Archive for the ‘Tofino Nature’ Category

Living with Wildlife in Tofino

Author: The Shore

By Jen Dart

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Clayoquot Sound are home not only to roughly 2,000 year-round residents and some 20,000 daily visitors in the summer, but also several populations of large mammals.

Black bears, wolves and cougars are also year-round inhabitants of the Tofino area, and it’s important to be aware how to manage possible encounters with these remarkable animals.

Obviously, the safest type of viewing opportunity is a wildlife viewing tour by boat. Black bear sightings often also occur by the side of the road or while hiking in the area.

Parks Canada maintains a strict mandate of not disturbing or feeding any wildlife (feeding wildlife is in fact illegal within national parks), including bears.

Too many traffic accidents have occurred when excited motorists stop suddenly or worse, pull over to feed or disturb bears.

When hiking or otherwise enjoying nature in bear country, there are several precautions you can take to avoid an encounter, including hiking in a group and staying in open areas as much as possible.

If you do encounter a bear, don’t run. Bears can easily outrun you, and this behaviour could trigger an altercation. Stay in a group and pick up small children. Give the bear space while backing away slowly and speaking in a soft voice. Pacific Rim has issued further guidelines for potentially more dangerous encounters, which are rare.

There are many important steps to take when using wild areas, including observing any cautions or closures issued by Parks staff. Also, dogs should be leashed at all times.

When camping, never allow wildlife to access food, garbage, toiletries or any other camping gear.

Greenpoint Campground in Pacific Rim has been observing a bare campsite policy for many years, with great success and few wildlife encounters.

Another project, called the WildCoast Project, has been ongoing since 2003. This project, which is a collaboration between staff at Pacific Rim and several others experts, aims to minimize conflicts between those living in and enjoying the area and large carnivores.

While wolf and cougar encounters are uncommon, the project was precipitated by a wolf attack on a kayaker in Clayoquot Sound in 2000.

Encounters continued to increase, as did evidence of the increasing boldness and sometimes aggressive of the animals. There are many theories for this change in behaviour, including changing deer habitat (deer are prey for both wolves and cougars. When the area was being logged heavily, deer were often found in forest clearings. These spaces have diminished and deer may have become more difficult for these carnivores to locate).

Firstly, it’s important to keep wolves and cougars wild and wary of humans. That means not habituating them to the presence of humans or offering rewards such as food attractants left in the open.

Keeping attractants secure at home and in the wilderness, as well scaring the animals away if they get too close are the main things to keep in mind.

If you happen to encounter a wolf or cougar in the wild, pick up small children and maintain your group. Make and maintain eye contact with the animal while waving your arms and shouting.

In other words, do everything you can to appear larger and scare the animal away.

If the animal isn’t backing down, you must back away slowly while not turning your back and maintaining eye contact. As with bears, you must create space between you and the animal. If the situation escalates, use whatever is at hand, such as stones, sticks or pepper spray to strike out at the animal. Strike the animal in the eyes and nose if possible.

However unlikely it is that you will encounter one of the West Coast’s large mammals while enjoying the area, it’s important to be informed of how to defend yourself and those in your group.

In this area, reporting any sightings or encounters to Parks staff will assist in their ongoing research and public safety initiatives. Please also observe any trail or area closures posted.

For more information about living with wildlife, please visit the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve website.

Images: Shayne Kaye, Robert Dewar

Kayaking Clayoquot Sound

Author: The Shore

Tofino sea kayaking

By Jennifer Dart

They can be difficult to spot, but starting in the spring you can see small groups of kayakers paddling around Tofino harbour from your condo window at the Shore.

These groups of intrepid souls weave their way through the harbour traffic of boats and float planes, usually with the help of a guide from one of the local kayak tour companies.

You can spot them by their paddles – yellow, white, and blue beacons that circle continuously in and out of the water.

There is perhaps no better way to experience the shoreline where the rainforest meets the sea than from the peaceful vantage point of a kayak.

The tours that are offered by Tofino companies vary from two-hour excursions around the harbour to week-long trips into the fjords of Clayoquot Sound.

The beginner tours are normally either harbour tours or trips to and from the Big Tree Trail located on Meares Island. Here you will see some of the largest and oldest cedar and spruce trees still standing in Canada. These tours involve about two hours of moderate paddling, and no experience is necessary.

