It is no secret that we love our beach towns. Over the Labour Day long weekend we decided to take a fairly last-minute trip to Tofino BC. Neither of us had ever been to the west coast of Vancouver Island and despite me living here in BC my entire life, honestly I haven’t seen much of the island outside of Victoria and Nanaimo.
At first I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to find a resort to stay at. The ones I’d heard of were completely booked for the weekend and I poured over reviews on Trip Advisor to look for alternatives. I settled on a place called the Cox Bay Beach Resort and as luck would have it, they had a room for us. Sadly they had a limited supply of king bed rooms and they were all spoken for, but that definitely wasn’t a deal breaker (though we’ve been spoiled by our sleeping room at home!) so I booked it and Tom booked a ferry reservation, cos long weekends are notoriously busy on the ferry.
A few days later Tom was asked to change-up his schedule at work which added some extra time to the weekend. Score! We also added to our stay at the resort and changed up our return reservation on the ferry (eating the stupid fee for a computer *hello* to update our reservation).
We’d been having a fantastic stretch of late summer weather which carried through the entire weekend. The ferry ride over was gorgeous and we spent the bulk of the time outside, that is until we smelled breakfast cooking. We both swear they most purposely vent their cooking smells out onto the deck to lure passengers into buying food they didn’t intend to. See we’d planned to eat breakfast once we got to the island but the two hours seemed too LONG after smelling bacon.
The ride from Tsawwassen to Duke Point/Nanaimo isn’t as scenic as the ride through the Gulf Islands to Victoria, but still worth spending some time taking pictures. We goofed around in the wind at the bow and I took some of my standard flying hair pictures. The last time I’d taken a ferry to Nanaimo and spent any time on the deck the wind pretty much stripped me down to my underwear. I wish I could say I am exaggerating. My sister lived there and was getting married. It was a casual wedding so I wore a wrap skirt and a cute sweater top that buttoned up the front. Sean was little at the time, around 7 years old, and wanted to stand in the wind at the front of the boat. The minute I stepped outside the wind completely blew my top open… EVERY.SINGLE.BUTTON. and unwrapped my wrap skirt. I wish I could say we were alone on deck at the time but that was not the case. So um lesson learned.
I dress a little more wind-friendly on ferries now…
The drive to the Tofino area was quite picturesque though some of the roads were a wee bit hairy. We were both commenting on how we’d hate to be traversing some of the more narrow and curvy roads in bad weather, especially with truck traffic coming the other way. Not to mention the extreme ass-hattery that we saw going on with some of the other drivers. Tailgating and speeding where there was a high rock wall on one side and a nice drop into water on the other. Hello!? We half-expected to see some of the idiots that flew past us splattered ahead of us, but I guess luck was travelling with them.
We got to the resort a wee bit earlier than planned due to us giving into our stomachs on the ferry. As it happens though it was close to lunch time and we decided to kill the time needed before check-in started by exploring the town and finding a place to grab lunch.
We parked and did a little walk-about and I have to admit it was no Cannon Beach. I think we’re super spoiled by that town as it is now my measuring stick for what a tourist driven beach town should be. To be fair, Tofino was really a working town and they definitely cater tourism-wise to the water-sport enthusiasts which, well we’re NOT! They have plenty of fishing, whale-watching, scuba and surf businesses but they’ve got a way to go to please the tourists like us who look for interesting shops and good food. It was difficult to find even souvenirs that were locally made or at the very least didn’t say Tofino BC CANADA on it (which screams “I’m a manufacturer from another country who needs to clearly define where I’m sending my merchandise to”). I mean hello, we’re in Tofino so we at least know we’re in Canada never mind BC!
We also had an issue finding restaurants in town. There seemed to be a number of smaller places but only a couple of larger restaurants and their hours were fixed for lunch and dinner. Outside of those hours and you’re pretty much screwed. On a long weekend, even more-so because then you’re talking more competition for tables. We did luck out and get a table at a place called The Shelter and happily the food was excellent along with the service. Our one beef was the music, a tad loud to carry on a conversation over inside (and not quite to our tastes). Small beef though.
