When we arrived to Tofino on Saturday afternoon, we had two things on our minds – Crabs and Waves. We parked the van and got on our bikes to explore the renowned “Capital of Canadian Surfing”.
It doesn’t take too long to see most of Tofino. Coffee shops, bakeries, and surf shops sit side by side on the main drag. The many vans with boards on the top are added evidence to the sport of choice here. We stopped into Live To Surf to find out where the best beaches were. Cox Bay, Chesterman’s and the 6 mile Long Beach were all excellent choices.
We arrived to town too late to rent boards for the day, but we decided to test our skills on Sunday - wearing full wet suits of course. In a town where the average summer temperature is 58 and the water is 5 degrees colder, nobody gets in the water without the proper attire.
Having devised our surf strategy, next up was our crab hunt. We rode our bikes down to the docks where an enterprising young man was selling dungenous crabs live and kicking. He pulled his traps out of the water and picked out 3 large and particularly feisty examples. After double bagging it, we rode away with our angry bundle.
That night we drove to the Pacific Rim National Park where we’d lucked into a camp site for the night. We boiled and picked the crab in anticipation for the next day’s crab cakes on the beach.
When we woke up Sunday morning, it was 50 degrees, drizzling and windy. We put our surf dreams on hold and instead explored the beaches. It was beautiful, but we found ourselves feeling disconnected from our surroundings until we pulled into the Incinerator Rock parking lot. Here we found what would become our favorite place in all of Tofino. Located on the north edge of Long Beach, this stretch of perfect waves tempted us even in the bad weather.
We parked the van and sat back to watch the Canadian surfers not even flinch in the cold gray weather. It was the perfect place to relax, pop the top and cook up our crab cakes. By evening, everyone packed up and headed back to town. Sunday night Tofino celebrated the end of the summer with the annual Lantern Festival.
We joined the line of locals on their way to the Tofino Botanical Gardens where hundreds of twinkling lanterns were being lit. Yes it’s a cliche, but dark, lush rainforest paths festooned with lanterns of all colors, shapes and sizes is a magical sight. We walked through the paths twice, just to be sure we didn’ t miss a single glowing star, toadstool, or jellyfish. Live acoustic music played in the Garden cafe to accompany the sparkling scene.
After such a perfect night, we could only think of one way to complete it. Sleeping at the Decharge of course.
We’d discovered some wonderful things that we enjoyed about Tofino, but the one thing we still hadn’t gotten a handle on was where to camp. The campgrounds were very nice, but in peak season, extremely expensive. The one area that was reasonably priced was perpetually sold out. Every street was marked with 4 hours only parking signs and beach parking was daytime only, strictly enforced. So we took the advice of a friendly local who told us that “the kids” in town would sometimes go by the landfill to camp. Well if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for us. So after our sparkling evening in the gardens, we drove down to the Dump.
Though not our most scenic sites, it was a peaceful night’s sleep and the next morning we were back in town where we settled in at Vincentes Coffee Shop to work. At the end of the day, we were faced again with the camping dilemma. Then Tim looked down the street and saw the Unimog Man. This enormous 20 foot tall, dump truck of an RV had found the only side street with no 4 hour parking signs. In fact there were no signs at all. It appeared to be totally sanctioned downtown parking with no limitations. We pulled Frank up right behind the towering Unimog. Next to this vehicle, we knew Frank wouldn’t draw any attention.
Here we spent our next 2 nights, working and playing downtown. Our side street was directly across from the small police station but no one seemed bothered by us. After the Unimog Man left, we were joined by other vans. It appeared we’d discovered the secret camp spot of Tofino, right in the middle of it all.
After two nights of town, we decided not to wear out our welcome so we began to head south. After a few rainy days the sun finally came out, so we spent Thursday working at Incinerator Rock. Here we saw gray whales in the distance, lots of surfers and a spectacular sunset.
Tomorrow promises to be another beautiful day as well. We’re taking some time off to finally get our surfing fix. We can’ t leave Canada’s surf capital without giving it a shot!
Posted from British Columbia, Canada.