The Great Canadian Road Trip: Day 8 of 20

The 8th instalment of Laurie's Great Canadian road trip - Nanaimo to Tofino: Walking in Beauty. READ MORE!

By Laurie Izzy Wheels.ca

Oct 2, 2021 6 min. read

Article was updated 2 years ago

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Nanaimo to Tofino: Walking in Beauty

  • 207km, BC 4 W, 3 hours

  • Favourite Song: Finding Grumps, Andrew Lockington

  • Quote: “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. John Milton


Day 1: Barrie to Lake Superior Provincial Park

Day 2: Agawa Bay to Kakabeka Falls

Day 3: Thunder Bay to Winnipeg

Day 4:   Winnipeg to Moose Jaw

Day 5: Moose Jaw to Banff

Day 6: Calgary to Salmon Arm

Day 7: Salmon Arm to Nanaimo


First things first. If you've never watched the Canadian film "One Week" starring Joshua Jackson, you should. It definitely played a part in the inspiration behind my Canadian road trip and no doubt, countless other Canadian road-trippers as well. The above song is from the movie, and played during the scene where the lead character reached the same dot on the map as I did on Day 8 . Watch the movie; it may inspire you to take a big leap into the great unknown as well.

Nanaimo to Tofino

I checked out of my Nanaimo hotel, was on the road by 9am, and was anxious to drive across the width of Vancouver Island to reach the seaside community of Tofino by lunchtime. After a stop at Starbucks, a bank machine and a gas station, I was on my way and the weather was perfect; sunny and 22 degrees.

My first stop just outside of Port Alberni was Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. The park is split in half by the highway, and boardwalks and paths wind you through the coastal rainforest amidst the ancient elders; some as old as 800 years.

Although I couldn't get in to my campsite in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve prior to 2pm, I didn't want to doddle too long as I was more than excited to walk the beach for the first time.   BC Highway 4 West takes you up, down and through the Vancouver Island Mountains, which cover the entire length of the island (almost 32,000 square km) along a mostly two-lane road. Even though the distance isn't huge (from Nanaimo it's 200 km), it takes a good 3 hours due to the many twists and turns that force you to take it slow. You'll pass the enormous Kennedy Lake along the way, the largest lake on Vancouver Island, which is home to a provincial day-use park. I thought the lake was my first glimpse of the ocean, it's that big. I didn't realize I wouldn't be able to see the ocean during my drive, which made it all the more amazing when I walked onto the beach for the very first time.

Long Beach and Pacific Rim National Park

I reached the park boundary just after noon and I drove a few kilometres past the campground where I'd spend the next two nights and parked at Long Beach. When I got out of the car I could smell the sea and hear the roar of the waves but I still couldn't see it. I walked the short, sandy trail though a small grove of trees with a luke warm coffee in hand to greet the magnificent Pacific Ocean and the longest beach I'd ever seen. Long Beach is the longest sand dune on the island and stretches for 16km.

I sent selfies to everyone I could think of, and then walked with my feet in the water for over an hour. I wondered how many people had no idea that Canada had a rainforest let alone a beach that played host to surfers from all over the world. The fact that it was as warm as a mid-summer's day and there were only a few other people on the beach, made my first time experience all the more incredible.   I decided to continue on to Tofino before doubling back to set up camp, so I could scout out a grocery store where I'd hopefully find some fresh seafood to cook for dinner. I wasn't disappointed when I pulled on to Main Street and caught a glimpse of the fishing boats moored in the bay before I found the grocery store.

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Green Point Campground

With fresh sea scallops and wild Pacific salmon in my backpack, I was ready to check in to Green Point Campground. It's the only place to camp within Pacific Rim National Park, a 500 square kilometre treasure within the traditional territories of the Nuu-chah-nulth and the Ditidaht First Nations.

After an easy check in and a warm welcome from the Park Office, I set up camp, cracked open a cooler and fried up my ocean meal in my little cove of towering cedars and ferns as big as a small tree.

My site was just a few metres away from the North Trail, which wound its way down a steep embankment through a forest of old growth trees and ended at the southern tip of Long Beach. To my right was the expanse of beach I'd explored earlier that day and to my left were black rock formations that were visible and accessible because the tide was out. I sat on the rocks for a long time just staring out to sea with absolutely no thoughts, and no worries.

The Pacific Ocean

The ocean's beauty, power and sheer size was incredible. I played with the waves; crept as close as I could before they rushed towards me to touch my feet and say hello. The seagulls soared overhead and the sandpipers feasted on what the tide left behind while I walked along the shore.   As the sun set, the few other people I shared the beach with that night stood still as they watched the horizon change colour before their eyes. No one moved. It was as if we knew how special that particular sunset was and no one wanted to take their eyes off of it, not even for a second.

The sky changed from blue to orange to pink, and the awe inspiring view was so magnificent it brought me to tears. I stood motionless until the last tip of the sun dipped behind the horizon, and I thanked the Earth for providing me with such a special evening. When I explored my feelings of gratitude a little further, I realized I was thankful for everything; the trip, my life, my children, this country, my health. I thought about what else I was grateful for and the list became so big I began to laugh out loud. My gratitude list grew to include my ex-husband, friends, family, bad decisions, good decisions, the sand between my toes, the sound of the waves, and the warm breeze on my face. I was in love with life and everything and everyone that had ever been in it, and I wondered how to bottle that feeling and hold it forever.

As I climbed the North Trail back to my campsite, I remembered a conversation I had with a Navajo Elder during a trip to the American Southwest many years before. Charlie was his name, and as he showed me around the beautiful Monument Valley, Utah, he shared a philosophy with me about how to live a happy life. I had forgotten the 'Walk in Beauty' teaching over the past several years, and it was after walking the beautiful beaches of Tofino that I remembered it.

Walking in Beauty

“Walk in beauty” is a phrase often quoted as representing the essence of Navajo philosophy. It is a crude translation of a native phrase that expresses the Navajo view of how to live a proper life: (Beauty) is a central idea in Navajo thinking, but it means far more than outward appearance: it means order, harmony, blessedness, pleasantness, everything that is good, not evil, everything that is favorable to mankind, this being the overall goal to which everyone and everything should strive. (Navajo Philosophy and World View)

Until we meet again, may you all walk in beauty too.

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