The 5 hour drive from the big city instantly reminded me of living in Ahipara – secluded and remote, but worth it. The drive itself, mountainous and scenic through ranges with no cell phone coverage, was reminiscent of heading towards Milford Sound, except without the intense dramatic landscapes. The surf reputation and surf-minded relaxed community was the equivalent of what I’ve heard and read from others about Raglan (although I’ve yet to experience that little corner of NZ myself).
Tofino had been high on my list of places to see on the west coast long before I even left Canada. I wasn’t the only one with plans to see it either; Tofino brings in 1.1 million tourists yearly. But the little town with the year-round population of 1 800 people hides its popularity quite well. Although I was surrounded by a mirrad of accents, I never got the typical “tourist trap” feeling or impression. While of course there are upscale options, there is something for everyone and every budget. That’s quite a feat in such a small area.
In my mind, I had pictured it to look a bit different. Perhaps flatter or more at sea-level and “beachy-er”. But even though it wasn’t quite what I expected, Tofino’s tiny pretty harbour, newly reconstructed streets and variety of little shops and local art left quite the impression on me. It didn’t take long for Tofino to win my heart over, and I’m not even a surfer.
The Small Town Vibe
4 streets run parallel from the harbour, out of town, aptly named First, through Fourth. Running perpendicular to those, were Wharf Street, Campbell Street and Main Street. One supermarket, one hardware store, a CIBC bank, a Post Office, a library and a community centre. It’s also home to its own brewery, what more could you ask for?
A movie was on once a week on Monday nights, there were Aquafit classes, bootcamps, yoga & pilates classes – I wanted to do all of that! I wish I had allowed time in our trip to spend there. Even in the rain there was plenty to do. Perhaps I’m more used to the small community lifestyle, and think that having some options is better than absolutely none at all. Someone who is used to the hustle and bustle of the city, having public transportation on a whim and everything open late my not be so inclined to love this kind of area longterm.
The Nature of the place
Nature is inescapable in Tofino but why would you want to? A selection of beaches to choose from, an assortment of rainforest and water all around for all sorts of activities.
We found ourselves on a zodiac boat watching from afar as a mother taught a baby humpback how to surface feed, showing us the baleen of her mouth!
I tend to love surf communities, even if I’m not the one out on the board, catching waves. It’s west-facing and is supposedly a prime location for amazing sunsets, which is exactly up my alley. It poured with rained through the duration of our visit, but all the maps label prime spots to capture the escape sun.
The good vibes flowed freely
No matter where I went, the people I met were friendly and talkative and more than helpful. The librarian was keen to sort us out with the free wireless and let us charge all our gear before we had a room. The cashier at the Co – Op supermarket was friendly and chatty, and the staff at the whale watching company we talked to had plenty of time for us.
Before I got there, I knew Tofino would be a place I’d like. There was no doubt in my mind. What I underestimated was how much I would like it. Just like I knew that we should stay at Tofino Travellers, once I was actually there I had a feeling that I would love living in Tofino. I wasn’t sure how often they hired teachers, which would be my main ticket to relocating, but it made for a good daydream. The distance from the city didn’t bother me, I was used to that after being an expat in the Far North of New Zealand. Living in Ahipara for 3 years felt like it might’ve prepared me for the same sort of experience in a new location. Same same but different. Different country, different climate, but something new.
But for me, it’s now my personal mission to find a way to return and spend longer in this edge of the ocean paradise someday. I mean, it rained the whole time we were in one of Canada’s best west coast sunset spots. I. Must. Return.