Why Tofino should be on your winter to do list

I have written a few blogs now sharing my love for Tofino. It is the perfect escape, quaint and quiet and absolutely beautiful. The village is located on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island. Since it is nestled in the Clayoquot Sound, it is the prime summer destination for surfing and beach time. 

However, thanks to the help of Tourism Tofino, I quickly realized Tofino isn’t just for the summer, but it is the perfect winter getaway as well. I spent two days exploring the beautiful island town and getting to see a very different side of Tofino that I wanted to share with you. 

Day 1: Storm watching and surfing

I started the day with breakfast and a coffee in the Great Room of the Long Beach Lodge. The Long Beach Lodge is a stunning resort located right on Cox Bay Beach. In fact I woke up to the sounds of the waves crashing right outside my window. 

The Great Room offers award winning cuisine and large windows that let you see the stunning views of the water. The perfect spot to watch the waves crash against the rocks during the storm watching season. 

Speaking of storm watching, that is one of the things that make winter so special in Tofino. Because of the open waters, we tend to see gale force winds, giant swells, and lashing waves. Waves can crash right up to the shore and can reach more than 9 meters high. 

What I loved about storm watching is that there are so many ways to enjoy nature at work. You could sit by the fire inside with a book listening to the power of the waves, or you could go outside and experience it up close and personal, just make sure you are in safe areas. 

After being memorized throughout breakfast watching and listening to the waves smashing on the rocks, it was time to actually get in the water and experience it first hand. 

I have tried surfing in the summer, but the waves are much larger during the winter months. Of course, you wear a full and thick wetsuit because the water is freezing, but being able to feel the power of the waves is incredible. 

Of course, it is important to stay safe and know the conditions ahead of time. If you aren’t experienced you should talk to some of the local surf shops and maybe sign up for a lesson. 

After surfing, I was in need of some food so we made our way to Pai. Pai is a newer food truck tucked away behind the main strip. They serve delicious fusion asian and Thai food. In fact, some of the chefs there even went to Thailand to get their training. The seasoning and food was absolutely incredible and it was very affordable. 

Then it was back to our ocean front room at the Long Beach Lodge to get a good night sleep before the next day of our adventure

Day 2: Brunch with a view and whiskey samples 

To start our second day, we made our way over the Wickaninnish Inn, another perfect storm watching spot. WE got a tour of the beautiful property. We were able to meet with the owner Charles McDiarmid to find out how he started to market storm watching season as a tourist opportunity over a delicious brunch. 

After watching the waves crashing up against the rocks, we made our way into town and did a little bit of shopping. 

I decided to finally purchase my very own Roy Henry Vickers piece of art. He is known for limited addition first nations beautiful pieces. 

After a bit of shopping, I made my way over to The Distillery, a brand new distillery in Tofino and tried samples of their West Coast Gin and delicious Jalapeno Vodka. 

A few drinks in it was time for some fresh air. We took a little walk along Chesterman beach and through the beautiful forests in the area. Even though the rain was falling down, it felt so good to be outside among these giants and breathing in the fresh air. Seeing these ancient trees up close and personal make you so appreciate to live in a place like BC. 

The night finished off at my favourite restaurant in the area, Shelter. It is the perfect date night spot in Tofino with a quaint fire place and romantic feel. Plus every single item on their menu is both fresh and delicious. I always try and sneak in some BC wild Salmon. 

Tofino winter vacation tips 

I have fallen in love with the amazing town of Tofino and will be sure to visit again soon in summer or winter. Just a few tips if you are planning a winter getaway 

  • Check the weather forecast ahead of time especially if you are hoping to see storms. We unfortunately didn’t see any crazy waves on our trip but still had an amazing time. If you are hoping for an intense storm make sure the forecast calls for it ahead of time. 
  • Bring an umbrella and waterproof clothes: What I loved about a lot of the hotels we visited in the area is that they really embrace storm watching. They offered umbrellas and raincoats for guests at both Long Beach Lodge and Wickanninsh Inn, but you might want to check with the hotel ahead of time to see if you need to bring your own. 
  • Look for some sweet deals ahead of time: While tourism is definitely on the rise, it is still considered the off season and so a lot of hotels will offer some pretty sweet deals. Make sure you search for them if you are thinking of booking a trip! 
  • Be ready to relax. I am the kind of person that loves adventure, and while Tofino does have a lot of outdoor activities, it is a really small town. It is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a relaxing weekend getaway 

Happy traveling my friends 

xo 

Mia 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Vancouver staycation with JW Marriott

I was torn on what to do for my 30th birthday. From travel to Ontario for Christmas to heading to Whistler for New Years, I was exhausted. So there was nothing better I could think of doing than having a little staycation. 

