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Shelter From the Storm

Vancouver Island witnesses dramatic weather in winter, when storm-watching is a key attraction at the Wickaninnish Inn near Tofino. The Inn’s managing director Charles McDiarmid describes this spectacular event.

When is best for storms here?
The most reliable time is November to February – although it is not unusual to have an early storm in October and a late storm in March.

What is so amazing about storms?
The fascination with storm-watching is, I believe, something that is part of our DNA, stemming from the earliest times in our history when we sheltered in caves looking out over the plains of the Serengeti and marvelled at the unfolding spectacle of mother nature displaying her vast powers for all to see. Today for most of us – and especially for city dwellers – the appreciation, respect and awe of storm-watching has been suppressed and replaced by a feeling that storms represent merely an intrusion of life and are best addressed through avoidance, minimisation or just plain ambivalence. For most city residents, storms represent traffic delays, wet shoes, damp paperwork or just another bad hair day in the making. For those of us who still get to see mother nature perform in all her glory, storms represent wonder, amazement, respect and awe at the sheer power that nature still wields in this age of concrete and steel.

The questions of how big will the next wave be, how high will it roll up the beach, what will it bring to us from what corner of the Pacific Ocean, can clouds really hold that much rain…. When the wind is blowing, we have to lean into the wind at 30 degrees, just to make headway down Chesterman Beach.

What was your best storm?
In February 2006 a large storm arrived at the peak of high tide. When daylight crept over the horizon around 7:30am the surf was gargantuan, with huge swells breaking between Frank Islands and Lenard Lighthouse and across Templar Channel. Waves of rolling white water poured in from half a mile offshore, surging up the beaches and penetrating the forest.

Where is best to watch storms?
Our guestrooms and public spaces all feature ocean or beach views, so a variety of storm views are available throughout the Inn. After a solid beach walk and a relaxing spa treatment, perhaps a retreat to your guestroom might be in order. Turn your comfortable armchair towards the window and, with the fireplace beside you, gaze out of your rain-streaked window to enjoy nature’s performance down the beach or on the rocks below.

For many of our guests, the ultimate yin to the yang of storm watching is our Ancient Cedars Spa, located right on the Inn’s Ocean Level. The Cedar Sanctuary treatment room offers clear unobstructed ocean views and unrivalled spa treatments, as close to nature’s edge as mother nature and the legal setbacks allow.

Any final tips?
Check the weather, remain flexible, and make your booking when a big South Easter is forecast to arrive. Even if you are not here on the exact day, a day before or after is likely to be just about as dramatic as the actual day of the event.

I would also recommend getting out to enjoy it when you are here, even for a short walk.

On our rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, there is no such thing as bad weather – just poor clothing choices!


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