Tofino from Cox Bay lookout

Long Beach, Tofino

Two days in Tofino is absolutely nowhere near enough to do everything the cosy, windswept little town has to offer. However, I can promise that being in Tofino is like slipping into the comfiest PJs ever and you will emerge three days later feeling so refreshed and relaxed - even if you pack your days full of adventures.

The windswept town is almost half way up the west coast of Vancouver Island, just off the coast of Vancouver. Tofino is almost surrounded by the Pacific ocean, and interestingly is the end of the Trans-Canada Highway. There's plenty to do in this surfers paradise, from watersports, wildlife watching, hiking, eating, and relaxing. 

 

Tofino harbour

Tofino

Tofino is a small town on the west side of Vancouver Island at the end of highway 4. With only one road connecting it to the outside world, it feels so peaceful and cosy. If you're looking for a destination that makes you feel a million miles away from chaos and allows you to reconnect with that wild feeling, you need to go to Tofino. In the summer, Tofino attracts hikers, nature lovers, and surfers. In the winter, it attracts storm watchers.

It's no coincidence that the local magazine is called "Tofino Time". Life slows down to half pace as soon as you enter the town. The vibe is more chill than Shaggy & Scooby Doo. The only place people seem to be in a rush to get to the is the beach, with good reason because the surf is good and the views are even better. I'm not kidding, we saw so many people running to the beach with their surfboards under their arms, like they had an insatiable need to surf. We even saw a guy managing to ride a bike and hold his surfboard at the same time - I have no idea how he did it. I suspect that if I tried, it would involve a lot of face-planting the floor.

 

What to do - how to spend two days in Tofino

Two days isn't much time at all. Don't pack your schedule too tight because you're going to want time to relax and once you start exploring beaches and covers, you'll soon run out of time.

 

Take a wildlife tour

There is no shortage of wildlife to be seen around Tofino, whether it's whales, birds, bears, seals, or something else. I think you would have to have a whole load of bad luck and bad timing on your side if you didn't see anything.

Several companies in Tofino and Ucluelet offer boat or air wildlife tours. We went whale watching with Jamie's Whaling Station and had a great time spotting whales, sea otters, and taking in Clayoquot Sound, and learning about the area. We really enjoyed their tour and would definitely recommend them - next time we want to do their bear watching tour.

Spotting a whale on a whale watching tour with Jamie's Whaling Station, Tofino

Seeing a sea otter on a boat tour with Jamie's Whaling Station, Tofino

Wildlife spotting on your own 

As I said, I think you'd have to be pretty unlucky to not see something. Spent some time on beaches and you might end up seeing something wonderful. We followed the Tonquin Trail from the community centre down to Tonquin beach and spotted whales out in the bay, and saw a bald eagle chilling on a rock.

Pay respect to signs informing you that beaches are closed to humans after dark to allow wildlife to feed. And never forget that you are the stranger in another animal's territory. Make sure you don't leave any litter or food around that may attract wildlife, carry bear spray, and know what to do if you encounter a bear, wolf, or mountain lion.

I recently read a PhD thesis which commented that a big chunk of people surveyed were entering into areas that had bears and they didn't know what to do if they encountered one. (There are no stats as that was an observation she made, not actually part of her research.)

A Bald Eagle at Tonquin Beach, Tofino

 

Explore beaches

The beaches around Tofino are some of the most beautiful beaches either of us had ever seen. They're vast, windswept, and you can walk between some of them at low tide.

We spent hours exploring beaches, climbing up rocks for views, looking for rock pools and taking in where we were. We even discovered a beach called Rosie Beach, which had a beautiful house perched on the edge of it. It was pretty fun to imagine what it would be like to live there and look out your window to the sea every day.

Daz at Long Beach

Cox Bay, Tofino

Enjoying the view on Cox Bay, Tofino

 

Rainforest A trail in Tofino

Hiking

There's no shortage of hiking trails around Tofino. Here are some of the ones we did:

  • Tonquin Trail - a short trail from Tofino's community centre down to Tonquin Beach. 
  • Rainforest A & B - two short loop trails, each one starting at difference sides of the highway. It's interesting to note the comparison between the rainforest you walk through in both of these trails. Rainforest A is older, and Rainforest B has a younger bit at the start. This trail is perfect if it's raining because the trees keep you pretty well sheltered from the rain. It's a really ground experience to be surrounded by so many ancient trees. 
  • The Lighthouse Loop - a 2.6km trail that forms part of the Wild Pacific Trail, and starts in Ucluelet. It's a wonderful trail for seeing the power of the waves against the rocks, and the lighthouse is well worth seeing. 

