Several times a year we are fortunate to be able to escape for a few days to the West Coast of Vancouver Island. I can honestly say that there is not a corner of the Island that I don’t love, but the open ocean, the rugged shoreline, and the relaxing atmosphere of Ucluelet and Tofino have an almost mystical effect.
Newcomers and visitors to Vancouver Island tend to travel to the West Coast via Nanaimo and Highway 4. Many arrive on flights from the mainland, and Victoria or Nanaimo are predicable entry points. I would like to suggest an alternative, in that the drive from the Comox Valley Airport through Port Alberni on Highway 4 is almost identical in duration – 3 hours door to door. And not to discount Nanaimo and the endless array of great local businesses on that route, but starting in Comox just seems to be more civilized. Less traffic equals less stress equals more fun!
This past week we hosted a couple from Calgary, who arrived at the Comox Valley Airport fresh and friendly after a 90 minute direct WestJet flight. After meeting them at the gate (11 minutes from the time they landed, scooped their luggage, and left the parking lot), our first stop was at the 40 Knots Winery so we could take a bottle of locally produced wine with us. Maybe two! There are four wineries, two distilleries, and three craft breweries within a 15 minute drive from the airport, and while we could easily have been distracted by an afternoon tour, we were on a different mission.
Now Tofino has an amazing assortment of local shops, including a well stocked grocery store, three seafood shops, and the relatively new Picnic Charcuterie (one of my favourite stops). But this trip was all about beachcombing, crabbing off the local docks, and exploring rather than shopping for groceries. We were staying at the gorgeous Pacific Sands Beachfront Resort, which along with fabulous views has full kitchen facilities. And while we were looking forward to dining next door at the Long Beach Lodge, we also wanted to enjoy breakfast and afternoon “appies” in our oceanfront suite! Thus – the EXPERIENCE by Westcoast Gourmet Provisions.
Seriously, I am a bit biased of course, but with no exaggeration, this is what we took with us:
- Rose Petal Scones with Wild Rose Petal Jelly – Artisan Edibles
- Dark French Roast Coffee – Royston Roasting Company
- Orange Cardamom Yogurt – Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt
- Local BC Blueberries – Blue Haven Farm
- Whitecaps Wine – 40 Knots Winery
- Aged Farmhouse Cheddar – Natural Pastures Cheese Company
- Smoked Salmon Candy & Canned Smoked Salmon – Salish Sea Foods
- Mango Chutney – As You Like It Products & Catering
- Antipasto with Local Albacore Tuna – Artisan Edibles
- Thyme & Sea Salt Crackers – Jenny Marie’s Cracker Company
- Smoked Sea Salt – Clever Crow Herbs and Spices
- Chocolate Medallions with Cocoa Nib Flakes – Dark Side Chocolates
- “I Am Relaxed” Tea – Hornby Island Tea
Somehow we managed to add some local Tofino Brewing Co. “Tuff Session Ale”, smoked fish from the Dockside Smoked Fish Store and Picnic Charcuterie fare to our feast AND enjoy a gourmet dinner!!! But taking a pre-packed box of local Vancouver Island goodies with us allowed us the best of both worlds, sharing unique products with our guests while being able to make the most of our short escape. Most definitely a “do over”!!