Tofino is s a small town on the western edge of Vancouver Island, with sandy beaches, windswept trees and craggy rocks that scatter the coastline for miles. It’s a magical place where the locals surf religiously, wildlife and fresh seafood teem in abundance, and time slows down completely. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel as though you’ve trekked to a remote, serene part of the world, rarely touched by people. And in a way, it is. Standing on the beaches of Tofino, looking out over the horizon, the ocean spans for thousands of kilometers until finally reaching Asia.
The mindless routine of the city is non-existent in Tofino. There are no skyscrapers, no Financial District, no rush hour traffic packed with pantyhose-clad women and briefcase-donning men. Every day in Tofino is casual Friday. The radio station has surf reports instead of traffic reports. The normal footwear is hikers or rain boots, not dress shoes or heels.
It’s a rainforest – a west coast rain forest – but no matter what the season, the weather is beautiful. It’s the kind of place that makes me want to quit my life, become a surf bum, and live out of a camper van with my dogs.
I took some time off last week and made the trip to Tofino with a few close friends. We rented a little cabin on the water, equipped with a little kitchen and a view that made my toes curl. Since I went with fellow foodies, it was a rather gluttonous weekend. There are a lot of neat little paces to eat in Tofino. When we weren’t snacking the local cuisine, we each took turns making dinners for everyone. After a long day of walking along the coastline, we’d curl up by the fireplace in our pajamas and merrily eat and drink.
Rice noodle salad with peanut sauce and fresh prawns. A trip to Wolf in the Fog (more on that below) for an amazing dining experience. Creamy seafood pasta with fresh scallops, halibut, and smoked salmon. Juicy steak and caesar salad with fresh, local Dungeness crab, caught that very day. Local donuts, orgasmic food trucks, wine and local Tofino beer.
Like I said, it was a gluttonous weekend, but in the best possible way. The perfect trip for a nature loving foodie like myself.
I always enjoy reading other food blogs that include their travel adventures and photographs, so I thought I’d dedicate this post to my trip to Tofino. Most of my photos are nature-based, since it was too rainy to bring my camera on the days we ventured through the city, but I have some highlights of the trip written below (in no particular order). Local restaurants, cafes, breweries, and beaches to check out, if you ever happen to be in Tofino!
Ah, Tacofino. Tofino. Tacos in Tofino. Even if word play isn’t your thing, you’ll still appreciate the incredible food that comes out of this place. Tacofino started as a small food truck based out of, yes, Tofino, but the amazing food quickly catapulted it into almost cult-like status. They now have a permanent spot in Tofino, a truck in Victoria, two trucks in Vancouver, and three restaurants scattered throughout Vancouver.
Well deserved success. The food that comes out of this place is incredible. I dream of their tuna ta-taco with it’s freshly seared ahi tuna, wasabi mayo, seaweed salad and pickled ginger. Their pork and kimchi gringa (like a cheesy, fried quesadilla) is spectacular. Their choclate diablo cookies – choclate cookies with ginger and chili – is enough to make your head spin.
It’s an unassuming place, tucked away behind a few surf shops. It’s easy to miss, but the lineups give it away. Bring an umbrella, if it’s raining, since the tables are out in the open.
This place didn’t win Best New Restaurant in Canada for nothing. I visited Wolf in the Fog last year, and ever since, I’ve been dreaming about going back. It prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients, and while they do serve some authentic west coast cuisine, they have a menu that caters to all palettes.
Moroccan spiced octopus. Potato crusted oysters (a must try). Shiitake seaweed salad. Creole sable fish and shrimp. Big “share plates” with fried chicken, pulled pork, cornbread and watermelon, or scallops, shellfish, focaccia, and saffron aioli.
I highly recommend their share plates. A small group could easily polish off two platters (we sure did) and it’s a great way to try a bunch of different things and rave about it with your dinner mates as you eat.
