They call it the End of the Road, a final destination for west-bound nature lovers, ocean worshippers and adventure seekers.
With old-growth forests on one side and the wild Pacific on the other, Tofino’s beaches in British Columbia are seemingly endless and deeply mystifying. It’s no wonder visitors travel here only to be drawn back again and again or, for some, to never return home. It takes more than a week — some would say even years — to unravel its many secrets.
You’ll hear them whisper as you amble across Long Beach at the crack of dawn. Wake up early enough and the longest sand dune on the west coast of Vancouver Island will feel like the remotest end of the earth.
And, on North Chesterman Beach next to the Wickaninnish Inn, you’ll find sea creatures abundant at low tide.
By mid-day, you’ll find more activity. In the surfing capital of Canada, both locals and visitors descend on the sandy shores to chase the next big wave. Long Beach is popular, but so too are Chesterman Beach and Cox Bay.
This town of 2,000 Tofitians is so passionate about their favourite water sport, I was told, that in the rare event of a tsunami warning, surfing zealots will make a mad dash for the open ocean instead of escaping to higher ground, determined to spend their last moments on the ride of their lives.
For non-surfers, the beaches are the reward for hikes through ancient forests, like this one at Schooner’s Cove…
… And for afternoon strolls, like Mackenzie Beach.
Tofino beaches are undoubtedly the most dramatic — and magical — in the evening. It’s a time to watch in wonder a most dazzling light show in the sky when, in the brilliance of the falling sun, the shimmering hues of gold, dusty rose and tangerine orange fade into darkness.
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Of course, you won’t always see the sun in Tofino — this is BC, after all. The town gets more than its share of Canada’s rainfall, but that’s part of its atmospheric appeal. In fact, visitors from near and far make their way here during the winter storm season to witness the powerful spectacle of howling gales and blustering waves pounding the sandy and rocky coastline. It’s also what attracted filmmakers of the Twilight Saga, the wildly popular fantasy series. For them, the moody beaches were the perfect setting for their second film, New Moon.
So, if you haven’t heard of Tofino, you have now.
It is, indeed, the End of the Road. But when you arrive and step onto its beaches, you soon realize it’s just the beginning of a new journey into another, ethereal world.
Have you been here? What do you remember most about Tofino’s beaches?