Intermediate tours normally tour inlets or open ocean sections, and involve over two hours of paddling. Some experience is normally necessary for this type of tour, designed for those who are looking for a bit of adventure.

Other companies offer longer, multi-day trips that normally involve several hours of paddling per day, along with camping at night.

However you may choose to explore the coastal area of Tofino by kayak, you will undoubtedly come up close with both sea life and a variety of birds. Paddle past tide pools teeming with anemones, starfish and mussels. Visit rocky islands home to eagles nests in the tall trees. Your kayak guide will have vast knowledge about the natural world, as well as the cultural history of this amazing area.

Another local paddling experience involves Nuu-chah-nulth dugout canoes constructed by Tla-o-qui-aht canoe makers Joe and Carl Martin. Tla-ook Cultural Adventures, owned by Joe’s daughter Gisele, offers day trips in Clayoquot Sound, an island paddle as well as a trip to Meares Island. Native guides discuss what life was like for the local Nuu-chah-nulth tribes, who have inhabited this area for millennia. Like a kayaking trip, everyone is expected to paddle on a Tla-ook adventure.

If you’re already a seasoned kayaker, you may have chosen your waterfront condo at the Shore for its easy water access. Once the marina is completed, there will also be a dockside area to store your kayak. And you’ll be well located to gauge the weather and wind conditions, simply by stepping out onto your patio.

Whatever your level of expertise, Clayoquot Sound offers an unequaled paddling experience.

For a listing of all the local companies offering tours in Clayoquot Sound, visit the directory at Tofino Time Magazine.

Tofino Lighthouse Trail

Author: The Shore

By Jennifer Dart

Tofino Lighthouse TrailThere is an exciting new trail currently under construction in Tofino.

The Lighthouse Trail is a 2km gravel trail that meanders through rainforest and along the open ocean shoreline of the Esowista Peninsula.

Once complete, this beautiful trail will connect Tonquin and Mackenzie Beaches.

Like the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, the Lighthouse Trail will allow hikers the chance to see stunning views of the ocean as well as glimpses of the rainforest.

That means wildlife sightings, overgrown forest, and tide pools up close all in one hike, after which you can walk and relax on the beaches on either end of the trail.

The building crew has been busy since November carving out the trail from the dense forest. First clearing, then laying gravel and other materials such as oyster shells to fill in the trail bed, and also fortifying the edges. Bridge and staircase construction followed, as the trail crosses a creek and meets up with two beaches.

And all this construction took place over Tofino’s rainiest months.

There are smaller loops off the trail that lead to viewpoints and others that lead to secluded beach and forest areas – all wonderful spots to stop and take a rest.

Lighthouse Trail TreesThe trail links parts of town that were previously inaccessible. From the trailheads at Tonquin Beach, Pedersen Dr. and Leighton Way, and the Tofino Community Hall, hikers will be able to walk all the way to Mackenzie Beach eventually.

The Lighthouse Trail will be moderately difficult due to some inclined areas.

This project was made possible through Tofino’s Resort Communities funding (the district qualifies as a Resort Municipality and therefore receives a portion of the two percent hotel room tax to use toward enhancing visitors’ experience of Tofino). Service Canada and the YMCA also contributed funding towards the project.

The Tofino Parks and Recreation department are taking the lead on the trail construction, along with an advisory committee made up of citizens.

Sally Mole, the director of Parks and Recreation, said this week just over 1.5 km of the trail is finished and they are hoping to open the first phase by the May long weekend.

Until then the district is asking curious residents to stay off the trail, as construction is still underway and hazards like unstable trees and steep drop-offs need to be addressed.

It’s hard to contain the excitement though, for Tofino’s first ocean side – and highly accessible – trail.

Watch the Tofino district website for an announcement of the trail’s grand opening.

Photo Credits: Tofino Lighthouse Facebook Page

The Tofino Shorebird Festival

Author: The Shore

By Jennifer Dart

The Tofino Shorebird Festival is a sure sign that spring is on the way.

You might not be so sure, given the weather we’ve had in April thus far…

But as we approach the end of this month, thousands upon thousands of shorebirds make a stop here on their way northward to summertime Arctic breeding grounds. They come with warmer winds from their southern winter hideouts.

It may be a more pint-sized version of the annual whale migration, but the mass movement of shorebirds is also cause for celebration on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

From May 6-9, a series of events both celebrate and showcase this massive flyby of feathered creatures.

