This island is amazing. The forests make me feel like we’re lost in time and a dinosaur could meet us around the next turn. The crystal clear water makes me feel like no one has ever stepped foot in it. The winding narrow roads make me feel like we’re riding an epic roller coaster through the woods. It makes me… feel. Simply that. After the first 5 days here, I didn’t think it could get any better, but the island was ready to prove me wrong.
Over the previous 1500 miles or so, our Airstream, Schminuss, has been sitting a bit uneven so we decided to take her into an RV service center to get the hitch adjusted. A wonderful repair tech named Kurtis was more than happy to bust out his impact wrench and give us a hand. The sound of the air gun gave me the sensation that we were in a NASCAR-esque pit stop at the Vancouver 500! After a few turns of the wrench, the rig was now level as could be, and we were on our way west towards Ucluelet.
By now, we’ve gotten used to the crazy old logging roads on the island, but the Pacific Rim Highway would end up putting me to the test. Semi trucks, hairpin turns, 18% grades and unbelievable views made it quite a challenge. More than a few times my beautiful co-pilot had to remind me to pick up my jaw and pay attention to the road. The highway hugs both Sproat and Kennedy Lakes along the way, so you’ll want to be sure to leave some time to pull over and explore a bit. Another place not to miss is MacMillan Provincial Park, home of Cathedral Grove which contains some of the tallest trees on the island. Any Star Wars fans out there? This grove should look familiar as it was the setting for some of the planet Endor scenes in Return of the Jedi! Sadly, we didn’t see any ewoks on our hike…
After a few hours spent ogling the views along the route, we arrived in Ucluelet. Our home for the night would be a site perched upon a hill overlooking the marina of the Island West Fishing Resort. The drive had pretty much wiped me out, so The Duchess and I decided to take it easy. We spent the night having a few too many Lucky Lagers at the Eagle’s Nest Pub which helped put us right to bed.
Tofino Day 1
Early bird gets the worm right? Well today, the early bird got the sought after RV spot on the ever popular Tofino peninsula. It’s July. The whole damn area was full. Duh! All the parks and campgrounds we called couldn’t accommodate us, but thankfully we found one lone “first come first served” resort. MacKenzie Beach Resort would be home base for the next two days in Tofino… and two days became three.
I’d like to think I’m a good trip planner. Caitlin and I always joke that I should get in the travel agency game if my career in the music industry ever gets old. Whenever I travel, I usually search Instagram for the most epic pictures of my destination, find where they were taken, and try my best to make it there. Tofino was easily the most beautiful pictures I came across, so I’ve been on a mission to get there ever since I first laid eyes on it. Believe me, it did not disappoint.
Our first day was spent setting up camp and doing a taste test of the local fair. First stop, Tacofino. This taco truck inspired by “bold flavours and back alley BBQs encountered while hitting up surf destinations all over the world” damn near brought me to tears. The line was long, and the eating area was full. Normally I wouldn’t have the patience for this, but the fact that half of the people there still had their wetsuits on made this an experience I wanted stick around for. The Tuna Taco, tastefully topped with a seaweed salad, was our favorite and the watermelon basil slushy made me question all other slushies I’ve ever had. Follow that up with the famous Chocolate Diablo Cookie (sweet and chocolaty at first, but ends with a slow burn that makes you want another bite) and you’ve got a very happy Duke and Duchess.
Our second stop was the Tofino Brewing Company. This small warehouse had a full brewery on one side, and a small tasting room on the other. We enjoyed a flight of their finest beers, and picked the bartenders brain about the area. My personal favorite was the Blonde Ale, but the big surprise to me was the Kelp Stout. Talk about locally sourced!
Last but not least was our sushi experience at The Inn at Tough City. This little sushi bar is the restaurant of a super cool hotel constructed using repurposed goods from around the world. We sat outside facing the Clayoquot sound and got a front row seat to watch the many sea planes taking off and landing in the sound. The local BC Kusshi Oysters, served Japanese style with green onions, chili, daikon radish, and ponzu sauce, were some of the best I’ve ever had. Caitlin is NOT an oyster girl, but she agreed that these oysters were legit. All the food and brews had me ready for an early night in.
