The first time I visited Vancouver Island was for a high school camping trip. Each year, my school mates and I made the journey to Strathcona Provincial Park and spent a few days with nature, free from electronics and other distractions. I had such a great experience that each time I take the ferry over, I get excited because it makes me reminisce on those wonderful times I had ocean canoeing, kayaking and hiking.
Now that I’m older, though my love for nature remains unchanged, I rarely go on camping trips and sleep under tarps. Tofino and Ucluelet especially remind me of the good old days, except now I am creating similar memories with my husband, and we sleep in beds between four walls and a roof. Free from electronics? Wishful thinking. 😉
The drive from Vancouver to Tofino is roughly 2 and a half hours once you disembark from the ferry in Departure Bay. Traffic can be hit or miss depending on the time of year that you go. We were lucky this time and made really good time.
Dennis was offered a Chevy Volt for a one-week test drive, so what better way to try the car out than on a roadtrip?
2013 Chevy Volt Review
The Chevy Volt is an electric car that delivers up to 60 km/h of pure electric driving on just one charge from any standard electrical outlet. The car comes with a standard 120v charger, which charges the car in about 10-16 hours. Or you can purchase an upgraded 240v charger, and get a full charge in about 4 hours. Need to keep going but can’t stop to plug in? Its range-extending gas generator seamlessly kicks in when the car is out of juice.
Above: The Black Rock Oceanfront Resort actually had an electric vehicle charging station. How awesome is that? We were able to charge our car overnight!
All in all, I think this car is a great option if you’re looking for something environmentally friendly and fuel efficient. If fuel efficiency is your thing, then this is a phenomenal car for city driving as you would technically never have to fill it up with any gas (35 mpg city / 40 mpg highway). However, you would have to get over the fact that this car is quite pricey at $42,000. By comparison, a Toyota Prius is around $24,000 and although it is a hybrid vehicle, its gasoline engine boasts better fuel efficient than the Volt at 51 mpg city / 48 mpg highway. $18,000 in the price difference is a lot of gas that you would have to save. Also keep in mind that the Volt’s battery would have to get replaced after 8 years at a pretty expensive current day price tag. I’ve checked a few websites and the price of these replacement batteries are anywhere from $3,000 – $9,000. But by the year 2021, batteries might be much cheaper and EV technology will probably have come a long way too, so I guess it’s just hard to say. For all I know, we could have flying cars by then.
- I was able to go 66km on a single battery charge before the gas engine kicked in
- Quiet ride
- Spacious interior
- Handles well, easy to drive
- Hatchback opens up into a large trunk with lots of storage room
- Touch sensitive buttons and console layout. For example, to unlock door, the button is right side below the audio control (not intuitive)
- Dash cluster is confusing and hard to read. It was difficult to figure out if I was running on battery or gas
- Exterior styling
- 2+2 seating for 4 adults
- It’s expensive – $42,000 MSRP
If you’re able to take your time driving, be sure to make a stop in Coombs and visit The Old Country Market. It’s a really cool place with a great selection of awesome and unique foods. There is a whole wall of different dry pastas, gluten free items, delicious looking condiments, and a deli counter. If you’re hungry, you can even order food and just enjoy it on their outdoor patio. When you look up at the roof, you’ll notice that it is covered in grass. But that’s not what will throw you off. If you’re lucky, you might see goats on the roof of this market. Yes, live goats walking around on the roof, grazing on grass. We were fortunate to have caught them on the way back from Tofino, and they attracted quite a crowd, but appeared rather unfazed by the fact that they were living on the roof of a market.
If you walk a little further past the market, you will come across Cuckoo Trattoria, a quaint Italian restaurant with a large outdoor space for sun lovers. We stopped there for lunch, and I ordered the Rustic Ciabatta with lettuce, grilled veggies, roasted peppers, hot capicollo, sopressata salame, fresh tomatoes and asiago cheese. I also added a side of creamy clam chowder. Dennis ordered the Salmone Pizza which came topped with fresh spinach, wild BC smoked salmon lox, capers, goat cheese, with crushed tomatoes and mozzarella. Both were very satisfying and exactly what we needed to refuel. If you’re not in the mood for a big lunch, there is a an ice cream shop in this plaza to satisfy your sweet tooth. This little town isn’t just about food and goats on the roof. Across the road is a strip of gift shops selling clothing, pottery, jewelry, and keepsakes. It’s a nice place if you have a couple of hours to spare. On our way out, we bought two containers of strawberries to enjoy for the rest of our trip.