The Raincoast Education Society started the Shorebird Festival in 1997, the same year the Tofino mudflats were designated as a Wildlife Management Area. Both the festival and the designation point to a unique habitat for all kinds of wildlife, including shorebirds.

The Tofino mudflat WMA is a 21 square kilometer area on the estuary side of Esowista Peninsula. The mulflats contain several kinds of habitat, including dense coastal rainforest, tidal flats and channels, rock and gravel beaches, streams, and shallow to deep subtidal areas. According to information from the RES, the Tofino mudflats are a more sheltered habitat than most intertidal estuaries, and richer in nutrients.

The small worms and other organisms that are just below the surface of the mud enable the birds to store up on fat reserves – an essential step if they’re to be successful having young.

Also essential when you consider how far these tiny creatures fly for the food they consume here.

Good viewing points to watch all the action are: Chesterman Beach, Long Beach, Grice Bay and the end of Sharp Rd (there is now a look-out at Sharp Rd, next to the water treatment plant).

There are several opportunities during the Shorebird Festival for guided bird watching tours.

Kayak and hiking bird watches, a reception, a birding movie, and a photo contest are just some of the events planned for the four-day festival.

In advance of the Shorebird Festival, the Wickaninnish Inn’s Pointe Restaurant is the place to be May 1 for Brunch for the Birds, a fundraiser for the festival. You can reserve tickets to the brunch by emailing info@raincoasteducation.org or by calling 250 725-2560.

Given Tofino’s affinity for birds and birding, it’s no wonder a Hollywood birding movie was filmed here. The Big Year, starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black was filmed in 2010, and will be released this year. The premise of the movie is that three avid bird watchers (Wilson, Martin and Black) are competing to spot the rarest birds in North America at an annual event.

Image Credit: Raincoast Education Society

Tofino Botanical Gardens

Author: The Shore

Tofino Botanical Garden

By Jennifer Dart

You don’t have to have a passion for gardening to appreciate the Tofino Botanical Gardens.

The 12-acre site mixes indigenous temperate rainforest species with gardens and artwork for a setting that is both relaxing and enlivening.

But this isn’t your typical botanical garden with miles upon miles of flowers.

Run by the non-profit Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation, the TBG stretch from their entrance on Pacific Rim Hwy to the mudflats on Tofino Inlet. Meandering through gardens, forest, and shoreline, the property aims to explore the relationship between culture and nature.

Forest paths and boardwalk trails take you past displays of plants that thrive in this coastal temperate rainforest setting. Intermixed with the garden displays are whimsical art installations and many other interesting surprises around each bend in the garden path.

At the entrance to the gardens are Darwin’s Café and the admittance counter. Once you step inside, the kitchens gardens are visible, positioned on the south side to make the most of all west coast sunlight.

Flowers gardens and the children’s garden (adults must usually be accompanied by a child) are adjacent to the medicinal herb garden. Also in the first portion of the site is the frog pond, where local kindergarten children come each spring to release tadpoles they have reared from eggs (the two species are Western Red-Legged Frogs and Pacific Tree Frogs, two species in decline).

Next to the frog pond is a gazebo built by local artist Jan Janzen.

Tofino Botanical Garden ArtAs you wonder through the garden, the path will take you past an orchard (not always high-yielding!) and berry patch, rhododendrons, a classic example of a “nurse” log (a log that nurtures all kind of life growing from it) and a section of the ubiquitous west coast skunk cabbage.

There are giant Himalayan lilies and a Japanese garden pocket (still under construction), as well as a “Tropic Zone,” which will appeal to those optimistic gardeners out there.

Naturally, there is also an old growth tree area in the garden, with a boardwalk meandering through the towering giants. Three Western Red Cedars, the “Three Elders” are a must-see.

Two look-out points allow you amazing views of the Tofino Mudflats, a vital stop-off point for thousands of migrating shorebirds on their annual treks.

The artwork set amidst the garden is at times both functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. There is a storytelling hut (also by Jan Janzen), towering sculptures, and smaller installations. These really must be seen to be appreciated (look out for the hippie bus too!).

Also on display is the Evian, a dry-docked 37’ wooden salmon troller that typifies the vessels that were once in abundance on the coast. Climb aboard to get a feel for the life of a 20th century fisherman (and for a great view of the mudflats!). Nearby, gardeners have also uncovered the homestead of a Bernardo O’Higgins, complete with writings in several languages (currently in translation).