There are many more trails around and we found Tofino Trails to be really helpful when planning what we were going to do. If you fancy going further afield, the Lone Cone trail looks like it provides rewarding views over Clayoquot Sound. As it involves getting a water taxi to Meares Island, doing that hike will probably take up the majority of your day. This hike is definitely on our list of things to do when we return. 

 

Surfing or paddleboarding

Tofino is a surfers paradise. Unfortunately we didn’t have chance to go surfing but we saw loads of people trying it out for the first time, and total pros. You won't struggle to find a company who can teach you to surf or paddleboard, and it's something we want to try out next time.

amphitrite lighthouse in Ucluelet, down the road from Tofino

View from the Lighthouse Loop, in Ucluelet

Where to stay in Tofino

Daz and I stayed at Green Point Campground, just outside Tofino, on the edge of Long Beach. It's a Parks Canada owned campsite which can be booked through their website. It cost us $107.90 CAD (around £65) for three nights with a fire permit, and fire wood can be brought on site. All of the Parks Canada campsites we've stayed at were really nice, clean, had good facilities but this one was even more special. Green Point Campground has a private trail down to Long Beach, and it's possible to pick a pitch with ocean views. 

We stayed in pitch 67, which had views through the trees over the ocean. I'm not sure if any of the pitches actually have views of the beach itself. When you book through the Parks Canada website, you can click on all of the pitches and see photos of the pitch, some of them clearly show ocean views. I'm not sure where else you're going to get ocean views for $22 per night.

There are other campsites around Tofino, which vary in price. For example, at Bella Pacifica you can camp on the beach but it is more expensive than the Parks Canada site. 

In Tofino, you can find B&B's, apartments, inns, and lodges. I always recommend AirBnB because  we love it so much. You can always find something that fits your budget and needs. If we aren't camping, AirBnB is our go-to.

There is also an eco-lodge at Tofino's Botanical Garden if you're looking for accommodation that takes care of the environment. That said, we felt a lot of places we visited were eco-friendly and I think that's to do with the close connection the town has with nature and wildlife. 

Tofino harbour in the rain

Where to eat in Tofino

Tofino has a brilliant food scene, and you'll have no trouble finding somewhere to eat. We loved the Common Loaf Bakery; it had amazing sandwiches, and we keep thinking about their peasant bread. Sobo is a wonderful little restaurant, with a great story about how it started out as a food truck and grew into a popular restaurant. Wolf In The Fog is a popular restaurant; we didn't eat there but have heard plenty of good reviews and it looks really nice.

Just outside Tofino there's a small group of eateries, including TacoFino, Chocolate Tofino, and Tofitan Cafe. Further down the Pacific Rim Highway is Jamie's Rainforest Inn which does a really nice breakfast. We went there on a rainy morning to relax and plan the rest of our day. 

The Pacific Ocean from Long Beach, Tofino

Reaching Tofino

Despite there only being one road in and out of Tofino, it's really easy to get to. The beautiful little town is on the west side of Vancouver Island, which you can get to by ferry, plane, or helicopter.If you're flying, you can fly from Vancouver Intl, Seattle-Tacoma Intl, Victoria Intl, Nanaimo airport, or Comox Valley airport.

From Victoria, Tofino is 317km away via the 1 to Nanaimo, the 19, and then follow the 4 to the end of the road. You'll go through a few towns on the way, so there's places to stop off for fuel, food, and Timmy's! The scenery is wonderful round there, and it's well worth stopping off by the side of a lake for your lunch and to stretch your legs. 

The 4 is the only route in and out of Tofino, so I recommend keeping an eye on the road and road conditions on the Driving BC website. A few hours after we left Tofino, we heard that an accident had shut the 4 for a few hours. If there's going to be heavy rain, I recommend leaving extra time to get in or out of Tofino because the roads can feel very daunting in heavy rain and you won't be doing the speed limit. 

The walk down to Chesterman Beach, Tofino

We enjoyed our two days in Tofino even more than we imagined we would. It's hard to explain exactly how relaxed and refreshed we felt after two packed days. After our time in Tofino, we drove across to spend a few days in Vancouver. I've gotta tell you, Vancouver was a stark contrast between Tofino and it definitely took us a minute to adjust to a big city. 

