Although Chris and Jenny are the first of my UK friends to visit from home I have come to realise that they want to see the main touristy stuff. This is great the first time but I have seen these many times over the past year so it becomes tedious to revisit these places. So, the trick is to find cool things to do which I haven’t yet done and use this as an excuse to act like a tourist and not a local.
One of these things is Tofino. This surfers paradise on the western coast of Vancouver Island tops alot of polls on ‘Top 5 things to do in BC’ and made it onto my bucketlist (see here) but I had not yet been. Sam also hadn’t been which is surprising considering the fact she has lived in BC for 23+ years.
With the 4 of us already on Vancouver island for Emily’s 30th birthday bash I thought it would be a great opportunity to drive across the island to Tofino.
When Chris arrived in BC he asked to see big trees. Whilst not quite in the same league as the Giant Redwoods in California the Douglas Fir, native to BC is a big big tree in comparison to those we have in the UK. En route to Tofino we stopped off at Cathedral Grove which is situated between Port Alberni and Coombs
Cathedral Grove is a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem. The biggest trees in the Grove are about 800 years old and measure 75 m (250 ft) in height and 9 m (29 ft) in circumference. This, as the sign said makes them bigger than the leaning tower of Pisa. They are the survivors of a forest fire that ravaged the area some 350 years ago and the even more devastating invasion by Europeans who colonized Vancouver Island from 1849.
The trees are unsuprisingly massive and a great stop off for 20 minutes to break up the driving.
Staying in Esowista
Our AirBnb was actually situated about 15km south of Tofino in the native village of Esowista. Naomi’s beachside location (see here) was much cheaper than Tofino itself AND directly on Long Beach, a beautiful beach in the Pacific Rim National Park.
The facilities are basic but you stay here for the beach. With Tofino and the Rim being in the ‘Fog Zone’ (aka within 2km of high tide on the West Coast) it was except from the campfire ban so we had 2 lovely campfires on our second and third night.
Ocean Outfitters – A Tour of Hot Springs Cove
On our second full day we decided to go on a tour. Jenny wasn’t keen on just sitting on a boat so bear/whale watching was out. The comparamise was a tour to Hot Springs Cove which is a natural spring north of Tofino. Chris decided this was his treat for us hosting them for 2 weeks. THANKS CHRIS!
I had a work call that morning so we decided to go out with Ocean Outfitters who were the only tour company who ran an afternoon departure. This was brill because it mean’t the springs were much quieter than morning when 5/6 boats descend on the cove.
The tour was led by Tristan on Miss Chief. He was very knowledgeable and had a good idea / local knowledge for wildlife. We saw two Humpback Whales, Sealions, Seals, Sea Otters (so cute) and a shy Coastal Black Bear. Not bad considering wildlife couldn’t be guarantee’d.
After 2 hours on the water (typically 90 minutes but we spent another 30 minutes whale hunting) we arrived at Hot Springs Cove. The Springs are a good 30 minute walk (albeit on perfectly maintained wooden boardwalk) through the growth.
The springs themselves are not as tourist friendly as say Pamukkale or Bagni San Firmino but represented the springs as how they looked when the natives used the springs over the past centuries. The water flows out of the spring at 50oC and cools as it flows towards the bay and mixes with the cool water. There are several ‘jacuzzi baths’ which we chilled in for 2 hours before heading back to the boat.