Written for Vancity Buzz by Adrian Brijbassi, writer for Vacay.ca and TopRestaurantsInCanada.com Founder
Vancouverites probably don’t need much of an introduction to Tofino. Just a short ferry, drive, or an even shorter plane ride away from downtown, this small town where the forest meets the ocean has got a big reputation. Here’s how you can spend the perfect 72 hours in Tofino.
This splendid Relais & Chateaux property will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2016. It has helped launch Tofino into recognition as a world-class, luxury destination that also stays true to its sense of place amid lush rainforests and the stormy Pacific coast. The Wick is one of the nation’s most venerable accommodations. Weekend room rates vary but expect to pay at least $250 per night in the offseason and $400 per night in high season.
Executive chef Warren Barr oversees a menu that combines locally sourced ingredients with impressive culinary skill, delivering one of the most exquisite and artfully presented dining experiences in Canada. Try one of the tasting menus (five courses for $95; six courses for $110).
Following breakfast at the Wick Inn’s Driftwood Cafe, catch a boat tour with Archipelago Wildlife Cruises, based out of neighbouring Ucluelet. The 5.5-hour tour aboard the company’s 53-foot yacht travels through the enchanting Broken Group Islands, where you will spot sea lions, bears, eagles and whales. Rates starts at $159 per adult and lunch is available on board for an additional $26.
Nicholas Nutting, the former chef at the Wickaninnish Inn, has won wide acclaim since opening this casual fine-dining location in the heart of the village. Named to the Vacay.ca Top Restaurants in Canada Rankings for 2015, Wolf in the Fog serves eclectic dishes that are hard to find anywhere else. There’s a very good seaweed salad whose main ingredient comes from the tiny community of Bamfield ($8) and charred Humboldt squid ($16) caught from the waters surrounding Tofino.
Jamie’s is a local’s favourite and it’s less than a kilometre from the Wickaninnish Inn, so you can easily walk there from your hotel room. A Saturday night special features cocktails for $6 after 10 p.m.
Work off your breakfast by hitting the trails in one of the crown jewels of Canada’s national parks system. There are a number of trails in the park to choose from and many adjoin the famed West Coast Trail, a gruelling 75 kilometre stretch that would take about five days to complete. On your weekend trip, though, you can go at a more casual pace. The interpretive signs on the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail (2.5 kilometre) detail the importance of the land to the First Nations groups in the region while the Schooner Cove Trail (1 kilometre) leads through dense forest to a lovely beach setting.
Proof that Tofino knows how to cater to sophisticated tastes can be found at this little spa whose massage therapists are just as skilled as those you would find in a major city. The spa’s Signature Massage costs $95 for one hour and is ideal after a hike.
The name is short for “Sophisticated Bohemian,” which is the impression chef and owner Lisa Ahiers wants to make with her cuisine. An American expatriate trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Ahiers uses ingredients sourced from farms and suppliers on Vancouver Island in her dishes that evoke the south. The Killer Fish Tacos ($6.50 each) have been a favourite for years.
The coffee served here is carefully sourced from small farmer-owned operations in locations around the world. Whether you’re a java aficionado or someone who just appreciates high-quality products, a morning cup here will open your eyes — in more ways than one. Once you’ve perked up walk a couple of blocks to Common Loaf Bakery (180 1st Street) for a hearty, homemade breakfast.
Tofino has cute, interesting shops that represent the character of their owners. Some you might like to explore include Castaways (455 Campbell Street), which has a variety of vintage clothing and unique used items. Tofino DNA Clothing (411 Main Street) sells clothing and jewelry created in the village. Green Soul Organics (150 4th Street) retails products that promote wellness and healthy nutrition.
You don’t want to leave Tofino empty handed, so be sure to visit this excellent microbrewery and pub. While in Tofino, you’ll no doubt have the chance to taste several of the Tofino Brewing Company’s beers. Find your favourite at the brewery store to enjoy when you get back home. I highly recommend the Kelp Stout. Don’t let the name fool you — it is a tasty, unique and hard-to-find treat.