Vancouver Island’s resorts discover a unique way to attract tourists during off-season


For sun seekers, a storm usually ends a vacation. But if sandy beaches aren’t your thing and sunshine day after day bores you, storm watching in Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island’s west coast may be your ticket. It isn’t just about watching Mother Nature at her worst — or best, as storm watchers attest. Crashing waves tap into all the senses.

Tofino began attracting visitors during the really gloomy months — November through March — back in 1997, one year after Charles McDiarmid opened the Wickaninnish Inn and introduced the “storm watching” concept. “Growing up in Tofino, the best entertainment was watching Mother Nature do her thing,” says McDiarmid. “In a big storm my father would drive the family out to the Pointe, the rock at the end of Chesterman’s Beach, and see how high the tide would come up to the forest. It all but came through the front window of our cabin and we loved it.”

Their cabin was replaced by the Wick, where you can hear and gaze from the comfort of your own front window the roaring tempests. What’s cosier than battening down the hatches and staying inside with a fireplace while the rain falls sideways and the wind howls?

But to really experience the west coast, bundle up (most resorts provide raingear) and stroll the driftwood-piled and kelp-tangled beaches. Take a hike. The Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet is a 4-mile (6.5 km) path through old growth forest and rugged shoreline peppered with viewing platforms. Storm watch from the Wya Point Resort’s private beach, where a ten-minute hike will take you to the famous Wya blowhole. This tunnel, carved from thousands of years of waves, sounds like liquid fireworks as waves funnel through and then a huge ‘Boof’ like a massive whale spout as it flops back.

Years ago I sailed from Sooke to Tofino in February, and all I could see was a wall of water, no sky. I was terrified, but at the same time never felt more alive. The mighty Pacific has tossed about more than me, trees and kelp, having sent 125 ships and crews to their watery graves. The area is aptly named “Graveyard of the Pacific” but rest assured, it’s safe now. There is signage everywhere, advising hikers to stay away from the “death zone” when the surf is high. Wave power is exhilarating; just stay off the rocks and rogue waves. Embrace the storm, but on beaches and trails.

Of course there’s more to do than experience storms. Tofino’s wealth of seafood and local produce makes for a stellar food scene. And it is best showcased at Wolfe in the Fog, which has raised Tofino to an international culinary destination. (Start with the oysters wrapped in potato and all their fish comes from the dock one block away.) The Wick’s Pointe restaurant is like a wave observatory with its wraparound windows. It also serves up the freshest local seafood and has a stellar wine list.

Shelter from the storm:

You can enjoy luxury for less during storm watching season. A number of upscale resorts offer packages that can be half the summer price.

In Tofino: It’s hard to leave one of the beach houses at Pacific Sands Beach Resort with gourmet kitchen, double soaker tub and fireplace. And stellar views of Cox Bay.(

Now is the time to splurge at the Relais & Châteaux Wickaninnish Inn and still pay the mortgage. Named a “Canadian Signature Experience” by the Canadian Tourism Commission, the Wick was designed for storm watching. After braving the elements, unwind in the cavelike steam room at the Ancient Cedars Spa. (

In Ucluelet: To really get away from it all in gorgeous surrounds, check into a self-contained, spacious beachfront lodge at the Wya Point Resort. All nine timber frame lodges offer spectacular and very private views, and the two-night package is a bargain.


For more information about Tofino and Ucluelet visit tourismtofino.comand