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Pure Indulgence in Tofino

Fuelled by coffee and the sheer exhilaration of being in Tofino, we hit the beach bright and early.
With the sun beaming down on us and the wind whipping our faces, we were in complete awe of the wild beauty of Chesterman Beach, just outside the doors of the Wickaninnish Inn.

It's early April and - surprise, surprise! - the day has dawned bright and sunny. But it isn't just the sun that has people visiting from all corners of the world, but the raw natural beauty that Tofino is renowned for.
Travelers come to reconnect with nature, through the ocean and old growth rain forest. Goodbye concrete jungle, hello Mother Nature at its best.

During our brisk early morning walk, we passed dogs playfully retrieving driftwood, joggers leaving their footprints in the wet sand and surfers clad in full head-to-toe wetsuits braving the surf.

We were amazed to hear that in the winter the waves can reach heights of 15 to 18 feet, as they crash against the rocks.

We arrived around 5 p.m. the night before. Immediately upon checking in at the Wickaninnish Inn we knew this was going to be a special weekend, one of utter pampering and relaxation. We stayed in the newer building, The Beach.

Everyone, from the front desk to the restaurant and spa staff go above and beyond to ensure your stay is a magical one. I leafed through the guest book in our room and over and over again guests wrote about stellar service, great cuisine, beautifully appointed rooms, and of course the stunning vistas.

Our suite took full advantage of the spectacular ocean views, with a luxurious down duvet-covered bed and a cozy fireplace next to the floor-to-ceiling window. Outside, after dinner, we sat on our deck in Adirondack chairs, snuggled in a Hudson Bay Company wool blanket, sipping a glass of wine while listening to the ocean soundtrack.

That first night, we dined in the hotel's Pointe Restaurant - which boasts breathtaking views of the coastline from every table. Executive chef Nicholas Nutting has crafted a menu full of locally sourced, and as much as possible, organic ingredients from the island. The fine dining eatery showcases a weekly four-course Tasting Menu, which you can order with or without wine pairings. My husband Dennis tried it, and raved about the vanilla poached halibut and spiced squab breast. My culinary adventure began with a delicious light salad and an entrée of seared Tofino salmon, both absolutely mouthwatering.

Another highlight of my weekend was the Pacific Sea Salt Glow treatment at the Wick's Ancient Cedars Spa. My indulgence began with an outdoor footbath, while I gloried in the gorgeous ocean views. Then, I melted into an extraordinary comfy bed in a Zen-like treatment room and prepared myself for pampered transport. I believe I floated out of there ...

The next morning, after a light breakfast in the Driftwood Lounge, where I practiced my French with our server, Julie, we headed for an interpretative walk. Our guide was Silva, a naturalist whose passion for Tofino's eco-system is apparent within minutes. Throughout the walk, she pointed out signs that spring was in the air in Clayoquot Sound, and explained how the changeable weather on this exposed coastline governs all forms of life here.

Then, it was off to town to check out what Tofino had to offer. We meandered in and out of an eclectic mix of quaint artisan shops.

We asked a few shop owners if they knew a great little lunch spot and more than one mentioned a funky, distinctive little spot called the Wildside Grill. It's located in the Live to Surf plaza, a compilation of shops housed in cedar shacks that look like Hobbit-style cabins. The Wildside Grill serves up some of the freshest seafood in these parts. Chef Jesse Blake and his partner Jeff Mikus (who happens to be a commercial fisherman) opened up their funky outdoor eatery a few years ago. Dennis ordered the B.C. side-stripe shrimp burger and fries and I went for its award-winning seafood chowder. It was so good that on our way back to Vancouver we stopped for lunch and ate the very same meal. (I love their slogan: Natural food by natural dudes ... that about sums it up!)

On the Saturday night, we went to the award-winning SoBo (which stands for Sophisticated Bohemian) restaurant. This hip eatery is run by executive chef Lisa Ahier and her husband Artie. It's a wonderful juxtaposition of modern and shabby chic with a sumptuous and innovative menu, using fresh, locally produced ingredients.

The relaxed atmosphere was buzzing with laughter and chatter. We started with a couple of appetizers - mine was the Humpback Shrimp, a fabulous dish of cayenne and tequila-splashed B.C. shrimp with Little Qualicum Cheeseworks bleu Claire dressing on sweet gem lettuce and fresh dill.

I couldn't get enough ... truly the best shrimps I've ever bit into. On the recommendation of the owner, my husband Dennis went for the broiled oysters slathered with miso mayonnaise and salmon bacon and sizzling with melted cheese. Not a huge fan of oysters, Dennis changed his tune after trying these ones. For our entrees, Dennis had the BBQ bison osso bucco and I try prawns seared with gnocchi in an organic carrot emulsion.

All too soon this decadent weekend, which was all about great food, wine, and relaxation (with added walks for good measure), was over. We have promised ourselves a visit back before too long.

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