Located on the west side of Vancouver Island, Tofino is Canada’s surf capital. Tofino boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes and beaches. I’d never heard of Tofino before, until my friend moved there for summer. I spent four days exploring the coastal town.
Our first stop was the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, we were taking the ferry to Nanaimo. I’d took this trip on foot once before to meet Matt’s parent’s and we were lucky enough to see a pod of Orca in the ocean.
Our ferry journey was relatively calm but no Orca’s this time.
Driving through Vancouver Island was incredible. I was bummed we didn’t have more time to spend on the Island because there were some amazing sights along the way. Cameron Lake was one of the most crystal-clear mirror-like lakes I’ve seen. Driving along Barkley Sound fjord was so tranquil, at one point there was a bald eagle flying alongside our car. We stumbled upon a bear on the drive too. Our drive to Tofino alone was an experience in itself.
Unfortunately we couldn’t stop anywhere because we’d missed our first ferry and had to make up the time so that we weren’t putting the tent up in the dark. I’d never even put a tent up before, I sure wasn’t going to try in the dark.
Confession: I didn’t actually put the tent up at all. Matt did it himself, and I helped. When I say “helped” I mean I held the poles for him – hey it’s a step closer to learning than I was before!
We were staying at the Bella Pacifica campground which is situated right on Mackenzie beach.
Bella Pacifica campground offers on beach camping, and originally I really wanted to do this. I’d never camped before, let alone on the beach! It would make for great photos, be picturesque and romantic right?
When I saw their website had sold out of these camp sites, I booked one slightly inland instead. And I am so thankful I did. It was so cold every night we camped here. I forgot how cold beaches can be from the wind chill. I can only imagine how it would have been, to have nothing between us and the high winds from the ocean.
MacKenzie Beach was accessible from our campground, it was literally a 2-minute walk. We managed to catch some mesmerising sunsets each night.
After the sun had set I started to realise that camping really is a world away from hotels.
“Why is it so dark? I can’t see anything. Where are all the lights?”
“Because it’s a campground”
Yeah. I definitely hadn’t done this before.
Hot Dog On A Stick
Once we’d (Matt) put up our tent, we got the camping chairs out, cracked open a beer and had our first “camp site meal” It was hot dogs on a stick. Like, literally on a stick. I’m not talking about “hot dog on a stick” as in the corndog fast food chain.
Prior to our trip, we stocked up on some cheap camping equipment at the dollar store. I insisted we bring the metal skewers that you use to roast hotdogs. After a lot of persuasion, Matt managed to convince me to cook my hotdog the old fashioned way – on a real stick that we found on a tree.
“But what if a squirrel has peed all over it!?”
I’d never heard Matt laugh at me more than he did during this trip. I was genuinely worried I’d be eating something that had been touched by animal pee. He managed to persuade me by telling me that after he carves the end into a point all the “squirrel pee germs” will be gone. I gave in and became one with the outdoors – at least I was in my books!
We also made s’mores on the campfire.
What Not To Pack For A Camping Trip
I googled Tofino before visiting and thought it was beautiful! So I’d obviously need a wardrobe to match, no? I brought some sundresses with me, along with a straw hat I never ended up wearing (but I did hold it in one photo so it counts)
To the average person you’re probably thinking “What!? That’s not camping attire!”
Yes, you would be right!
It was June, I thought it’d be nice and warm all day and night. And I was oh so very wrong. The worst part is that I was told beforehand “Rachael you’ll need more than that for camping” I chose to ignore the advice and go with lacey dresses anyway.
Aaaaannndd…. this is where I ended up wearing my boyfriends clothes. After day one I was clinging to any kind of warmth in the tent I could. (Needless to say I have improved my camping packing skills a lot since!)
I also brought all the essentials for a camping trip. You know, stuff like a hair dryer, hair straighteners, makeup and even a portable mirror. Doesn’t everyone bring these on camping trips?
