Things to Do on Vancouver Island, Canada
A recent long awaited return to Vancouver Island was a perfect dose of what fun trips are supposed to be. Arriving early one morning in Vancouver, we claimed our car rental and headed directly to the ferry where we boarded ourselves and our car for the 1.5 hour trip the port town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The weather was chilly and windy, but hot coffee and Nanaimo Bars, a local confection, warmed us up during the ride.
Driving off the ferry, our first mission was to locate Free Spirit Spheres, a lodging destination we’d heard about and had designated as a must see. They offer a unique experience in which you sleep in a 10 foot diameter hand crafted sphere hanging from a tree in the forest. After a few wrong turns on our way to up the coast, we finally arrived and were given a short tour. Owner Tom Chudleigh, the sphere designer and builder is the genius behind the idea. Though we’d seen the pictures, they didn’t do the spheres justice. They were surprisingly spacious inside and the soft swaying provided a settling sense of comfort. It was almost like being in a giant Christmas ornament and we both were captured by the concept. We couldn’t stay though, as we had another destination planned, but these will definitely remain on my bucket list. They are popular, so book ahead.
We eventually made our way to the west coast toward the town of Tofino where we checked in to The Wickaninnish Inn, our hotel and landing spot for the next three days. While the inn is a Relais & Chateaux property, in this case that appellation is pure gravy because the initial draw here is the location with the ocean right at the front door. The hotel sits on a rocky point and is designed with maximum views in mind. The rustic style is casual and comfortable with lots of featured work by local artists in the rooms and common area. The first night we reserved a table for dinner at the inn’s restaurant, The Pointe, and as self designated foodies, it didn’t disappoint. We feasted on local oysters, scallops, smoked salmon and Dungeness crab all presented like art on plates. The art part lasted about three minutes before it was messed up, devoured and totally enjoyed.
Ancient Cedars Spa
On the morning of our scheduled treatments at the inn’s Ancient Cedars Spa it was cool and drizzling, and we wondered what was up when we were offered thick terry robes and escorted outside to a covered porch and given lap blankets. We shouldn’t have worried. The seats were warm and within minutes we were soaking our feet and scrunching our toes in copper tubs of warm water filled with marbles, drinking hot herbal tea and watched the waves crashing through the rain. A foot and leg massage was next, and then it was up and on to the main event where I had my introduction to a hot stone massage. Big win. Beachcombing and decompression ruled the rest of that day.
Tofino for whale watching and surfing
The scenic fishing village of Tofino is just up the road and is situated on a glassy calm inlet dotted with kayakers. It’s a popular destination for whale watchers and surfers, and is small enough to explore by foot. The local shops offer a nice selection of gift, clothing and gear shopping, along with an abundance of First Nations art. We found several restaurants and pubs and tried our best to eat and drink our way through town. And though we didn’t get to see any whales, we did visit the Whale Centre Maritime Museum which had some interesting local historical artifacts including a skeleton of a 40 ft. gray whale.
We look forward to returning to the area during winter months for the winter storm watch when the ocean’s 20 foot waves have their way with the coast.
INSIDER TIP – Be sure to ship home some locally smoked salmon from Trilogy Fish Company. And don’t miss a day trip to Hot Springs Cove. Accessible by boat or float plane, these remote springs shower down over huge boulders resting at the ocean. We felt like we’d had a rugged outdoor experience without the physical effort.