Tour This Town – Tofino (Special Edition)

 

If you’ve been watching my Instagram account, you’ll know I recently had the wonderful opportunity to explore Tofino, British Columbia in celebration of my 30th birthday this year. I’ve had so many awesome comments and questions about my time there that I knew I had to do a special edition post on the town of Tofino. And now those of you who many be planning some upcoming travels could consider this magical destination.

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Tofino is a small town on a peninsula on the west coast of Vancouver Island that has been getting a lot of attention lately as Canada’s top surf destination (that’s right you can surf right here in Canada!) and upcoming foodie hot spot. With a population of approximately 1,900 people, the town swells immensely during a couple months due to summer residents and tourism guests from all over the world. The top months for travel are June-September, but winter gets a boast due to coastal storm watchers too.

 

For this special edition I want to break down my recommendations by schedule instead of by activity, as most of you who will be considering going would do so for a few of days, and I felt we schedule things just right. Here’s what our trip looked like:

 

 

 

Day 1

Unpack and unwind

Our early morning flight from Toronto to Vancouver was a memorable one as we upgraded our seats using our points and for the first time flew Business Class, enjoying all the amenities (like sparking wine at 8am and hot towel service before our deluxe breakfast). We landed in Vancouver and shortly after, took a small plane of 16 people right into the Tofino airport. I’m a nervous flyer and this 32 minute flight had me on edge, so I tried to enjoy the spectacular Vancouver Island aerial views.

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Landing at the Tofino airport in the late morning (time change is great… sometimes), we shuttled to our accommodations – the beautiful, rustic and elegant Relais and Chateaux property of the Wickaninnish Inn. We enjoyed a casual lunch at the café over looking the ocean while waiting for our room to be ready. Following that we explored the facilities and soaked in the west coast fresh air and ocean views. Unpacking and enjoying a light diner at the On the Rocks Bar that night allowed for an early turn in after a long day of travels and jet lag.

 

 

 

 

Day 2

Explore town

The next day we hit up the free Tofino shuttle to get us to town (about 15 min drive) and explored the unique shops and fabulous views, even in the pouring rain. We started with breakfast at Rhino Coffee House and after enjoying a cup of hot coffee and mouth-watering donuts, we came to understand why the line was out the door – YUM! This surfer vibe destination was doing everything right! Next we cruised into some nearby galleries; Mark Hobson – known for his spectacular wildlife and landscape paintings, Rubio Jewelry Studio and Roy Henry Vickers Gallery – displaying exceptional First Nation’s masterpieces displayed in a traditional Northwest Coast Longhouse.

We toured a bunch of cute, bright-coloured, surf-inspired boutique stores including; Pina Styles – local art and clothing, Caravan Beach Shop, Merge – curated and handmade goods, Blue – hand crafted arts and more.

For lunch we wandered down to Shelter Restaurant where we literally took shelter from the rain and still got to enjoy the Island views from the covered and heated patio. I ordered the Tofino Surf Bowl here with Salmon and really enjoyed how fresh and flavourful the dish was.   After lunch, we grabbed a coffee and cookie up the road at Tofino Coffee Roasting Company and made our way back on the shuttle to the Inn for a nap and to freshen up.

Dinner that night was at Wolf in the Fog, rated 85h in Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2018. The Wolf in the Fog has a menu inspired by the local oceans, forest and shoreline and the warm and rustic interior décor perfectly accented the menu offerings. My husband and I each enjoyed one of the features that night, and my husband’s exact words were, “that was the best pizza I’ve ever eaten!” I couldn’t have agreed more. The total ambiance of this place was spot on, including amazing drift wood light features (duh of course I would notice these), 2-story bar and West coast décor. A must hit stop in my books.

 

 

Day 3

Surf & Dine

This was the big highlight for me (although the food and beachfront were both close seconds). After much research, we booked our group surf lessons with Pacific Surf Company and were very pleased with our experience and instructor – Annie. After we weezled our way into some full body wetsuits (this was the Pacific Ocean by the way), I was beyond excited to get to the beach. Our instructor spent time with us on land going over safety and background information about the waves, and after some quick positions and instructions, we entered the ocean to learn how to really do it. I got up on my first attempt and several other times throughout our lesson. Although I didn’t “master” the surfing technique, my husband sure impressed me by catching many waves for some good length runs.

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After waddling back to our accommodations, achy and chilled to the bone, I filled a hot bath while some hot mac and cheese was ordered for me and the red wine was poured.  About an hour later, I think I finally thawed out.

