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 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Topquilt Review: Making camping more comfortable

Since I moved out to B.C. I have been enjoying the great outdoors. I mean with the mountains and the ocean, how could you not want to be outside. Along with my new found love of exploring, has come a passion for camping. Before moving out west, I had never camped in my life and so I will admit it was hard at first. Learning how to pitch a tent, eating food out of a bag, going to the bathroom outside, packing light, and finding the right equipment.

One of the hardest parts was finding the right sleeping gear that would make the experience comfortable and enjoyable, but that was also easy and light to carry. I am a 29 year old female who is still relatively new to camping and hiking. The thought of carrying a heavy bag up the mountain petrified me. So I reached out to some experienced hikers, and some had recommended gear from Outdoor Vitals. I was pretty impressed with their selection, and decided to give their topquilt sleeping back a try.

After doing a bit of research, I found out that the founder of the company had one goal in mind, to lighten his pack and stay comfortable while in the backcountry. I trusted this brand right away because it came from someone that understood what camping is like and has experienced the difficulties of camping first hand. I knew this product was coming from someone who really understood camping and was excited to give it a try.

About Topquilt 

This weekend, I took it on my first camping trip to Bowen Island and I really did love this sleeping bag. The three best features for me was the fact that it was super light but also durable, it was waterproof and comfortable, and that it could be used for multi purposes.

Extra lightweight  

What I learned was hat this sleeping bag was actually originally designed as as hammock with an under quilt to cut the weight. It was extremely light and didn’t make my bag extra heavy. I was able to carry it up the mountain with ease and didn’t really have to stop for any breaks. It was also very compatible and easy to pack in my backpack.

 

Feels like a down

The second part that I loved was that it was really comfortable. As someone who definitely enjoys my down comforter at home, I had found it tough in the past to get a good night sleep while camping. From the noises of nature, to sleeping on the ground. What I loved about this sleeping bag, was despite it being really light weight, it is a pretty thick to sleep in. The company uses exclusive LoftTek imitation down that acts like an insulation. This is lighter and more compressible, but is still able to insulate even when wet because of the synthetic insulation. No matter what the weather is outside, stay warm, dry, and comfortable even when you are in the middle of the forest.

Since the camping trip, I have found so many other uses for the Topquilt sleeping bag. I take it with me to relax on the beach, for outdoor concerts and festivals, and for cottage weekends. It is so much more than just a sleeping bag for camping trips.

Your personal discount code

Now for the best part, if you use my Outdoor Vital code, you can get 10% off your order of a TopQuilt sleeping bag today. Just head over to their website and use the code “MIAWGORDON” at checkout and make your camping experience so much more enjoyable.

Get outside and enjoy the summer in comfort with the Topquilt sleeping bag. I know that mine will be getting plenty of use camping around beautiful B.C. over the next few months. I cannot wait to see what else there is to see, explore, discover in my new home.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

My top spots in Vancouver, so far

 

Like most Vancouverites that I have met during my 9 month stint here so far, I am not a true local. No I am an Ontario implant. We seem to be famous out here on the West Coast for trading in our cold winters and snow boots for mountains, ocean, and well rain boots.

Since moving here, I have been on the road a lot, but the time that I am here I have been spending it exploring the beautiful landscapes, hikes, activities, and nightlife in my  new home. 

Since I know a lot of us are all in the same boat, I wanted to share some of my favourite moments and places here in Vancouver so far.

1) Hiking 

and the mountain from my balcony. There is something so special about going out and taking in the fresh air. Beautiful views combined with a bit of a workout, what could be better? There are so many incredible hikes that offer something for everyone. I wanted to share a few of my favourite with you so far

  • Joffre Lakes: This hike is a bit outside of Vancouver, located in Pemberton but definitely worth the drive. I have never seen such incredible colours. The three lakes all a different shade of deep blue and turquoise, the trees painted red and orange, and waterfalls around every turn. It was the most magical place I have seen to date. But be warned, this hike is pretty difficult, and will take you about four hours.
  • Quarry Rock: For a much easier hike and one closer to the city head up to Quarry Rock and take in the views from the Deep Cove Lookout. From the dense forest to the beautiful water views, this hike is definitely a must.
  • Dog Mountain: Just 25 minutes from downtown and only about an hour hike, but definitely some of the most spectacular views. You can really  see the whole city, and it sure makes you feel like you are on top of the world. Plus there are plenty of small lakes and streams along the way to stop at. Find the trail head for this hike just past the Bear’s Paw lodge
  • The Grouse Grind: Ok, yes probably one of the busier, crowded hikes in Vancouver, but I feel this is a must for anyone to really call themselves a true local. Commonly referred to as Mother Nature’s Stairmaster, this one is definitely a grind. 2.9KM to the top and will see plenty of incredible trees, trails, and viewpoints. From the top you will see some of the best views of Vancouver.

