Life on the Edge

In Tofino, where the Pacific meets Vancouver Island, there's drama to spare

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Tofino coastline

Robert Leon

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I'm gaping at a huge set of waves washing over razor-sharp coastal rocks when our hiking guide, Bill McIntyre, says, "Now this is life on the edge." Sounds about right to me. Since my arrival in Tofino, British Columbia, I've met daredevil surfers, explored organic co-ops and eclectic art galleries, and chatted with more than one ardent environmentalist.

But it turns out a bohemian edge isn't what McIntyre is talking about. He's referring to an ecological "edge effect" that's created by onshore winds, nutrient flow, and massive ocean storms from thousands of miles away hitting this stretch of the Clayoquot Sound's shoreline. "Energy telescopes down in this one small unit area," McIntyre says, "so you find greater species diversity."

In terms of geography, too, Tofino represents life on the edge: Tucked away on the west side of Vancouver Island, from Vancouver it's accessible only by boat or small plane. But the long journey doesn't discourage.

Tofino's steady flow of visitors, many of whom arrive between November and March to witness the roaring tempests that have made this a winter storm-watching destination. Summer is an even busier time, with families flocking here to explore the trails and beaches.

What most people haven't realized is that April is one of the nicest months in Tofino, with lower lodging rates, wild rhododendrons and irises beginning to bloom, mild weather for hiking and surfing (a sport that's booming here), and excellent wildlife-watching opportunities ― including the springtime migration of up to 26,000 gray whales.


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