To get from the inner coast to the outer, you have to drive through the mountains that run through the centre of Vancouver Island. Two ranges, actually, with Port Alberni (at the end of a very long inlet) in between. I loved the drive! Twisty and winding! A really fun road on which to drive a Subaru. On the way, we ran into several kinds of weather, including hail. Fortunately, the only snow was by the sides of the road. I tried not to think about signs warning you to have winter tires or chains until April 30!
Sweetie found a good deal for us at the Long Beach Lodge Resort, which can be rather pricy. Even the less expensive room was beautifully appointed and very comfortable.
Once we settled in, it was time to seek food. Tofino, nicknamed "Tuff," isn't big, but there was definitely choice. SoBo seemed interesting, so we headed there. What a great find! After road food, we needed something good, but light. Sweetie had green salad, I had roasted beet salad (seems to be my new thing), with an order of fresh-baked rolls. Then she had the special, tuna tartare, while I had a fish taco. Both excellent. And not expensive.
No hot tub with our room, but we did get to soak in a nice big bathtub. And then we watched a DVD borrowed from the front desk, The Golden Compass. I've never read the books, but Sweetie said they did a pretty good job. I'm sorry the movie didn't do well so that there will be no films of the second and third books, because I quite enjoyed it.
Long Beach Lodge serves a very nice Continental breakfast included with the room, plus eggs and stuff if you pay. After breakfast, Sweetie and I went for a long walk on the beach. It was brisk but sunny! We didn't expect such nice weather. After our beach walk, we drove into town and walked all over the place. There are some very nice native art galleries in town. Just before one, we drove to the Ancient Cedars Spa at the Wickininnish Inn, where we had an appointment for side-by-side facials. It was a gorgeous experience! Start with a steam room, then a foot soak with consulation, then we were both taken to a little hut right on the end of the rock looking out onto the ocean. New age music, the sound of the surf, and the most amazing facial ever, which included a foot massage and some neck work. O.M.G. It was a seriously expensive treat, but a treat it was. After we left, we continued to mellow out at the Tuff Beans coffee house over excellent mocha and capuccino.
We had reserved for dinner at the Great Room, the restaurant in the lodge. The room gives you a great view of sunset over the ocean, and it was Ostara, the vernal equinox. So while we lingered over salads, a fish stew, wonderful local sablefish, and a superb bottle of Joie Farms Noble Blend, we watched the sun set straight into the west. We all broke into applause when the sun disappeared! Sweetie and I weren't up very long once we got back to our room. We almost never split an entire bottle of wine any more. But we were celebrating (almost) 30 years of being together!
On Monday after breakfast, rather later than on Sunday (they serve until 10:30), we took another beach walk. It was getting sunny again! Then we drove in the other direction to the town of Ucluclet. Tofino is lovely but very touristy. Uclulet is more where people live, and where they can afford to live. It's still a lovely town, on a spit of land between the ocean and an inlet. We drove out to the end of the peninsula and took a four-kilometre hike on part of the Wild Pacific Trail. It's pretty special to walk through temperate rain forest loaded with cedar and hemlock with an understory of salal and red huckleberry and then to break out to views of the ocean. The coast is much wilder there than in the parts of Tofino we saw. I loved watching the tidal surge washing over the rocks in so many different ways. The trail was smooth but had some pretty steep parts in it, so we got a decent workout.
We drove back into town around 2:30, feeling peckish. We stopped at a little placed called the Blue Room. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but the food was excellent! Sweetie had seriously good crab cakes with a salad, and I had a really delicious halibut burger. We think the Blue Room is another great find. After our late lunch, we did some more gallery checking out and then ended up at our real destination, the Uclulet Aquarium. It's just a tiny thing on the inlet, about the size of a trailer, but it's a really special place. All the tanks are full of native species from the surrounding area, which are all released at the end of the season. So many wonderful invertebrates, including a shy female octopus, lots of sea stars, some enormous sea cucumbers, and some bright yellow sea lemons, which are nudibranchs, a favourite sea critter. There were also crabs, fish, anemones, and some amazing orange things called sea combs, which are related to jellyfish. We kept up a running conversation with the guy who ran the place. They are planning a new facility that will be much larger. We must return!
We'd worn ourselves out by then, so we headed back to our room. Somehow, we got peckish again. And once again we went to SoBo. And once again we were very happy. Sweetie had that evening's special, which was exotic mushroom enchiladas with brown rice, beans, and a chipotle cream sauce. I had my exotic mushrooms on a small pizza. Once again, we had no room for what looked like very tasty desserts, including a flourless concoction called a Chocolate Bomb. We wrapped up the evening in our soaker tub again.
Tuesday started out grey and wet, so I guess that was our signal to leave. One more breakfast and back over the mountains, with somewhat fewer changes in weather this time. The sun was out by the time we reached Nanaimo.
It took us a long time to finally visit "Tuff," but I know it won't be our last time.