Have you ever been to Tofino? If you have any questions, drop me a comment or get in touch 🙂 

How to spend 2 days in Tofino

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Avalanche at Plain of Six Glaciers

Lake Louise from Plain of Six Glaciers

The plain of the six glaciers trail has everything you want in a hike; adorable wildlife, mountains, snow, an azure lake, glaciers, avalanches, and vegetarian chilli. 

The 14km trail (return) begins at the edge of Lake Louise, outside the Fairmont hotel. While the lake looks absolutely packed in that spot, the crowds thin out quickly. A good chunk of visitors are there just to see the lake and have a little wander. We have been to Lake Louise in September and June, so neither are full-on peak times but we didn't find the trails to be jam-packed or unbearable. As soon as you begin walking down the side of the lake, you notice a huge difference. The further you get from the hotel, the quieter it is.  

If you do want to avoid the crowds and feel like you truly have the place to yourself then aim to arrive well before 9am. Save

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Lake Louise to the Victoria Glacier

View towards the Victoria Glacier

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I first heard about the plain of the six glaciers trail on Brittany's Adventures. We saw it last autumn when we were beginning to plan our summer trip to Canada and it was high up our list of things to do in the Banff / Lake Louise area. We did the Lake Agnes teahouse trail the first time and enjoyed it (though we felt super unfit) and wanted to see the tea house at the top of the plain of the six glaciers trail. Plus, the views from the top of the trail looked incredible.

Overall, the hike took us about five hours, though maybe a little bit longer because we had a delicious chilli at the teahouse - which I will fangirl about more later.

Beach at the end of Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from the end of Lake Louise

The trail follows Lake Louise right to the other end, where you will find a pretty sandy looking beach. I was quite surprised to see it to be honest, a beach was perhaps the last thing I was expecting to see. You're also going to see a lot of adorable ground squirrels who are pretty good at posing / begging for food.

Once you've passed the end of the lake, the real work begins. It is not the steepest hike I've ever done, but it is going to leave you a little out of breath. Especially if there's patches of snow and remnants of avalanches about which you need to navigate without falling over. We didn't take any hiking poles, but if you have any and you're visiting when there might be snow about, they're probably going to be useful.

Avalanche remains on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail

Mount Lefroy Plain of Six Glaciers

As you get closer to the teahouse, the Victoria Glacier comes into view and it is worth feeling out of breath and sweaty for. At the top of this part of the trail, there's an information board which names the peaks and glaciers you can see. One area is aptly called Death Trap due to avalanches.

From here you can head to the teahouse and toilets or carry on another 1.2km (I think, I can't fact check it anywhere now - it's definitely not more than 2km anyway) to the very end of the trail. However, there are signs up warning that that section of the trail isn't maintained and you'll see why if you decide to reach the end. For the most part, the last bit is absolutely fine. It's the last little bit where you're on very fine kinda gravel on a steep slope.

Victoria Glacier and Death Trap from Plain of Six Glaciers trail

The Victoria Glacier

I am not a person with excellent balance. Especially when it comes to getting down things. Daz calls me a "shit cat" because if I were a cat, I would forever be stuck in trees. My owners would have a loyalty card for the Fire Brigade (I'm not sure what that would mean, though.) I can get up anything. Getting down? It's horrendous. Again, walking poles would be useful here but if you have rubbish balance, like me, you aren't really missing out on much by not doing the last few metres. I promise. It is literally the last few metres, so you can get the same view by staying on the raised little path.

After taking in views of the Victoria Glacier, listening to the ice crack, and feeling proud of our efforts, we headed to the tea house. We had the most delicious chilli there; it was unbelievable. I'm still thinking about that chilli three months later. I would go back for that chilli. I mean, I'd go back because I'm obsessed with Canada and the place is beautiful, but that chilli!

The teahouse itself is really interesting because all the supplies have to be flown in or hiked in with the staff. The staff there do five days on, and two days off, and have to hike in and out on the same trail. If you want to visit the teahouse, note that they only take cash and it is only open between mid-June to mid-October, depending on weather.

Avalanche at Plain of Six Glacier

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As we headed back down from the teahouse, we heard a huge cracking noise and turned around to see an avalanche. Neither of us had ever seen one with our own eyes and what struck us the most was the sheer noise of it. We all know avalanches are powerful and not to be taken lightly, but the noise really conveys that. For a moment, everyone on the trail stopped in their tracks and fell silent as we watched in awe.

