35 days after departing Borden-Carleton, one more trip would have us in our home for the fall & winter – Tofino, British Columbia. The only thing between us and our future home was a ferry ride and the scariest drive we’ve had while towing the RV.
Why We Chose Tofino
You may wonder why we decided to hang out in Tofino for the fall & winter. When we first discussed the possibility of full-time RVing over a year ago, there were a lot of unknowns. Yet, the one thing we did know was that we would be spending our winter on Vancouver Island. The reason we chose Vancouver Island was because it’s the one spot in Canada that gets pretty much no snow. The temperatures also rarely dip below the freezing mark which for us was huge. We didn’t want to have to winterize our RV and live many months in a freezing cold and snow-covered area of the country.
Everything we had read and seen about Vancouver Island made us excited for this part of our adventure. Until this summer, though, we didn’t know exactly what part of the Island we would be calling home. Parksville, Nanaimo, Victoria, & Courtney were all options along with many others. One location that we thought would be great but unlikely was Tofino.
Anyone who has ever been to Tofino says how incredible it is. Often we would see videos online of Tofino. The long sandy beaches, the dreamlike rainforests, & the laid back culture of Tofino appealed to us. The only downside was there weren’t many RV parks in Tofino, so our chances of landing in the surfing capital of Canada seemed unlikely. But we had to try.
We did some research and found the one spot in Tofino that would be perfect to call home – Crystal Cove Beach Resort. After looking throughout their website, the pictures left us in awe. The resort was home to many luxurious cabins but also had a small RV park. The landscaping of the resort was gorgeous, full with many gigantic trees and other lush flora. If that wasn’t enough, the resort was right on MacKenzie Beach. Within a few minutes, we could be walking Bella on the beach. This place seemed perfect.
Crossing our fingers for a response, we emailed Crystal Cove asking if they would be interested in partnering with us and allowing us to stay at the park. In exchange, we would Workamp similarly to what we did while at Jellystone PEI. In all honesty, we didn’t expect to hear back from Crystal Cove. However, a couple of days later we received an email asking us if we could call them to have a chat.
During our chat, we talked about our newfound lifestyle, what we had been doing in PEI, and of course –Bella. They then asked us if we’d be interested in helping with their online presence seeing as we had plenty of experience with our website and previous careers in radio. As much as we didn’t mind the physical campground work we did at Jellystone PEI, this was right up our alley. At the conclusion of our conversation, we told them that we were excited but needed to talk it over.
As we hung up, both Kate and I looked at each other smiling. We were grateful for how well the conversation went and how positive and friendly both JJ and Jen (GM & AGM) seemed on the phone. We always try to look at the pro’s/con’s of all our decisions, but this was an easy one to make. How could we not live in Tofino if given the opportunity? After celebrating with Cows Ice Cream, we returned to the RV and sent a quick email accepting the offer. We were now going to be Tofino bound!
When we had our initial conversation with Crystal Cove, JJ had an interesting remark. He told us that we would be saving the worst road during our cross-country trip for last. At the time we chuckled and thought that there was no way driving the drive from Nanaimo to Tofino could be that bad. On day 36, we were going to find out but first, we had a ferry to catch.
A half hour from our RV park in Surrey was the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. From there, we would drive onto the ferry that would take us over to Vancouver Island. Aside from flying into some of the airports on the Island, the ferry is the only option to get to the Island. I believe that as a result of this, BC Ferries can pretty much charge whatever they wish to board. When booking, they ask for the total length of the truck & RV as this is what they use to determine how much it will cost for you to board the ferry. We measured our truck & RV which came out to 53 total feet. How much do you think it would cost for 53 feet to board with BC Ferries? It cost us $320! To us, that price was high, but there was no alternative option. We had to pay up.
Aside from the cost of boarding, the ferry is nice. The seating area is nice and offers plenty of viewing areas to enjoy the nearby islands. The nice thing about this ferry, compared to others that we’ve been on in the past, is that they let you stay in your vehicle if you wish. We sat up in the seating area for about an hour before heading down to see Bella and Paris in the RV. Once we were in the RV, we stayed for the next hour relaxing before the drive ahead of us.
Two hours later, we were off the boat and on the road to Tofino. The first part of the drive through Nanaimo up to Parksville was nice and easy. Once we turned off to Port Alberni, that’s when things got interesting. Highway 4 to Port Alberni wasn’t a bad drive at all. There were some small climbs and descents but the views were incredible. After Port Alberni is when it started to get fun.
The road from Port Alberni to Tofino is filled with all sorts of driving obstacles. There is steep climbs, blind corners, snake-like winding roads, and even an 18% grade we had to descend. 18%!!! We had gone down 6-10% hills before but nothing ever close to 18%. When we saw the sign, we both wondered if we could safely make it down. Thankfully, while the grade is steep, it’s not long which was relieving. There were plenty of dicey situations during this drive which at times reminded us of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. Like Cape Breton, the drive is stunning and is one of those drives that you have to do at some point in your life.
Our First Days in Tofino
With over 10000+km’s behind us, we were now in our home for the winter. We finally made it. It felt a little surreal to us that we had left Prince Edward Island just over a month ago and that we were now in Tofino. We pulled into Crystal Cove, and just like when we first looked at their website, we were in awe. The resort is even more beautiful in person. We couldn’t be luckier to being calling this place home for the winter.
