Winter is Storm Watching Season on Vancouver Island
Woollen clouds blanket the sky. Rain lashes the windows. Frothing waves crash against the black, rocky shore.
From your cozy spot beside a fire crackling in the hearth, you have a front-row seat to the favourite local pastime on Vancouver Island’s west coast: storm watching.
Occurring every November through March, the coastline between Tofino, Ucluelet, and Pacific Coast National Park is hit with fearsome winter squalls. These windy and rainy storms originate off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and then blast across the Pacific Ocean towards Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
There’s just something elemental about experiencing a powerful storm from a safe and warm place.
Why You Should Visit
As if sitting back and watching the results of Poseidon wielding his fearsome trident aren’t enough:
- Low-season rates. Since most tourists visit Tofino and Ucluelet in the summer months, once winter hits, prices at accommodations drop.
- No crowds. See above. While the word is spreading, storm watching is a novel enough activity that you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with other visitors.
- Unconventional. If you’re looking for a Canadian holiday alternative, the Pacific Rim region is off the beaten path, unspoiled, and breathtakingly beautiful.
How to Get There
The most scenic way to reach Tofino or Ucluelet is to fly into Victoria International Airport (1.5-hour flight from YEG or YYC), rent a car, and then road trip the Trans-Canada Highway north through Nanaimo and Port Alberni. It’s about a 5-hour drive where you’ll pass wild rainforests and rugged mountains.
The Great Outdoors (and Indoors)
Depending on your level of comfort with getting wet and windblown, here are some of the best ways you can enjoy storming watching:
- Snuggle on the couch, dim the lights, and watch the storm roll in. Many hotel suites have floor-to-ceiling windows, giving you an unobstructed view of the show.
- Grab a drink and have a soak. Make sure you book stay at a resort that has outdoor hot tubs.
- Zip up your raincoat, toss on your rubber boots, and go for a walk down by the seashore. Remember: The rain and wind can be very strong, so watch your footing. And you’ll want to keep your eyes on the swells. Waves can reach up to 20 feet.
Top 5 Things to Do
- Hike the Wild Pacific Trail. This 9 km walking path near Ucluelet takes you along jagged shorelines and thick rainforest. Every bend is another dramatic view.
- Check out Pacific Rim National Park. Whether you prefer exploring beaches or trails, there’s a lot of secluded terrain to trek.
- Go surfing. Beginners will feel comfortable at Chesterman Beach. Experts will love Cox bay and Long Beach. Whatever your skill level, you’ll need to wear a full wetsuit. Ocean temperatures range from 8 to 3°C.
- Visit Ucluelet Aquarium. Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day, this is a great way to get acquainted with the region’s sea life.
- Yoga retreats. Breath deep and stretch out the kinks at an in-studio yoga session.
Book your winter storm-watching vacation
AMA members save 10% or more at the Tofino Best Western Tin Win Resort Lodge.
For help planning and booking your trip, reach out to an AMA travel agent.