The sound on the video didn't do the sound of the avalanche justice at all. And I wasn't very on the ball with whipping my phone out because I was stood there staring, completely captivated, so what you're seeing is the end of the avalanche. That said, I still find it pretty cool to rewatch it.

The return was pretty smooth, just a few bits of ice and snow to navigate that had been compacted further by people walking on it all day. Before we knew it we were back at the shore of Lake Louise, where people were everywhere. It was quite a contrast from being up at the glacier, where the lake looked tiny. Being back down there, surrounded by crowds was a bit of a shock.

Before we went, we read reviews of treks to the plain of the six glaciers and most people said it was quite hard. I'm gonna be honest, Daz and I are not the fittest people at all but we didn't find it incredibly hard. Though, we had done Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots the day before and that was steep as, so I think anything was going to feel easier than that.

Don't be put off by seeing people say a hike is hard because it's worth it. You're climbing up a mountain - that ain't easy. That said, you know your own body; if you feel unsafe or out of your comfort zone then turn around.

If you're planning to do the plain of six glaciers trail it's probably going to be the main thing you do that day; what do you do with the rest of the day then? Luckily, there is loads you can do in Lake Louise and Banff:

  • Visit Moraine Lake, aka the best lake in the world. It's really close by and there are a couple of shorter hiking trails around the lake if you fancy some more walking. I recommend the walk to Consolation Lakes. Or you could go kayaking on the lake.
  • You could visit the Fairmont Lake Louise to be nosy at a fancy hotel and have afternoon tea.
  • If you're feeling very fit, you could veer off the plain of the six glaciers trail on the way back and visit the Lake Agnes teahouse.
  • Go paddle boarding or kayaking on Lake Louise.
  • Wander around the town of Lake Louise
  • Take the Lake Louise gondola for more stunning views

What's the best hike you've ever done?

Hiking plain of the six glaciers

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The view over the Bow Valley and Rundle Forebay from Grassi Lakes trail

Grassi Lakes is everything you’re looking for in a hike; two beautiful turquoise coloured lakes and panoramic views across Canmore and the mini Mount Rundle range.

The two lakes, called Upper and Lower Grassi Lakes, were named after Lawrence Grassi; an Italian-born climbing guide and trail blazer. He sounds like a fascinating person and was responsible for building many trails in the Canadian Rockies. Could you imagine having that job? I bet he had some amazing stories. 

Grassi Lakes trail more difficult or easy trails

There are two trails up to Grassi Lakes; the “more difficult” route and the “easy” route. Of course, we took the “more difficult” route, because why wouldn’t we? Turns out we ended up making it “even more difficult” because we channeled our inner Lawrence Grassi and blazed our own trail.

View over Canmore and Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes

View over Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes trail

The Bow Valley and Rundle Forebay from Grassi Lakes Trail

It all started well. We followed the trail and were floored by the beautiful views over Canmore and the Bow Valley. And then we came across the waterfall. We took in the views and then tried to figure out where the trail went. It wasn’t immediately obvious but we eventually spotted what we thought was the trail; it was a kind of worn path, in our defence.

After a couple of minutes of pulling ourselves up a bank we realised there was a solid chance we were not on the trail at all. Thankfully, Daz had looked at the trail map at the trail head and knew that if we kept going up we would reach the easier route.

He was right. We did reach the service road, but not after some serious climbing up a very muddy bank, and grabbing onto trees. At some point on the way up, I managed to lose my sunglasses as well.

The view from the top was absolutely worth it, and the colour of the lakes in these photos do not do them justice at all.

Grassi Lakes

Upper Grassi Lakes

Thankfully we found the trail to head back down on and discovered where we’d gone wrong. From the waterfall, the trail went up some steps which blended in to the trees and foliage. While they were a little camouflaged, I have no idea how we missed the steps.

At 3.8km there and back, the trip up to Grassi Lakes can easily be done in a couple of hours. And the harder route really isn’t that hard at all – unless you decide to blaze your own trail.

Have you ever got lost on a trail?

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View over the Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes

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13 places to add to your Scottish adventure list

You didn’t think I’d be in Scotland too long before putting together a Scottish adventure list did you?

This beautiful country has just been voted the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guide readers (and Canada came second?! WHAT?!). I’ve visited Scotland a couple of times and it’s easy to see how it won the title. Getting to adventure around Scotland was one of the things we were most excited for when we were moving.

