On the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Tofino typifies the majesty of the Pacific Northwest with its flawless natural beauty and tapestry of vibrant communities. Located in a designated UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, the region is also making admirable efforts to sustain itself for the environment and locals and travellers alike.
Tofino’s mild year-round coastal climate attracts travellers from all over the world for outdoor adventures, from whale and bear watching and hiking in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to surfing – the whole area has been named the “Surfing Capital of Canada” by New Mexico’s popular Outside magazine.
Tofino is also home to a thriving local food scene producing innovative, boat-to-table seasonal dishes from halibut burgers and wild fish chowders to salmon roosts and fish tacos. And the area inspires many artists and artisans who capture the magic of the place in their works, from singer Sarah McLachlan and artist and storyteller Roy Henry Vickers to sculptor Guthrie Gloag and jewellry maker Christy Feaver.
There’s a wide variety of accommodation on offer, from camping to beachfront B&Bs to luxury resorts – of these, The Eco Lodge at Tofino Botanical Gardens and Clayoquot Wilderness Resort are doing more than many to be genuinely sustainable. Though the area doesn’t officially limit visitor numbers, as a town on a peninsula with strict building height codes its has a built-in mechanism for limiting the number of available hotel rooms and therefore the number of tourists.
To protect the land, flora and fauna of the whole area, the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust helps fund and support sustainable conservation and development in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. With a resident small population of just under 2,000, Tofino is also making surprisingly large strides to preserve itself as a sustainable travel destination.
It gave birth to Surfrider’s “Straws Suck” Campaign, for example, which inspired all businesses in Tofino and Ucluelet to stop using plastic straws, and only give out compostable or reusable straws on request. And its small local Stitch and Beach group of eco-conscious residents keen to eliminate single use plastic bags get together every few months to sew reusable grocery bags that are then distributed at local stores for shoppers to use and take (read more).
Tofino also has an ongoing “Every Drop of Water Counts” campaign, first launched in 2007, to remind residents and visitors how to conserve water on a regular basis. Climate change has meant that the region has longer dryer spells of weather, especially during the summer, and so water usage bylaws have been introduced to protect water consumption – local lawns and gardens can only be watered during specific times throughout the summer, for example.
Tourism Tofino’s new welcome guide, Respect All Life, is designed to help visitors better understand, respect and protect the local ocean, land, plants and wildlife. The area’s approach is best summed up by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation saying quoted in the guide’s early pages: ‘Let me be careful in what I say and do while I’m in somebody else’s territory.’