Visiting Tofino is an all-round ‘green’ experience

'Green' fills Tofino's landscape as well as the town's tourism industry


TOFINO – “It was one of those two-bottles-of-wine ideas,” admits George Patterson, owner of Tofino Botanical Gardens, a lush, five-hectare sanctuary of gardens, forest and shoreline on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island.

Patterson and I are huddled in a cedar-shingle shelter in the gardens, escaping a downpour that turns the surrounding evergreens, moss, salal, and other vegetation a deeper shade of green.

Experiencing the local green is what drew me to Tofino – not only the verdant landscape of this coastal temperate rain forest, but also the green philosophy that infuses much of Tofino’s tourism industry.

Patterson’s wine-inspired idea—to offer a kind of adult environmental camp in the hostel-cum-research-centre in his gardens—is a fine example of the local passion.

While I’m all for living in environmentally appropriate ways, when it comes to vacations I like my luxury. And so I opt to stay at the eco-savvy Pacific Sands Resort, where beachfront villas boast low-flow toilets, beams made from timber killed by mountain pine beetles and a geothermal system that draws energy naturally stored just below the earth’s surface to heat the villas and provide hot water.

“Environmental practices are just a regular part of living here,” says Dave Pettinger, director of the resort’s operations. Pettinger is always on the lookout for promising green technologies and is open to considering wind and tidal power in the future. I ask if solar energy might also be in the cards.

“In Tofino? Not so much,” he says with a laugh. Ah yes, given that Tofino has measurable precipitation 202 days a year, sun energy is scarce.

A torrent of that precipitation is falling as I pull on raingear for a soggy hike to Tonquin Beach with Gisele Martin, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and owner of Tla-ook Adventures.

Along the way, Martin points out various “wild groceries” (berries, leaves and the like) that the aboriginal people have harvested for centuries. She stops to dig a tiny licorice fern out of a mossy tree cleft with her pocketknife and hands me Tic-Tac-sized pieces of the green root to suck on.

“I was sick with a cold and a friend brought me this—best medicine ever,” Martin says.

Later, I’m thinking I’ve found the best remedy for stress ever as a steady stream of warm oil flows out of a copper vessel onto my head and through my hair.

The cascading oil is part of the Sacred Stone Spa’s Ayurvedic Shirodhara treatment, a western interpretation of an ancient Indian health practice that, truth be told, sounded like Chinese water torture when I first heard about it. In fact, it’s a deeply soothing experience.

Like the treatment, this unassuming spa is a delightful discovery, thanks to its Asia-inspired interior and eco-friendly approach that includes an organic product line and all-encompassing recycling. Even the half-a-kilogram or so of sesame oil used in my Shirodhara treatment will be recycled into biodiesel to power vehicles.

Imagine, used massage oil replacing fossil fuel. Bet that was a two-bottles-of-wine idea.


For more information on travel to Tofino visit the Tourism British Columbia website at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

Highly poisonous mushroom found fruiting near Filberg Park

The Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign will launch on Nov. 13 this year. Black Press file photo
Salvation Army Kettle Campaign ringing this year with an electronic twist

The new tiptap machine used by the Salvation Army will be set at $5 denominations

Jimmy Carter, left, is pictured with country music legend Willie Nelson — one of many musicians featured in a documentary about the former U.S. president. The film, Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President, is the latest feature in World Community’s film series. Photo supplied
Comox Valley non-profit presents ‘Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President’

World Community’s film series continues Nov. 6-8 with a new uplifting film,… Continue reading

The Calgary Zoo is aiding in recovery efforts for the Vancouver Island marmot, an endangered species. Pictured here, a marmot at Mount Washington. (Black Press file)
Despite challenges, 2020 good year for Vancouver Island marmot population

In 2019, the foundation counted 60 pups; this year, it reached 46

Several local schools took part in Student Vote for the B.C. election. Black Press file photo
Students in Student Vote support NDP in Comox-Courtenay

Unlike actual vote, students in Mid Island-Pacific Rim back Greens

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

From left: Rick Weaver, Anita Eldershaw-Pitman and Area A director Daniel Arbour at the Friendly Port Child Care Centre. Photo supplied
District funds enable expansion at Union Bay child care facility

A grant from the Comox Valley Regional District will help create eight… Continue reading

Cowichan Search and Rescue set up near the Silver Bridge in Duncan on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020 to rescue a dog from the Cowichan River. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Search and Rescue save dog from icy Cowichan River

Search and Rescue’s swiftwater team was called in

Most Read