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Hope you're hungry.
When you take into account how small the population of Tofino actually is (just shy of 2,000 people), it feels nothing short of miraculous that their food scene and accommodations are what they are: the laundry list of indie restaurants are all creative and cool, hotels are indulgent without being snobby, and every business and local operates with reverence to the stunning West Coast landscape. Which makes it not a bad place at all for a quick spring getaway…especially if you come hungry.
Wickanninish Inn is lucky enough to perch on the very best spot of Chesterman Beach, but the island’s first luxury-casual resort owes its 20-plus years of success to more than just a nice location. Everywhere you turn inside the family-owned property’s two cedar buildings seems to feature another cozy fireplace paired with an ocean view, and the scent of fresh scones wafting up from the beachside Driftwood Cafe certainly doesn’t hurt the cozy-up-and-stay-awhile vibe. Though the Wick boasts an international Relais and Châteaux accreditation, it celebrates its Tofitian roots with artisan-made driftwood chairs and locally made soaps in every room. With a new exec chef in the Pointe dining room (never mind the 240-degree water views), you might not even make it out the door to explore the rest of town.
Of course a trip to Tofino is going to be full of beach strolls and bike rides, with nature trails and early-morning surfing packing your schedule. But in between the rigorous appreciation of this West Coast wonderland, you’re gonna need to eat—and luckily, the culinary scene here punches way outside the humble town’s weight.
Grab a spot on the bustling patio at the Shed and tuck into one of its expertly assembled bowls (the Pachamama piles roasted butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, apples and peppercorn ricotta atop whole-grain farro and kale), or take the lot to go from the take-out window if you don’t want to miss a second of the surf.
The dockside Hatch Pub has a menu packed with all your pub-grub favourites, but the pizza here is king, thanks to an in-house brick oven on proud display. Perfectly blistered crust is the base for toppings like burrata and tomatoes, or smoked albacore tuna and fresh green chile—all of which go very nicely, thanks, with any of the Vancouver Island beers on tap.
Wolf in the Fog was named enRoute‘s Best New Restaurant in Canada back in 2014, but the intervening five years have not dulled chef Nick Nutting’s creativity in the slightest. Chef is still whipping up increasingly inventive dinner options inspired by Tofino’s bounty, tapping into the seasonality of whatever land, sea and air might be delivering at any given time to serve up his unique take on West Coast comfort food. His “trout crumpet” may be the quintessential example—fresh baked pastry filled with hot smoked steelhead and juniper honey—of the menu’s innovative depths, but certainly not the only one. Sablefish wings are served alongside salted cucumber and harrissa; tender Korean beef cheek (locally sourced, natch) is paired with a kick of kimchi and root vegetable stew. Top it all off with a smoked cedar sour nightcap, and it’s hard to doubt Wolf is still at the top of its game, even half a decade in.
Tofino Craft Distillery and Tofino Brewing Co. are neighbours, so pick a designated driver and hit up both. Among the tanks and tubes at the Distillery, cozy up at a reclaimed-cable-spool table with a mini cocktail taster that utilizes the small-batch, certified organic spirits in inventive combinations: we love the old-growth cedar gin in pretty much anything. Next door at Tofino Brewing, taste your way through their 12 taps in a brand-new, buzzy facility where the flights are flying—this is your chance to try the brewery-only Wonders of Nature kettle sour—and the snack mix is crunchy and plentiful.
If you can swing a seaplane flight, you’ll be there from downtown in an hour, but there’s something to be said about taking the scenic route à la BC Ferries. The ride to Nanaimo and then drive through Cathedral Grove (featuring giant Douglas firs, some more than 800 years old) provides a serious dose of nature en route to ease you into vacation mode.