Feb. 16 2016

Driving Across Canada Day 25: Dipping our toes into the ocean at Tofino

On this day we finally reach the ultimate stop of our westward journey across North America. It was also the day I saw a sea lion poop.  So it was remarkable, in many ways. We woke up in Sayward, in the back of our van in our friend’s lawn. We were just in time to catch the dawn.


We had a four and a half hour drive from Sayward to Tofino and wanted to make the most of the day. Thus the early start.

We snuck into our host’s house to brush our teeth and quietly take some sandwiches out of the fridge we had prepared the night before for the road. Then, we were off.

The way from Sayward to Tofino happens to run through one of Vancouver Island’s most stunning natural features: Cathedral Grove.

It houses some of the oldest and tallest trees in Canada. The oldest are around 800 years old, but most sprung up about 300 years ago when a large fire opened up the area.

A short walk directly off the highway takes you around a quick loop of some of the oldest trees. You can do the quick loop in less than 20 minutes, but if you want there are longer walks.


When Rob touched the oldest Douglas Fir, the largest tree in the forest, he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, “I’m having a serious religious experience right now.”

He was kind of joking, but kind of right. It was amazing breathing air being filtered by ancient trees and walking amongst this Jurassic-Park-esque foliage. Even the ferns were huge.


We returned to the car and discovered even though our radio fuse was still blown, (it blew up on our way to Sayward) somehow the alternator had come back on. This meant we could charge our phones and camera batteries again. Woo! 

In response to this good discovery, Rob shouted, “The Tree! The Tree has blessed me!”

Rob also overcame his fear of spiders to hug the tree. It was crawling with them. This is a man who run from the room when there’s spider and makes me throw it outside. That’s a miracle in itself.

For the rest of the drive I mostly stretched out in the back (perks of having a mattress in the van). 

Finally, we arrived.

Twenty-five days after leaving home we finally dipped our toes into the Pacific Ocean.

I didn’t want to go home.

I imagined us rowing the van out into the ocean, paddling west and eventually we’d get to Japan and then keep going.

The next most sensible thing to do was to have a beer.

Luckily, the Tofino Brewing Co. was only five minutes away. Our decided favourite was the bull kelp stout (made with real bull kelp). Their sour was good too – almost like a cider.

The area around Tofino is a series of inlets. It’s known as a surfer’s paradise. It’s also a paradise for anyone who wants part-time work in the summer. Our friend Sandy Powell who is a wonderful writer and outdoor adventure wunderkind was living there and we were lucky enough to have him show us around the place.

The first place we headed (for another beer) was Jack’s waterfront pub. It is at this very locale that I glimpsed some of the beautiful inlets and islands that make up the Tofino coastline.


And, this beautiful creature:


Yes. That’s what it looks like when a sea lion poops. So majestic. I’m sorry if you were eating.


Said sea lion was hanging out around the wharf because there’s a gutting station position perfectly. All the lazy thing has to do is wait until the fisherman or tourists throw the fish offal down the disposal shoot where it ends up in the water. Occasionally the sea lion would receive a spray with the hose from the fisherman.

Tofino was 100% lovely. I can see why some people come back there to work summer after summer. Hearing the town gossip from Sandy was entertaining in itself. I won’t share it with you here though – that’s why YOU need to get to Tofino, so you can hear the stories firsthand. Hearing them secondhand through me (making you the third hand, in effect) just wouldn’t be the same. Rest assured though, as with many small towns there’s an entertaining tale or two (or ten) about the local colour. Ask about the drugs. Ask about the characters. Ask about all sorts of things.

Actually, do this no matter where you are. Do it in your own hometown. Keep throwing out lines to people and fishing. You’ll probably be surprised what you come up with.

For dinner we ate at what is possibly my favourite restaurant in Canada. Seriously. I spotted Kuma on Tofino’s main drag when we first pulled into town and KNEW that I would love it.


Are you kidding me? Can I get married here? The food was so good that I literally bought the t-shirt. 

Post-dinner at Kuma we went for a walk, grabbed some beers and then headed down to the dock to watch the sunset. Perfect. A glorious day. A glorious trip. Then it floated into my mind: “Oh, yeah. Now we have to drive all the way back…

Nah, better not think about that just yet. Better just enjoy the sunset.

Day 25 Costs

  • Tofino Brewing Company Swag: $84.00
  • Tofino Brewing Company Flight of Beer and Growlito: $37.33
  • Victory Dinner at Kuma: $70.00
  • Souvenir T-Shirt at Kuma: $28.61
  • Beer at Tough City Sushi: $12.94