I love everything about the drive across the Pacific Rim ‘Highway‘. As you can see from some of the photos, I think it is more of a ‘road’ than a ‘highway’ in most places.
Primarily two lane-d without shoulders, it can be a dangerous drive in the wrong conditions – driving rain, fog, snow and ice, darkness. I prefer not to travel the Pacific Rim at night.
The scenery is varied and spectacular. Many times I have convinced others to tour this very distant road with me, not caring if we made it to our final destination – Tofino. The end of the trail, the furthest western edge of Canada.
If you are into nature, this is the place to be. Lakes to stop at, trails to hike, waterfalls, mountains, ocean, majestic forests and even a few little towns you can check out.
Parksville (popular in summer), Errington (tiny farming, crafty community), Coombs (goats grazing on grass roof tops!), Port Alberni (a main hub dotted with a few historic buildings), Sproat Lake (camping, fishing and cottages), Uculet (maximum access to the Pacific Ocean) and of course Tofino – a surfers paradise and scenic tourist centre.
The highway to Port Alberni was completed in the 1940’s, but it took until the 1960’s to extend the distance to Tofino. This makes me wonder how epic it must have been to make the trek before the road was developed. The area has been inhabited continuously for the past 5000 years, that’s a lot of trips back and forth!
We were surprised to come across a significant stretch of snow. The temperature of the air quickly dropped and suddenly we needed our gloves!
It had been quite some time since I had seen the snow, so it was a welcome addition to our adventure. And it didn’t last long. Within a few minutes we were back into the warm fog.
I loved the way it hung low in the mountains (sometimes impeding our view!).
If you are going to make the journey out to Tofino across the Pacific Rim Highway, don’t do so unprepared. Leave early in the day, check the weather reports, bring snacks and warm clothes, book ahead if you plan to stay.
And most importantly, drive slow around the dangerous corners.
On one of numerous visits, about a decade ago, I found myself behind a reckless driver who would later lose his life. It was summer, and dark and he was just going too fast.
I mentioned to my girlfriend that I was worried how he would handle the upcoming hairpin twists – with the cliff dropping into the Pacific on one side and shooting straight up on the other.
After stopping for coffee, and getting back out onto the road, we were held back for some time by an emergency crew cleaning up his wreckage. An unnecessary tragedy.
Our next stop would be world famous (Canadian) surfers paradise, ‘Long Beach’. An impressive vista at any time of the year – amazing in a storm, beautiful in the sunshine, mercurial in the winter – I couldn’t wait to stop.
Additional photos in the slideshow.