For dinner we really splurged at The Pointe Restaurant for my official birthday dinner. Although we both aren’t big on seafood, our selections incorporated some fresh, local and expertly prepared ocean offerings, such as our appetizers – Dressed Heirloom Tomato (with trout roe, which I mistakenly advised him it was a sauce not fish eggs :S), and the Dungeness Crab Salad. For our mains we had ‘Rossdown Farm’ Chicken Mole and the Beef Tenderloin (with beef fat roasted carrots, pomm anna, carmalized onion puree and garlic scape chimicurri). Again, my husband and I both caught ourselves saying, “this is the best thing I have ever eaten” as he started and I quickly stole his amazing entre (sorry hunny!). The sommelier personally advised and suggested some excellent French wine choices for our meals, and the setting sun was the perfect view for our night! A nice personal touch was that they added my name at the top of the menu with a birthday wish, in which they sent back with us at the end of the meal to remember the evening by.

 

 

Day 4

Spa, brewery & harbour

I had a feeling we’d be rather achy after our day in the ocean so I strategically booked spa services for the next morning. We unwound and let our muscles be massaged and our souls soothed in the Ancient Cedar Spas located right at the Wickaninnish Inn.

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We than enjoyed the use of the facility bikes as we made our way to the village marketplace to hit up the ever-popular original Tacofino and browse the other eateries. Even at 2pm, the lineup at the Tacofino food truck was insane as they quickly were slinging out orders. I ordered the crispy chicken burrito and my husband the pork burrito. I saw a couple crispy gringas after and those looked amazing too!

 

After that and a short nap (yes vacations are most definitely for naps), we shuttled to Tofino Brewing Co to taste some local brewed Tofino beer and BC cider. We than made our way to the beautiful harbour front and the Hatch Waterfront Pub at the Tofino Resort & Marina for a beautiful patio dinner for our final night. The smell and sounds of the ocean were perfection and really made the thought of leaving the next day daunting. We ordered some pizzas and ciders and ended the meal with the best berry crumble I’ve ever had. We casually enjoyed a stroll down at the docks post dinner before the sunset, which we enjoyed one last time on the North Chesterman Beach back at the resort.

 

 

Day 5

Soak it in and depart

Our last day in beautiful Tofino was spent casually enjoying the views and beachfront, dreaming of never having to leave.   A shuttle back to the airport after lunch brought us to a slightly bigger plane (32 passengers) for a smooth ride back to Vancouver. Here we booked a night (and was delightfully upgraded to the Gold Level) at the Vancouver Airport Fairmount Hotel. Enjoying some hot canapés in the lounge and watching the planes takeoff and land, was just a reminder of how quick times pass, but experiences and great memories remain.

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I will forever hold a place in my heart for Tofino – where my dreams came true and my mind was awakened to how beautiful and vast our country really is. I highly recommend Tofino to anyone looking to travel to somewhere with beautiful nature views, amazing adventure opportunities and of course, spectacular food. I hope to be back one day!

Tour This Town – Elora, ON

Elora is located about 30 min north-east of Waterloo in the heart of Wellington County,  and truly is one of the most picturesque towns in Ontario.  With a population of just under 8,000, this town is a tourist hot spot for the adventurer, creative spirit, foodie or eager shopper.  Known for its amazing shops, thriving artist scene and incredible cliffs and caves belonging to the Elora Gorge, the town has and continues to build up, a warm community inclusive to all who want to wander about.

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Photo source – Instagram @drimmieflorist

One of the most recognized architectural landmarks in Elora is the Elora Mill, which was built in the 1930s and is currently wrapping up a massive renovation to become a luxury Inn, complete with spa, dining and elegant event facilities.

When you’re booking your outing to Elora, I recommend you spend at least a half day in town and half day exploring the natural scenes of the Elora gorge, Elora Quarry and surrounding parks and adventures – including zip lining, tubing, kayaking and hiking (ok so you may need more than a half day for all that).

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Here are the shops and stops I recommend exploring while in the area:

 

TO SHOP

Pariscope – A delightful little French-inspired shop filled with fine linens, soaps and home decor items to beautifully dress up your table and home.  Many of their fine products have been directly imported from Europe so take trip a little closer to home this summer and still bring back some wonderful keepsakes!

 

Karger Gallery – Truly a one of a kind gallery shop filled with handcrafted furniture, décor, fashion and jewellery with a flair for the unique.  Items crafted from Canadian artisans as well as supporting fair-trade arrangements from international artisans around the world, Karger Gallery focuses on one of a kind, hand-crafted unique items for your home and body.

 

Honey Church Lane – A beautifully crafted vintage gift shop and furniture refinishing emporium.  Carrying the full lines of Homestead House Milk Paint, Mill Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, Fusion Paint, FAT paint, as well as the tools and expertise you’ll need for your next furniture refinishing project.  Don’t forget to peek at the unique light fixtures, mirrors and gift items for sale throughout the shop.

 

Mermaid Emporium – I don’t believe I have or ever will be in another shop quite like this one.  If you need shelf brackets, door knockers, mail boxes, plaques, hooks or anything similar for your home, this is the shop to check out!  The store goes on and on into themed corners and walls of the most interesting and unique collections.

