Do you have a place that you love despite having never seen it? A place that you know will feel like home when you get there, despite only knowing a few details about it. And you know you don’t have to force a trip; you’re drawn to it as to a magnet, confident that you’ll experience it even if years go by before life gets you there.
That’s how we felt about Tofino. The only description I knew was a laidback surfing town on the southwest corner of Vancouver Island. But my heart knew so much more. And so now I can tell you: that place is even better than you imagine it.
But to properly tell you about Tofino, I’ll have to start back in Hot springs cove. Our plan was to untangle ourselves from the temptation of the hot springs and keep moving south on Sunday before we just stayed forever.
We finished plank-carving and were on our way back to the boat when we met Shaun on the dock. Shaun is the owner of the only other boat in the bay: a 100-foot 100-year old vessel, renovated (by Shaun) into a floating Inn. He invited us to swing by for a coffee and a tour of the boat. And we couldn’t rightfully turn that down!
The coffee came with captivating conversation, 20 minutes seeped into 2 hours, and our plans to depart drifted away, supplanted with plans to share dessert that evening. I made an apple crisp, we dug up a bottle of port and paddled back over to the Inn at sunset. We sat with Shaun, along with two of his regular guests, Christen and Robyn, into the night sharing stories, laughter and sugar.
By the end of the night, Shaun had given us his keys to use his car in Tofino, Robyn invited us to do laundry at their house, and we had all of the best recommendations for food and exploration around town. We said our goodbye’s with the intention of an early departure. Shaun invited us for a cup of coffee on the way out. We should have known better.
At 8:30, we sidled Halcyon along the InnChanter – just for a quick cup of coffee. We stayed for breakfast. Breakfast lasted until noon.
We finally pulled away, but in the meantime, we’d picked up extra crew. Christen and Robyn, who were slated to head back to Tofino via floatplane that morning, didn’t waver for a moment when we invited them to join us on Halcyon. I love that spontaneous spirit.
It was a beautiful day for a sail and so refreshing to have new friends traveling with us. They took us out to dinner when we arrived in Tofino and arranged our activities for the following day, including a visit to Christen’s wood carving shop, haircuts at their niece’s salon, delicious food for every meal, and laundry and showers at their place.
Tofino itself was everything we wanted it to be. It has a simple, laidback atmosphere with stunning surroundings. There are no stoplights, no chain stores or restaurants, and no cruise ships. The part I hadn’t envisioned was that it is also home to the nicest people on earth. Christen and Robyn embody this notion, but we experienced it everywhere.
The bookstore owner spent 30 minutes with us discussing a photography book by a local and sharing a piece of his fascinating story. Christen’s coworker at the carving shop gave us a small carved feather as we reminisced about our respective dogs with kind hearts and old souls. The owner of the restaurant introduced herself to us. The barista didn’t just point her finger when we asked for directions; she walked us there.
Our stay was much too short. We were in the end of a good weather window, and the lows already forming north of us encouraged our departure for lower latitudes. It was with heavy hearts we delivered Shaun’s car keys to the floatplane dock, waved to the bookstore owner and hugged Christen and Robyn. We are comforted by the knowledge that we will be back – that town requires much more of us than a 2-day stay.