After lunch we drove back to the resort which is situated around 10 minutes outside of town on Cox Bay. The resort is located smack dab between the Pacific Sands and the Long Beach Lodge resorts, the two places I *had* been trying to book as they were more well-known. Turns out I needn’t have worried, the Cox Bay resort was lovely. Self-contained condo-like suites with everything you’d ever need. Beautifully decorated and well-appointed. I even loved our little balcony which we took advantage of each day. We were fairly close to the beach access stairway but our view was a little strip of blue IF we stood on our tippy-toes. Ah well, what can you expect for last-minute right?
The parking was in a gated area and a bit of a walk away from the condos, so they provide these little carts to take your gear from your car to the suite. Here’s Tom hamming it up with the cart:
A sweet little suite no?:
Of course we hit the beach as soon as we’d shed our gear
Cox Bay is a lot smaller than the beaches we’re used to, we were able to walk it in what felt like no time at all. I watched a jogger pass by us several times to get the miles in, another small niggle as I’m used to longggg stretches of beach to walk. But that said even a small beach to walk on is miles ahead of walking on city streets right?
The bay definitely has a good number of surfers, though the surf that day was rather anemic. We were once again comparing it to Cannon Beach which always seems to have nice and churny surf to watch. We thought maybe it was because it was a bay rather than a flat area as exposed as Cannon Beach. We did see an increase in surf the remaining days we were there though.
Here we are perched on the beach access/look-out area at our resort with the bay behind us, this was just steps from our little patio.
And here is a look back towards the resort. Our suite was to the left, just under the second peak in the taller building. The shorter building is a common room area that can be booked for parties and the like.
After pouring over options for places to eat for dinner, we elected to try what seemed like the only pizza joint in town. It was pretty good, not the best I’ve had but not the worst either. It didn’t look like we’d get a great sunset and we were pooped from our early start, so we opted to spend the rest of the evening watching the Wire dvds we brought with us.
On the second day we decided to check out Ucluelet, the other town on the far side of the Long Beach section of the Pacific National Rim park.
Ucluelet is another working town and for us anyway had even less touristy appeal. Again to be fair, we’re probably not who they cater to.
There are some lovely beaches there on the peninsula, a little more rocky than sandy though. I bet they get some cool waves in the storm season.
Here is Tom at Little Beach:
The water seemed so clear there and there were people canoeing and fishing in this little alcove of a beach.
We drove around trying to find the entrance to the Black Rock Resort to check it out and have lunch there. We found it along with some deer!
But it turns out once again, their restaurant had fixed hours and wouldn’t serve us. In fact the poor host tried to get us a seating as we arrived at the tail end of their lunch period but their really cranky chef woman loudly said “Uh uh uh” and waggled her finger at him and made no eye contact with us. WTF?! He then tried to steer us towards the pub which had some food offerings but that experience really turned us off the place. “Screw em!” we thought. We’d eat our left-over pizza for lunch and find a place back in Tofino for dinner. Nyah!
Soooo back to Tofino we went, ate our leftover pizza and walked around on the beach again. I had taken my waterproof camera to take tide-pool shots and found that there were GREAT opportunities for pictures when the tide was out. I was trying not to get covered in wet sand as we were planning to go to the Long Beach Lodge restaurant for dinner. Our resort didn’t have a restaurant (neither does the Pacific Sands) and we were hoping to avoid having to drive back into town for food.
Around dinner-time we walked the short distance to the beach access from the Long Beach Lodge and headed for their restaurant. When we got to the hostess, you’ll never guess. Nope they wouldn’t serve us. We needed a reservation. There were people ahead of us and behind us that were turned away. The place wasn’t busy either, LOTS of tables empty. They said they require a reservation for dinner. Um okay.