Something that brought a grin to our faces was the fact that it wasn’t raining when we arrived in Tofino. While they don’t get any snow here, they do get rain and lots of it and the forecast was calling for rain upon our arrival. After dealing with snow in Jasper and being stuck in Surrey thanks to Super Typhoon Songda, it was a pleasant site to see the sun beating down in Tofino.
Within a couple hundred meters of our RV is the gorgeous MacKenzie Beach. While the beach isn’t as popular as Long Beach, this is one of the most beautiful beaches either of us has ever seen. It’s a long and large sandy beach, lined with the thick trees and various resorts & campgrounds.
We walked the entirety of the beach while Bella met plenty of new friends. As the sun began to set, we stood to watch a couple of paddleboarders and surfers brave the frigid waters while catching some good sized waves. This was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean in person. The large crashing waves were an introduction that told me that this ocean is much less forgiving than the much gentler Atlantic Ocean.
Town of Tofino
The next day, the sun was still shining so we decided to introduce ourselves to the town of Tofino.
The town is small. Aside from the many thousands of tourists that flock to the town, the population of the village is about 2000 people. It is a cute, little town, right on the water offering many picturesque views. We wandered about the few main streets enjoying our surroundings for about an hour.
Out of curiosity, we wanted to check out the grocery store in town. Everyone here has told us to be prepared for the cost of groceries in Tofino. A lot of locals make a monthly trip to Port Alberni (2 hours away) and stock up on food to save. It does make sense that groceries would cost a bit more in Tofino. It’s not easy to get goods into the town, especially since transport trucks have to drive the same route as we did to get to Tofino.
We walked around the Co-op for about twenty minutes checking out the various selection and noting the differences in prices. The prices weren’t too bad compared to what we were used to. There were, however, some noticeable items that cost more. Cheese is the big one. A long brick of cheese that would cost $6-7 in PEI was $13 here which is unfortunate since we both love cheese so much. We did notice that while we were in Surrey that the price was about the same. I wonder why cheese is so much more expensive in BC. Items that we constantly consume like peanut butter, bacon, and other meats are a bit more expensive here but not by a lot. There are actually some things that are cheaper like some produce which is nice. What we have to figure out is if it’s worth it to make a monthly drive to Port Alberni for food considering the cost of fuel.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
One of the many fantastic things about staying in Tofino is that we’re a quick 5-minute drive to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The park covers 511 km of the coastal area of the South Western part of Vancouver Island. We’ve never lived this close to a National Park before. We’re excited to explore everything the park has to offer throughout our stay in Tofino.
We gave ourselves a brief introduction to the park during a sunny break in the weather. Our plan was to hike some of the quicker and smaller trails, allowing us to get acquainted with the park and its surroundings. For three hours, we explored Radar Hill, Schooner Cove, & Combers Beach.
All three of the hikes were beautiful, but the standout was the 2km hike at Schooner Cove. This was our real introduction to the rainforest that covers the Island. The trail led from the parking lot into the forest which smelled so amazing. The trees in the forest are incredible. There are the giant redwoods but then there were also trees completely covered in moss. It was lush all throughout the hike. Neither of us had been in a rainforest before (the Rainforest Café, doesn’t count does it?) and were astonished by this hike.
While we are certain that there are many places to find a good meal in Tofino, there was one place the piqued both of our curiosities before we arrived here – TacoFino. We both love good Mexican food and the reviews for this food truck serving up Mexican delights were stellar. We couldn’t wait to try it and wouldn’t you know it, TacoFino is a 5-minute walk from Crystal Cove.
The truck serves up a wide variety of Mexican food including bowling ball sized burritos, gringas, and of course – tacos. Like we often do, Kate and I both ordered the same thing – a crispy chicken burrito. For two burritos it cost us $25 which is a bit much for a burrito but when we got them and took our first bites we could see why. The burritos are packed with chicken, rice, refried beans, guacamole, and slaw. Kate says it’s the best burrito she’s ever had and I have to agree with her. This place will become a constant food source for us. I can’t wait to try their fish tacos…hum, maybe dinner tonight?
Preparing for the “BIG ONE”
The one thing that we knew when coming to Tofino was that we would be entering an earthquake and tsunami zone. We weren’t going to let something like this stop us from visiting such a beautiful place, but it’s also something to take seriously. Seismologists are predicting the “Big One” could happen any time now. What will happen when the “Big One” hits is unknown but the damage is expected to be severe as it’s predicted to measure greater than 8 on the Richter Scale.
While living in New Brunswick, we experienced a light earthquake while walking Bella. At first, we didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t feel much. But we did hear a loud rumbling noise that resembles an oncoming freight train. It’s incredible how much is happening below our feet that we cannot see. This previous experience gave us a taste of what we could be in for while in Tofino. The main thing is to be prepared.
There are many earthquakes and tremors every year on and around Vancouver Island. The most powerful one this year was 5.2 in strength. Most of these are light tremors that no one feels but if a bigger quake does happen, it’s imperative to be ready. Throughout our week in Surrey and first few days in Tofino, we heard a lot of advertisements on the radio about the importance of having an earthquake kit ready. Slowly, we’ve been piecing together everything we need to have in our kit should we need to evacuate our RV. We’ve also been studying the various routes for evacuation should a tsunami happen. It’s a bit unsettling to think how our lives could change should one or both of these natural disasters hit while we’re in Tofino. Yet, we’re not going to let that stop us from visiting such a beautiful place.
Departure Time/Location: 8.30a Surrey, BC
Arrival Time/Location: 4p Tofino, BC
Total Distance: 325km
Next Stop: To Be Determined