Home RVingCrossing Canada Crossing Canada: Day 36 Tofino

Crossing Canada: Day 36 Tofino

by Adam Doolittle

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.


The long, pristine beaches were just one of the many reasons we wanted to come to 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.


The gorgeous, well manicured grounds at Crystal Cove.

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!

Getting There

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.


Our planned route from Surrey to Tofino including a ferry ride with BC Ferries.

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 new home at Crystal Cove Beach Resort in Tofino.

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.

MacKenzie Beach

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.


The sun sets on MacKenzie Beach.

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.


The look on her face says that Bella loves MacKenzie Beach.

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.


Welcome to Tofino

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.


There a few float planes that transport locals & visitors to/from Tofino.

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.


The trails of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve are truly majestic.

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.


The amount of driftwood on Combers Beach shows you how powerful the Pacific Ocean is.


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.

Combers Beach
Bella loves walking the endless beaches.
Driftwood. Lots and lots of driftwood.
Fungi have no issue growing in the rain forest.
More driftwood
The Schooner Cove trail is beautiful, lined with wooden paths.
One of the mossy wooden footpaths at Schooner Cove.
The trails of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve are truly majestic.
Schooner Cove
The trees in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve are like nothing we've seen before.
The trees are massive!
Kate & Bella sharing a spot inside of this incredible tree located near our trailer at Crystal Cove.
There are plenty of positive vibes going around in Tofino.
We caught Bella mid yawn.
Laying peacefully after a long walk.

Departure Time/Location: 8.30a Surrey, BC

Arrival Time/Location: 4p Tofino, BC

Total Distance: 325km

Next Stop:  To Be Determined

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Ticker Eats The World November 18, 2016 - 11:45 pm

Holy Molly, those are some amazing photographs. Canada is slowly rising up on my want to visit destination list and the more I read about it the more I want to go there. Wonderful detailed post and love the way you wrote it.

Adam Doolittle November 22, 2016 - 2:58 pm

There are so many great areas of Canada to visit. Tofino is just one of those. If you decide to make a trip one day, feel free to ask some questions. We’d be happy to help 🙂

Liz November 21, 2016 - 11:20 am

Tofino looks so pretty and that’s awesome that you’re close to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve! Have fun on the island during fall and winter!

Adam Doolittle November 22, 2016 - 2:56 pm

Tofino is definitely a unique place on the map. We’re excited to be here. You should make a visit some day :0

A Former Local December 3, 2016 - 8:11 pm

What I’d suggest once you’ve found your feet, would be to look into a day hike down to the “Radar beaches”. It’s a big commitment for a day hike due to severe terrain/swamp obstacles and the trail markers are iffy at best. Mayhap get a local to accompany for the first trip. You will not be disappointed, nuff said!

A Former Local December 3, 2016 - 8:14 pm

There are also great hikes in and around the Kennedy Lake area, including waterfalls and hot springs, but again local assistance would be required to get into…

A Former Local December 3, 2016 - 8:19 pm

There is also a fantastic dog walk from MacKenzie’s beach over to Middle which was my favorite local beach, via cutting up from MacKenzie, at Bella Pacifica, then walking the road over to Middle Beach Lodge, then taking the short trail down to Middle beach proper. This be the nicest dog walk in North America by far.

Adam Doolittle December 3, 2016 - 11:13 pm

Thanks for reading and for your great suggestions. We really want to do the Bomber trail at some point. These other ones you mention sound great too! We’re staying on MacKenzie Beach at Crystal Cove, so we’re always on that beach with the dog. We just did the exact hike from MacKenzie over to Middle Beach the other day. It was beautiful there. No a soul in sight either which is always nice 🙂

neha December 19, 2016 - 3:43 am

Looks like Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Never been here but planning to soon. I would love to take the trail that you took and plan a journey accordingly

Adam Doolittle December 22, 2016 - 10:55 pm

It really is beautiful Neha. The landscape changes constantly so you never get bored!

Noemi of Pinay Flying High December 19, 2016 - 1:40 pm

That looks incredible and I think it all worked out well for you specially when you were able to partner with Crystal Cove. Bella looks like she’s having a great time by the sea, I just can’t imagine that people are still surfing. It must be cold there now? And that is one expensive burrito. Lol.

Adam Doolittle December 22, 2016 - 10:53 pm

Yup – people surf here year round. They wear wet suits though which apparently keep them nice and warm. I haven’t done it so I have to believe them. Maybe one day I’ll get brave and go try to catch some waves.

Abigail December 19, 2016 - 2:54 pm

The beaches are definitely beautiful and romantic. Love a good nature trip like this! And I love the fact that it is a bit remote so you can definitely feel like you’re lost in the woods!

Adam Doolittle December 22, 2016 - 10:52 pm

We went on a walk in the woods yesterday and it was very enchanting yet creepy almost because the trees are so thick and it’s quiet with no one around. Plus there’s wolves and cougars hanging around too…always an adventure!

The Travel Ninjas December 19, 2016 - 4:22 pm

Torino is unexpectedly gorgeous. Of course some of that rugged beauty made it a tough 18% climb. So glad you made it safely so you could share this part of your Canada adventure.

Sandy N Vyjay December 20, 2016 - 12:26 am

Tofino really comes across a stunning and pristine place. The beaches are really exotic and you sure got a lovely home at Crystal Cove beach Resort. The pictures are spectacular to say the least.

Adam Doolittle December 22, 2016 - 10:50 pm

It really is quite spectacular. We’ve never seen such amazing beaches like this anywhere else. PEI has great beaches but these are different and really beautiful.

katie December 20, 2016 - 10:33 am

It looks like you have had some adventure! Tofino looks like such a beautiful, calm place to visit and you photos are gorgeous! That beach looks stunning too!

Caroline @ The Travelling Sloth December 20, 2016 - 12:49 pm

This looks like such a gorgeous spot! Looks so raw and a definite spot I should check out (I’m a nature lover).

I’ve never heard of the “Big One” before! And this may sound really ignorant on my behalf but I never imagined Canada would be an area a tsumani would hit! But it is really good to get in the mind sight of preparedness in case something should happen. I think sometimes as travellers we forget that we should be prepared! I was caught in a small typhoon in the Philippines couple of years back, had no idea what to do!

Adam Doolittle December 22, 2016 - 10:49 pm

A typhoon! Wow…you’re right, though, you just never know what can happen. You can also only be so prepared. It’s also good not to worry about it too much either. And yes, it’s gorgeous here…A natures lovers paradise 🙂

Vicky @ A Backpack Full of Adventures December 20, 2016 - 2:21 pm

I’m not a massive fan of snow and cold weather either, so I can understand why you guys decided to pick this place 😀 And what a beautiful place it is! I love your photos from the national park and the lake – they’re gorgeous!

Adam Doolittle December 22, 2016 - 10:48 pm

Thanks Vicky! We’re really happy to be here. Cold and snow just isn’t for us anymore…not that it ever really was haha

Rashmi and Chalukya December 20, 2016 - 7:54 pm

This trip looks so dreamy. The MacKenzie Beach is beautiful with no touristy crowd around and the hiking through the rainforest sounds like an amazing experience. We would love to spend some quiet time in such quaint villages. And must say Bella is adorable.

Adam Doolittle December 22, 2016 - 10:47 pm

Bella appreciates you saying that shes adorable haha. It is beautiful here and quiet…for now. Summer it gets busy apparently.


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