Tofino is a surf town on the opposite side of the island. We visited during the winter so it was quiet and not many people around. On the way there are lots of national parks and picturesque mountains. The most famous spot to stop along the way is Cathedral Grove filled with giant trees.
9:15am – COCO CAFE
The trip started in the morning at Cedar community. First, we checked into Coco Cafe for lattes and a delicious carrot muffin.
9:45am – CAMERON LAKE
We drove along the #1 highway through Naniamo until it turned left and become the 19 – Inland Island Hwy towards Parksville. The highway veers slightly to the left, which we followed to stay on the 19. After 30 minutes we took the highway 4 exit for Highway 4. The rest of the way we follow Highway 4 – Pacific Rim Highway.
We pass through Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park and in 10 minutes we are driving along Cameron Lake through MacMillian Provincial Park. After about 5 minutes we reach the end of the lake and pull off to the carpark (just about 10 spots on either side of the highway and public bathrooms) for Cathedral Grove.
10:30am – CATHEDRAL GROVE
Cathedral grove is two sections of the park on either side of the highway with short 10 minutes walking tracks through the gigantic Douglas fir trees. The section on the north side’s path was fairly dry and there was a lot of new trees sprouting out of ones that had fallen and boasted a great view of Cameron Lake at the end.
The section across the highway on the south side had a lot larger but also more broken, fallen trees. It is also home to Big Tree which is the largest tree in the park at 800 years old, 75m (250 ft) in height and 9m (29ft) in circumference (21m taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa). There was also more snow coverage on this side.
Each section took us about 15 minutes to walk through and there were only a handful of other small groups there. It was truly amazing to just look up and ponder the crazy development of nature.
11:00am – SPROAT LAKE
After retreating to the warmth of the car we hit the road again. We passed through Port Alberni where the highway turns right and continued through the mountains along Sproat Lake. The highway passed through Sproat Lake Provincial Park, Taylor Arm Provincial Park, Sutton Pass Ecological Reserve and Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park.
We then entered Kennedy Lake Provincial Park and Kennedy Lake comes up on our right. It so big that it looks like it could be part of the ocean.
Most of the way is narrow, winding, one-lane highway up, down and around the mountains. Despite the overcast weather that we had experienced our whole time on the island today was clear, blue skies when out of the tree coverage.
The highway was constantly changing from snow covered, dark, dense areas to green, bright, open road. Because of the time of year AND time of day we were driving, on the way coming in and out of these areas, blinding light from the sun made it at times impossible to see anything in front of us. We had to make sure we were looking ahead to know if the road was going to turn, watch how cars coming the other way were turning or slow down and creep until the sun was covered again.
After …….. the highway meets Uclulet, where the Pacific Rim Information Centre is on the corner and Highway 4 turns right. The winding mountain pass ended and we entered the District of Tofino. We followed the flat road with trees flanking either side. We pass a lot of beach entrances and campgrounds (all closed) and after another 20 minutes we reach the town of Tofino.
1: 15pm – TOFINO
We parked the car on 4th street and walked down Campbell St and used the public bathrooms at Village Green. We walked along 2st street down to the Pacific Terminus Wharf.
We were planning on eating lunch here but being winter and a Monday ALL of the restaurants were closed except for a cafe and the Co-op grocery store. We got a corn-beef sandwich, chicken tenders, potato wedges and coleslaw.
We then walked along Campbell street, turned up 3rd street to Main Street. Directly across from 3rd street there is a small grassy section with picnic tables where we ate lunch with a view. The food, despite being from a grocery store was delicious! The worker had given us extra tenders and wedges, and the tenders tasted just like KFC only there was fresh, chunky chicken in each.
2:15pm – BACK TO NANAIMO
Since everything was closed and it was far too cold to go anywhere near the water, after an hour in Tofino we were satisfied that we had the chance to see the town and were ready to end back through the mountains before it got dark. There was a beautiful pink sunset in the skies as we entered Nanaimo again.