We really enjoyed our housesitting in Victoria – it’s a beautiful city with lots of opportunities to hike and bike and enjoy the nature everywhere.
We decided we needed to explore more of Vancouver Island so we followed a very popular route which took us to Chemainus>>Coombs>>Cathedral Grove and finally – the most Western part of Vancouver Island – Tofino.
Our first stop was in Chemainus – a small logging town that most people would pass, but they have made it a must stop place as they have decorated their town with beautiful murals depicting both local and Canadian history. There are over 30 murals integrated into the storefronts and buildings painted by local artists. We followed the footprint pathway through the town and learned more about how the town developed and how logging is their main industry. It reminded us a lot of when we visited Northern Ireland and learned about the stories through their murals.
There are two highlighted artworks to celebrate Canadian artist Emily Carr, which we learned so much about in Victoria. The first mural was designed as a gallery to highlight some of her most famous paintings. It was really neat how the artist made it look like you could walk up the steps to take a closer look.
The second Emily Carr highlight was closer to the waterfront and represented her close relationship with the Natives. It was a façade of a longhouse with more of her Native paintings and totems.
Chemainus was a neat place to visit and one that allowed us to revisit both BC and Canadian history as we drove.
On our way to our next town, we encountered ash and smoke in the air due to the numerous forest fires happening throughout the area. At no point were we in any danger, but due to the severe drought both on the mainland and Vancouver Island, there was a fear that the fires would get out of control. We hope that it rains soon!
We did a quick stop in the small town of Coombs. There’s a neat story behind this busy rest stop. All drivers going through to Tofino pass by Coombs, and the story is that a family thought about setting up a fruit or hamburger stand for drivers to stop at along the way. Instead, this Norwegian immigrant family built a traditional market into the mountain and extended the green roof out to the road.
The problems started when the grass on the roof grew out of control. They tried to figure a way to mow the roof, when they came up with a fun and exciting idea – put some goats on the roof and let them do their thing. Today, countless people stop to see the goats on the roof and the market has a booming business with logos, posters, t-shirts and much more! It was a fun stop to visit.
Our next stop was at Cathedral Grove which is one of the last of the old grove forests in Canada. Some of the trees are over 800 years old! We were able to explore the old forest along raised boardwalks and see some enormous trees! It’s nice to see the trees are so well cared for. So many different species such as Douglas Fir, Cedar and much more. Definitely a favourite stop!
We finally made it to the outskirts of Tofino where we entered the Pacific Rim National Park. The Park is amazing with so many great things to do with the family. We spent a lot of time at the interpretive centre as they had some great displays on whales and the Natives in the area.
One evening we had a young Native Parks employee tell us Native stories from the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations passed onto her by her grandmother. It was great to see how the younger generation still know the stories and the language, and are so proud of their heritage!
By far, the best fun we had in Tofino was the Young Xplorers program put on by Parks Canada. It’s a book of activities that had us hiking trails and learning about the history of the area as well as the flora and fauna and wildlife. Zoe and Mik of course were wild about the geocaching and we had a great time exploring some of the trails and finding the treasure boxes! This is the best type of school ever!
Tofino is a quiet town that has a bohemium vibe to it. They actually passed a law forbidding MacDonlands, Starbucks or Tim Hortens from opening up. Every business is local and the people are super friendly. Our hotel was right at the edge of the Pacific Ocean and the end of the Trans Canada Highway….it doesn’t get any more West.
Our explorations across Vancouver island were fun and unique in each town we visited. Sadly, it’s time to move on – but we all have a greater appreciation for Canada’s beautiful forests and history….we are so glad to have included Canada in our world tour – we feel so incredibly lucky to live in this amazing country!