Meet the whales
There are quite a few companies in Tofino offering whale-watching trips. I can’t remember why we chose this one, but we certainly had a wonderful experience. One thing we liked was that the boat was small. This means that everyone gets a seat close to the action. It also means that this might not be a good choice if you’re nervous of water or of the whales themselves. At one point a grey whale swam alongside our boat for several minutes. I know that she knew we were there and had decided to keep us company for a while, and perhaps check that we weren’t a threat. I found that an incredible experience, but I think a couple of the more nervous passengers were a little concerned she might swim under our small boat and surface beneath it, sending us shooting into the water! But please don’t let that put you off taking this trip, it really is amazing. Of course there’s no guarantee that you’ll see whales, let alone get as close to them as we did, but the company make this offer on their website: on trips that do not see whales we offer our passengers a complimentary trip with no expiry date. They wouldn’t do that if they weren’t pretty confident!
Trips last 2 ½ hours and run 3 times a day, Mar 1st – Oct 15th. You buy your ticket at the Whale Centre Museum on Campbell St - it’s a good idea to book ahead, especially in high season. You’re asked to be at the museum an hour before the trip to be kitted out in appropriate gear (see photo 2) and the group then makes its way down to the jetty together.
During the trip the guide will do their best to make sure you get as close to whales as possible, and will also point out other interesting wildlife – we saw seals, sea lions, various birds. We also saw a grey whale with her calf, although perhaps unsurprisingly she didn’t come quite as close!
This isn’t a cheap outing – tickets cost $69 for adults, $59 for students and seniors, and $45 for children aged 4-12. But I really think it is worth every penny and would highly recommend it.
- Whale Watching
This was an experience to rival the whale watching trip in Tofino as “best bit of the holiday” – in fact on reflection this one maybe just takes the prize! We both love flying but had never had the chance to go up in a float plane before, so when we saw this tour on offer we couldn’t resist. We were lucky enough to be the only passengers, and the whole flight was amazing! Firstly, taking off from water rather than a runway was of course new for us. Then, the views as we flew out over Clayoquot Sound were fantastic – deserted coves, unspoiled wooded hills and here and there a picturesque home tucked away on a private bay. Further out we came to the real highlight, viewing some of the grey whales from above, including this mother and calf. Far too soon the 20 minute flight was over and we headed back to Tofino for the final treat, the touch-down on the sea. A truly memorable experience!
Our tour cost $65 (Canadian) per person back in 2002, but I haven’t been able to find out what they charge now. Whatever it is, if you can afford it it’s worth it!
NB There are more photos in my travelogue if you're interested
- Whale Watching
COOL Art Gallery...The Eagle Aerie...
Walking into the space of The Eagle Aerie Gallery is like a breath of FRESH air...Its huge open area is tasetefully designed and when I walk through the doors I instantly feel at Peace.
This is the home of Roy Henry Vickers work...Roy is recognized as one of Canada's "premier artists".
If you dont know the work of this man you certainly will once you've ventured into this little piece of his World here at the Eagle Aerie.
I will quote Wikepedia ...." Vickers was born on the Nass River but raised in Kitkatla, Hazelton, British Columbia, and Victoria, B.C. His father was a fisherman who was matrilineally Tsimshian, also with Haida and Heiltsuk ancestry. His mother was a schoolteacher whose parents had immigrated from England and who was in the 1940s adopted into the Eagle clan at Kitkatla, B.C. (making Roy also Eagle). His grandfather was a Kitkatla canoe-carver. The paintings and works that he has created reflect this mixed heritage as his work has many elements of the traditional art of the First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
Roy is one of my favourite artists ..he works in a number of different mediums.... stop by and see it for yourself.I think you'll be happy that you did.
One of my visits his brother let me photograph some of the carvings ....I think they are SO AWSOME....my house isn't large enough to show them properly...for that matter....my wallet isn't fat enough to be able to carry one of these beauties away...so I have nice pictures of them instead...THANK YOU Mr.Vickers !!