 

 

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The Queen’s Fancy – Located just outside Elora in the corner town of Salem, this warehouse style shop is packed full of vintage and restored furniture and accessories.  There are also many handcrafted tables, benches, pieces of art and decor items that will surely appeal to the country or eclectic homeowner.

 

 

There are so many small shops and artist studios in town you really need to poke around and explore what the town has to offer.  I really couldn’t include them all but I encourage you to explore the side streets, brightly coloured buildings and corner studios for a look at some amazing artisans and galleries.

 

TO EAT

Elora Brewing Company – Brewery, gastropub and amazing farm-to-table restaurant, this place is the perfect place to lunch, dine or grab some brews before heading back on your road trip home.  The rustic and industrial touches of the pub make for a great contrast to the local fresh food and refreshing brews.   Check out their local events and facilities for your next private event too.

 

Lost & Found Café – A vibrant and friendly cafe perfect for the start of the day or an afternoon pick-me-up.  The cafe supports local and organic when possible, hunting down nothing but the freshest ingredients from local farmers and markets.

 

The Secret Garden Tea House – The sweetest little place for traditional English Tea with whoever you brought along with you on your day out.  I’m thinking this would be ideal for a mother/daughter day out and I can’t wait to take my sweet baby girl in a few years.  Also a place worth considering for any bridal or baby shower events you may be hosting.

 

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The Cork – Casual fine dining in the heart of Elora, the Cork offers fresh and locally inspired menu options.  Be sure to enjoy the patio during warm weather and check out their special events menus for that next special occasion.

 

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The Desert Rose Cafe – Homemade vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cooking in their cafe, cooking classes, ready-to-go meals and beautiful event space.  Ethnically diverse offerings and nothing but the freshest, the Desert Rose also has an award winning cookbook worth checking out.

 

 

TO TOUR

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Photo source – Instagram @geoffwild

Elora Mill – The Elora Mill is recently undergoing an extensive revitilization under the Pearle Hospitality Group (owners of the Cambridge Mill, Ancaster Mill & more).  Although currently only open for special events, their dining, hotel suites and spa will surely be as impressive as what we’ve been able to see so far.  Opening July 6th, 2018!

 

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Elora Gorge – Nothing short of breath-taking, the Elora Gorge is part of the Grand River Valley with trails alongside the cliffs and caves reaching as high as 22 meters.  Check out this variety of exploring opportunities below:

  • Tubing – explore the gorge with an adventurous and wet viewpoint.
  • Rock climbing & zip lining – ONE AXE PURSUITS – for the thrill seeker and adventurer
  • Kayaking, canoeing, hiking, fishing, camping and more!  Visit here for more details on these adventures.

 

People enjoying the beach and blue waters of Elora Quarry Park
Photo source – Grand River Conservation Authority

Elora Quarry – This local spot has become a busy destination on hot summer days as locals and tourists enjoy taking a dip in the refreshing waters and beautiful limestone cliffs reading up to 12m in height.

 

Homes & Architecture – One of my favourite things to do while in new towns is to cruise up and down residential and back roads exploring the architecture and homes of the town.  Elora surely did not disappoint and I think I picked out a few homes I could see myself moving into.

 

Whether you pop into Elora for just an afternoon or have a couple of days to explore and seek adventure, the stunning nature and architecture are the perfect backdrop for the picturesque town of local artists, shops and fresh local eateries.

 

 

Tour This Town – Tillsonburg, ON

 

Tillsonburg may be a town you haven’t heard of, but like most small towns in Southern Ontario, you probably will pass through it or near it this summer on your way to friends or the beach.  As the weather warms and we yearn to get outdoors and seek exploring new areas, why not take a morning to visit some of the unique and independent shops on your way to your next adventure.

I must admit, this town made my radar based on the first stop on my list. I was after some light fixtures for my home and had been following the shop on Intagram, browsing all of their inspiring posts. After purchasing the perfect kitchen pendants, I quickly discovered what more the town had to offer and hope you will be able to too!

 

 

J.D Lighting

This family owned and operated lighting and décor store provides an array of options both in-store and online. No matter your style, their knowledgable staff will assist you in selecting the best lighting for your needs. Don’t forget to gander upstairs and check out some of their adorable décor items as well!

 

 

 

Tillsonburg Antiques Plus

A collection of antiques and treasures for your browsing pleasure. This multi-vendor marketplace surely will have you taking home a little piece of history with an array of furniture, tools, books, art and home accessories to look through.

 

 

 

The Anchor Shoppe

This home décor and supply store will surly have you ready to set sail on your next project. Pick up some Fusion mineral paint for your next décor project or browse their large selection of beautiful home décor and furniture displays.  With a casual, beachy vibe, this shop screams summer living!

