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‘Tis the season for… Tofino storm watching!

Please only travel when and where it’s safe, and follow all local guidelines. Also double-check what's open before your trip.

A wise person once said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.” Or something like that…

Now, the weather on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island in winter is bad.

Really, really bad.

Tofino Storm Watching at the Wick Inn

This is the season for Tofino storm watching!

If you have the right gear…

Tofino storm watching

Tofino is a charming boho-chic town on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

It’s located on the northern edge of the Long Beach section of Pacific Rim National Park, one of the most beautiful Canadian national parks.

Tofino in summer

Tofino also sits smack against the Pacific Ocean.

If you look at a map, you’ll see that there’s nothing but water in front of Tofino, nothing but water between here and Japan.

Tofino storm watching

Because Tofino is so exposed, it gets monster storms, fueled by winds building up over that huge swath of ocean.

Rain that lashes you from the side.

Gigantic frothy surf. Gales that howl and rattle windows. Ocean swells 20 feet high.

And monster rogue waves that, if you’re not careful, can sweep you out to a furious sea and your watery death.

It’s one big, bad spectacle of nature.

Tofino storm watching

The birth of storm watching in Tofino, BC

Tofino storm watching

There was a time that tourists only visited Vancouver Island during good weather, i.e., summer.

But then visitors started trickling in to witness the wild west coast’s bad weather.

Storm watching is now hugely popular in winter.

In fact, people come from around the world to watch winter storms batter the coast and its untamed but beautiful beaches.

Charles McDiarmid, managing director at the renowned Wickaninnish Inn, is largely credited with enticing visitors to Tofino for winter storm watching.

The Wickaninnish Inn is one of the best hotels is Tofino, BC

Stay at the Wick, and you discover shiny yellow Helly Hansen rainslickers and umbrellas in your room for your use during your stay.

Complimentary rainboots in your size can be picked up from the front desk for cruising the beach.

The sound of the surf is piped into The Pointe Restaurant through a state-of-the-art sound system, which also boasts a 240-degree view of the Pacific.

The Pointe Restaurant in Tofino, BC

As well, bathtubs in the rooms have views of the beach and crashing waves outside.

And after getting blown away on the beach, what better way to revive than a treatment in the Ancient Cedars Spa!

A Relais & Chateaux property, the Wick is the place to pamper yourself for storm watching in Tofino.

Other top storm watching lodges

Since the Wick opened in 1996, several other lodges have also opened their doors to visitors (and offer storm watching on Vancouver Island packages).

Take Long Beach Lodge Resort.

Long Beach Lodge

Its beach out front is completely exposed to the open Pacific.

And it’s another great place to bundle up into rain gear and go lean into the winds, knowing you can chase that with a glass of wine or brandy by the roaring fire in the lodge’s Great Room.

Down in Ucluelet, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort is one of the top accommodation options.

Its Fetch restaurant juts right out on the rocky headlands, with soaring glass windows on three sides for prime up-close-and-personal storm watching.

Other things to do in Tofino

Of course, Vancouver Island storm watching isn’t the only thing to do in Tofino.

There’s also rainforest hiking, sailing, whale watching, soaking in natural hot springs, bear viewing and more.

Tofino storm season

The best months for storm watching are from November to February.

Mind you, there are no guarantees.

We once visited in February for a spot of Tofino storm watching, only to be greeted with brilliant sunshine, cobalt skies and T-shirt temps.

We couldn’t figure out if we were lucky or unlucky.

On Vancouver Island, it turns out, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only storm watching. Or perhaps sun worshipping.

How to get to Tofino

Part of Tofino’s charm is that it’s so secluded. It’s a 3-hour drive across Vancouver Island along Highway 4 from Nanaimo.

To get to Nanaimo from Vancouver, you take BC Ferries from the Horseshoe Bay terminal in West Vancouver (sailing time of 1 hour and 40 minutes).

To get to Nanaimo from Victoria, drive north up Highway 1 (about a 2-hour drive).

Recommended reading: See our guide to taking the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria

Experience more of British Columbia!

Read our posts on:

Vancouver | It’s a lovely ride bicycling around Stanley Park!

Parksville area | From swimming at warm shallow beaches to caving to spying the goats on the roof, you’ll love these crazy fun things to do in Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Victoria | Lace up your sneakers and check out these easy scenic walks in Victoria.

Ready to book your trip?

See the following helpful services:

Our Travel Resources Guide | Get airline booking tips. Discover great travel, tour and car rental companies. And find crazy useful trip planning info!

Booking.com | Score a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one.

GetYourGuide | Check out local guided tours and book tickets to attractions.

Our Travel Shop | Find the best travel gear.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


Photo credits: 5, 11 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 1, 4 6, 8, 9 Wickaninnish Inn | 7, 10 Long Beach Lodge


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Leigh McAdam

Tuesday 29th of January 2013

I love Tofino though I've only visited between the months of May & November. I'd actually like to come in March when the whales are supposed to be in abundance and catch some of these mega waves.

Janice and George

Tuesday 29th of January 2013

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival is March 16 to 24 this year. You're more likely to catch the huge waves in the really stormy winter season though. Guess it's a toss-up: storm watching in winter or whale watching in spring. And then there's the summer for beach walks and kayaking and enjoying the sunshine. But, as you know, Tofino is beautiful whenever you go!

Charu

Saturday 24th of November 2012

Not sure if this is my cup of tea but I'd love to watch the storms from inside! Beautiful photos.

Sophie

Thursday 8th of November 2012

Well, I'm Norwegian, so I'd probably feel right at home here. The expression about no bad weather even rhymes in the local language here. The inn sounds fabulous, as does storm watching.