A 3-Day Trip to Tofino, BC during Christmas Holiday Season: Hiking, Sight-seeing, Food

Happy Holidays, folks. After a year’s hard working, everyone deserves a nice and lovely vacation. This holiday season, me and my wife wanted to escape from Alberta’s coldness and snow and spend some quality time in a warmer and greener place – Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, BC definitely meet our needs, although it would be nice if we had time to go there in the summer. The good thing is that we lived in a guest house surrounded by rain forest, with a wood stove that gave us extremely nice and cozy holiday atmosphere. Oh, my goodness, I just love it!

For a PDF map of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, please check here.

How we got there and where we lived

We flew with Air Canada from Edmonton to Vancouver on Dec. 23rd night and spent one night at St. Regis Hotel (602 Dunsmuir St., Vancouver), located about 2 minutes from the nearest Sky Train Station (City Centre, and Buses 257 and 250 are nearby as well). The hotel room was nice, but a bit small compared to those I use in Fort McMurray for work. Yeah, location, location, location! The housing prices of Vancouver are much higher than those of major cities in Alberta. I guess I won’t move to Vancouver anytime soon. LOL.

The next morning, we took the ferry at Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay at Nanaimo. It takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to cross. Check here for the official ferry schedules. The boat was really nice, huge and very stable. People bring their vehicles and pets with them. After we arrived at Nanaimo, we took a free ride with Enterprise Rent A car and rented a vehicle, with which we drove to our guest house in Tofino. We found the guest house (49.131279,-125.894765, Tibbs Place and Abraham Drive) on VRBO. We shared the kitchen, the living room and the Man’s Cave (a garage with a wood stove) with another nice and kind tenant.

Where to buy grocery

There’s a T&T supermarket near the St. Regis Hotel and we bought some food and seafood there, just in case no grocery store is open in Tofino during the holiday. Actually, there’s a nice Walmart in Port Alberni, about 1 hour driving away from Nanaimo. So, you can get your grocery there as well.

It’s time to have fun!

Incinerator Rock on Long Beach

Our first stop in the morning on Dec. 25th, a beautiful sunny day, was Incinerator Rock on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park. The Incinerator Rock is a giant tidal rock, which is a perfect spot for you to stand on and enjoy the view. If you don’t have a National Park annual pass, it’s $7.8 per adult. See here for more information about the fees.

RVs are not allowed in the parking lot in front of the beach at the Incinerator Rock. However, we did see people stayed in their small van campers (or, small RVs). I thought it would be nice to camp here and go surfing, kayaking, hiking, or fishing around. Actually, we did see one guy carrying a bucket, a fishing rod and his tackle walked onto a smaller rock and caught a fish a short moment later. Yeah, this location is a good one for shore fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island.

Shore/Beach Fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island
Shore/Beach Fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island

In addition to sight seeing and shore fishing, we saw people came here for surfing in as well, yeah, in the winter with we suits. I would imagine that more people could be here in summers. For myself, I don’t do surfing, but I kayak regularly in summers in Alberta. I thought it would be fun to kayak on the ocean sometime.

Hiking Light House Loop, Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, BC

After seeing the Incinerator Rock, we went on to hiking the Light House Loop trail (30 – 45 minutes walking, 2.6 km). You can see beautiful mossy rain forest and nice coastal line. Do enjoy the frequent benches along the trail.

Sight seeing along Lighthouse Loop Wild Pacific Trail
Sight seeing along Lighthouse Loop Wild Pacific Trail
The 100+ Year Old Landmark - Lighthouse.
The 100+ Year Old Landmark – Lighthouse.
Hiking Half Moon Bay Trail in Pacific Rim National Park

On the way leaving Ucluelet back to our guest house in Tofino, we hiked the Willowbrae Trail and Half Moon Bay Trail. There are wood stairs on the trail. Use caution when the stairs are wet or icy. They could get very slippery.

Halfmoon Bay Nice Sandy Beach
Halfmoon Bay Nice Sandy Beach
Cox Bay Beach: surfing, walking, and sight seeing

We wrapped up the day by visiting the Cox Bay Beach Resort, where we could see the cooks preparing food for their guests on Christmas, and the Beach itself.

Cox Bay Beach - Great Open Area for Gathering, Surfing, Walking
Cox Bay Beach – Many People Go for Surfing and Walking (with dogs!)

The Cox Bay Beach is very wide open and it’s a popular place for surfing, family gathering, dog walking, and so on.

Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park

On Dec. 26th, we went to Maquinna Marine Provincial Park for hiking the Hot Springs Cove trail and then we enjoyed the hot spring. Use caution while getting to the cove or the hot spring water falls, as the rocks could be very slippery. It was freeing stepping on the rocks with our bare feet. However, once we get to the host spring water, we were very happy that we made it. It was a very unique experience compared to the “landscaped” hot springs in Banff and Jasper National Parks. You get hot spring water falls! With the water coming down onto my shoulders, I felt very comfortable and relaxing. It was like having a water spa – with hot spring water!

Hot Springs Cove and Water Falls
Hot Springs Cove (hidden behind the trees) and Water Falls
Movie Nights

After hiking and having fun all day, we spent the nights watching movies with the wood stove on – nice and cosy, isn’t it?

How time flys – heading back

In the morning on Dec. 27th, we started driving back to Nanaimo. Before reaching Nanaimo, we have a short tour of the giant Douglous Firs in MacMillan Provincial Park.

