Hot Spring Hopping in Tofino

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My neighbourhood has always been my sanctuary. Close-knit, unique small businesses, 30 minutes west of Toronto. My parents’ house backs onto a ravine spanning 1.7-acres. It captures a little bit of nature in the suburbs. This small-town feel is what I love to search for when I travel.

 

Like many Canadians seeking adventure, I had always travelled to far ocean destinations, such as Greece, or the Caribbean. I had never considered a vacation in Canada. But there was something enchanting about British Columbia. A good friend of mine moved out to British Columbia for university and told stories as if she lived in another world altogether. One day she, I’ll never know jokingly or not, invited me to visit. Between two jobs and my Masters, I had limited time on my hands for travel and “fun stuff.” Spontaneous last-minute travel was also not really my style. I do not think she was ready when I said: “Dude, I booked my flight.”

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When I began trip planning, I craved something uniquely BC. Something picturesque, someplace with small-town vibes, somewhere like my sanctuary.  My friend had previously ventured to  Vancouver Island and suggested we try Tofino, a charming town of roughly 2000 people on the West coast of Vancouver Island. She described Tofino just as I pictured: a quaint town with specialty stores, eateries, coastal tourist attractions, and the open ocean of the west coast. I was instantly sold!

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Not many people realize it is a five-hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver. You could get to Iceland or Costa Rica with the same amount of time in the air. I met my friend at the airport, and we drove straight to the ferry. I thought I would have been tired after the flight but wanted to take in everything BC had to offer as we ventured around the passenger decks and braved the wind outside to take in the smell of the ocean. We docked in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and disembarked begin our 3-hour drive across the island to Tofino.

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After twisting down narrow one-way roads through the Vancouver Island mountains we arrived in Tofino. Despite the long day we tucked our belongings into the hostel, planned our excursion to the natural hot springs for the next day, and grabbed a quick bite. With the sun now hidden behind the deep greens of the trees, we sprinted down empty streets towards the ocean to catch the sunset. As we rounded the corner and jumped onto the beach, the bottom edge of the sun touched the horizon. It was absolutely incredible. The golden light reflected off the open ocean as waves sprayed a refreshing mist into the coastal trees. Tofino sunsets are different from the sunsets in Ontario. I wish my pictures could do the sunset justice… they could never be the same.

We set out early to catch breakfast at The Common Loaf Bakery. I had a delicious sandwich that filled my stomach for the day we had in store: an adventure to Hot Spring Cove. Backpack, snacks, towels and bathing suits in hand, we headed out to board the boat. The hot springs tour was a 6-hour round trip. As we cruised the open waters a bald eagle soared in the currents above us while otters dipped between the waves. An hour into our trip our captain slowed the boat pointing excitedly off in the distance. “Now there’s something you don’t see every day,” he said.

            Four dark fins cut the calm ocean surface.

            A pod of Orcas.

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Once we reached Hot Spring Cove, we disembarked and began our kilometre and a half walk to the cove. A mystical rainforest surrounded the boardwalk on both sides. The tall wispy cedar trees reminded me of my grandparents’ home in the countryside of Ontario. The smell was overwhelming: the pure scent of the cedar tangled with the salty mist of the ocean.

 

As we rounded the final bend, the hidden, magical springs awaited us.  Pools of hot springs fed from a scorching stream and picturesque waterfall cut down the rock to the ocean. Perhaps my plane had taken a wrong turn and I really was in Costa Rica. As I dipped a hesitant toe in first, I was amazed to find the water warm and relaxing. I would have stayed in the springs all day and night if they had let me.

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The hot springs exist because of a geological fault line near the area. Seawater is sucked into the earth, heated, and released through fractured rocks as a temperature of 50 degrees! We hopped from pool to pool, the closer we got to the ocean the cooler the temperature of the pool. I closed my eyes for a moment to take in the sounds of the oceans, the quiet of the forest, and the warmth of the springs. After hours of soaking, my fingers and toes were shrivelled as I had refused to leave until the last moment.

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Our boat ride back was not as pleasant as the way there. Pouring rain and high winds made our boat ride rocky and uncertain. I understood why this place is known as the wild west coast. Once our feet were safely on land, we ran to the closest restaurant called Shelter, our breakfasts now a distant dream. I had the most delicious Red Thai Coconut Curry with fresh seafood and truffle fries, just what I needed to warm my cold soul after running through the rain. With our full bellies and bodies still drenched, we made our way back to the hostel to get some rest for our trip back to Vancouver the next day. In some small way, this place reminded me of my sanctuary. Peaceful, unique, home-ey, and comforting. Tofino, I’m coming back for you one day… and this time I’m not leaving so quickly.

Submitted by Krystyna Makris

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