 

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The Fox & Fawn

Unfortunately this little gem wasn’t open when I was in town but peeking in the windows led me to believe this shop has some lovely antiques and collectables. Lace and delicately cared for décor items seem to be beautifully displayed, waiting to make that perfect gift for someone dear of just for you.  Let me know if you get here and what you are able to find!

 

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Pedlar’s Quay

A collection of unique and quality gift and home décor items can be found in this beautiful 1872 Heritage Home. Whether you are shopping for that hard to buy person or a little something to bring into your home, Pedlar’s Quay has something for everyone and for every room.

 

 

 

The Cup & Cake

This bright old home has been converted into a cheery place to meet up with friends for lunch or coffee and dessert. Be sure to have a lovely cup of tea here and some of their made from scratch British baked goods.

 

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Photo source – Facebook

Dad’s Ice Cream

This seasonal joint is your next family tradition.  Described as having the best selection and offering the best ice cream in town, this cool stop is sure to satisfy every member of your family.

 

Take a scenic drive this summer on your way to the beach, stopping into Tillsonburg’s adorable home décor, gift shops and tasty eateries!

 

Did I miss a stop in Tillsonburg or perhaps you have a town to suggest I get to this summer – don’t hesitate to let me know!

 

 

Tour This Town – Stratford

Best known for its theatre and arts culture, Stratford is a tourist hotspot with some amazing shops and delicious eateries. First settled in 1832, Stratford really began booming in 1850 when the railroad came to town and the manufacturing district really took off.  This town is less than 30 minutes from my house so I tend to get there a little more than I care to admit after discovering some unique and inspiring stops.  With a population of just over 30,000 people, visiting Stratford means engaging and supporting hardworking small businesses and encouraging a prospering art community.

Whether you are heading to town for a Shakespearean play or to meet a friend for lunch, make sure you check out some of my recommended stops in this picturesque town:

 

Wills & Prior

Hands-down the most perfectly curated home shop I have ever been in. Owner Sarah has an amazing eye for mixing vintage pieces with modern accessories in a European-feeling design that will compliment any home or make for the perfect gift. Whether you are in the mood for a vintage accent chair, well-made Dash & Albert rug, complimenting basket or beautiful local-made art goods, Wills & Prior should be first on your shopping list. Pop back often as new items are constantly being added and seasonal arrangements and displays will be sure to inspire your home.

 

Got it Made

I only discovered this shop the last time I was in town and I cannot believe the creativity and craftsmanship that gets poured into each piece found here. A wonderful and unique collection of over 60 local artisan goods can be found displayed and prepared for your home or next gift.

 

Bradshaw’s

Family owned and operated since 1895, this is the ultimate stop for all things functional and beautiful for your hard working kitchen and home. Enjoy browsing a wide range of kitchen tools, beautiful linens and don’t forget to pick up your next bridal registry gift while you’re there.

 

Stratford Antique Warehouse

The multi-vendor warehouse Stratford Antiques, is home to an afternoon of exploring and treasure hunting. Take your time as you look booth by booth at some one-of-a-kind items from days gone by.  Pick up a solid wood chair, a vintage serving dish or some framed prints to compliment and add history to your space.

 

EATERIES

I’ve compiled a large list of eateries for you to explore.  You’ll probably have to return a few times to hit every stop on this list (and I’ve probably missed some amazing ones as well):

(In order from top to bottom, left to right)
Sirkel Foods – homemade food in a cafe atmosphere, join for breakfast or lunch
The Red Rabbit – fresh take on fine dining, menu inspired by local ingredients and artisan producers
The Common – eclectic mix of food from around the world, theatrical beautiful interior
Keystone Alley – casual fine dining with an amazing patio for warmer months
Jenn & Larry’s Brittle’n Shakes & Ice Cream  – year-round offering of traditional cold treats and homemade brittle
Edison’s Cafe Bar & Inn – fresh, mostly organic and simple cafe fair.  Be sure to check out their gorgeous inn as well
The Pulp – high quality juices, smoothies and vegetarian food options
York Street Kitchen – the perfect spot for a casual lunch before a show or while shopping about
Soup Surreal – a hidden hole in the wall with the best soup ever (great take home options too)
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photo credit – OpenTable 
Revival House – Ok so I’m dying to get to this old church turned restaurant/event space, and I can’t review it because I haven’t been there.  This multifunctional space is both restaurant/lounge and can also be rented out as an event space for weddings, parties or functions.  Call ahead if you’re heading to the restaurant because sometimes the place gets rented out.  If you have been – send me a message and let me know what you thought!

 

Whether you are in town for a theatrical show, meeting up with a friend or looking for that perfect gift, be sure to check out the amazing shops and eateries Stratford has to offer.  Did I miss one of your favourite stops in Stratford?  Message me and let me know.