The Tofino Botanical Gardens is best appreciated with a copy of the Field Guide, which describes each aspect in great detail.

This wonderful setting has played host to artists, weddings, and for the past eight years has been the setting for the Tofino Food and Wine Festival (this June 3-5 will mark the 9th annual festival). The property is also home to the Ecolodge, an environmentally friendly lodge with shared kitchen facilities.

A walk through the gardens will run you roughly $10-12 (with a $1 discount for those arriving on bikes) and seasonal passes are available.

Enjoy!

Image Credits: Roland

By Jennifer Dart

There is a wide array of wildlife viewing opportunities on the west coast.

You might have been lucky enough to glimpse a bear on the side of the highway on your drive through Sutton Pass. A beach walk can reward you with a bald eagle sighting.

But there is nothing quite like seeing a pod of whales swimming in the open ocean.

There are resident humpback, grey and orca whales that live in the waters off Vancouver Island, as well as many transient pods. The annual migration of whales from mating waters in Baja California to northern summer feeding grounds in Alaska is a much-celebrated event in Tofino and Ucluelet. The Pacific Rim Whale Festival, now in its 25th year, welcomes these traveling whales back to our waters (see next week’s blog post for a description of the festival). But we also have whales that are here year round, although in smaller numbers.

Sometimes these giant creatures of the sea will wander into Tofino harbour, and do a tour of the inlets and coves of Clayoquot Sound. When it’s orcas with their distinct dorsal fins making an appearance, people flock to the water and docks to catch a glimpse.

More often however, you have to go to the whales rather than having them come to you.

And that’s where Tofino’s numerous whale watching companies come in. From your condo at The Shore, you have only to walk downstairs to be hooked up on a trip with Ocean Outfitters. Ken Thomson and crew do daily tours on both their zodiac and covered boats. They also offer bear watching trips, daily Hot Springs tours and more.

Jamie’s Whaling Station in Tofino is the longest running outfit in town. They have zodiac boats for whale watching tours out of Tofino and Ucluelet, as well as on two large cruisers. Jamies, like other Tofino companies, also offers Hot Springs Cove tours and other wildlife adventures.

West Coast Aquatic Safaris offers tours on their two covered boats, and the Whale Centre with its open Boston Whalers. Remote Passages offers a zodiac and covered vessel option and the Weigh West Marine Resort offers zodiac tours.

Most of the companies offer whale sightings “guaranteed,” which means that if you are unlucky on your first trip you can join another tour on a subsequent day.

The companies that offer whale watching are also more than happy to take guests on black bear watching tours. These tours involve finding shoreline areas, usually on the inlet side of Clayoquot Sound, where bears frequent to feed on salmon. Viewing bears from the water is the safest way – for both the bears and humans – to view these amazing animals.

While on a whale or bear watching excursion, guides will look for other wildlife, like eagles, sea lions and sea otters. The guides will often communicate with one another to pinpoint the location of whales and other animals.

Marine guidelines mean that guides must stay a safe distance away from whales and other animals in order to disturb them as little as possible.

Humpback whales are the most playful and you’ll likely to see them spyhopping, lobtailing, breaching, spouting, diving, and generally having fun.

Whale Photo Credit: Marlin Harms

Bear Photo Credit: Pete Dafeet

By Jennifer Dart

It’s nice to remember during the rainy winter months that all this moisture makes it possible for the coastal temperate rainforest of Clayoquot Sound to exist.

From the vantage point of your condo windows at the Shore, the vastness of the sound stretches out before you. From the Esowista Peninsula (Tofino is located at the tip of this peninsula) to the south, to the Hesquiaht Peninsula to the north, Clayoquot Sound covers some 350,000 hectares (860,000 acres) of land and water.

The vast inlets and islands of Clayoquot Sound are set against the backdrop of the Vancouver Island Coastal Mountain Range mountains, which rise abruptly up from the tide line. These hills and valleys contain some of the last remaining intact old growth rainforest in the world.

The sound contains parts of Strathcona Provincial Park and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve within its boundaries. In itself, it’s been given a biosphere reserve designation in recognition of the unique – and globally precious – environment.

