Tofino Guide: Jon’s Adventures in Canada

This week, Jon Meyer, Seattleite‘s Food + Travel Aficionado, details his relaxing getaway in Tofino — a cozy shoreside village that rests on the western edge of Vancouver Island.


Oh, those little travel gems — secrets that are all your own, such as hole-in-the-wall restaurants or a tucked away hillside that offers a fantastic sunset view. I’m happy to say Tofino, located on Vancouver Island, is now one of those places for me.

Take the Oregon Coast before it started to look like Disneyland, and you have Tofino. A lazy five-hour drive from Victoria, the fishing and surfing community rests on the shores of Clayoquot Sound. Surrounded by white capped mountains and an abundance of wildlife, the community – previously a logging town — has now transitioned into a year-round attraction with storm watching in the winter and all things outdoors in the summer. I had to see it for myself.

My time began at the Pacific Sands Resort, where the master bedroom of my villa opened to a 180-degree view of Cox Bay. My first glimpses of Tofino involved dogs chasing Frisbees on the beach and late afternoon surfers catching the last bit of high tide. Relaxation commenced and, as explained by Pacific Sands Resort director Stephen Peters, I began experiencing Tofino’s natural effects of “decompression.” Having a spa tub in the villa facing the water certainly helped.

Ambitious but relaxed, I took on all that Tofino’s outdoor scene had to offer. Long Beach Resort played a large part in this by issuing me a board, wetsuit, and surfing instructor for a private lesson. With newfound surf theory, I plunged (slowly walked) into the crashing waves, and was up on my first try.

Taking respites between sets, I explored Cox Bay’s lush foliage, rocky points, and towering mountains — understanding fully why Outdoor magazine named Tofino the best North American surf spot in 2010.

After the surfing excursion had finished, my ocean enjoyment continued as I was provided with a boat, a guide and two fishing lines. In only an hour, my guide produced (along with the blue sea) two rockfish and a beautiful (really ugly) halibut. For kicks, we grabbed a crab pot on the way in, scoring six Dungeness keepers. Our good haul was not too surprising, considering the reputation for richness that is often attributed the Clayoquot’s waters.

Not ready to be restricted to the confines of land, I joined Captain Mike — a Tofinitian since birth — on his boat The Browning Passage. A former crab fisherman, Captain Mike has now turned his focus to entertaining guests with dinner cruises that often feature black bear sightings.

As our ursine friends probed the undersides of rocks for sustenance, Captain Mike’s guests received theirs courtesy of Addictive Foods, a local catering company started by Derek Sandercock – formerly of The Shelter, one of the area’s top restaurants, as well as Tofino’s 2010 Mustache Contest Winner. The bears consumed crunchy crab, while the humans dined on prawn skewers, pear and gorgonzola lettuce wraps, and ceviche’.

The next day, I tried my luck on a much smaller boat around the local islands, care of Tofino Sea Kayaking. With quiet waters, I was able to enjoy the shallows all the way to Morpheus Island, where an old-growth forest boasts 1,200 year-old trees. I eventually headed back to land through converging currents without once capsizing – a true success.

“People come to Tofino and they see what’s here,” Peters told me. “Good weather and bad, in every case they come back. Whether it’s once a year or forever, they always come back.”

I thanked Stephen for the thoughts, and assured him to not worry – I was already sold.

Jon’s Adventures in Canada will appear every Thursday during the month of June.