It’s coming up soon (although not soon enough for me)! While many people still probably will plan to go south for spring break, the struggling Canadian loonie is going to make those kinds of vacations extra expensive.
So how about a staycation in your own back yard? Vancouver Island has a myriad of choices for kids and adults when it comes to spring break, and I want to share some of them with you today.
Tofino & Ucluelet
It’s incredibly remote, located literally at the end of the road, but that’s part of what makes Tofino and Ucluelet so incredibly charming. This is a goregous sweep of beach, kilometers long. You can hike the Wild Pacific Trail, or just trudge the beach, looking for critters and shells. You can touch actual critters at the Ucluelet Aquarium. If you’re brave, you can surf, or you can stay inside and watch the waves, cozy in your hotel room. The food here is also beyond wonderful. Some of my faves include Sobo, Hank’s, Zoe’s, and don’t forget one of Canada’s best restaurants, The Wolf in the Fog, is also here.
In stark contrast to last year’s ski season, this year is a banner year. We have snow, snow, snow, and British Columbians are happy, happy, happy. Where else in the world can you ski one day, and surf the next, all within a short distance? You can do that with Tofino and Mt. Washington. It’s a great hill for kids and adults alike, and they have some awesome mid-week deals on in March.
One of my favourite places on the island (and Michael’s too), is Coombs. Coombs Old Country Market is the most charming store. They have tons of fun, old-fashioned toys for kids, and the place is also a foodie’s dream. I stock up on lots of specialty products every time I’m there. The bakery also is to die for…
One of the things I love most about living in BC is the amazing variety of destinations we have here, often no more than an hour or two away. If you crave skiing, we’ve got some of the best hills in the world just up the Sea to Sky Highway. If it’s wine you’re into, Penticton is just a 4-hour drive up the Coquahala. Got a craving to lie on a beach? Yup, we’ve got that, too.
One of the most magical places in BC, in my opinion, is Tofino/Ucluelet. Part of the reason it’s so amazing is because it lies, literally, at the end of the road. It takes a bit of work to get to, but the reward is worth the effort. I’ve done quite a few getaways to Tofino, which is to the right when you get to the end of the road, but this time around, we turned left, and got to explore Tofino’s slightly-smaller, and lesser-appreciated counterpart, Ucluelet.
How to Get There
To get there, you can fly (it takes about an hour, and leaves from YVR’s South Terminal), or you can get there the old-fashioned way: ferry and road. It starts with the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo’s Departure Bay, which will take you about 90 minutes. Once in Nanaimo, you follow the Trans Canada until you get to the turnoff for Qualicum Beach and Coombs. Coombs, by the way, makes a great pit stop for lunch. I love Trees Cafe, and no one can resist The Old Country Market.
Once on your way, it’ll take you about 2-2.5 hours to reach Ucluelet. It’s actually only a little over 100 km from the turnoff to the T in the road, but it’s a crazy, roller-coaster of a road. If your kids are prone to car sickness, you might want to pre-emptively give them Gravol before hitting this road, but as a driver, it’s a blast.
You’ve arrived! Now what?
Start with a quick visit to the Tourist Info Centre (you can’t miss it–it’s right before you get to the T in the road). They can help you out by letting you know what’s hip and happening, so you can make some plans.
Where to Stay
The view. The view!
Ucluelet has a host of B&Bs and motels where you can stay with your family. But as far as I’m concerned, the only place to stay in Ucluelet is The Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. Just 5 years old, the spare, modern design of the resort might throw you off a little when you drive up. But that’s because all the good stuff happens on the other side. The resort itself wraps around a cove, and is basically build on and out over the water. Every room offers an amazing water view. You can literally lie in your bed and watch the waves crash.
All the rooms here are suites, which, to me, increases the value of staying here so much more. There’s a cozy living room space with a fireplace, and snuggly throws. There’s a dining area, and a kitchen, which includes a dishwasher. The bedroom is a separate room, and that rocks when you’re travelling with family, and the littles need to go to bed before you. For me, though, my favourite part of the suite (other than the view through the floor-to-ceiling windows) was the bathroom. Huge, with a heated floor, it has a stand-alone shower stall with a rain shower head, and then a separate bathtub, with sliding windows that allow you to watch waves while you soak. Michael also really liked the toiletries (not always the case with kids); he said they smelled like lemon shortbread cookies.
There are two restaurants; Float, which is a casual bar (it has the coolest bar I’ve maybe ever seen, though–it looks like a cresting wave, made of blue tiles) that opens in late afternoon, and Fetch, which is the resort’s main restaurant, open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Views from both are stunning, and I imagine, in the summer, even more so, when you can sit outside on the patio.
At Fetch, they have a separate kid’s menu, consisting of kid faves, like sliders, pasta, PB & J, and chicken. Kid’s meals are $10, but during the month of March, kids get to eat free, here. The adult menu is heavily reliant on local seafood (as well it should be!); about 2/3 of the menu features seafood in some way. It’s an elegant dining room, but the waitstaff is used to children, so it makes for a very nice place to have a special meal with your offspring, which for me, is rare. We so often stick to sushi or casual, family-friendly places when we go out to eat, it felt so nice to have a kind of “fancy dinner date” with my son.
The resort also is home to a world-class spa, so if you have time to treat yourself to some pampering, I’d certainly encourage you to do that. They also have a small gym, a small, outdoor pool, and two hot tubs, all overlooking the water.
There’s tons to do nearby (my next blog post is about that), but the Black Rock Resort is located right on top of the Wild Pacific Trail. There is hiking, beaches and gorgeous scenery just outside the door.
We were there in the middle of storm season, which meant it rained pretty much the whole time we were there, so we didn’t do a lot outdoors. But there’s something so cozy and restful about snuggling up inside, with a fire, watching the waves crash and the rain fall outside. The juxtaposition is wonderful.