This area is also one of the wettest on the planet. Although reports of how much yearly rainfall there is differ, it’s safe to say it’s in the neighbourhood of 324 cm (127 inches). There’s a good reason it’s called the wet coast, as it gets nearly double the rainfall of areas on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

But the wetness is exactly what is needed to make this one of the most ecologically unique areas in Canada. Without the volume of rainfall that we get, there would be no towering trees to marvel at. Clayoquot forests contain cedar, hemlock, cypress and fir. Not only does the rain allow some of these giants to grow for over hundreds of years, but it also provides the coastal forest environment that sustains creatures from bears to wolves to birds to salmon.

Some of the other animals that call Clayoquot home are seals, sea lions, sea otters, cougars, grey, humpback and orca whales, porpoises, bald eagles, marbled murrelets and osprey.

It’s no wonder this has also been the site of Canada’s war in the woods. After logging protests in 1988, a court injunction granted to the Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations that still stands today means that Meares Island, across the inlet from the town of Tofino, is protected at least until land claims with First Nations are resolved.

Further protests in the early 1990s involved blockades and mass arrests. Following the demonstrations, the BC government promised to develop watershed plans for Clayoquot Sound with protected areas. These plans were finalized in 2006, but it’s clear that the issue has not been laid to rest. The plans allowed for logging in some of Clayoquot Sound’s intact old growth valleys, a concept that is still very much opposed in the region. The debate continues over Clayoquot Sound’s rainforest it’s not likely to be settled any time soon.

This productive and beautiful area wouldn’t be possible without the many inches of rain that fall throughout the year. There may be no better place to ponder this than from the warmth of your waterfront condo.

Photo Credit: Sam Beebe/Ecotrust

Tofino Hiking Trails

Author: The Shore

By Jennifer Dart

Many adventures await just outside the door of your condo at the Shore. While the water-based ones are perhaps the most visible from where you sit comfortably on your patio overlooking Tofino harbour (and will also be explored in this blog), lots of easily accessible hikes are within a short drive.

The Pacific Rim area has all manner of hiking trails, ranging from a meandering boardwalk through the rain forest to more challenging trail hikes. It’s always advisable to check weather and tide reports before venturing out, as some trail section will be inaccessible depending on the tides.

Within the town of Tofino, you can start by walking down the boardwalk stairs to beautiful Tonquin Beach. This is the closest beach – and walk – to the town centre. The boardwalk leading to Tonquin is accessed from the end of Tonquin Park Rd. The beach itself is a sandy cove ideal for fishing and lounging on a sunny day. The district of Tofino is currently in the process of constructing the Lighthouse Trail from Tonquin Park. This ocean side trail will eventually make its way from Tonquin Beach all the way to Middle Beach and will truly be a jewel for locals and visitors alike.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve starts right at Tofino’s southern boundaries. The park has a wealth of trails for all levels of hikers, and the following description starts at the northern part of the park’s Long Beach Unit and travels south.

Radar Hill is a panoramic stop for sweeping views of Clayoquot Sound and the Long Beach area. Parking is available both at the base of the hill and at the top. Interpretive signage details this area’s participation in war activity. There is an unassumed (by the Park) and challenging trail to Radar Beach from the top of the hill, but unless you are familiar with the area it’s unadvisable to undertake this steep and sometimes treacherous hike.

Next is Schooner Trail, a boardwalk forest trail that leads you 1 km into mature rainforest. Many stairs are involved, but you will ultimately be rewarded when you exit onto the beautiful and wonderfully secluded Schooner Cove (the northern tip of Long Beach). Construction on the expansion of the Tla-o-qui-aht reserve at Esowista is visible from the Schooner Trail parking lot. The Schooner Trail is considered moderately difficult due to stairs.

The next park trail (after breathtaking Long Beach, which is a must-walk) is Combers Beach Trail. This one starts out as a wide gravel path and descends down into a mature forest of Sitka spruce before connecting to the Spruce Fringe boardwalk and on to Combers Beach. The Combers Beach access had to be moved in recent years due to coastal erosion, the effects of which are still visible. This trail is an easy one, with some inclined sections.

The two 1 km loops of the Rainforest Trail offer hikers the chance to view an old growth forest up close. From the parking lot you can venture either into the forest or across Pacific Rim Hwy. to another boardwalk loop. Look for interpretive signage about the forest’s inhabitants and life cycle. These two trails are easy with some inclined sections.

