The one thing in life you can’t depend on is the weather.
In my case, the storms didn’t arrive until the day after I left. It was storm watching season at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino BC, which lasts from around November to February every year, but the blue skies above shone a brilliant sunshine that I felt I hadn’t seen for weeks at home.
Even though I had come to see the huge waves and driving rain, I couldn’t help but smile at the prospect of hours-long walks along the beach, eating fresh fish tacos and exploring the tide pools as the gentle waves lapped nearby.
Partway through my visit, there was word that a gale was slowly on its way, from the southwest. Just 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 against the shore, had risen several decibels. The whoosh of the waves seemed more aggressive, and as I looked out to the orange-hued beach at sunrise, I could see the whitewash churning to shore under the morning mist.
The storm itself was still a couple of days away, and would roll in after my departure, but in the meantime – flip flops in November? I’d take it.
The weather on Canada’s far west coast is constantly changing, which also makes the wild area so appealing for many. Within the course of a day, and sometimes minutes, the scenery can change drastically, leaving you peeling off layers as the sun comes out, or doning 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 old growth air provides a soul renewal at any time of year.
The Wickaninnish Inn is an iconic property quietly tucked on 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 a 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, from the front desk staff through to owner Charles McDiarmid, whose family founded the Inn and who personally hosts a weekly cocktail hour to connect with guests firsthand. Mr. McDiarmid’s friendly, down-to-earth demeanour was impressive – particularly when we flew in to the end of the cocktail hour after a sunset photoshoot wearing jeans, windswept hair and sandy shoes – I was pleased to see that “casual west coast” is the perfect attire for any occasion at the “Wick”.
It’s noticing the beauty of the details that helped me unplug during my time at the Wickaninnish. It’s the sun beam shining on my pillow, the carefully etched local soap, the picture-perfect picture windows that provide a better show than any television could provide. In each of its 75 incredible suites, the Wick helps you be ready for anything with bright yellow raincoats hung in the closet 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. Cleaning the salt spray from the outside of its floor-to-ceiling windows is a regular activity.
In town, the Wolf in the Fog is a relative newcomer to the Tofino culinary scene, but they understand 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.
Don’t for get to 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 even more – storm watching weather was on its way. Within 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. That’s Tofino. You never know what you’re going to get, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Getting There, Staying There and Eating There:
By Air: Fly from Vancouver International Airport direct to Tofino. Or fly to Comox and drive across Vancouver Island to Tofino.
By Ferry: BC Ferries offers scheduled service from Vancouver to Vancouver Island (Nanaimo).
By Land: Tofino is accessibly by car or bus from Vancouver Island.
Stay: The Wickaninnish Inn
Find out More: Tourism Tofino