2) Relax on the Beach 

It is crazy to think we live in a place where others vacation. Just five minutes from my house is the beach perfect for an after work stroll or a weekend of reading. There are some amazing beaches in Vancouver and here are some of the must visits.

  • Kits Beach: This is the place to be in Vancouver. It is definitely one of the busier beaches, but it is a great spot to interact and get some games going. Grab a group for spike ball or beach volleyball. Go for a dip to cool off. It is also a great spot to grab some nearby food and hang out with friends for a picnic. I also love eating at the Boathouse, it has great views of the beach and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
  • Spanish Banks: Just a little ways down from Kits Beach is Spanish Banks. It is a quieter spot if you are looking for a more tranquil beach experience or just to escape the busy city feel
  • Third Beach: Located in Stanley Park (what better backdrop for a beach) Third Beach is a great place to go swimming in the park. There is plenty of soft sand to set up shop and the shallow warm water makes for a great place to go for a dip.
  • English Bay: Right down the road from my house, this is my favourite beach because of the proximity. It is so easy to go explore after work. Again, there are lots of places to grab some food and head out for an evening picnic. A great spot to relax and unwind.

3) Sip some craft brews 

One thing I learnt when I moved to Vancouver, was that it has an incredible crafter beer scene. There are so many unique and quirky microbreweries to explore. I highly recommend taking a stroll on a Saturday afternoon in East Van and checking out some of the breweries in the area.

  • Brassneck Brewery: This was the first brewery that I visited and it did not disappoint. With over 50 unique beers to choose from and a very at home feel it is a great place to gather the group. I loved the reclaimed wood furniture and the chalkboard menu.
  • Main Street Brewery: Located in a beautiful heritage building it is a bright and fun place to grab a drink. High ceilings and high stools almost give it a cafeteria vibe. I love that there is a slew of seasonal brews to choose from.
  • Faculty Brewing: I love that the speakeasy vibe here. You feel like you are entering a dark, hole in the wall. A quieter spot to enjoy a delicious Oaked Stout.

4) Explore the food of Commercial Drive 

I have really enjoyed exploring the food scene here in Vancouver since the move and have particularly fallen in love with Commercial Drive. It is a funky part of town that stays away from chain restaurants.

  • Cafe Deux Soleils: I was told that this was a staple of the Drive and had to come and give it a try. Not only do they have everything from delicious breakfast to dinner choices, they also have live entertainment. Enjoy everything from poetry readings to standup comedy. This spot really has it all. 
  • Bandidas Taqueria: This vegetarian Mexican restaurant is the perfect comfort food spot. They make their tortillas in house, have a load of local beers, and even offer a full day breakfast menu.
  • Havana: I love this spot because of the year round patio and delicious sangria. I also love that the menu is always slightly different so you never get bored. The perfect place for friends to get together for Sunday Brunch. 
  • Addis Cafe: One of my favourite restaurants in the entire city is located on the Drive. I have a love for Ethiopian food and Addis is next to none. This is a cosy and casual spot with authentic Ethiopian food. You can bring your own wine, or try their traditional coffee. 
  • Kishimoto: In my opinion, this is the best sushi spot in Vancouver ( I know that is a tall order) but the line outside would also agree with me. From the food presentation to the actual taste, they have really perfected the art. They don’t cut any corners from fresh wild salmon to their edible flower garnishes.

5) Get a sweat in

Sure, when the weather is nice I have really enjoyed working out outside, but let’s be honest it rains a lot here in the winter. I still love to keep up with my fitness even when the weather outside is frightful and have found some amazing local gyms that make working out fun.

  • The Practice Studio: I started working out at the Practice Studio about four months ago and absolutely love it. From the awesome instructors to the unique classes it has really made fitness fun. They also offer a Whole Life Practice so that you can focus on improving all areas of your life form coaching to nutrition.
  • Spin Society: This was the fist class I went to in Vancouver and fell in love instantly. I have always been a big fan of spin classes because of the high intensity and low impact. I loved this class because it literally felt like a workout dance party that targets your entire body.
  • Pure Barre Vancouver: Let me start off by saying this class really scared me because I am so uncoordinated, but you really get such a good workout. I love that it targets muscles I didn’t even know I had through very precise movements.

6) Camping 

While I haven’t had too much free time to explore the beautiful camping spots, it is something I am really looking forward to getting out and doing more of this summer season. I love how naturally beautiful Vancouver is, and how each camping experiences offers an opportunity to see a different side of that beauty.

So far I have just been able to experience camping at Half Nelson. The views from this spot were incredible and there were plenty of mountain bike trails in the area.

I cannot wait to get to know more of this amazing city as I spend more time exploring. I have truly fallen in love with this city in the short time span, and can see why so many people make the move.

I would love any suggestions on your favourite spots to visit so please share some in the comment section below.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo,

Mia