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
Sea Kayaking adventures.....
Kayaking on the Pacific can be sometimes challenging and dangerous yet ALWAYS beautiful !!
There are a bevy of operations in the town of Tofino that will guide you in and around the area.
Short two to three hour trips are available as well as longer multi night camping and kayak adventures.
Sorry... there are none that I would recommend but they are easily found.
Tofino and Clayoquot Sound are situated right alongside the North South migration route of the Grey Whale.In the Spring they migrate from Winter calving grounds in and around the Baja Peninsula North to Summer feeding areas in and around Alaska.In the Fall the reverse happens and once again they go right past the general area.
There are again a large selection of companies that are available to take you out....I have once upon a time gone along with one company but I will not make any recommendations for you.
The link I will provide you with below is for the Tofino Chamber of Commerce
- Whale Watching
Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park
Long Beach is one of the most famous beaches located in the Pacific Rim National Park. It's one very long sandy beach with a giant rock located offshore.
The waves of the Pacific Ocean crash into Long Beach creating an enormous roar, but the waves from November to April are especially powerful so be careful. This is often when you'll find serious surfers out in those waters, as it's when you'll get the best surf.
The water is otherwise too cold to go swimming, but it's shallow enough to get your feet wet as long as you don't venture out into the big waves.
Pieces of driftwood and logs are strewn along where the sand meets the brush, and often people will turn the logs upright. I remember coming here as a 14 year old in the summer with my parents and sister. At night there were groups of people playing guitar and singing songs. They had lit beach fires, and the upturned logs reminded me of a tribal camp. I still remember those visits fondly.
Most recently I visited Long Beach in February of 2008 at sunset. We brought out the guitar and practically had the beach to ourselves. But what a sight with the brilliant oranges and pinks in the sky, and the mist rising off of the whitecaps... it was truly magical. Long Beach is definitely what this entire region is all about.
- National/State Park
Walk the Rainforest Trail
This has to be the top of anybody's "to do" list when they go to Tofino. To miss the rainforest trail in Pacific Rim National Park would be a huge travesty (in my opinion) considering how easily-accessible and sublimely awe-inspiring it is.
There are actually two rainforest trails labeled simply, Rainforest Trail A and Rainforest Trail B. They're located immediately off of Hwy 4 and each have their own parking lots at the head of each trail.
As you enter the trail, it becomes an intricate boardwalk of stairs, bridges, and walkways elevated above the forest floor. You can access and experience the sights, smells, and spiritual atmosphere of this rare, undisturbed, old growth temperate rainforest in ways that are generally impossible to experience from the side of the road. The vegetation is lush and vibrant. The enormous cedars and douglas firs have been living here since before Europeans colonized the continent. The tree trunks are coated in carpets of moss, and the forest floor is a dense mixture of salal and sword ferns. Keep your eyes open for wild mushrooms and flowers. In the background is the constant sound of a babbling stream.
Contrary to what you may expect, the rainforest trail walk makes for a perfect rainy day activity. The canopy of the forest offers shelter, and the rain adds a certain lushness and intimacy to the experience. The smells of the forest are more pronounced in the rain, and sounds of the rain and the rivers are almost primal. While I'm not a religious person, a walk through the rainforest trail in the rain is one of the most spiritual experiences you can get.
Each trail is relatively short - you can probably walk one loop in 20-30 minutes, however, if you want to take your time, take some photos, and truly soak up the atmosphere, you could easily spend one hour at each loop. Both trail loops are located on either side of the highway from eachother, so you can park your car at one location and cross the highway to walk the other.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- National/State Park
Tofino Has Much To Keep Everyone Busy.
The most obvious of course if going for long walks on the beach which is ever changing with the tides and the weather. The hardy might enjoy walking the beach in the midst of a storm. Caution is advisable.
Storm watching is popular during the winter. Either from a cabin or right out on the shore. Beachcombing is also popular.
Every March and April it is possible to watch the migration of the Pacific gray whales.
There are also hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty and length.