While this list is in no way final (because we keep seeing more amazing places on Instagram and Pinterest), here are 13 places (plus a bonus) on our Scottish Adventure list. Incidentally, this is perhaps a list of 13 awesome travel photographers to follow on Instagram.

13 places that need to be on your Scottish adventure list

Ben More, Crianlarich

 

The North Face

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Daz spotted Ben More on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and it looks stunning. It’s not too far from Edinburgh so hopefully we can get this one ticked off before the days draw in. Having done some research into the hike, it looks like it’s incredibly unrelenting and is going to make me feel very unfit. Alas, the view from the top looks spectacular.

 

Isle of Skye

What list of awesome Scottish places to visit would be complete without mentioning the Isle of Skye? With it’s faerie pools, dramatic green landscape, moody weather, waterfalls, and the enchanting Man of Storr, it is everything we’re looking for in a place to visit.

There are so many stunning looking places on Skye we want to visit that I think this will turn into a few days of adventuring. That and the weather is so famously unpredictable that we might get one dry day out of four or five. Maybe?

 

John O’Groats

 

Pretty cool sea stacks #nc500 #visitscotland #coast #scotland

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I couldn’t care less about the whole tacky white sign thing, what I do want to see is the geographical (not political, ooh) end of the UK. There’s something weirdly exciting about looking out into the sea and knowing you’re stood at the end of a country.

 

Loch Ness

Loch Ness as seen from a tour boat

When you think about Scotland, one of the first places you think about is Loch Ness. Steeped in mystery and mythology, the dark loch is just somewhere you have to visit. I visited Loch Ness a couple of years ago, and sure it’s not the most beautiful loch in Scotland, but when you see it you can understand where the stories of a monster came from. Daz hasn’t visited yet so I definitely need to take him.

 

Eilean Donan Castle

One of the most visited castles in Scotland, Eilean Donan castle looks like it’s right out of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. It’s on the main route to the Isle of Skye so exploring this castle would be the perfect thing to do on the way there or back.

 

Harry Potter walking tour of Edinburgh

 

The very photogenic Victoria Street, or Diagon Alley if you will ⚡️

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It is well known that J K Rowling worked on the series while living in, and being inspired by, Edinburgh. For any other Harry Potter adventurers, I came across this self-guided Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh which looks fantastic. Just walking around Edinburgh, it’s so easy to see how the Harry Potter universe came to life.

 

Skiing & Snowboarding

I learned to snowboard as part of Duke of Edinburgh though I didn’t actually make it onto a mountain, and Daz last went skiing on a holiday a few years ago. There is no way we’re living this close to a place we can go skiing and snowboarding and not doing it. I think I’ll stick to the bunny slopes though, once I’ve got over my fear of ski lifts; they just don’t look safe, what if I get tangled up in myself and fall flat on my face getting off? Serious fear.

 

Edinburgh’s underground


I only learned about Edinburgh’s underground a couple of months ago. Some part of the city you see today were built on top of existing parts, turning the original streets into tunnels and vaults. Mercat offer tours into the vaults which looks really interesting. It is marketed it as being haunted but I hope the ghost stuff isn’t too over the top.

 

Astronomy nights at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh & Calton Hill

 

Amazing photo of the stars by @kyleeeeliang ✨

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Both of us love space stuff and have wanted to visit an observatory for months, and now we have one right on our doorstep. The Royal Observatory Edinburgh runs public astronomy evenings every Friday throughout the year for just a fiver! We’re definitely going to get in on that as soon as we can.

On top of that, the observatory sits on top of Calton Hill, right in the city centre. We have heard that it’s supposed to provide better views over the city than Arthur’s Seat, so I guess we’ll find out if there’s any truth to that too. As another matter of interest, a fellow student told me that the Postgraduate levels in the main university library also provide amazing views over Edinburgh; so, if you’re a student get in that library and stare out the window! I mean, study.

