is family-friendly and has menu items satisfying the cravings of every family member and friend. Trust us. If you’re feeling hungry… go to Shed.
ATLEO RIVER AIR SERVICE
THE WEST COAST FROM ABOVE.
The next experience was quite the elevated escape. We boarded a helicopter for the first time with Atleo River Air Service. It’s one thing to drive but another to view Tofino’s crashing waves, mountainous terrain and sandy shores from above. We’ll never forget the stunning vistas where the Pacific Ocean meets the Canadian coast. Our captain, James even pointed out a humpback whale swimming. It’s just a surreal moment to take in and not so easily put into words.
SUNSETS AND SURFS UP
Tofino is also Canada’s surfing capital, with year-round opportunities to catch a wave and fine surf schools to get you started. Check out Tofino Paddle and Surf for rentals, lessons and tours.
TOFINO PADDLE AND SURF
Leaha: Surfing in Tofino was a bucket-list item for me. Being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a board was nothing short of magical. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is single, families, retirees… really anyone. This is a must-do in Tofino.
Baneet: As soon as that first wave hit I went under the water and yes, got a taste of the salt water. But it was part of this incredible experience. Being carried by a wave is something I’ll never forget. Often I found myself just staring at the sunset over the waves while watching locals take to their surfboards. This is the Tofino experience. Thank you to our hosts and Tofino’s own Scott Payne for providing us with such a memorable opportunity.