Surf boarders can often be seen riding the waves all along the shoreline. The water is cold and most often wetsuits are worn.
Shopping in also popular. Art lovers will have a great time browsing in the galleries and shops.
There are also souvenir and craft shops.
If you are lucky you might see some of the eagles in flight or as pictured below.
On the road leading into Tofino there are a couple places to stop and explore the rain forest... look for the signs marking "Cathedral Grove." Parking costs a few dollars.
The trails consist of boardwalks, which protect the forest and make the walking a little easier. There are lots of educational signs with great information on the different kinds of trees and how the forests grow. Particularly interesting are the nurse trees - when a big tree falls and begins to decay, other trees will grow on top of it, using the nutrients from the old tree.
Many of the trees are giants.. their size makes you feel tiny. These trees were prized by explorers who used them for ship masts.
Taking a walk through the rainforest is a peaceful experience not to be missed.
- National/State Park
- Jungle and Rain Forest
We spent hours one day climbing over the rocks in more deserted southerly part of Long Beach looking at all the marine life captured in the tidal pools left when the tide retreated. There were all sorts of crabs, anenomes, starfish and of course little fish of all kinds.
Explore Tofino Village
Tofino is a quaint little village on the West Coast of the Island. There are many interesting things to see. Art galleries abound from the quaint to the sophisticated. The harbor offers interesting vistas. Your walk will take you to a beautiful rhododendron garden situated in a private home.
Restaurants are there to suit everyone's taste and budget.
Explore the Beach
Most of the beaches in Tofino are surrounded by rocky areas, and these are good for exploration. There's loads of things to look at in the tidepools - mussels, huge barnacles, green and pink sea anemones, starfish - go looking and take your camera.
The rocks are fun to much around on, too - especially at Mackenzie Beach - they're not too high and crazy on the far left, so kids can enjoy a good climb.
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Learn to Surf!
If you're learning to surf, there are a few options. There's Bruhwhiler Surf School, taught by two local pro surfers, Raph and Sepp, though Raph seems to be the nicer one - Sepp has a reputation for having an ego.
There's Surf Sister, which has a good reputation, and is taught by women - they cater to girls, but will teach guys as well.
There is also Pacific Surf School, which is most central to the town.
For renting there are three places:
+ Long Beach Surf Shop - run by a grey-bearded hippy named Ralph, he is the most entertaining, nice ,and funny surf shop guy - there used to be a guy named Mark who shared the shop with him, but luckily he is gone as he was very perverted when women were around. Ralph can be a bit flirty, but he is harmless.
As for prices, there's are the best in town, and they are very helpful and have no egos. They also have a small selection of high quality boards to buy, including ones made by Gerry Lopez. The rental boards are all soft tops, like most of the board rental places, though some have plastic longboards as well.
Ralph's also has a large CD selection to buy tunes from, and a small bit of clothing.
+ Live to Surf - this is the original surf rental place in Tofino, and they are all right. Situated in a small shack-like building, they are the closest shop to a beach, as the other two shops are in town itself. Lots of clothes, DVDs, etc, and some boards/bodyboards/wetsuits to buy as well.
+ Storm - this is the big shop with everything, including quite a big selection of surfboards to buy. If you want variety, this is the place. They also do rentals, but I believe this is the most pricey place to get stuff from.
All the surf shops are run by surfers, so they know what they are talking about.
- Water Sports
Hot Springs (2)
A unique hike in that it was led by a black lab named Ebie. Our real guide took a nap in the boat and commanded Ebie to take us to the Hot Springs. Immediately Ebie set out on the trail and scouted ahead for bears. Every two or three minutes she would race back wagging to make sure we hadn't strayed. Sure enough we got to the springs without becoming lost or becoming bear lunch.
- Hiking and Walking
take a boat out a few miles into the Pacific
There are whales, orcas and sea lions just a few miles offshore. But you will never see them unless you arrange for a boat to take you out a bit. After you see the marine wildlife, a cruise around Meares Island is fun and certain to offer many views of soaring eagles.
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