Vancouver Island is not your typical island getaway. BC’s quaint towns of Tofino and Ucluelet are where you go to put down your phone and really disconnect, to eat locally sourced seafood, and get back to nature.
Where do you go if your posse all want different things but you have only so much time and a limited budget for a weekend retreat? You go to Vancouver Island, of course. During a last-minute trip to the island, our group of five adults and four kids got to chill and play on the beach, surf and hike, and check out the burgeoning food scene. Here’s how it went down.
We stayed at Pacific Sands Resort, which sits on a bluff above Cox Bay and features spacious villas outfitted with fully equipped kitchens, gas fireplaces, and outdoor decks with hot tubs. With its four bedrooms and alcove with pull out sofa bed, the resort’s Sunset House offered plenty of space for the entire group. In the kitchen there was a welcome basket of crackers, cheeses, and spreads as well as pancake mix, eggs, bread, juice, jams and syrup. We were all set for breakfast and for a post-hike wine and cheese by the fireplace.
Take a (Wet) Walk on the Wild Side
Mother Nature puts on an astonishing spectacle as storms originating in Japan make their way across the Pacific Ocean and arrive on Vancouver Island’s jagged west coast, where massive waves pound the rocky shores and roll across unspoiled beaches. But to really feel the power of a winter storm, you gotta get out there. So we suited up with all our rain gear. And for good measure, we also wore the resort’s yellow rain jackets that we found hanging in the Sunset House’s closet. Right outside the house is a pretty path that leads down to the beach and eco-friendly wooden pathways that meander through the forest.
When The Sun’s Out
It wasn’t all rain and clouds. In fact, we had an amazing day of sunshine and blue skies–and we took full advantage of it. The kids ran around the beach collecting shells and climbing on driftwood, one of us went surfing, and all of us had an amazing time.
What To Do
Sick of watching the rain drop? There’s plenty to do. We signed up for a guided tour with a Paddle West Kayaking experienced naturalist and paddled the rugged shorelines of Clayoquot or Barley Sound, which are teeming with intertidal life. For the adventurous in the group, there’s Surf Sisters who will have you catching your first (or hundredth) wave in no time. We put on our hiking shoes and explored Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail, where 5.6 miles of paths feature an Instagram-worthy lighthouse, interpretive signs and benches tucked away into viewing points.
Afterwards, we stopped at Zoe’s Bakery & Cafe, where a huge chalkboard menu written in perfect curlicue script lists daily soup, salads and sandwich specials as well as baked goods like peanut butter cups, pot-de-cremes, and cupcakes.
And we took the kids to Howler’s Family Restaurant, a cute diner where the casual ambiance is warm and friendly. In the main dining area, exposed brick walls are accented by corrugated tin while bare Edison light bulbs hang above simple wooden tables. There’s a retro, 5-pin bowling alley and a vintage arcade in the back, complete with billiards and pool table.
Where To Eat
Ravenlady Oyster Forte and Tacofino are two food trucks that have shut off their engines and found permanent homes. Ravenlady is located next to a Ucluelet liquor store in a small square with a sculpture garden and outdoor seating. Don’t miss the panko-fried oysters. Head to Tacofino tacos made with locally sourced fish tacos. For dinner, reserve a table at Wolf in the Fog, where Chef Nicholas Nutting makes a killer Moroccan spiced octopus served on chickpeas, peppers, and tomatoes.
We took BC Ferries, which has crossings to Nanaimo from two Vancouver ferry terminals. It’s a leisurely way to get to the island and a nice break for the person behind the wheel. Alternatively, Orca Airways flies directly into Tofino from Vancouver International Airport’s South Terminal.
BMW X1 feels less like an SUV and more like a tall and lean hatchback, the kind with sporty suspension and precise steering to handle sharp curves in any kind of weather. And we got any (and all) kinds of weather on our road trip from Vancouver to Tofino. Inside, the X1 is as quiet as a finely appointed leather sanctuary, and roomy enough for two tall adults in the front and three rambunctious kids in the back. Everyone loved the ambient lighting on the dash and doors, and the 6.5-inch iDrive screen is well designed and intuitive. This all-wheel drive features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four connected to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
Photos: Allison Kuhl