Tofino: An overview/budget review

I have only amassed about three weeks of travel in the past two and a half years. I know it’s a lot, and I know how lucky I am for that. But damn, for someone who’s used to spending 3-4 months of the year abroad it’s hard. So, Adam and I decided a long weekend away was in order. We were going to go to the states, but I’m kind of dodged out by the US because Canadian/American exchange rate is, for lack of a better word, complete and utter shit; also, I’m not too fond of who the people put in power. The combo made it a pretty easy choice to stay in Canada. We didn’t want to fly anywhere, so we thought Vancouver Island would be perfect. With my luxurious family weekend in Tigh-Na-Mara still fresh in my mind, my first thought was spa. Then we looked up the prices for spas. We ended up deciding on Tofino because I hadn’t been out that way since I was about eight, and it has some amazing, super British Columbia-y stuff going for it. Think lush rain-forests and tsunami evacuation signs.

Heralded by everyone telling us Tofino is beautiful but, “oh! It’s so expensive there!” we decided to go for it. I truly believe there always a way to see a place regardless of budget. The problem with this trip was that we only had a weekend. The slower you travel, the cheaper you travel. But alas, we both have steady jobs, so what can you do.

Tofino is pretty easy to get to from Vancouver. You could go this weekend on a greyhound for about $100. We opted to take my Mom’s car because, well, she loaned it to us and Adam likes to drive.

It quickly became a game of me sending pictures like that to her and alerting her to all the fun her car is having without her.

We started our journey from my house in the suburbs and drove to the ferries. If you’re driving the quickest way is hands down Horseshoe Bay- Nanaimo. We made it on to the 8:30 a.m crossing and since it wasn’t a long weekend, our Friday morning was nice and cruisey. BC ferries is… well, it’s the only option so I’m not going to critique it too much. You pay about $18 for each passenger, and an extra $55 for the car.

After we got off the ferry we followed the signs. We did make some stop though….

This is Little Qualicum Falls. They have an upper and a lower route. Because my body is still messed up, we did the lower route. It took about twenty minutes and was a nice little detour.

All in all, there are a lot of amazing things about the off season. It’s cheaper, less crowded… but a lot of stuff we stopped for was closed until March. Most notably Coombs market, which has always been one of my favourite places on the Island.

One thing that wasn’t closed? ….actually it’s only open Saturdays but she sold us cheese anyway… Was Coleman Meadows Farm! We stopped there because we saw a buffalo dairy sign and I’m obsessed with buffalo mozzarella, which ended up being our dinner that night.

Also, water buffalo are super cute. After we pet the dog and checked out the chickens, we headed on.

We stopped for fudge, and whenever we saw something Adam wanted to take a photo of and eventually, via a beautiful, windy road, we got to Tofino. We checked in to the Tofino Hostel which I love an am going to write a separate post on because I can talk for hours about it- and then got groceries. All up we spent about $120 for cheeses, meats, eggs, and veggies, and the only time we ate out was Sunday night. We brought wine, so we had a bottle with with a buffalo mozarella and cherry tomato salad. We went to bed early because I woke up before ten and my body was done.

The next day we decided to do the national park and Ucluelet. There’s basically a road, and you turn left and get Ucluelet, and turn right you get Pacific Rim National Park and after that, Tofino. We decided we were going to go to the start of the park, and work our way in. After stopping at a few beaches to check out surfers- basically anywhere there was a lot of cars… look, we packed all wrong. I packed after going to the pub with Adam for Australia day, and the next morning we had my dad going on about how we woke up too late and all that. I forgot a lot of stuff. People had said there’d be wind, but a part of me didn’t believe them. After two beaches we decided we needed to hit up Ucluelet in hopes of finding something that covered ears and some gloves.

It made all the difference.

We wanted to go to the aquarium in Ucluelet, but sadly, there was a “closed until March” sign on the door. Ugh, March.

We went on to the national park and saw some amazing sights. The Amphitrite Lighthouse has some great rocks that you’re not supposed to climb on…

And we got as far as we could go on the Wikaninnish Trail, but a fallen tree stopped us.

The most amazing part was comparing that to the Shorepine Bog beside it.

It’s amazing how things so close can be so drastically different.

We also checked out the visitor centre, and every beach that was open.

We stopped at Tofino brewing company that night to pick up some beer. The tasting room was amazing and super affordable- it was only $6 for a flight! We decided to take a growler back to the hostel for dinner.

The hostel had a beer-cider-wine only rule, and a strict 11 pm quiet time. It worked out well since we had booked a hot springs tour the next morning. We managed to get the tour for $95 each since the hostel gave us a discount. It was amazing, and again, I’m going to write separately on it. Basically you go on a little whaling boat, hike 2km, then sit in a hot spring. All up a great day.

We went back to the brewery and get our growler filled, which was only $12- seriously, Tofino brewing is amazing!

We decided to go out that night, and ended up going to a place called Wolf in the Fog based on lots of recommendations. And guys… this was probably the best meal of my life. We split the bread that was the most worth it carbs I’ve ever had, the vegetarian of the day option- a pizza with just… I don’t even know what was on it but it was amazing, eggplant tempura that was the most perfect balance of crunch, vinegar and heaviness, sticky toffee pudding, and chocolate mousse. The drinks were amazing, the service was some of the best. We sat right by the kitchen window. I’m seafood/shellfish intolerant- I KNEW some of the stuff would make me ill, but yet I wanted to eat it anyway.And I’m not even going to start on the drinks, but wow. They were amazing. A lot of people told us it was expensive. Maybe it’s because we split things, maybe it’s because we didn’t have any fish or meat, but it was more than reasonable. The best part? I overheard the bartender- who was actually a manager who wanted to get better at the bar- telling someone the bread was made with a two year old sourdough starter. I asked if I could buy some. The pastry chef came out with a big bucket, for free. He chatted with us and was so nice. He and Adam had a nice, “Hey! We’re both Australian!” moment. The staff all looked genuinely happy to be at work, and the way they were talking to each other fostered such a sense of support. Instead of barking “come here”, it was “hey, do you have a minute?” The entire vibe was amazing.

Seriously, if you eat out once in Tofino, Wolf in the Fog. And follow their instagram, but don’t look at it when you’re hungry because… well, yeah.

We went back to the hostel and relaxed, drank some beer, and talked to people, then went to bed because we had to be up early in the morning.

We drove home on the Monday. It was sad to leave. I felt really rejuvenated. We were going to do a few more hikes, but I pushed my body a little too far and my calves HURT, so we kept it simple. We did, however, call Coleman meadows and asked if they could sell us some cheese. Which they did. Seriously, I cannot stress how amazing the cheese was, and how great it was just to chat with the owners. I babied my cheese and starter on the car ride home. Especially the starter, which had expanded and had me worried it’d explode all over the car during the ferry ride.

Yes, that’s buffalo brie. You’re reading that right.

Seriously, look how much starter there is.

All in all it was an amazing weekend. It didn’t break our banks, and we ate, drank, and did some really amazing things. Instead of souvenirs for family, we brought back a six pack and drank it with pizza we made with our starter and buffalo cheese. Also, throughout the weekend I pet 11 dogs, which is truly priceless.

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Tofino: An overview/budget review

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