Every morning Matt would laugh at my attempt of glamping. I must’ve been the only woman in the bathrooms straightening their hair!
As funny as I think it is that I brought all this stuff along with me, I really don’t think it matters if you do. If you want to camp, straighten your hair and put on makeup – go for it!
Getting To Know The Locals
Each morning I’d wake up, at the crack of dawn, to the lovely sound of…
A crow had decided to grace us with his presence.
Every. Morning. Without. Fail.
Where were all those wonderful cheeping birds I’d always seen in Cinderella? Nope, I got the crows.
I was tired for most of my time in Tofino for aforementioned reasons. And the fact I was using Matt’s t-shirt as a pillow meant I had a wonderful bent neck every day. Oh the joys of camping! (Or rather not being properly prepared for it)
Noted for next time.
Eating My Way Through Tofino
I really wanted to experience the food scene here in Tofino. Outside Break is a collection of local businesses. This is where you’ll find surfboard and bike rentals, coffee shops and some of the best food in Tofino.
Chocolate Tofino is a chocolate and gelato store. While I never tried the chocolate, the gelato was heavenly, especially on a hot day.
Tacofino was my favourite place we ate at while in Tofino. It’s also one of the most popular spots for food. This is one of the food trucks at the Outside Break.
For coffee you’ll want to head to Tofitian. Another really popular spot, especially on weekends with long lines, but definitely worth it for the amazing coffee.
Alternatively, Rhino Coffee in the main town area is also really good. They have hand-made donuts, and yes I sampled a couple. Sooo good!
We had drinks and snacks at a pub called The Hatch. The food here was really good and had amazing views to match. I loved the mountains in this area. It reminded me of Hawaii, except we were in the Pacific Northwest.
If you’re into craft beer, a visit to Tofino Brewing Company is a must.
Mackenzie Beach was the beach we spent most of our time at, being as our campground was just a short walk away. Our four days were mostly spent relaxing here, drinking beers and playing frisbee. And I wouldn’t want to have spent it any other way.
Besides Mackenzie Beach, there are several others in the area.
My favourite was Tonquin Beach, this seemed like a little hideaway from life. To access this wonderful beach, we walked through this cute little trail which featured names engraved in the wooden walkway below. Similar to the opening credits of a movie, the beach being its grand finale. Eventually the path ended in a clearing revealing a bright blue ocean.
Cox Bay Beach
Cox Bay seemed to be the beach everyone headed to for surfing. The waves here seemed much higher than that of Mackenzie and Chesterman. But I know nothing about surfing, so I could be completely wrong. I’m disappointed to say that we didn’t actually do any surfing while here. I really wanted to go Stand Up Paddle Boarding but I chickened out when I felt just how cold the water was.
Chesterman Beach was the biggest beach we visited while in Tofino. The sand was flat and soft and it was a relaxing place to take a slow walk. As I was too afraid to Paddle Board while in Tofino, I opted to do twirls in the water instead – such an adventurer.
A Last Night Sunset
On our last night Matt and I drove to the Tofino harbour and watched the most amazing sunset over Meares Island and Clayoquot Sound. I couldn’t think of a better way to end our trip. I’d say it was romantic, but we were both taking photos the whole time. I’m sure we both felt it through our camera lenses though, ahh true love!
Tofino Harbour is the spot where the Trans Canada highway ends. It is literally the end of the road, as past this is the ocean. There is a sign commemorating this fact, with a cute Orca above it.
So how did this city girl do camping for the first time?
I learned some lifelong lessons that’s for sure. Should I ever camp again I will bring more appropriate clothing. In other words, not sundresses. While they may be fine for the daytime they are most definitely not okay for the evenings and night time. I brought one pair of leggings that I wore every night and then stole Matt’s t-shirts and hoodies. I learned that I don’t always need to have perfect hair, and that I can in fact cook using a stick!
Have you ever visited Vancouver Island? Or been on a camping trip you loved?