Tofino is top-notch May through August, but true west-coasters know the wet and windy surf-destination is worthy of its accolades year-round. We slipped away on an extra long weekend in February for an incredible mini-vacation that has us itching to head back soon. From three meter swells to a world-class meal, it was a weekend worth talking about. Here are a few of our Tofino highlights.
The first item on the agenda was a 3 hour surf lesson with Tofino Surf School. There are an overwhelming number of surf schools in Tofino and choosing one online can be a daunting task. In the end, we went with Jeffro because his prices were the best and there were plenty of rave reviews on his site. Verdict? We picked good. Jeffro was professional (yet fun) and relaxed (yet diligent). It was grey and raining hard even by Tofino standards, but our wetsuits were warm and we were having too much fun to care. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe it was luck, but there was not another soul on the beach that afternoon. It was a perfect Tofino day.
We consider ourselves pretty savvy when it comes to Vancouver Island points of interest, but we only discovered the Tofino hot springs a little while ago. Located in Maquinna Provincial Park, the springs are only accessible by plane or boat. We booked a tour through Tofino Whale Centre, but several Tofino tour companies travel there. The 2 hour boat ride was an incredible way to see the coastline and the vast ocean, and if the season is right you might even spot a whale or two. Tip: take Gravol or you won’t be enjoying the view at all – the open ocean swells were 2 to 3 meters. On land, it’s a 30 minute (or so) walk through the rainforest to the hot springs. The springs are tightly packed, but piping hot and soothing. The best part? We packed a post-soak picnic to enjoy from the rocks overlooking the waves – miraculously, there was not a cloud in the sky that day.
Food journalist Andrew Braithwaite named it Canada’s Best New Restaurant, and while we haven’t traveled as far and wide as Braithwaite has, we’d have to agree. Wolf in the Fog is a new favourite of ours for its stunning interior, gracious staff, and most of all, its remarkable food. At the helm of the new restaurant is head chef Nicholas Nutting from The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn. From the moment it started, the meal was an experience. It began with a potato crusted oyster with apple and truffle and a Bamfield seaweed salad with shitakes, wild rice and daikon. From a selection of five sharing platters we chose the ‘Mighty Duck‘ – a whole B.C. duck, beetroot and gorgonzola lasagne, and blood orange salad (other enticing options included fried chicken with corn bread and an Arabian lamb shank). The grand finale was butterscotch brulee with caramelized white chocolate and raspberry gelato. Trust us (and Braithwaite) when we say Wolf in the Fog is not to be missed.
The Cabins at Terrace Beach in Ucluelet is a really cool little resort. We only crossed-paths with other guests at check-in and check-out, so if you’re into privacy then this is your place. The staff we did see was incredibly kind and accommodating (but we might be a little bias because they upgraded us to a huge two bedroom cabin). The cabin itself inspired many “we could totally have a place like this one day!” comments over crib and wine. That’s a sign of a good cabin. The only downside to our stay was our own poor planning. The drive between Ucluelet and Tofino is about 45 minutes, and every activity we planned took place in Tofino.
1. It’s Friday night. The Drake is a cozy, laid back space on lower Pandora ideal for unwinding over a few casual drinks with friends. In true west coast style, they boast a huge selection of BC beers on tap. // Find The Drake at 517 Pandora Avenue.
2. Oh hello, Saturday morning! Hey Happy is a cool new coffee shop located on Lower Johnson. Stop in for a hand-crafted drink that’s guaranteed to be creative and delicious. Locally made artisan donuts are aplenty, and totally count as breakfast food. // Find Hey Happy at 560 Johnson Street.
3. Hungry again? No shame in that. Vancouver mainstay Meat & Bread has just moved in on Yates St. The name says it all (though they do have animal-friendly options, too). // Find Meat & Bread at 721 Yates Street.
4. Saturday nights are for seafood, small plates, and good cocktails. Ferris’ Upstairs is newly renovated and is well worth another visit if it’s been a while. Never been? Oh, you are missing out! // Find Ferris’ Upstairs at 536 Yates Street.
5. Sunday, funday. What’s more fun than tacos? The beloved crew behind the Tacofino food trucks have opened up a brick-and-mortar shop on the 700 block of Fort Street. The food truck pioneers may be known for their namesake, but can we suggest the vegetarian burrito followed by a diablo cookie? // Find Tacofino at 787 Fort Street.
Happy eating, foodies.