 

Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail & Jacobite Express

 

📸 are proud to present our Scotland love of the day! ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 🏅ARTIST @connormollison 🌍LOCATION Glenfinnan, Loch Shiel ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• We need you and your pics to show the beauty of Scotland to the world! Join us and be part of it! Tag us #scotlandshots or #scotshots ☝️ No stolen or web pics! Please visit the artist’s gallery and show them some love 💙 Photo selected by @nichbrand #glenfinnan #glenfinnanviaduct #harrypotterbridge #highlands #visitscotland #thisisscotland #unlimitedscotland #ukpotd #scotlandsites #hubs_united #brilliantbritain #lovegreatbritain #omgb #topukphoto #bestukpics #instabritain #vivocelticworld #photosofbritain #igersuk #beautifulscotland #britains_talent #highlandcollective #liveuk #uk #visituk #hiddenscotland

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As two huge Harry Potter fans, visiting the Glenfinnan Viaduct is high up our list. There’s a hike around the viaduct that takes a couple of hours, and hopefully we’ll manage to spot the Jacobite Express crossing the bridge. You can actually hop aboard the Jacobite Express and cross the viaduct pretending you’re en route to Hogwarts. I came across a blog post on Dangerous Business about her experience riding the train, and I am seriously hyped up to do it. That would be really fun to do when some of our Harry Potter loving friends and family visit.

 

Ben Nevis

 

#bennevis #highlands #scotland #mountains #landscape #valley

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As the highest mountain in the UK, a hike up Ben Nevis is probably the most adventurous thing on this list. With an estimated return hike time of 7 – 9 hours, this is probably one we’re going to have to leave until next summer to make sure we have plenty of daylight and (hopefully) better weather.

 

Coire Gabhail

Glencoe is one of my favourite places in Scotland, and Core Gabhail (also called the Lost Valley) is a hidden valley in Glencoe:

  • Visiting Glencoe – good
  • Hidden valleys – good
  • Custard – good (just a little Friends reference for you)

According to Walking Highlands the walk is 2 or 3 hours long, which gives us plenty of time to explore Glencoe some more.

If you’re interesting in visited Glencoe I cannot stress the importance of getting there early, or trying to go on a weekday if you can. During peak season, it is horrendously busy and you’ll struggle to find a parking space, and you might find a coach considerately blocking you in when you try to get out. The good news is that most of the visitors don’t stray too far from the road so the trails aren’t going to be jampacked and ruin your Scottish adventure.

 

Ben Lomond

 

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Loch Lomond is often said to be one of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland, so what better way to take it in than from the summit of a mountain? Seeing photos that look down to the islands on the loch really reminds me of Canada and the islands around Tofino.

With an estimated hike time of 4.5 – 5.5 hours, we might just be able to fit this one in before winter comes.

 

Bonus: Faroe Islands


No, I didn’t skip geography classes. The Faroe Islands are not part of Scotland at all but you can get direct flights to the Danish owned islands direct from Edinburgh. I keep seeing the Faroe Islands popping up all over Instagram at the moment and we’d like to go before it gets too touristy and the accomodation situation goes tits up and ends up like Iceland; in which it costs you a kidney to stay anywhere.

 

Traveling sustainably in Scotland

We all know that it is more environmentally friendly to travel by public transport. Traveline Scotland’s website has a great journey planner that will help you figure out how to get anywhere in Scotland using public transport. They also offer a carbon calculator to show you the CO2 emissions of your journey – which is pretty fun, and scary.

If you’re visiting Edinburgh as part of your trip public transport is the easiest way to get in, out, and around the city. With a single bus ticket costing £1.60, it is probably also the cheapest (again, depending on your circumstances) when you consider the extortionate costs of parking in the city.

Sometimes, public transport isn’t practical, so here are three tips if you need a car for your Scottish adventure:

  • Hire / use an electric or small car
  • Carpool; if you and your adventure buddies can fit in one car, get comfy with each other
  • Find out how many of these eco-driving tips you’re already doing, and what you can start doing

Where is on your adventure list at the moment?

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How Vancouver Won Us Over - View from Stanley Park

We arrived in Vancouver after a relaxing few days exploring Tofino and were immediately thrown into the chaos of a two hour traffic jam, one way streets, and trying to find parking while really hangry. We were not instantly bowled over by Vancouver, and I think we said "I hate this place and want to leave" about ten times on the first night.

Our grumpiness could not last because Vancouver fought hard and won us over. In the space of a few days we went from "this place is horrible" to "yeah, I could see us living here", which is the ultimate sign of an awesome place. Vancouver was like a badly behaved puppy; you can try to stay stern with it and teach it a lesson but it's so darn adorable that you end up smushing your face on it after approximately three seconds. That's not a great analogy but you know what I mean.

So, what did Vancouver do to win us over and make us want to move there?

