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Tofino, B.C.: A Sustainable Oasis

by Feifei Sun

A preservation haven in the Hawaii of Canada.
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Set on the western coast of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Tofino looks like your typical sleepy beach town at first glance, with vast stretches of sand and beach. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that the Canadian town is much more than a pretty place to surf and sleep.
Once dubbed the Tree Hugging Capital of the World—after two men lived in the canopy of an iconic Elk Cedar Tree to protest its destruction in 2001—Tofino is an oasis for sustainable living. From food and lodging to the city’s vibrant cultural scene, Tofino is full of green gems. Here’s what not to miss.
Getting There Tofino is accessible from the British Columbia mainland by first taking a ferry (2.5 hours) and then driving roughly 3 hours. Airlines such as Orca Airways offer chartered trips from Vancouver and Victoria to Tofino for around $250 each way, depending on the season.
Staying There There’s no shortage of accommodation options in Tofino, but when it comes to sustainability, Pacific Sands Beach Resort is a standout. Located on the beachfront of Cox Bay, the resort features both standard rooms as well as three-level beach house suites that come with 12-foot ceilings. From reclaimed wood building materials and low-flush toilets to organic snacks and an electric car charging station, the resort takes eco inspiration from its surrounding natural habitat.
Eating There For sit-down dining inside a rustic, charming space, Shelter offers a menu of seasonal plates—pan-seared salmon and West Coast cioppino are favorites—made with produce and seafood that is organic and, for the most part, local to Vancouver Island. Elsewhere, Tacofino, a local food truck, features Baja-inspired tacos made from scratch for a quick bite that doesn’t skimp on flavor.
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For a longer, slower journey, consider a train ride up the Pacific coast from Seattle to B.C. and into the Canadian Rockies.
Into the Wild
In the 19th- century, rail transport revolutionized travel, offering consumers a faster, more comfortable and almost majestic method of getting place to place. But in recent decades, travel by train has taken, well, a back seat to travel by plane, as airlines offer more flight destinations at relatively affordable rates.
Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury Canadian rail service, is hoping to change that, by pairing the sense of adventure associated with train travel in centuries past with modern luxury and sustainability. This August, the company will debut Coastal Passage, a three-day route connecting Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia to the Canadian Rockies. The launch marks Rocky Mountaineer’s fifth rail route—and the first service to depart from, and arrive in, the United States.
Early on, Rocky Mountaineer recognized that much of its appeal relied on the unspoiled scenery, fresh air and abundant wildlife found in Western Canada, which is one reason why sustainability became an important focus. All of its locomotives—which offer gorgeous panoramic views—come equipped with a system that automates the shutdown and restart of the train engines. The result? Significantly reduced idling time, as well as less fuel consumption, exhaust emissions, and noise pollution.
On board, travelers are treated to three-course, à la carte meals, made with fresh ingredients indigenous to two of Canada’s most bountiful regions, British Columbia and Alberta. Menu selections include prime Alberta beef, wild salmon from the Pacific Ocean and regional local game, accompanied by a local selection of award-winning wines. Rocky Mountaineer’s executive chefs recently released their first cookbook, Eat Play Love: Regionally Inspired Cuisine by Rocky Mountaineer.
And while Rocky Mountaineer likes to emphasize the journey, the destination—or destinations, rather—certainly hold their own. Each leg is accompanied by a stay at a local property, many with eco-certifications, based on the level of service selected by guests (the most luxe option is the Goldleaf service, followed by the Silverleaf and Redleaf, respectively), and spas.
Here again, regional methods and green materials are incorporated to give travelers a sense of place and authenticity. At the Spa at the Fairmont Chateau Lake, for example, treatments like the mountain hot stone massage incorporate organic lavender oil and volcanic basalt stones to release stress and muscle tension, giving travelers the exact kind of relaxation they’ll need before the following day’s ride. rockymountaineer.com

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