Vancouver Island

Winter Wonders

Storm-watching secrets of Vancouver Island

by Jessica Natale Woollard

Storm watching near Amphitrite Lighthouse in Ucluelet. Wild Pacific Trail., Photo courtesy of @pinastyles (Instagram)

From November to March, winter storms pummel the western coastline of Vancouver Island, and their dramatic effects are truly a sight to behold.

Since the 1990s, Tofino has been the island’s storm-watching capital—visitors come from near and far to witness the dramatic swells the town is known for. But the allure of watching the ocean slam into the beach has spread to other communities around the island, too. Here, we share five storm-watching locales that are alternatives to Tofino.

Pack a raincoat and suitable shoes, and say a prayer for terrible weather.

The Ogden Point Breakwater in Victoria

When the clouds darken and the winds ramp up, park your car on Dallas Road near Ogden Point, nose facing the ocean and Washington’s Olympic Mountains. As rain and wind rattle your car, watch white-capped waves assail the shore below, slamming against the concrete retaining wall and splashing the mint-green guardrail, mere metres from your vehicle.

If the wind is too much to take, skip the walk on the 800-metre breakwater that juts out into the ocean, and instead visit the Breakwater Cafe & Bistro for a hot beverage and comforting meal. Warmed by a toasty fireplace, watch magnificent whitecaps toss tree trunks like matchsticks into the beach.

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort

The Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet

Ucluelet boasts the same exposed coastline as Tofino, its neighbour 40 minutes to the north. With no landmass between this part of Vancouver Island and Japan, storm winds build over the open ocean before attacking the coast—and Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail provides several vantage points to witness furious and frothing waves churning violently (and loudly) among rock formations.

Nearby, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort offers storm-watching in luxury. Observe the metres-high waves from the resort’s Float Lounge as you sip a comforting specialty beverage, or dine with a view at Fetch Restaurant. Stay the night with storm-watching packages (available until March 31), and catch the drama from your soaker tub.                                     

A storm lashes the pacific coastline of Vancouver Island (Port Renfrew), Photo courtesy of National Geographic Creative / Alamy Stock Photo

Botanical Beach Provincial Park in Port Renfrew

Two hours from Victoria, Botanical Beach Provincial Park in the town of Port Renfrew offers geological marvels: a coastline of sandstone, black basalt formations, and thousands of tide pools teeming with life. Watching storm waves attack the unique geology is exhilarating; you’re likely to feel the spray on your skin as the rocks deflect water several feet in the air. Use caution: the sandstone underfoot is slippery.

For a more subdued storm-watching experience, visit Wild Renfrew, a property with seaside cottages and a pub on Port San Juan. The waves lose some of their force as they travel into the bay, but they crash right up to the base of the cottages.

 

Surfers at Jordan River, Photo courtesy of Design Pics Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Jordan River

Halfway between Sooke and Port Renfrew, you’ll encounter a sharp, near-ninety degree turn to the right. The road here is at sea level, giving the illusion a rogue wave could sweep your car clean off the road. Park on the shoulder to watch whitecaps rolling in, and count the surfers braving the waves.

The family-owned Cold Shoulder Cafe is just around the bend and serves good coffee and homemade treats in a laid-back space. There, you’re likely to meet surfers refuelling before returning to their happy place, the stormy sea.

Miracle Beach in the Comox Valley

The east coast of Vancouver Island gets its share of storms, though they are less extreme than those on the wild, west side. If you can’t make it to the island’s west coast during storm season — or you’re looking for a milder experience — head to Miracle Beach in the Comox Valley. Walk the long, rocky beach alongside the big waves.

For nearby accommodations, try the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa, with ocean views and beach access. Let the wind and rain pound outside as you enjoy a service at the Pacific Mist Spa.

To book your BC Ferries Vacations™ storm watching package visit bcferries.com/vacations