The one thing I love about moving to Vancouver is the fact that I now live in a place where people vacation. From the ocean to the mountain it is absolutely stunning and so I just wanted to spend some time appreciating the city that I love. 

I also love gabling ( well I love the $5 limit tables). So I decided to put two and two together and decided to throw an Oceans 30 soiree. 

About Parq Vancouver 

All of my closest friends got dressed to the nines and headed down to Parq Vancouver.

Parq Vancouver is a new international entertainment destination located right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. It features two luxury hotels and a casino that will give Vegas a run for its money. 

I love that the tables are lively, the 24 diner serves delicious food, and the band plays some of the best live music I have ever heard. They will have you dancing and singing all night long. 

My experience 

What I was most impressed though was how amazing the JW Marriott treated us and also how amazing their hotel is. 

I was able to stay in one of their ocean view suites for my birthday (the perfect staycation if you ask me). 

When I came up to the room it was absolutely stunning. From the giant bed overlooking the ocean, a bathtub I could literally sleep in, a soft cozy couch to relax on, and the world’s biggest television. 

The icing on the cake though had to be well, the cake. The hotel staff surprised me with the most delicious birthday cake and offered me a complimentary breakfast in their executive lounge as a surprise present. I couldn’t believe how kind their staff was. 

I may have lost all of my money on craps, but I had so much fun dancing the night away and going to bed in the most comfortable bed. I also loved waking up the next morning to the most beautiful sunrise over the ocean. 

I will be back 

I have to say, having a relaxing and fun staycation in the beautiful city of Vancouver with the amazing team at the JW Marriott was the best way to celebrate turning 30. 

If you would like to find out more about Parq Vancouver click the link to head to their website. 

xo 

Mia 

Top places to visit for fall hiking

Now that the smoke from the wildfires has cleared,  it is time to get back outside and enjoy the beautiful outdoors before the rain starts. The fall weather is already in the air and before we know it, the leaves will start changing colours and create a whole different kind of beauty in B.C.

My absolute favourite thing to do outdoors is go for a hike. There is nothing in this world that can compare to looking out over the top of a mountain, seeing beautiful glacier lakes, and breathing in the fresh air. Now add in the changing fall colours, and you have a picture perfect outdoor activity. 

Don’t know where to start when it comes to your fall hike? Well I have a few ideas for you,  especially since I have officially reached my one year mark living out in B.C.

Top 5 day hikes near Vancouver

Here are my favourite five hikes that also aren’t too far from Vancouver that I have discovered so far.

1) Garibaldi Lake

 This one is my absolute favourite hike in B.C. because it holds a pretty special place in my heart. This is where I got engaged and let me tell you, with the beautiful lake and greenery at the top, it was the perfect spot. When you get to the top you can opt to pass through Taylor Meadows, which I highly recommend. Stop and smell the trees and the beautiful flowers on the path before making your way over to the lake. When you see the lake for the first time, you will stop in your tracks. It is a beautiful deep blue. The colour will stun you, even on a cloudy day.  Take a walk around, there are plenty of benches that look out on to the lake and scenery.

Difficulty: This hike was a little more difficult than I thought it would be. It is 9KM up to the lake and it is all slightly uphill switchbacks so be prepared for a bit of a burn.

Pro tip: Go early! A lot of people know about this beautiful gem and so it can get pretty crowded. We started our hike at around 6am and it was perfect.

2) Joffre Lakes

 If beautiful glacier lakes, endless trees, and waterfalls are your thing, then make your way out to Pemberton for a day of hiking Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. The first lake is  an easy 5 minute walk and its crystal blue colours and mountain views will truly be spectacular. Guess what? Somehow it only gets better from here. Each lake sparkles in the light, and the hike to the top has you twisting through all of the colours of fall. 

Difficulty: This hike has moments were it is a really steep climb but over all pretty balanced. It is long so prepare to spend all day but I would say it would be medium difficulty.

Pro tip: Just like Garibaldi, it can get really crowded so go early. Also, while I found the second lake the prettiest of them all, I would highly recommend taking the time to explore all three. Each one of them is slightly different but absolutely beautiful.

3) Dog Mountain

Looking for an easy hike really close to Vancouver but also offers spectacular views? Then Dog Mountain is the spot for you.  This hike is located on Mt. Seymour. It will take somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half to make it to the top. Don’t let the short hike fool you though, the views from the top are spectacular. You get the full city on one side and the mountains on the other. There are plenty of picture perfect spots along the way, included a cute little lake.