Book your reservations as soon as you can, though. Because it’s so fantastic, it’s always packed. We had to book our reservations two weeks in advance, but it was oh so worth it.
I’m not one of those crazy craft brewery fanatics. I like beer, but I’m not in love with beer, if you know what I mean. I can appreciate a nice blonde ale, but I’m no connoisseur. That said, Tofino Brewery is a pretty cool place. I’m not a huge fan of darker ales, but damn did their coffee porter ever go down smooth. Like, so good.
Plus, they have a pretty cool Kelp Stout (yes, kelp. It’s Tofino, afterall) and it’s relatively cheap to fill a growler. Plus, their labels are lovely. I’m such a sucker for nice packaging.
THE FISH STORE & OYSTER BAR
If you’re in Tofino, you simply have to eat seafood. It’s just a given. The Fish Store & Oyster Bar is a neat little place that sells freshly caught salmon, scallops, halibut, crab, you name it. If you’re looking to cook your own meals, this place is worth checking out.
They also have an oyster bar. You can pull up a chair, grab a drink (perhaps a local Tofino brew?) and chow down on some fresh oysters. How cool is that?
The cabin we stayed in was booked through this company, and I was surprised at how painless and stress free the whole process was.
There are a lot of little cabins in Tofino, and the owners can rent them out through Tofino Vacation Rentals, who take care of the whole process. I booked the cabin online, they sent me a confirmation, and all I had to do was show up on the right day and pick up the keys. They even take care of mostof the cleaning once you check out!
Technically Zoe’s Bakery is in Ucluelet – a little town about 40 minutes from Tofino – but if you stay in Tofino, you’ll probably make a trip down to Ucluelet at some point. The beaches are equally beautiful there, and there are some good hiking trails.
Zoe’s is a cute little bakery that has fabulous treats and goodies. It’s definitely worth popping in for a coffee and a baked treat. Peanut butter bars, chocolate bran muffins, apple crumble bars, energy bars… And pretty good coffee, too!
I had a breakfast bagel here and I swear it was the softest, fluffiest bagel I’ve ever had. It almost tasted like sourdough, and it was amazing .
Rhino has some good coffee, and it’s a cute little place on Tofino’s main strip. They have some signature donuts that are pretty damn tasty. Coconut cream, chocolate espresso Baileys (yum), maple bacon glaze. You should probably grab half a dozen for the road. Make that an even dozen. Yes.
The Ucluelet Aquarium is worth checking out, especially if you’re interested in the local ocean life or if you have little kiddies with you. They have special tanks that house starfish and sea cucumber that you can pick up and touch!
They catch local animals and house them for a season before re-releasing them into the wild. It’s a neat little aquarium, though not very big. They do have a pretty awesome full grown octopus, and even a baby octopus. I never thought I’d say this, but baby octopus are CUTE.
LONG BEACH & CHESTERMAN BEACH
Two must-see beaches in Tofino. Long Beach is, well, long, and is a great beach to walk aimlessly along and check out the surf.
Chesterman is fun to walk along as there are usually a lot of people and dogs running about, so the people watching game is strong. There are also a lot of neat little cabins along the beachfront (it’s fun to dream).
Both beaches are popular among surfers, so if you want to try surfing, go for it! I didn’t try this trip, it was a bit too cold, but if I go in the summer time I’ll give it a go. Even if you don’t surf, though, it’s always fun to watch!
This is a wonderful little hiking trail/beach that seems to be relatively less known, which means it’s usually pretty quiet. From the parking lot, you walk 2km through a forested boardwalk until you get to the beach itself. Be sure to go at low tide so you can fully explore. The beach stretches on for miles and you can walk up to a bunch of little islands, clamber up the rocks and check out the rolling waves and explore. It’s a really neat place that combines a forested trail and beachy seaside.
So there’s my Top Ten! For this trip, at least. For future purposes, did you guys enjoy this post? Should we try and do more like this, whenever we (rarely) go anywhere? Let us know in the comments below!