The Shorepine Bog Trail is accessible off Wick Rd. It is an easy boardwalk through forest that appears to be stunted, but in fact are so gnarled because of water accumulation in this geological depression area. This is a unique walk with interpretive signage to guide you along.

South Beach Trail (accessible from the Wickaninnish Centre parking lot) is a 1.5km boardwalk and gravel trail. From here, you can connect to the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail to link up with Florencia Bay or stay at South Beach. A Nuu-chah-nulth totem pole is located on the South Beach Trail.

Traveling south towards Ucluelet is the Willowbrae Trail (off Willowbrae Rd. in Millstream). This is a gravel trail with somewhat steep ascents and descents leading to Florencia and Half Moon Bay (via the Half Moon Bay boardwalk trail), both wonderful picnic spots.

One of Ucluelet’s most amazing features is the Wild Pacific Trail, a trail that will eventually go from Amphitrite Point Lighthouse to link up with the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. For now, there are many beautiful ocean side sections to explore, some of which are boardwalk and some gravel. There are different sections to the trail, accessible from different points. Pick up a Long Beach Map at various locations in both Tofino and Ucluelet to choose a trail. Many spectacular viewpoints offer whale and wildlife watching opportunities, as well as sweeping views of Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands. Some sections are steep and moderately difficult.

There is so much to explore you will definitely need to make numerous excursions. But what better start and end point than your beautifully appointed condo at the Shore?

Photo Credit: Pat Ong

Surfing in Tofino

Author: The Shore

By Jennifer Dart

In 2009 town council named Tofino the “Surfing Capital of Canada,” after it hosted the first ever Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) event on Canadian soil. But in the minds of many Canadians, this area held that distinction long before the O’Neill Cold Water Classic came to town.

Not only is Tofino one of the only consistent and accessible surf spots on the west coast, it is truly a beginner’s dream because of the sandy bottomed beach break conditions at local beaches.

Because of these conditions, and a surge in interest in the sport over the past decade or so, five local surf schools have sprung up to cater to the droves of visitors looking to learn to surf. The schools offer safety training as well as surfing instruction so beginners are equipped to continue on with the sport after their initial lesson. The first part of the lesson is conducted on the beach, followed by further instruction-while-doing in shallow water where waves are breaking.

Something everyone taking a surf lesson should learn – and instructors will teach you – is surf etiquette in the water. The basic rules are: the surfer closest to the “peak” (the point where the wave is breaking) has the right of way; do not “snake” or drop in on anyone already riding the wave; when paddling out aim away for the whitewash or away from others surfers; and never lose control of your surfboard.

Not surprisingly, most people take lessons during the summer when Tofino’s visitation is at its highest. It’s an ideal time to learn, as swell is typically smallest during the summer months.

Winter surfing presents challenges best left to more experienced surfers. From November to February, wave heights often reach 15 ft. (4.5 metres) and higher, and this means to keep yourself safe you have to be easily able to paddle harder and do more duck dives. Bigger waves also mean bigger “drops” than in smaller swell. At this time of year, etiquette becomes even more important to keep all surfers safe in the water.

Local surfers (if they haven’t left town for a sunnier surf spot) wait for these big swell windows when not only are the waves bigger, but there are fewer people in the water competing for them.

Although it’s colder outside this time of year, the water temperature off Tofino normally doesn’t fluctuate more than 10 degrees all year long, so a good wetsuit is all you need. That and a soaker tub in your Shore condo for after your session!

Visit Tofino Time for a list of surf schools and rental outlets in Tofino.

Title image credit: Pat Ong

Body image credit: Jennifer Stoddart

Tofino Storm Watching

Author: The Shore

By Jennifer Dart

With the first power outage behind us, we know for certain that storm season has begun in Tofino.

This exhilarating time usually kicks off in November and will run until February or March. Instead of being a season that drives people away, many adventure seekers come especially to witness the phenomenon that makes this one of the most unique areas in Canada.

Positioned where we are on the extreme west coast of Vancouver Island (looking westward toward Japan), Tofino is one of the few highly accessible locations to witness a mighty coastal storm.

Picture wind, rain and a backdrop of stormy seas, with you in the middle of it all!

Storms happen each month during this season, but the most intense ones usually take place from December and February. They bring with them what locals refer to as sideways rain, as well as winds gusting to 70 mph (112 km/h) and higher.