Tofino Day 2
We started day two slow by getting some work done and playing with Paisley dog. Once we got bored we looked at our options for the day. SEAPLANE. Why not, ehh? After one quick google search we were booked on the 2 o’clock Tofino Air Coastal Tour. The area is full of small islands that you can’t otherwise see from the shore, so the air in one of few options. We showed up at the harbor with a smile from ear to ear. Caitlin has been on a seaplane before, but this was a first for me. We boarded with a couple from Belgium, and a lone traveler from Ontario. The flight was a short 30 minutes, but with as much turbulence as we were hitting, I don’t think I could have handled any longer. We could have done the Lone Cone mountain hike to get similar views but this bird’s eye view of Tofino, it’s beaches, and the surrounding islands was out of this world.
Once I got my stomach in order, we got a table at Shelter to enjoy some of their highly recommended Calamari. Four thumbs up from us on this one. After dinner we went back to Mackenzie Beach Resort to catch the sunset. I’ve heard that Tofino sunsets are unparalleled, and I can now attest to that. We couldn’t take a bad picture even if we tried. The brisk walk on the beach got us nice and ready to crawl into bed for a cozy cuddle sesh and a movie to end the evening.
Tofino Day 3
I woke up to a particularly rambunctious Paisley so I took her for a little jog around the area. She LOVED it. Our list of to-do’s had us heading to the grocery store, but instead we ended up at yet another one of Tofino’s fine dining establishments. Hey, we’re foodies, what can I say? Wolf in the Fog would be our last nice meal before we had to leave, and it was incredible. The “When Harry Met Sally” Caesar (Bloody Mary for you Americans), with smoked salmon-infused vodka and topped with garlic scapes and olives was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was so good I had to order a second. Caitlin and I went untraditional, and got a few things to share between us. We tried their take on a seaweed salad, a side of mac and cheese. Both were next level. For our main course we split the Halloumi Panzanella which consisted of confit, dried and raw tomato, balsamic croutons, halloumi, olives, basil. Wow. The epic meal put us in the mood for a relaxing hang on the beach. We took some beers, a speaker, a few snacks and my Innova Disc Golf travel basket down to the beach and soaked up the sun. We had a blast listening to some Lewis Del Mar (a band I used to work for) while I did my best to get my putting game on point. The rest of the evening was spent on the beach, checking out tide pools and watching the seemingly endless glow of campfires dotting the entire length of the beach.
Pine Ridge RV Park / Little Qualicum Falls
It was hard to pull ourselves out of bed on the 4th morning, knowing we had to leave Tofino already. It’s truly a special place. We can not wait to come back here again. Alas, we packed up our stuff in record time, and started making our way back across the island. It would only be a two and half hour drive to the Pine Ridge RV Park and Farmer’s Market. The fine folks of Pine Ridge, Paul and Kris, have an amazing little area of land near Spider Lake which is about 45 minutes north of Nanaimo. There’s only 11 RV spots here, so it’s really low key and relaxed. A perfect way to end our stay here on the island. Paul runs a small farmer’s market at the entrance of the park, and it’s stocked with TONS of amazing produce. Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is about a 20 minute drive and it ended up being a perfect way for me to get some exercise after the food fest the was Tofino. There’s a nice loop around the park which takes you to both Upper and Lower Qualicum Falls.
Caitlin took this opportunity to turn the woods into her own classroom and taught me about the several different slime molds we spotted as well as some fungi, parasitic flowers, and lichens.
Once we got back to the park we took Paisley for a W.A.L.K. around the grounds. Little did we know that this area is Slugapalooza! The slugs were literally everywhere on the side of the road. I was worried that Paisley was gonna poop on one!!
That brings us to the end of the island trip. What an adventure! We’re back on the mainland for the rest of the summer. I had to leave for a work trip, so Caitlin will be manning the vessel with her first mate Paisley dog for a while. Stay tuned for my next post as I detail more of the work side of things.