No offense to Canada, but generally speaking it doesn’t exactly give off vibes of being the sexiest honeymoon destination around the globe. But actually it’s home to quite a few seductive spots, including one standout island town of which most Americans have never even heard. That place, which many visitors (including this writer) feel inclined to keep a secret, is Tofino, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. World-class surfing, whales, magical forest hikes, black bears, exceptional fishing, friendly folks, sandy beaches, and hyperlocal cuisine—it seems too good to be true. Except it’s not.
Adventure loving newlyweds will appreciate the adventure required simply to get to the tiny island of just one taxi. You could take a boat from Vancouver and then wind your way up the island for a few hours by car, hop a small plane from Vancouver’s airport, or jump in a tinier seaplane (Harbour Air operates from May to October) that drops you directly at Tofino’s harbor. All options come with plenty of jaw-dropping scenery, be warned. One of the many beautiful things about Tofino is its accessibility when it comes to cost—the US Dollar does especially well there, essentially giving Americans a third off the price of everything.
Surfers and beach addicts should book themselves into the best-located resort there is: Pacific Sands, which sprawls across Cox Bay, giving ample space for guests to enjoy the spectacularly wide forest-trimmed beach—somehow both sunrise and sunset are incredible here, so make a point of enjoying both with some local beer from Tofino Brewing Co. (like every other culinary business around they embrace local natural resources so much there’s even a kelp-infused stout) or vino from B.C.’s Okanagan winemaking region. This is the place to surf, left-handers and right-handers break across the expansive bay with tons of space for beginners to get into the fun, too, with lessons from Surf Sister Surf School, which conveniently has an outpost within Pacific Sands.
Accommodations are self-catering, which adds to the fun of going on a fishing trip (book with Tofino 1st Class Fishing for a stunning early morning in the mirror like sound or picturesque open ocean), say—you can bring back your coho salmon, halibut, rockfish and crabs to grill on barbecues or prepare in your kitchen. Romantic options include the Beach Houses, which have soaring ceilings, fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs with impeccable views of the Pacific Ocean. Signature Suites, too, have hot tubs on their balconies to savor those idyllic vistas. While summer season is, of course, the most popular—who doesn’t love a hot beach day?—the winter in Tofino is also full of fun when stargazing is swapped with storm watching, a favorite pastime that involves cozying up by a fire with cocktails (Tofino also has its own craft distillery!) as massive storms roll in from the Pacific.
Those wishing to splurge on ultimate luxury can try out the Relais & Chateaux Wickaninnish Inn, a boutiquey 75-room, art-filled bolthole on a rocky promontory on the Pacific. If anything it’s worth a trip to The Pointe Restaurant, a fine-dining spot with panoramic views that is the perfect place to toast to your new chapter over refined seafood. Like any good vacation, don’t expect to lose weight while in Tofino, even if you are staying active with daily surfing, hikes (Schooner Cove Trail is a fun one through the rainforest to the ocean, while Bomber Trail goes through marshland to an old WWII plane crash near Pacific Rim National Park) or kayaking in the inlet. That’s because it’s a foodie’s paradise.
The crown jewel of Tofino’s culinary scene is indisputably Wolf in the Fog, a nationally recognized restaurant by chef Nick Nutting, whose wife, Hailey Pasemko, is the bar manager coming up with innovative cocktails featuring B.C. spirits and foraged infusions that will push the boundaries of your palette. Casual yet completely gourmet, it’s a dining experience you’ll want to repeat several times during the trip, since there are too many flavorsome dishes—all use locally caught fish, other proteins reared nearby, and Vancouver Island produce and veggies, along with foraged ingredients like kelp and mushrooms—to devour in one sitting.
Tacofino, a B.C. institution since it opened in a sticker-emblazoned food truck in Tofino and spread to the cities, is another must-go, especially if just-caught-lingcod fish tacos in a wooded parking lot are an appealing idea. Steps away is the perfect dessert stop, Chocolate Tofino. Grab scoops of fresh gelato in creative flavor combos and a few handmade chocolate surfboards for later. Sea Monster Noodle Bar, right in town, is a can’t-miss for anyone who loves Asian-styled soups or has an affinity for steam buns. Work off those calories by window-shopping your way through Tofino’s galleries and boutiques, or stop for another drink or bite at sister local goods–embracing restaurants Shed and Shelter. Picnics on the beach or in the rainforest are also a good idea, and supplies can be collected at the appropriately named shop Picnic—think inventive charcuterie and cheeses, plus accoutrements—across the street from the local bakery, brewery and distillery.
Other attractions: bear and whale-watching tours, First Nations tours on the water in a dugout canoe, and a trip to hot springs on a tiny island off the coast—you can boat there, hike to the springs, soak, and then take a seaplane back for the most scenic multi-mode adventure. Of course, save time for a few dips in the jacuzzi after long walks on the beach. It’s upon embracing the laid-back pace of beautiful Tofino that the magic really becomes evident.