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Storm Watching in Tofino, BC

Original Article by Paula Worthington for Calgary Herald   

Most people plan their vacations around avoiding storm season, but in Tofino BC, located on the far west side of Vancouver Island, visitors mark it on their calendar and make it a reason to go.

From November through February, winter storms can bring wild weather to this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, providing a dramatic backdrop to see Mother Nature in action.

In my case, the storms didn’t arrive until the day after I left. From the moment I arrived, the blue skies shone a brilliant sunshine that I felt like I hadn’t seen in weeks at home.

Sure, I had come to see the huge waves and driving rain, I couldn’t help but smile at the possibility of hours-long walks along the beach, eating a fresh fish taco and exploring the tide pools as the gentle waves lapped nearby.

But on my last day in Tofino, there was word that a gale was slowly on its way. That morning, as I opened the sliding glass door to the balcony in my beachside suite, I could hear that the volume of the ocean had been turned up.

The sound of the surf, which in the days before had been a soothing rhythmic background noise, waves lapping to the shore, had risen several decibels. The whoosh of the waves seemed more aggressive, and as I looked out over to the orange-hued beach at sunrise, I could see the whitewash churning to shore below the morning mist.

The storms were still a couple of days away, and would indeed roll in after my departure, but flip flops in November? I’d take it.

Often, if you don’t like the weather in Tofino, you can just wait 15 minutes, or drive 15 kilometres up the road, and everything is different. Within the course of a day, and sometimes minutes, it can all change drastically, leaving you peeling off layers as the sun comes out, or donning a rain slicker and boots as the rain clouds roll in.

No matter the weather, walking the long stretches of grey sand beach and ducking into ancient forest trails to smell the ancient growth air provides a soul renewal at any time of year.

The Wickaninnish Inn is an iconic property quietly tucked in to the outcropping at the north end of Chesterman Beach, just minutes from the town of Tofino. Intentionally unassuming from the outside, once you step in you’re enveloped by calming, west coast inspired design, picture windows and an unparalleled attention to detail that instantly puts you at ease – it has a strong sense of simple luxury and complete serenity from the moment you check in until you drag yourself away at check-out.

The Inn is part of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux network, and has a welcoming, approachable feel that spans the entire property, right through to owner Charles McDiarmid, whose family founded the Inn and who personally hosts a weekly cocktail hour to connect with guests firsthand.

It’s noticing the beauty of the details that helped me unplug during my time at the Wickaninnish. The sun beam shining on your pillow, the carefully etched local soap, the picture-perfect picture windows that provide a better show than any television could provide. In each of the 75 suites, the “Wick” helps you be ready for anything with bright yellow raincoats hung in anticipation of wet outdoor adventures.

The beaches go on for miles. Thankfully, Tofino also boasts an incredible culinary scene to help re-fuel after all that beachcombing, with a nod to local cuisine and seasonal influences.

The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn offers nearly 360-degree views of the ocean from its dramatic dining room, perfect for a meal or sipping on a cocktail in its lounge.

In town, the Wolf in the Fog is a relative newcomer to the Tofino culinary scene, but obviously understands the community well. Squid, calamari, unforgettable fresh halibut and seasonal delights make you feel right at home in the lodge-style dining room. You can send a nod of approval to the chef by buying a six-pack of beer for the kitchen for $10, who will echo their gratitude back. Lunch al fresco at the famous Tacofino food truck, loved by locals and visitors alike.

As I pulled away from Tofino and the Wickaninnish Inn, the wind seemed to pick up a little – weather was on its way. In 48 hours, the days of endless sun would be a memory for the visitors and locals alike, and a different, wilder Pacific view would come into focus. But that’s the beauty of this place. You just never know what you’re going to get, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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