It was the late nineties when we first visited Tofino on Vancouver Island. All I really remember about that trip was the highway from Parksville to Tofino. I remembered being mesmerized by the beauty and the transformation of the landscape as we crossed the island from east to west.
Now, almost twenty years later, we set on the road from Parksville to Tofino again. Flashbacks of memories hit me as we start the journey. We take Highway 4A out of Parksville and no sooner do we leave Parksville do we come to the small town of Coombs. I remembered from years past the goats on the roof. Only this time the roof was without the goats. They are still there, just not out on this day. Oh well, time to toodle on.
It's 33 km to our next stop... Port Alberni.
This time we made a point to at least make a brief stop at Port Alberni. Downtown and Harbor Quay were a bit of a drive off the highway. When we got there, the wind was kicking up a bit through Alberni Inlet, making for a chilly walk along the waterfront. For a Saturday, the downtown area was sort of quiet. We did a quick stroll and then resumed our trip back on the road to Tofino.
The trip years ago was in April and one of the things I remembered most was a river along the highway just before you descend down the mountain range to Tofino. We had stopped suddenly then to see why so many cars were pulled over, it was because the river was roaring over large boulders. It was an amazing site. This time we made a point to watch for this location, we found it, only the river was more somber since the water level was low. Still we pulled over, snapped a few photos, snacked a little, then carried on.
Back on the road to Tofino.
Soon we are winding down the highway with Kennedy Lake on our right side. Spots of the road are narrow, the cliffs lush with vegetation and fairly close to the car. As we reach the junction of the highway where left is Ucluelet and right is Tofino, we stop at the Visitor Center for a bathroom break, a map, and a park pass for the Pacific Rim National Park. We opt for the Beach Walk Pass., after all we are only in the area for an afternoon. The Beach Walk Pass is only good for 4 hours (plenty of time for our excursion) and is only valid for parking lots at Long Beach, Kwisitis, and Wickaninnish.
This must visit area is located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and is a magnificent piece of Mother Nature's artistry. As you turn right on the highway to Tofino, the sides of the road are blanketed with heavy forests of tall trees, These heavily occupied rainforests have withstood time and Mother Nature's stormy abuse. You can't help but be in awe of their strength and their endurance.
We turn left on the road that leads to the entryway to Wickaninnish parking lot. From the parking lot it is a short hike through the brush, which suddenly opens up to a expansive view of the Pacific Ocean. The tide was out and the sandy beach beckoned us to stretch our legs and crashing waves called us to venture closer. With seagulls flying overhead, squawking as they flew, the waves crashing to shore, and the beauty of Mother Nature at her best, we were in heaven. You cannot help but feel at peace in these surroundings. Breathing in deeply, stress vacates the body and soul, leaving you relaxed and quiet.
We strolled closer to the waves, attracted to the surfers trying to catch a wave worth surfing. Camera in hand, I am mesmerized by the beauty of the area, the surfers, and the reflections in the sand. A photographer's paradise.
Finally our stomachs decided it was time for food, so reluctantly we left the beach and headed into Tofino in search of a nourishing meal. The town had grown considerably since we were there last. Surf shops and store fronts line the main street as we entered town. It was a bustling Saturday but we were lucky and found a parking spot. Before we could discover the town we needed nourishment. We stopped at the Rhino Coffee House for lunch and coffee. The food was good, the service was friendly and quick, and with our bellies full we could now walk around town.
Businesses catering to the many visitors now swarming this small community are intermingled with its old history. The town had settle into a comfortable accord between maintaining its history, the fishing and marine industries that created the area, and the growing new industry – tourism.
It was time to head back to Parksville, our time in Tofino coming to a close. But we had one more beach stop we just had to make. It was a beach recommended by a local. Located outside the Pacific Rim National Park it does not require a pass. As we drive out of town and back to the beaches, we first make a pit stop at Chocolate Tofino, after all we deserve a treat. The place was packed with chocolate lovers. We purchased some chocolate and a Gelato, then carried on to Chesterman Beach. Located in a residential area, parking is only available on the street or a parking lot located just as you turn on the street. The parking lot is complete with restrooms and a shower for the surfers to watch off the salt and sand. The friend who recommended this beach was right, it was a great beach to visit. When visiting somewhere, always ask the locals where they would go, they always know the best spots.
Though I disliked the idea of leaving this little slice of heaven, we needed to hit the road for the 2 1/2 hr drive back to Parksville and we had one more stop to make. When you are heading on Highway 4 from Parksville to Tofino, just outside of Coombs, before Port Alberni, is Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. On our way to Tofino, we didn't stop at Cathedral Grove because the parking lots were full. Instead, we stopped on our way back. It was evening, close to dusk, and I was glad we had waited. With less people around, it made for a more quiet and spiritual connection with the forest as we wandered through its paths.
Cathedral Grove's network of trails take visitors on a journey through time and awe-inspiring wonder. Towered by ancient Douglas Fir trees, the oldest around 800 years, we are reminded of the amazing beauty Mother Nature offers and why it is so important to preserve it. If you quiet your mind, you can hear the quiet sounds of this majestic forest as it settles in for the night.
This was our last stop on the Road to Tofino and back again. It made for a long day, but it was worth every minute.
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