An up-and-coming vacation destination.

15 07 27 Tofino 0

It’s dinnertime, and the evening sun is streaming through the windows as the waitress brings my Cedar Sour, a blend of cedar-infused rye, lemon thyme, lemon and egg white served with a skewer of dark, juicy cherries in a vintage glass. The space is bustling, as servers dressed casually yet purposefully introduce patrons to the night’s menu and, behind the bar, the sound of ice in cocktail shakers provides a counterpoint to energetic conversation.

15 07 27 Tofino 2An Up-and-Coming Destination

It’s a scene that could be playing out in any big city: trendy restaurant, locavore cuisine, a well-curated wine, beer and cocktail list. But this isn’t Toronto or Montreal; I’m at Wolf in the Fog in Tofino. This tiny town on Vancouver Island’s west coast has spent two decades transforming its image from laid-back surf town to, well, laid-back surf town with benefits, among them stylish lodging, big-city-worthy cuisine and top-tier amenities, all set against a backdrop of rugged natural beauty.

Scenic Mornings and Active Afternoons

My weekend starts with the sweetest of laziness: I wake up early thanks to jet lag, but after a quick trip downstairs for a cup of coffee, I’m back in bed, snuggled under the covers in my upstairs bedroom at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort. I’m watching the waves lap the shores of Long Beach as more energetic guests wander the sandy beach or head into the water with their surfboards. And while the downtime feels exquisite, the sun is shining from a bright blue sky, so I decide to make the most of it and head into town for a midday kayaking session in the calm waters of the harbour. After a quick refresher in technique we launch off the dock and head out across the sandbars – they’re flooded with water now at high tide – to explore the rocky shores of the little islands that dot the inlet, hunting for sea stars and kelp crabs and taking time to gaze at distant mountain tops as bald eagles
circle overhead.

Exploring Nature and Sea Life

The next day, I’m up early for a boat ride to Hot Springs Cove, once a well-kept local secret but now a popular spot for visitors. The 90-minute trip includes stops to spot local wildlife like sea lions, seals and sea otters. Once I arrive at the dock, it’s a gentle 30-minute walk along a well-kept boardwalk to the cove itself—a natural hot stream and waterfall that runs out of the earth and the shore and dip my legs in, the water alternating between cold and hot as the swell rises and falls. On my 15-minute return to town via float plane, I catch sight of a grey whale breaking through the water’s surface and get a bird’s eye view of the secret beaches and tree-topped islands that dot the edge of Clayoquot Sound.

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Visiting the Spa

That afternoon, I take the relaxation even deeper with a visit to Ancient Cedars Spa at the upscale Wickaninnish Inn. My masseuse, Aya, greets me in the lounge and escorts me to the sunny outdoor patio for a foot soak and a cup of island-grown peppermint-lemongrass tisane. She brings me into the treatment room for a tension-releasing full-body massage, alternating long strokes with detailed release in my most knotted-up muscles. I find myself nodding off thanks to the soothing scent of the cedar- and sage-scented oil that was specially blended for the spa and whichI chose for its on-theme local ingredients. Afterwards, I linger in the lounge, gazing out at the ocean as I sip citrus-flavoured water and bring my mind back to earth.

Everything You Need To Know if You go to Tofino:

How to get there: It’s an hour-long flight to Tofino from Vancouver International Airport. You can also drive from Victoria International Airport (4 1/2 hours) or from the Nanaimo ferry terminal (3 hours), which has frequent service
to Vancouver.

Where to Stay: The beachfront Pacific Sands Beach Resort offers accommodations with full kitchens. The two-bedroom beach houses (from $460) sleep six and include an outdoor deck and double-soaker tub with views of the surf.

Good Eats: Be sure to reserve ahead to dine at Wolf in the Fog. For more-casual meals, pick up locally made charcuterie and fine cheeses at Picnic Charcuterie , perhaps paired with seasonal beer from the Tofino Brewing Company.

Connecting to Nature: Jamie’s Whaling Station & Adventure Centres offers a selection of tours, such as whale watching, bear watching and the Hot Springs Sea and Sky Tour ($199), which includes round trip transportation to Hot Springs Cove and about two hours to spend at the hot springs.

Get Active: Tofino offers a plethora of active adventures. Go kayaking with Paddle West Kayaking, learn how to paddleboard with Tofino Paddle Surf, take a surfing lesson (available right outside the Pacific Sands) with Surf Sister or simply explore the local hiking trails.

Enjoy the Spa: As well as massage, treatments at the Wickaninnish Inn’s Ancient Cedars Spa include facials, nail care, aesthetics, acupressure and hydrotherapy, with products from brands like SeaFlora and Intelligent
Nutrients. Be sure to book ahead to ensure that you can visit at your preferred time.

Shopping: Browse for gifts and art in cute downtown boutiques and galleries. Recommended stops include Christy Feaver Modern Metalworks, House of Himwitsa, Merge: An Artisan Collective and the Roy Henry Vickers Eagle Aerie Gallery.