Giant Douglas Fir - 800 Years Old
Giant Douglas Fir – The Oldest was 800 years, more than 70 meters high, in the Park

For food lovers

In Tofino, we enjoyed great sea food in the beautiful restaurant: Shelter. At the Departure Bay ferry in Nanaimo, we really enjoyed the fresh, delicious tuna sandwiches. And, before we get back to Edmonton, we bought a full backpack of smoked salmon at Sea Drift sea food market in Nanaimo, not far away from the Departure Bay in Nanaimo. In addition, we also bought some nice spaghetti at the market on Granville Island. Oh man, the spaghetti could be one of the world’s best. We took the sea bus to get on Granville Island. It was a very short, fast, and convenient way to get on the Island.

Sea bus to Granville Island: short and fast
Sea bus to Granville Island: short and fast

Lesser Slave Lake fishing spots

If you want to catch walleye, northern pike, burbot/ling, perch, or lake whitefish successfully and consistently, you should definitely pay a visit to Lesser Slave Lake, the 2nd largest lake and the largest lake with easy access by vehicle in Alberta, Canada.

According to Alberta Conservation Association, in 2005, the estimated total angler catch of walleye was 870,000 fish while the mean weight of harvested walleye was 0.92 kg/fish. And the estimated number of anglers that fished the lake in 2005 was 115,000. What does that mean? It means that each angler could catch about 8 fish on average in 2005. In addition, anglers on ifishalberta.ca are saying that they are catching dozens of fish per day. Sounds exiting, doesn’t it?

Located about 3 hours driving north of Edmonton, Lesser Slave Lake has an area of 1,168 km², close to twice the size of Edmonton (684.4 km²). The Lake is a popular destination for fishing, boating, camping, hiking, birding and other activities. Here is an overview of what to do or where to go in Slave Lake area.

Below is a map and depth chart of Lesser Slave Lake that I think everyone who goes there for fun may want to keep a copy. It marks the locations of campsites, boat launches, beaches, river/creek mouths, and more.

Lesser Slave Lake map and depth chart
Lesser Slave Lake map and depth chart (source: sunsite.ualberta.ca)

Great fishing spots at Lesser Slave Lake
I remember someone says “90% of fish are in 10% of water”. In other words, fish prefer some parts of a lake to the rest of the lake. These preferred parts include:

Dropoffs, ledges, mid-lake humps, shoals, dips, rock outcroppings, outflow/inflow river/creek mouths, sunken trees, lily pads, reeds, etc. These areas provide fish with forage, oxygen, shelter, and easy access to different water depths to adjust to changes of temperature, air pressure, and light conditions.

Dropoffs and humps provide ample forage for fish
Structures like dropoffs and humps provide ample forage for fish

So, here are some easily accessible hot fishing spots on Lesser Slave Lake:
(1) Shaw’s Point and Buffalo Bay west to Shaw’s Point.
(2) Lakeshore Campground.
(3) Spruce Point.
(4) Canyon Creek.
(5) Slave River outflow mouth and Dog Island.
(6) Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park area.
(7) Hilliard’s Bay Provincial Park area.

To find dropoffs, you may want to mark those areas with dense isobath lines on the map above. A sonar fish finder will definitely help you locate structures and fish.

Read my post: how to use fish finders to help you catch more fish

Wear PFDs/life jackets while fishing on the lake, especially if you are kayaking/canoeing. Waves can get big on this lake. The lake can be calm and quiet in the morning. But it can get windy and noisy toward the end of the day as well.

Check the weather forecast before you head out. Storms and windy conditions are not unusual in summers.

Further readings:
Walleye fishing tournament: Golden Walleye Classic.

A 3-Day Trip Plan to Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks

Back in 2012, I had a 3-day trip to the National Parks in Western Canada. My schedule was very tight and I wanted to visit as many places as possible, with a mixed activities of hiking, canoeing, and sightseeing. The trip was actually organized by a friend of mine in Edmonton and it was very successful. So, I decided to share some photos and the places I and my friends visited. Hope this will help you plan for your next trip 🙂

A. 1. Beauvert Lake: calm and peaceful in early mornings, almost like a mirror.
B. 2. Patricia Lake: not far from Beauvert Lake, you’ll pass by Patricia Lake before you reach Pyramid Lake.
C. 3. Pyramid Lake: the lake and the Pyramid Island is one of the most visited destination in Jasper National Park.
D. 4. Maligne Canyon: a wonderful deep canyon and a good hiking trail.
E. 5. Athabasca Falls: great water falls that you never want to miss.
F. 6. Columbia Glacier Icefields: not many glacier icefields are left in the world, be sure to check this one out. Bring a water bottle with you and try the glacier water.
G. 7. Lake Louise: a beautiful lake and very popular place for visitors.
H. 8. Takakkaw Falls: the waterfalls and the mountains make great pictures.
I. 9. Emerald Lake: a peaceful lake that is great for canoeing.
J. 10. Natural Bridge Yoho National Park: come and see the nature’s carvings.
K. 11. Moraine Lake: nice lake and nice hiking.
L. 12. Johnston Canyon Water Falls: one of the most popular and best hiking trails.
M. 13. The Fairmont Banff Springs (Castle): luxury historic resort and conference centre.
N. 14. Sulphur Mountain: great hiking trails, Banff gondola, sight viewing platforms, panorama and bird view of Banff Town, Bow River, Minnewanka Lake, and many more.

Places to visit in Elk Island National Park: Astotin Lake

Astotin Lake is my favorite destination in Elk Island National Park, which is famous for its bison. I’ve been there both in summer and winter times. It’s a beautiful lake, great for recreational activities such as kayaking, bird/wildlife watching, camping, etc.