HALF MOON BAY, Calif., August 16, 2012—Growing up in Canada, a friend once asked her mother why Canada didn’t have a tropical destination like Hawaii.
“Because Vancouver Island is our Hawaii,” replied her mother.
It may be a few degrees cooler, but the region has one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems: rainforests, meadows, marshes, mountains, beaches, lakes, rivers, and the Pacific Ocean. It’s also one of the world’s premier spots for birding and whale watching, as well as salmon and trout fishing.
For the best of the best, head to Tofino, considered the jewel of Canada’s west coast. Perched in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the small surf town is one of the ideal places to start your surfing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, whale watching, bird watching, bear watching and yes, storm watching. Unsurprisingly, there were no storms when I was in Tofino this summer, but I had plenty of outdoor activities during my short stay.
The most relaxed adventure was a boat trip to Hot Springs Cove, in Maquinna Provincial Park, just 26 nautical miles north of Tofino. It’s often possibly to spy whales during the trip, but the wildlife we saw were sea otters, harbor porpoises and Steller sea lions. Upon landing near the hot springs, we hiked along a wooden boardwalk to get to the cove where the springs pour out of the rocks at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
It’s easy to spend plenty of time here, changing spots in the hot springs—which vary from very hot to tepid—before the hike back through the forest to the dock. My tour, offered by Jamie’s Whaling Station, gave the opportunity to return by boat or seaplane. Getting a view from above on the way back to Tofino was a great way to balance the landscapes of the region.
Another leisure activity (also offered by Jamie’s Whaling Station), is the rain forest kayak tour in the Clayoquot Sound from Tofino to Meares Island. The lush, temperate rain forest here is home to some of the largest and oldest (1,000 to 1,500 years old) red cedar trees in Canada. The island itself is the property of Tlaoquiat First Nations, and your guide will tell you not only about the natural surroundings, but also the group’s history in the region.
If you’re looking for some more action in Tofino, consider taking a surf lesson on the sandy beaches with Surf Sister. The surf school offers both individual and group instruction, and includes gear that’s good enough to allow you brave the chilly water and have fun. In between your sweet surf moves, check out the other board action along the beach, and you’ll see that everyone is smiling.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of lodging options in Tofino to choose from, but I stayed at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort on Cox Bay. My “room,” a fantastic two-bedroom beach house, included a fully-equipped kitchen, a living room, two full bathrooms, decks, fireplaces, laundry facilities and more, just steps from the beach. I instantly regretted staying there only two nights. There are smaller beach houses and suites available for those who don’t need all that room. The resort is perfectly placed for winter storm watching, or a multitude of beach walks during your stay.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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