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The Lions Gate Bridge from Stanley Park, Vancouver

1. Stanley Park

It's easy to see why Stanley Park has won "best park in the world" awards (I would love the job of being judge of that) as soon as you step into 400-hectacres of lush rainforest, trails, sea walks, beaches, seals, ice cream, and more. We spent a whole day exploring Stanley Park and there was still so much we hadn't done. You could easily spend two days exploring the park and still might not do everything you want to. It's not just the park itself, it provides you with stunning views of Vancouver and the mountains to the north.

We considered hiring bikes but after realising how often we'd be stopping to take photos, we decided against it and walked our legs off instead.

I'm not going to lie, when we were researching what to do in Vancouver I kept seeing Stanley Park pop up and I thought, "it can't be that great, surely?" Cynical me was so wrong. It is that great and I am so jealous of those lucky Vancouverites who have this place right in the middle of their beautiful city.

Granville Island Public Market

Eating octopus at Granville Island

View to Vancouver from Granville Island

2. Granville Island Market

Walking around the delicious delights of Granville Island's food market was one of the first times we said "I could live here." We had this romanticised idea of popping down to Granville Island for some fresh produce, meat (Daz got way too enthralled by a meat counter and was practically drooling) or cake (that was my turn to drool). I'm sure that's not what the majority of people living in Vancouver actually do, but it's a really nice thought.

We explored the market and enjoyed some food outside while taking in the mountains, bridges, and buildings all around us. For such a huge city, it feels very calm on Granville Island and if you're lucky enough, you might spot a seal while eating a burrito; not sure where else in the world you can do that.

Golden sunset at Third Beach, Stanley Park

3. Beaches

One of the things we loved most about Vancouver is that it's so easy to escape the hustle and bustle of being in a city of 2.5 million people. There is a lot of sandy space scattered around Vancouver, where you can do a spot of swimming if you fancy it, seal spotting, volley ball, build sandcastles; not things you generally associate with being in a city.

Again, I'm jealous of the people living in Vancouver who can take a stroll to the beach whenever they fancy it. Do you know how far away our closest beach is? Over two hours!

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Sunset from Third Beach, Vancouver

4. Sunsets

That brings us nicely to our next point; beautiful sunsets. Sunsets were a thing that evaded us on the first part of our trip because it was so cloudy. After a day of exploring Stanley Park, we decided to head down to Third Beach to watch the sun set and we were treated to a beautiful one.

Around us, friends and families were having mini parties on the beach, playing some awesome tunes, playing games, and watching one very brave man partake in a bit of swimming at 9pm. It felt so relaxing and you can tell that the locals truly appreciate the beautiful spaces they've got in the city.

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View over the Lion's Gate Bridge to North Vancouver and mountains at night

5. Vancouver at night

The city does not get any less beautiful when the sun goes down. The bridges and buildings light up, forming mesmerising reflections in the water that are too good not to photograph.

After dark, we visited Coal Harbour, the Lion's Gate Bridge and the TELUS Science Centre and we were not disappointed at all. If you visit Vancouver, you need to make some time to see the city light up at night because it's wonderful. And you will definitely not be the only one out there with your tripod and camera, that city is a photographers delight.

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Seal swimming off Third Beach Vancouver

6. Wildlife

As if Vancouver hasn't already got enough going for it, it pulled out the big guns; wildlife. You haven't got to try hard or look for long before you'll spot a seal swimming around the sea wall. We also spotted squirrels in Stanley Park, and we saw our first raccoon! Now, I know "trash pandas" are considered vermin but we don't have them in the UK and we were so excited when we spotted one. Fantastically, it was coming out of one of those big container bins and went and hid under it as soon as it saw us. We were really happy about seeing one and ticking another "new animal" off our list.

View over Deep Cove from Quarry Rock

7. Mountains & Forests

Within less than an hour you can be out of the city and exploring forests and mountains, with the only reminder that you're near a city being the tall buildings you can just about see on the horizon.

We only had time to explore Deep Cove and Lynn Canyon, but there's so much more to see around Vancouver; there's Grouse Mountain, you're not that far from Squamish, you could catch a ferry over to Vancouver Island, or you could take a drive up the Sea to Sky Highway.

Pastel pink sunset from Third Beach Vancouver

Vancouver really is a city that has it all. While we didn't explore much of the inner city because we didn't have time, we liked what we saw. We took a walk around Yaletown one night and the place was bustling and had a really relaxed vibe. Our three days in Vancouver were clearly no where near enough and we'd both love to go back and see some more of the city, and who knows, maybe we'll end up living there?