California’s wine country has been on our bucket list for as long as we’ve loved wine (that’s a very long time, for those of you keeping track). When we started planning the big California road trip Napa was an itinerary must, but after doing a little research (and budget planning) we thought the smaller, more laid-back Sonoma might be a better fit. Like all important decisions, this one was made over a bottle of wine – and boy were we right.
We loved Sonoma as soon as we saw it. We arrived mid-afternoon with just enough time to explore the tiny (but charming) town square before dinner. The streets are lined with galleries, shops and, of course, wine tasting rooms. Many wineries have storefronts in town to catch the wandering tourist – our favourite was the Roche Winery Tasting Room located just off the square. The wine at Roche is delicious and, as with everyone we met in Sonoma, the people are positively delightful. Seasoned wine drinkers at the relaxed outdoor bar welcomed us warmly and fed us with the kind of tips only locals can give, between glasses of crisp white wine.
Our only full day in Sonoma started at Wine Country Cyclery where we rented bikes and picked up a map for a self-guided wine tour. We rode down country roads past incredible farm houses, beautiful barns, and wide open fields and stopped at a handful of wineries along the way. The highlight was Scribe Winery, a turkey farm-turned-winery perched on the top of a hill. It was also the only place we pulled out the camera, so all the pictures featured here were taken at Scribe! Unlike most wineries, Scribe doesn’t just line you up at bar for a 10-minute tasting, and for that reason they require appointments – we found this out the hard way, but they let us in anyway. Their tasting room is their yard, scattered with picnic tables and roamed by farm dogs, and the tasting experience is extremely intimate. We were surprised at how much time our sommelier spent sitting with us, explaining not only the wine but the history of the vineyards and the valley. We must have spent over an hour tasting and talking, soaking up the California sun – it was well-worth the higher-than-average tasting fee.
There’s no better way to end a perfect day than with a perfect meal. When in Sonoma go to Sondra Bernstein’s restaurant the girl & the fig for a dinner you won’t forget. Be sure to make a reservation – the inventive cocktails and plats du jour attract locals and tourists by the truck load. We won’t dare suggest what to order because the seasonal menu frequently changes, but we will confess that we still think about the chicken. And the steak. And the mussels…
The Sonoma Creek Inn was the perfect place to stay for our short two-night stay. The cute boutique hotel has comfortable rooms and accommodating staff, and it’s just a short drive from town. We can’t wait to check in again for another weekend in Sonoma.
We’d like to personally thank the fine people of Spain for their epic contribution to cuisine – the tapa. We don’t visit as often as we’d like, but know that we’re grateful. Lucky for us, our little west coast city loves tapas almost as much as we do. When it’s tapas we want, it’s tapas we’ll get.
The latest addition to the Victoria small plates scene is Perro Negro, the fourth restaurant in the Ferris’ family. Located above Ferris’ Grill, Perro Negro is a sultry extension of the newly renovated Ferris’ Upstairs Oyster Bar. Its dim lighting, brick walls, sophisticated cocktails, impressive wine list and yes, tapas, make it a perfect late-night spot. We loved everything we tried (the olives, the montaditos, the chorizo, the croquettas…) but the warm bacon wrapped dates stuffed with emrite blue cheese and honey are indeed our favourite. Most dishes are easily shared between two – any more and hands might get slapped. Bites are small (tapas, by definition, are supposed to be small) and priced accordingly so have fun with menu and keep the plates coming.
Spain, we might not be back…
Find Perro Negro upstairs at 536 Yates St., Victoria. Open Thursday through Saturday, 5pm to 12am.
Photo by Centric Photography.
Remember when you were little and your mom would send you off to school with your lunch box, give you a kiss, and tell you to eat your crust? She was so right. If you aren’t familiar with Crust Bakery then you, dear friend, are missing out. Pastry chef Tom Moore and wife Crystal opened Crust in the fall of 2013, taking the place of the old Rheinland Bakery on Fort St. Last spring they underwent a renovation that transformed Crust into the bright, airy space it is today.
The renovation was a good excuse to walk through the door, but let’s be honest – we were there for the pastry. Desserts are delicate and decadent and range from pastries and tarts to muffins and croissants. Fans of savoury goods have plenty to choose from, too – savoury pastries, calzones and sandwiches are served up daily. All goods are made on site using natural ingredients, including Crust bread (rye, sourdough, baguette, 9-grain, focaccia, and even cinnamon, fruit and nut bread).
Our favourite? That blueberry lemon tart we couldn’t resist diving into before snapping a shot!
Find Crust Bakery at 730 Forst St., Victoria BC.