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How to Go off the Beaten Path in Tofino

When most people think ‘rainforest’ they certainly don’t think ‘Canada.’ But maybe they should think again…

Sitting on the untamable Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino is located in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a vast ancient rainforest with sprawling white sand beaches and incredible biodiversity. From surfing and sea kayaking to foraging for wildly fresh seafood, travelling in Tofino is a guaranteed ride on the wild side.

Here is our guide to going off the beaten path in Tofino:

Home Away From Home

Credit: Tofino Vacation Rentals

Stay in a private beach house or cabin surrounded by 1,000-year-old cedar trees and experience Tofino like a local, not a tourist. Kick back on your own private deck with some bubbly, cook fresh seafood in your own kitchen, and have enough space for everyone to store their surfboards. Further, vacation rentals are an average of five times larger and half as expensive as hotel rooms, so you’ll get a huge bang  for your buck and free up cash for other activities (hint: spa treatment at the Wickaninnish Inn). Click here to check out more awesome Tofino vacation rentals.

Surf City

Rated one of the top surf spots in North America, Tofino is a world-class surfing destination. So, when it comes to catching waves like a local, it only makes sense to link up with a Tofino-born and bred pro surfer. Raph Bruhwiler was one of the founding fathers of the region’s surf scene and today owns and operates Bruhwiler Surf School, which offers daily group lessons and equipment rentals for beginners as well as private one-on-one instruction for intermediate surfers who want to pick the brain of a pro.

Boat-to-Table CuisineCredit: Sydney Badger

Tofino’s seafood scene is best known for Dungeness crab, which can be purchased directly from fishermen on the dock (hint: ask for Scott) or at one of the region’s seafood stores, such as Trilogy Fish. This is as fresh as seafood gets and makes the perfect dinner for family and friends. You may even be able to arrange to go out with a few fishermen and catch your own crab.

Vancouver-based personal chef Sydney Badger (pictured here), insists that cooking crab with sea water is the only way to go. So follow her lead and head into the tidal waters to fill your pots. Sydney’s simple instructions: “Fill a pot with ocean water, boil, add crab, boil for 10 minutes. Oh, and be friends with butter.” She advises not to go filling your pots in a wharf or harbour, where the water is polluted with boat exhaust and run-off.

We often forget all food originates in the wild, and the Clayoquot Sound is the perfect place to reacquaint with that notion. Head out during low tide in a kayak, canoe or power boat and forage for wild foods, namely sea asparagus, which grows all along the shore and is incredibly delicious! Pick a bunch and bring it home to blanche and sautée with butter and lemon. Yum.

Foraging for fresh seafood is a must when in Tofino. The best places to find oysters require boat access—luckily, Raph is a Tofino Renaissance man who is incredibly knowledgeable about wild foods (he’s been known to eat sea urchins straight out of the ocean) and offers private boat charters to pick oysters from the rocky beaches in the Clayoquot Sound. Rule of thumb: Avoid harvesting oysters that are less than six centimetres in diameter, as these are Olympia oysters and protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Pick only the Pacific oysters, which are much larger! Then, haul them home (pick up a shucking knife in town if your vacation home doesn’t have one), scrub them clean to remove sand and grime, and either shuck them and serve raw on the half shell or just throw them whole in the oven and bake until they open. Then, remove the top, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and parsley, and continue baking until golden brown.

It is also possible to forage mussels and clams year-round, most abundant on beaches near tidal mudflats. If you plan to go out foraging on foot without a licensed guide, be sure to pick up a saltwater fishing license. They are available in town at Co-op Hardware, Jay’s Fly and Tackle Shop and Method Marine.

The perfect pick-me-up after a morning surf sesh, Tacofino is a food truck tucked back in an in industrial parking lot. Featuring an array of eclectic Baja-style tacos made with love and local, fresh ingredients, the menu includes homemade kimchi, tortilla soup, braised pork burritos and sashimi tuna tacos.

[Spa Time]

Voted the world’s best hotel spa by Travel + Leisure magazine, the Wickaninnish Inn’s Ancient Cedars Spa is second to none. With the money you’ve saved staying in a vacation rental and cooking your own meals, treat yourself to a Hishuk Ish Tsawalk Awakening Treatment, the spa’s signature holistic healing treatment that includes traditional cleansing practices of the West Coast’s indigenous people. Hishuk ish tsawalk is a Nuu-chah-nulth phrase meaning “everything is one—all is interconnected,” and the treatment, which is set to a soundtrack of First Nation chants, incorporates the elements of fire (burning sage), earth (cedar oil aromatherapy) and air. If you work up an appetite during your treatment, stop by the Wick’s Driftwood Café on your way out and pick up a gourmet picnic lunch. If you’re thirsty, belly up at their On The Rocks bar, which has one of British Columbia’s largest collections of single-malt scotches.

Take Some Beach TimeCredit: Stuart May

Part of Pacific Rim National Park, this is not your average crowded spring break beach. Long Beach is a 10-kilometre stretch of white sand bounding the open ocean (the next piece of land in the distance is… Japan). Its vast enormity is not only a visual treat but ensures privacy for picnickers, as there is more than enough beachfront square footage to go around. So pack an afternoon feast and kick it in paradise on the 49th parallel.

Calling All Wildlife Lovers

Head out into the Clayoquot Sound at low tide for a bona fide Canadian safari. Its untouched landscape encompasses mudflats, mountains, tidal pools, ancient rainforest and open ocean, supporting an incredibly diverse array of species. Spot wolves, cougars, seals, bald eagles, sea stars, sea lions, whales, orcas and black bears!

Stormy Days

Tofino is one of the world’s best places to go storm watching, and with 10 to 15 storms per month, December through February is prime time. Cozy up at a beachfront vacation rental with a duvet and cup of tea and watch the world go by, one 20-foot swell at a time.

Getting There: It is possible to fly to Tofino, but the drive across the island is well worth it. The route from Victoria takes you through Cathedral Grove’s iconic landscape of enormous trees and winding roads overlooking pristine inland lakes and Pacific Rim National Park.

Original Article by Maria Sofferin for Cottage Country

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