The sea is a spectacle unto itself during these events, reaching heights of eight feet (2.4 metres) or more. Watching all this fury from a beach area is the most exciting vantage point.

There are many beaches from which to safely view storms in Tofino, but it’s always a good idea to venture out on a low tide. Tides fluctuate more and are at their highest during this season, often covering the beach entirely. In Tofino there are two high tides and two low tides per day, with a difference of roughly six feet at this time of year, depending on the moon phase. Displaced driftwood and surging water are the dangers at high tide, so be sure to consult your tide guide before donning your rain gear (also visit http://www.tofinotime.com/tides/ for local tide tables).

Tonquin Beach, Mackenzie Beach, Chesterman Beach and Cox Bay are all great places to take in the storms in Tofino, and a little further south Long Beach and Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offer viewpoints both on and off the beach.

Less well known than the storms themselves are the opportunities for beach combing after a big event. Heavy wind and surging seas often bring rare treasures to shore, such as the sought-after glass floats once used by Japanese fishermen to keep their nets afloat. No longer in use, the glass balls are highly prized by beachcombers all over the Pacific. The long miles of beaches of Pacific Rim National Park are the best places to look for these and other treasures.

The original marketers of winter storm watching season were the McDiarmid family, owners of the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino. They saw the potential in attracting visitors to view these natural wonders during a season that wasn’t traditionally a busy one. Now everyone else have caught on to the spectacles local residents have enjoyed for centuries.

When the wind is howling sometimes the best place to watch a winter storm is from the comfort of your waterfront condo at the Shore, where you can tuck in a with a warm blanket and a hot drink and witness the storm in all its glory from your floor-to-ceiling windows. And don’t worry power outages aren’t that frequent, but when they do happen it’s the perfect excuse to light the candles and spend the evening in front of the fireplace!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajuorio/

With the first power outage behind us, we know for certain that storm season has begun in Tofino.

This exhilarating time usually kicks off in November and will run until February or March. Instead of being a season that drives people away, many adventure seekers come especially to witness the phenomenon that makes this one of the most unique areas in Canada.

Positioned where we are on the extreme west coast of Vancouver Island (looking westward toward Japan), Tofino is one of the few highly accessible locations to witness a mighty coastal storm.

Picture wind, rain and a backdrop of stormy seas, with you in the middle of it all!

Storms happen each month during this season, but the most intense ones usually take place from December and February. They bring with them what locals refer to as sideways rain, as well as winds gusting to 70 mph (112 km/h) and higher.

The sea is a spectacle unto itself during these events, reaching heights of eight feet (2.4 metres) or more. Watching all this fury from a beach area is the most exciting vantage point.

There are many beaches from which to safely view storms in Tofino, but it’s always a good idea to venture out on a low tide. Tides fluctuate more and are at their highest during this season, often covering the beach entirely. In Tofino there are two high tides and two low tides per day, with a difference of roughly six feet at this time of year, depending on the moon phase. Displaced driftwood and surging water are the dangers at high tide, so be sure to consult your tide guide before donning your rain gear (also visit http://www.tofinotime.com/tides/ for local tide tables).

Tonquin Beach, Mackenzie Beach, Chesterman Beach and Cox Bay are all great places to take in the storms in Tofino, and a little further south Long Beach and Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offer viewpoints both on and off the beach.

Less well known than the storms themselves are the opportunities for beach combing after a big event. Heavy wind and surging seas often bring rare treasures to shore, such as the sought-after glass floats once used by Japanese fishermen to keep their nets afloat. No longer in use, the glass balls are highly prized by beachcombers all over the Pacific. The long miles of beaches of Pacific Rim National Park are the best places to look for these and other treasures.

The original marketers of winter storm watching season were the McDiarmid family, owners of the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino. They saw the potential in attracting visitors to view these natural wonders during a season that wasn’t traditionally a busy one. Now everyone else have caught on to the spectacles local residents have enjoyed for centuries.

When the wind is howling sometimes the best place to watch a winter storm is from the comfort of your waterfront condo at the Shore, where you can tuck in a with a warm blanket and a hot drink and witness the storm in all its glory from your floor-to-ceiling windows. And don’t worry power outages aren’t that frequent, but when they do happen it’s the perfect excuse to light the candles and spend the evening in front of the fireplace!