Surf ’n’ Soak in Tofino

A British Columbia gem offers equal parts exhilaration and relaxation.

By Rachel Ritchie February 23, 2016 Published in the March 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Amy Martin

Let’s call it scene 1: You’re on a couch in the sumptuous “great room” at Long Beach Lodge, gazing through a wall of windows at the graceful crescent of Cox Bay. Whether you made the 11-hour journey from Portland by land (and water) or hopped on an Orca Airways puddle jumper from Vancouver International Airport, you’re weary from the expedition. British Columbia Highway 4 is the only road that leads to this remote fishing village on Vancouver Island, bordered on three sides by water and by the 126,000-acre Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to the south. The lodge’s “après surf” menu helps; a Tuff Session Ale from the local brewery paired with fresh halibut and chips quells your exhaustion as you lazily watch waves roll into the bay, a cluster of silhouetted surfers carving through the frothy crests breaking off Sunset Point. Welcome to Tofino.

Scene 2? You’re wide-eyed and wetsuit-clad, steering a nine-foot longboard toward the shore. A global destination for wave seekers, Tofino boasts more than 20 miles of surf-worthy shoreline and consistent water temps around 50 degrees. (Do not underestimate the power of the wetsuit!) Waves here are both plentiful and manageable, with head-high swells for pros and gentle beach breaks for beginners, making the region a natural home for numerous pro surfers. Lucky for you, the Long Beach Lodge has its own Surf Club out back, which means you can show up with no gear and no experience, and still catch waves with an instructor just steps from the lodge in Cox Bay—conveniently, Tofino’s best surfing beach, with a soft, sandy bottom. (Today’s après-surf regimen: extended visits to the Surf Club’s hot tub and sauna.)

Scene 3 finds you in a seaplane, gliding over Clayoquot Sound toward Hot Springs Cove, 23 miles northwest of Tofino. Once you’ve landed, a 30-minute stroll through an old-growth forest leads to a succession of natural geothermal pools at the ocean’s edge that cool down from about 109 to 50 degrees as they cascade toward open water. Sit, soak, and unwind—Tofino has you, and you may never leave.

The Best of Tofino

The Wickaninnish Inn: The five-star hotel offers one of the best restaurants on Vancouver Island, as well as a luxurious beachfront, forest-fringed spa.

Tacofino: Fish-taco perfection can be found at Tacofino, where the surfers line up for tortillas stuffed with super-fresh tempura-fried lingcod and seared albacore.

Roy Henry Vickers Eagle Aerie Gallery: The gallery run by a prolific artist and longtime leader in Canada’s First Nations community is a Tofino landmark, housed in a traditional Northwest longhouse.

Shelter: Sit fireside and mingle with the locals at this cozy farm-to-table restaurant and bar, where insiders call before 2 p.m. to reserve a Dungeness crab.

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