A Long Weekend in Tofino, Vancouver Island, Canada

Spring here upon us in the Pacific Northwest and we are feeling a little bit itchy for some outdoor time. It’d been a while since we ventured up to Canada so we pulled out our passports and headed north.

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Vancouver Island is just a short hop away from those of us living in Washington State. There are several ways for us to enter Canada, the cheapest for us was to cross the border at Peace Arch (on I-5) and then take the Tsawwassen Ferry to Nanaimo. From there it was a 3 hour trip across the island to our weekend home: Green Point Campground in Pacific Rim National Park. The tiny towns of Tofino and Uceluet are about 20 minutes away.

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You’ve probably heard of Tofino; it is the popular West Coast surf mecca and also a great location for spotting Pacific Northwest wildlife. May and June are the best months for migrating whales, as the humpbacks and greys are on their journey north to Alaska. Transient pods of orcas also come through about once a week as they search for salmon and sea lions.

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Because we’ve got two young children in tow, we’ve decided that three nights of camping followed by a night in a hotel is a good balance for our family. The hotel gives us a chance to wash off the grime and have a solid night’s sleep. We can also do laundry (if needed) in the sink and fill up our water tanks.

 

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Green Point campground was delightful, as the sites are relatively secluded and Canadians have a lovely sense of decorum when it comes to loud music and raucous behavior. We had a reservation for Site 29, which is on the eastern side of the loop. No ocean views but nicely wooded and close to bathrooms and campground trails.

 

The real gem is the camp’s proximity to Long Beach as it sits directly on the bluff above the sand.

 

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Ben inspects the dead sea lion. Weekend in Tofino-131814

 

The highlight of our trip was a whale/wildlife watching boat ride with Clayoquot Wild, a family-run tour service out of Tofino . It was just us, the captain, and another family with two small boys. Ben became fast friends with the brothers and spent the trip gleefully running fore to aft and peppering our laid-back captain with endless questions.

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We saw four humpback whales feeding in a large cove about 45 minutes from Tofino.

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Emma was having a rough day but rallied for a bit for whale spotting. Weekend in Tofino-172856 Weekend in Tofino-172811 Camping in Tofino-7360 Camping in Tofino-7323 Weekend in Tofino-182639 There is also a local Stellar sea lion colony that we visited before heading back to the harbor.
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We completed a few short hikes in the vicinity of our campground, our favorites included the inland loop of the Rainforest Trail and the Lighthouse Loop near Uceluelet.

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Our final night we stayed at an inn in Uceluelet before heading out early for the trip home.

 

This guy waved goodbye as we hit the road.

 

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Trip Details
Date of Trip: May 2016
Departure: Seattle, Washington, USA
Arrival: Green Point Campground, near Tofino, British Columbia
Total driving distance: 316 miles (plus a 2-hr ferry ride)
Accommodations: Campground and hotel
Route: A more detailed route map of our trip, including places we stayed and ate, can be found here.

 

Trip Itinerary
Day 1
Driving: 109 miles.
Accommodation:Birch Bay State Park (near Bellingham)
Day 2
Driving: 200 miles. Drive approximately 30 minutes. Cross Canada border. Catch ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo. Drive 3 hours to Tofino.
Activities: Cathedral Grove walk (1km). Walk on Long Beach.
Day 3
Driving: 20 miles to Tofino.
Activities: Whale watching tour with Clayoquot Wild. Visit Chesterman Beach and watch the surfers.
Day 4
Driving: minimal.
Accommodation:Outside Inn, Ucluelet (Dated but clean and roomy family cabins)
Activities: Rainforest loop (1km). Lighthouse Loop (5kms)(Ucluelet)
Food: Howler’s in Ucluelet. The food is nothing special but they have free 5-pin bowling and (pay) arcade games for the kids. A perfect way to unwind after a weekend of camping. We also heard good recommendations for Tacofino and Tofino Brewing Company.
Day 5
Driving: 316 miles. Approx. 8 hours. Drive back to Seattle from Vancouver Island.

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