Difficulty: This hike can get a little muddy since it is a pretty narrow path, but it isn’t too difficult. If you love hiking, you will make it to the top no problem.

Pro tip: pack a little picnic for the top of the mountain and stay to enjoy the views from one of the rocks at the top.

4) St. Mark’s Summit

St. Mark’s Summit is also pretty close to downtown and on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. I love this hike because it truly offers a little bit of everything. There is a beautiful meadow about half way up the hike. Once you get to the summit you are in for a real treat. It is a pretty steep hike, making the vertical views from the top both frightening and majestic. It is amazing to look down at the blue ocean. You will honestly feel like you are on top of the world.

Difficulty: This hike once again has its moments. Be prepared for a fairly steep hike and quite a few switch backs near the top. Again another medium hike.

Pro tip: This is an awesome hike because it isn’t too crowded and offers some amazing views. It is also a dog friendly hike so it is a great date for you and your pup.

5) Lynn Loop 

For those that really want an easier hike with beautiful views then this is the spot for you, especially in the fall months. Take moments to breathe in the fresh air and marvel at the beautiful large cedar and hemlock trees. Just be careful of aggressive bears along the trail. It seems to be an issue lately.

Difficulty: This 5km hike is quite easy (there is just one little steep part that will get your heart pumping). It is a great hike if you don’t have the full day.

Pro tip: Since the hike is a pretty short one, put some time aside for the other beautiful spots in the area. One of my favourite stops is the suspension bridge. Less busy than the Capilano bridge and definitely worth the views.

There you have it, some of my favourite hikes to discover this fall. I would love to hear if your top hikes made the list or if you have some others that I should give a try. In the meantime I hope you all get outside to enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

xo,

Mia

Why Sooke is Vancouver Island’s Hidden Gem

I have visited Vancouver Island on several occasions, but most of my trips have taken me to shorelines of Victoria or Tofino. I had never hard of a town called Sooke, that is until my boyfriend planned a surprise getaway for the two of us. Not knowing much about the town, I didn’t really know what to expect on the trip.

About Sooke 

Photo credit; Connor McCardle

If I did have any expectations, they would of been blown right out of the water. Sooke turned out to be the most quaint, beautiful, and relax place I had ever visited. Known as the place where the rainforest meets the sea it offers so many hidden gems just waiting to be explored. From beautiful hiking trails like the Juan De Fuca trail and ocean front homes it is where you go for ultimate tranquility, and with few hotels it is a lot less busy then some of the other spots on the island.

Where to stay

photo credit; Connor McCardle

As mentioned, there are very few hotels and motels in the area so we turned to airbnb to find the perfect spot to stay for our trip. I highly recommend this because you never know what adorable spot you will find. We stayed in a cute cottage right on the ocean. We ate all of our meals right above the water, searched for whales right from the window, gazed up at the milky way, and fell asleep listening to the waves crashing against the rocks below. It was truly a little slice of heaven.

What to do

Day 1: Potholes, Markets and Stars 

Day one of our trip took us to the Sooke Potholes, a very easy hike that takes you alongside the Sooke River. Gaze at the rivers unique rock formation that was formed from the last ice age millions of years ago. The park has several trails and all of them are beautiful. We followed the river to  a secluded rock pool and beach. We daringly jumped in to the freezing water and hung out on the beach.

On the way home form the potholes, we saw signs pointing to the Country Market. The market located at Otter Point Road runs every Saturday from May to October and it is absolutely adorable. Explore the local artists and taste some delicious fresh local fruits. Pick up a homemade piece of jewellery as a souvenir.

Living in the city, I sometimes forget that stars even exist in the sky. Away from the lights and pollution, the Sooke sky offered a perfect canvas to star gaze. We stayed up well past my bed time and gazed at the Milky Way. We even caught a glimpse of Mars.

Day 2: Rainforest hikes and river floats 

The second day of our trip took us on a little drive to explore some of the beautiful rainforests hikes in the area. We made our way through the trees of the Juan De Fuca trail down to Mystic Beach. On the beach you will find beautiful rock formations, forests on either corner, and a small water fall in the centre of it all. It truly fit its name, mystic to say the least.

A little bonus, about an hour and a half from Sooke on the way to catch the ferry in Nanaimo we discovered floating on Lake Cowichan. Hundreds of people cooling off in the water on their floaties. While we didn’t have our donuts on us, we did jump in. Definitely plan to come back to get the full experience.

Just a few weeks ago I had no idea Sooke existed, now it has become one of my favourite spots in B.C. It is calming and beautiful and truly a small hidden gem on a giant island.