With food in our bellies, we set off for Ucluelet. I bought a LivingSocial deal for Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, our home for the next 2 nights. If you didn’t get a chance to purchase this deal, don’t fret, because there is a vacation package for this resort currently being offered through BC Ferries Vacations, where the price includes ferry travel and 2 nights accommodation. The friendly reception staff at Black Rock checked us in quickly, and we were offered our choice of red or white wine as part of the LivingSocial deal. The last time we stayed at this resort, our one bedroom suite was in a separate building, with large trees in front of our floor to ceiling windows. It made us feel like we were living in the middle of a forest, which was really cool. This time, we stayed in the main building in a corner suite, with nothing obstructing our view of the ocean. It was a welcome change for us. The bathrooms feel lush and luxurious with its heated floor. It has an amazing shower stall with pretty cemented rock walls and flooring, and a very inviting bathtub with a view that overlooks the ocean. I can’t think of a better way to relax if you’re staying at this resort.
After a couple of hours of lounging and wining on our oceanfront patio, we were ready for an early dinner at Norwoods. It’s a fairly small establishment, but you can see their open kitchen and their chefs inside hard at work meticulously preparing each dish. This is our favourite local restaurant, so we decided to return and try their $49 Feast Tofino set dinner menu. Since we usually share our dishes with each other, we figured ordering a couple of extra dishes wouldn’t hurt. Our server was pleasant, and she recommended some great wine pairings for our dinner. We left Norwoods with the same thought as last time: we’ll definitely be back.
Above: The Seared Scallops and Grilled Octopus on a bed of truffle potato puree with sweet ginger chili sauce was not a bad decision at all. It was exactly how we remembered it from the first time we ordered this dish.
Above: Local Halibut Fillet Wrapped in Prosciutto with dungeness crab and asparagus risotto, and fresh tomato compote. The fish was cooked perfectly, and the prosciutto added a bit of saltiness to each bite. The asparagus in the risotto were refreshing, and it blended all together very well.
Left: Local Gallo Mussels in Piquant Tomato Sauce with grilled baguette; Right: In an attempt to keep our dinner on the lighter side, we also ordered Sweet & Sour Pulled Pork Ssams Korean Style Lettuce “Tacos”, with kimchi made in-house, fresh lime, and crispy yam hay.
Above: For dessert, we polished off a Baked Goats Cheese Cake, with nut crumble and seasonal fruit compote.
The next morning, we went downstairs to have brunch at Fetch. With the sun shining, we dined on their patio and filled ourselves up with mimosas and hearty dishes like smoked ham benny, and free range poached eggs with baked beans, spicy tomato and cilantro salsa, blue corn tortilla chips and guacamole (Below). We were lucky enough to spot some whales off in the distance too. Whale sighting: check.
Our last visit to Ucluelet/Tofino was during the storm season, so we weren’t too motivated to go on any hikes. With Mother Nature on our side this weekend, we ventured out to check out the Wild Pacific Trail and Lighthouse Loop. The explorer in me was giddy with excitement as we walked and stopped to enjoy the breathtaking views along the way.
When visiting the far end of Vancouver Island, your trip isn’t complete without a stop in Tofino, a popular destination for surfers. For us, we prefer to stay in Ucluelet and make the drive out to Tofino. Not to discount Tofino in any way, as this city offers amazing beaches and dining experiences. At Chesterman Beach, all of our troubles melted away as soon as we laid our eyes on the shore. The beach is large enough to comfortably accommodate a lot of people. It’s certainly unlike the jammed crowds that you can expect to find at Kitsilano Beach. We walked along the shoreline, and discovered sea stars and sea anemones on the side of large rocks.
When you’re hungry, there are lots of options to choose from in Tofino. We visited Westside Grill (featured on the Food Network show You’ve Gotta Eat Here!) and tried their seafood gumbo, and panko crusted deep fried oysters and chips, with sweet chili mayo, lemon, and apple coleslaw (Below). If only they could bring their menu out to Vancouver like Tacofino did, I’d be lining up for lunch on a daily basis!
For dinner, Sobo was a good option for us. Nestled in the heart of Tofino, we easily found street parking and were able to afford a quick stroll around the town before our reservation.
Left: To start things off, we ordered the scallop ceviche from their featured items menu. There were plenty of chopped scallops and chips to go around. The pieces of lettuce could be used to make mini wraps, if you’re looking for creative ways to consume this tasty starter.; Right: The Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno, with smoked cheddar filling was a must order for Dennis. Fortunately for us, we ordered the last one!
Left: Out of curiosity, we ordered their Killer Fish Taco that comes with sauteed spicy wild fish, crisp corn tortillas, and fruit salsa. It was quite interesting to say the least, with the taste of spicy salmon and fruit in the same mouthful. Right: Last but not least, we might have had the best gourmet pizza ever, with duck confit, caramelized onions, blue cheese, walnuts, and balsamic reduction. Dennis isn’t a fan of blue cheese, so to have him love this pizza says a lot about this creation.
All this eating and relaxing is a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in a beautiful part of the world. For us, it’s just in our own backyard. Despite being happy in Vancouver, we always manage to find a different level of motivation and inspiration from our travels, and I encourage you to explore as much as possible!