This was starting to be a theme here in this neck of the woods, no food service! The other places in town didn’t look that thrilling and we figured would be even harder to get into so we had take-out again (this time Tom got a sub). I was determined to get a chance to eat at the Long Beach Lodge so I phoned and made a reservation for the following night. The lady asked if we were guests of their resort (um no, we’re next door) “Oh the Pacific Sands?” (um, no RIGHT next door, the Cox Bay Beach Resort, yanno the one you share an entry-way with?) “Oh…(silence) okay so what time were you looking for?” By this time I was getting annoyed, but I choked it down and booked for 6:00 pm. She was really pretty rude.
Another evening when the clouds were rolling in and stifling the chance of a sunset, so we curled up in front of our fire with wine and watched some more Wire.
We went back into town to try to find at least SOMETHING touristy to take home and had zero luck. We did eat ice-cream though. The place we went didn’t have dishes, just cones. Tom who isn’t a fan of cones ate his entire ice-cream with the funniest expression on his face what I called his angry face. It struck me so funny I almost choked on my cone. Okay you had to be there but trust me, it was funny.
We had looked up souvenir shops in the area on the ‘net and there was supposed to be a bigger one in Ucluelet, so off we went back there. Turns out it was indeed bigger, but didn’t have much that wanted. I did pick up a mug that amused me though.
We also poked around the town a bit and checked out the waterfront. Again, beautiful area and great if you’re a fisherman or whale-watcher or the like, but it just didn’t do it for me.
We did find a cute store on the main drag on the way out-of-town which sold some pretty nice stuff and that is really where we bought what we did take home from the trip.
Back to our resort and to goof around on the beach before dinner.
Long Beach Lodge restaurant has an amazing view. It reminds me a bit of the Wayfarer in Cannon Beach with the spectacular location. This time (maybe because we had a reservation) the people were more polite, though it was funny when the lady who sat us said to me “this is the table you sat at last night!” I smiled and said that we had tried to eat there the previous night but there wasn’t a table available for us. We most have had a doppelgänger couple staying at the resort or something, or she was pasting our dejected faces from the previous night onto some other couple.
Once again the place wasn’t full…(cough) I know.. bitter much? I’m sure they were holding those tables for guests though…just in case!
The food was good though, I will give em that. We both opted for the Fish and chips and it came with a fried pickle which sounded weird but tasted good!
Woof! That was a lot of food! Another walk was in order to burn it off!
Thankfully, it looked like we were going to be in for a great sunset. We goofed around by the cliffs and tide pools and kept our eyes on the horizon to make sure we’d be in a good location once the sun started to head towards the horizon.
And pretty it was…
We left our last day in town to check out Long Beach. The folks just taking a 3 day weekend would be home or heading there so we figured it was the best day to avoid crowds.
It started out under a bit of marine layer but as we began our long walk the sun began to burn through the mist. Now Long Beach was more like it! Miles of sandy beach to walk along and a much more active surf. As part of a National Park though, no resorts would be allowed to build there. I’m sure there are developers that are gnashing their teeth over that!
Oops gah! I’m behind on uploading all my pics to flickr. Ah well, here’s a surfer dude too.
I HIGHLY recommend a visit to Long Beach if you’re in the Tofino area, easily a highlight of the entire trip.
We elected to go back to Shelter for our last dinner and everything was great, except for my drink. It is probably my own fault as I asked for an appletini, which wasn’t actually on their drink menu. They said it wasn’t a problem to make me one. I’m guessing the bartender wasn’t familiar with how to make them as I swear it was straight vodka and they may have waved an apple over it or something. Holy booze batman!
Our last evening we were once again treated to a sunset and it was even nicer than the last one. We walked to the far end of the bay to get a different perspective for our pictures this time around.
Tofino certainly doesn’t lack for natural beauty!
Aaaand as usual Tom couldn’t help his hammy self photo-bombing my selfies…
I’m glad we finally checked out Tofino. It is certainly beautiful and I would recommend going there, I just wish they’d get it together around the restaurants and shops a bit more! Given the choice though, we’d still pick the Oregon coast in a heartbeat. It takes just as about as long to get there (granted 2 hours of the Tofino trip you’re letting the ferry captain do the driving). But in all honesty we’ve yet to find anything to live up to Cannon Beach.