 

 

 

 

 

A Beginners Guide to Back Country Camping

It has been nearly a year since I moved from Toronto to Vancouver and during that time, I have tried to explore as much of the B.C. as possible.

They don’t call it beautiful B.C. out here for nothing. From the mountains, to the ocean this place is filled with such beauty.

Since moving here I have experienced the mountains through hiking and camping, the ocean through paddle boards and kayaks. I have seen whales and bears. Every inch offering some spectacular view. It is hard to believe that this is now home.

Over Canada Day long weekend though, I decided to experience something I have never done before; back country hiking and camping at Elfin Lakes.

The Experience 

We left early Sunday morning and made our way up to Squamish. Squamish is abut 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver. You really feel like you have left the city and entered a fairy tale. So much greenery and nature.

We then started our hike. 11KM up the first day, and part of me wanted to turn back for the first 5KM. It was extremely steep and pretty difficult with my backpack, but trust me it is worth it. During the first half of the hike we observed hundred year old trees and waterfalls. The air was so fresh, the views stunning. It wasn’t like any experience I have ever had.

The second half of the hike was gruelling in a different way. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the amount of snow we would have in July. My shoes weren’t quite as waterproof as I had hoped and navigating through the snow while rolling over hills was difficult, but again the views from here were magnificent. Snow capped peaks in the distances, clear blue water peaking out through the iced lakes.

 

We eventually made it to the top, and were lucky that we were one of the first ones there because they only had a few uncovered sleeping decks. We set up our tent with an open view of the endless mountain range. I couldn’t believe that would be my morning wake up.

Then we opened up the grill and started cooking outside in the wilderness while playing card games, drinking from the lake, and cracking open our boxed wine.

We watched the sunset while dancing to some music. Watching the colour disappear behind the mountains was magical. A sense of accomplishment came over me.

An early wake up call, some oatmeal and coffee, and then we started our decent back down. 11KM to go, and again plenty of snow stuck in my shoes.

This was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. Back Country hiking really puts you out in nature, really forces you to put your phone down and appreciate the beauty that is all around you. I cannot wait to experience more hikes and camps like this.

 

Preparation 

As a relatively new hiker, I wanted to make sure that I was as prepared as possible. I knew that I wanted to make sure I had all of the necessities, but also wanted to pack light because I had a 22KM hike ahead of me. It was difficult finding the balance and hard to know exactly what to bring and what to leave at home. Here is a list of some of the essentials that I found helpful if you are hoping to try Back Country hiking and camping yourself;

  • A good backpack: I went with the MEC Mistral 55 Backpack. It was lightweight but had plenty of room to fit my needs. I loved the padded straps to make for comfortable hiking. I also loved the cross wind back, so that it doesn’t rest directly on your back and allows air to flow while hiking.
  • An all season lightweight tent: It is important to have a tent that can withstand the elements, but one that isn’t going to be too heavy during a hike.
  • A sleeping mat: You are going to be sleeping on the ground, so to make the experience as comfortable as possible, you may want a mat to lie on. Having that extra layer also makes for warmer conditions. I went with the MEC Deluxe Sleeping Pad. Light weight, but also extremely comfortable. Easy to inflate and deflate.
  • A sleeping bag: I used my Topquilt sleeping bag. You can find more info on what makes this the perfect sleeping bag in my previous blog post.
  • Layers: Canadian weather can change in an instant and so it is important to bring minimal amount of clothes, but clothes that can be used in the elements. Make sure you have warm socks and layers in case it gets cold at night. Also make sure you have enough dry socks. I learned that lesson the hard way.
  • Bear Spray: You definitely want to be prepared in case you run into any trouble.
  • A whistle: Again, a great way to be prepared in case of a dangerous situation.
  • Food: I packed some instant food from MEC. All you have to do is add water and you have a delicious meal that is easy and light to carry. Way easier than trying to bring a ton of different ingredients.
  • Matches: No matter what kind of hiking trip you are going on, you are going to want to have something that can light a fire.
  • Flashlight
  • Swiss army knife

For a full list of hiking essentials check out MEC’s awesome list. It really helped me prepare for my trip.

 

Safety first

I cannot wait to experience more of B.C. through these excursions and trips, but a reminder if you are going to go hiking and camping be prepared. Know the area, know the route, and let someone know where you are going. Because while the wilderness is beautiful but dangerous all at the same time.

You hear stories of people getting lost and hurt and you never think it can happen to you, but trust me if you aren’t prepared it most definitely can.

Have you every been back country hiking? I would love for you to comment below and share your experience!

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia