Next stop on Vancouver Island: 3 days to explore BC’s surfer’s paradise Tofino, and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
The 225km / 140 miles getting from Courtenay to Tofino took us about 4½ hours, excluding our excellent lunch stop in Port Alberni at Twin City Brewing Company (4503 Margaret St), and was a bit longer than planned due to some road work congestion.
We started our trip on the coastal scenic Highway 19A up to Qualicum Beach. At Coombs, we turned south on Highway 4, and after 125km / 80 miles, you will arrive at a T-Junction. You either turn left to Ucluelet or keep following the (now) Pacific Rim Highway to arrive in Tofino after about 30km / 22 miles.
After checking into our Airbnb home pretty much opposite Cox Bay Beach, we drove down to Tofino to enjoy the weather and explore Downtown.
We decided to have early dinner at Wolf In The Fog (150 4th Street). The overall quality is pretty good, but the number of restaurants in Tofino is definitely not equipped for the summer holiday surge of people. Therefore, do make your reservations (or alternatively dine early or be prepared to wait about an hour in line for a table around dinner time).
We were early so we got seated on the first-floor patio. Consequently, we had a great view of the quaint town and spotted a couple of bald eagles soaring over the restaurant to boot.
We didn’t go for any appetizers, but I did want to try their specialty Potato Crusted Oyster. Despite happy gulping down the occasional oysters, it turns out that, texturally, fried ones are definitely not my thing. I had better luck with my main dish: pan-fried Ling Cod served with a great Moroccan-style Chickpea and Tomato stew. Chantal had a delicious Tuna Poke, and we chose 8oz(!) pours of local Canadian wines, a 2017 Chardonnay by Bartier Bros (Oliver, BC), and a 2017 Sauvignon Blanc by Clos du Soleil (Similkameen, BC). The kids had a go at the House Made Pasta, which that day was made with fried Chicken, Mushrooms, and Sage.
The kids had actually done their homework on what to do in Tofino and had selected Tofino Licks for their fancy Soft Serves. We thought it was close-by Wolf In The Fog, but unfortunately, their old address was still included in Google Maps. Consequently, we had to walk from one end of the town’s center to the opposite end (220 Campbell St) to find Tofino Licks in a mini food court operating from sea containers, which consisted of several eateries, and a juice bar.
We loved this concept, and we can’t wait for it to start trending in the Netherlands. Pairing their smooth organic soft-serve ice-cream with delicious toppings from local artisans and restaurants turned out great. We had ones topped with the Chilli Chocolate Diablo Cookie by Tacofino (the original food truck of this Mexican eatery emporium is still just outside Tofino), Sobo‘s key lime pie and RedCan Gourmet‘s fudge brownie.
Unfortunately, the sky became cloudier close to sunset, but our beach walk on Cox Bay Beach was terrific, and the views from the aptly-named Sunset Point were still magnificent.
The next day, the weather changed for the worse (or more to a more normal state we were told), so we decided to drive 30 minutes to nearby Ucluelet. As it started to rain very hard, we only visited the small yet super nice Aquarium (180 Main St) and did some grocery shopping.
Afterward, we returned to our Airbnb and spent the rest of the afternoon doing some laundry, reading books, and sampling some of the BC brews that we accumulated along the way.
Another dinner option we had scoped out on our first walk through town was Kuma Tofino (101-120 4th St). We had a lot of luck to be seated within 15 minutes at a 6-person communal table, but the remaining 2 seats were not allocated during our dinner. We started the oddly refreshing Gin Pop Pop cocktail, combining the local Tofino gin, Calpico (a Japanese milk-based beverage), Grove Seedlip, Cucumber, and Citrus. Chantal was still in beer-mode and chose a Sapporo King Can. The kids had a Yuzu Lemonade, of which the sweet/sour balance was just spot on for them.
There were some Ramen Noodles ordered, and other dishes were ordered based on the family-style sharing concept. Everything was well received, so highly recommended!
Our last morning in Tofino was spent walking the 2 loops of the Rainforest Trail of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, located at the south end of Long Beach close to the Kwisitis Visitor Centre. The trail has two routes, one on each side of the highway, and they are very popular (and the parking limited!) as they are obviously located in a stretch of temperate Rainforest.
This was a first for us, and as it was already raining, the humidity was overwhelming at first (“Fôret Humide” indeed). The temperature was actually quite agreeable, and the elevated walkways and stairs lead us through an astonishing and lush forest with thick green foliage wherever you look.
After this fabulous hike, we visited the Tofino Brewing Company (691 Industrial Way) for some refreshments. We had already tried their Kelp Stout back in Vancouver, so we were looking forward to sampling their other beers. From the flights with all of their beers, we liked the Tuff Session Ale, Blond Ale, and Dimension Ascension Dry Hopped Pale Ale best.
Unfortunately, the food options are limited to some snacks and not enough for a proper lunch. We did have some nibbles with the beers (maple-cured smoked salmon of their neighbors, West Pacific Seafoods, and some artisan pepperoni sticks from Port Alberni’s Pete’s Moutain Meats). As the kids were not a fan, we soon decided to head over 1 lot to Summit Bread Company (681 Industrial Way, Units C&D) to get some fantastic artisanal bread and pastries before heading back to our Airbnb.
Now knowing the drill in summertime Tofino, we had already made reservations for dinner at Shelter Restaurant (601 Campbell St).
- Shelter Mule (Cucumber Vodka, Mint, Lime, Ginger Beer) & Frozen Bellini.
- As shared appetizers, we chose the Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Farmhouse Chicken Thighs & Maple-Honey Soy glaze, pickled candy cane Beets, and fresh Dill) and Crispy Brussels Sprouts (Toasted Bread Crumbs, and Grana Padano).
- To our surprise, our oldest wanted the Steak & Frites as his main course (225g / 8oz flat iron steak, Truffle Parmesan fries, Arugula, Chive Gremolata, red Wine Jus), while our youngest wasn’t all that adventurous by resorting to the – not depicted – Shelter Beef Burger (crispy Bacon, smoked Cheddar, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Pickle, Mayo, Red Pepper Relish).
- Chantal had a Kale Caesar Salad (Chopped Kale, Romaine, fried Capers, Black Pepper & Garlic Croutons, Grana Padano, fresh Lemon).
- I had the Panko Crusted Lingcod Burger (Cabbage, Apple & Miso Slaw, pickled Jalapeño & Crispy Onions, Soy Dijon Mayo), with a side of Truffle Fries and Parmesan Dijon Mayo.
Shelter Restaurant was one of the places that were packed every single day from late afternoon through late. And for a reason: the drinks, food, and service were excellent and we had a delightful last evening in Tofino.