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7 reasons why you'll fall in love with Vancouver

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Trestle Bridge, Goldstream Provincial Park

Our first three days in Canada were solid travelling AND STRESS, so we were delighted to reach Vancouver Island and to start our trip off with a hike to Niagra Falls (not THAT Niagra Falls) and to the trestle bridge in Goldstream Provincial Park.

To be honest, we would have completely missed out on Goldstream if it hadn't been for this blog post I read on Go Live Explore. As soon as I saw Alicia's photos of the trestle bridge, I knew I wanted to see it for myself. It was well worth the leg burn and feeling incredibly unfit.

There is parking right by the trail, but it's really easy to miss as it can only be accessed from the southbound lane heading towards Victoria. (Here is the exact point on Google Maps if you need it.) There is more parking a little further down on the other side of the road and you can walk up. 

The walk to Niagra Falls only takes a few minutes and in those few minutes you're taken from the side of a busy highway to feeling like you are in one of the most remote places on Earth. The falls are nestled in the corner of a lush valley, with trees forming a canopy over the top of it. If you get there early, you will pretty much have the place to yourselves and that is the best way to see it, because it feels so tranquil. We got there about 10am and there was us, and a family with a dog; when we headed back to the car about 12ish, there were loads of people heading towards the falls.
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Niagra Falls, Goldstream Provincial Park

Niagra Falls in Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

Niagra Falls canyon, Goldstream Provincial Park

As we stood there admiring the falls, I felt so relaxed and so happy that three days of being tired and stressed had produced this wonderful moment. We took a few photos, fell off rocks and got our feet wet (that was me...) before I sprung it on Daz that I'd read about a trail up to a railway trestle bridge. The trail to the trestle bridge is not signposted so it took us a couple of minutes to find it. If you're headed away from the falls, as if you're going back to the car, it is on your left hand side. 

Boy, did that trail give us a workout. It is quite steep (170m elevation), and thankfully there are steps but that doesn't make it any less punishing. By the time we'd reached the top, we were convinced we'd destroyed our legs for the rest of the trip. And if your legs aren't already feeling weird, just wait until you stand on that trestle bridge.

Obviously, I should tell you to exercise extreme caution on the trestle bridge because there are gaps and you could seriously injure or kill yourself if you slipped. It's not like it's a knackered old bridge with pieces of wood that are going to break as soon as you step on them like something off Scooby Doo; plenty of people walk across it, but you need to be careful if you do.

View across the trestle bridge in Goldstream Provincial Park

View over the trestle railway bridge in Goldstream Provincial Park

The red railway trestle bridge in Goldstream Provincial Park, Vancouver Island

I am not usually bothered by heights but my legs definitely felt weird and a bit tingly when I started walking across the bridge. For the first time, I could understand what Daz means when he tells me heights make his feet feel weird. I think I made it about a third of the way across before deciding to turn back. I wanted to look over the sides to see the canyon below but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Like Emerald Lake last year, Niagra Falls and the trestle bridge were a great way to start our adventure and gave us great expectations of what was to come. Of course, it's Canada, that place hasn't got any problems living up to lofty expectations, as you well know from my relentless fangirling about it.

I think it took us maybe two and a half hours to visit the waterfalls and head up to the trestle bridge, though we did take it fairly easy. If you want to find out more about the trestle bridge trail and other trails around it, have a look at Victoria Trails.

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The Trestle Bridge Trail, Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

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Watching the sun set at Moraine Lake, Alberta

In the past 12 months, Daz and I have had our fair share of adventures; we’ve been to Wales, Canada, Edinburgh, and Canada again. Though all of those places are beautiful, it’s the people you’re with that make it the best adventure.

I booked my first trip to Canada before I really knew Daz; I might have known him as “the grumpy pastry chef”. After a few weeks of being together, it became pretty clear to me that I would be moping around Canada on my own, missing him like hell if he didn’t come. In fact, I actually told him that if he didn’t come to Canada, he would ruin my trip to Canada because I would miss him too much. (Soppy, awh.) It’s kinda funny because this time last year he was moping on holiday in Ibiza with his family, and I was being a serious grouch at work.

The fates aligned because he was able to get it off work too, and we found the perfect flight for him which landed just before my flight into Calgary from San Francisco.

During our first trip to Alberta, we felt so at home. We got so much done in seven days (here’s our 7-day Banff & Jasper itinerary), and we were planning our return trip before we’d got to the airport to go home.

We spent months thinking about and planning the trip; whenever one of us was annoyed or stressed, we would remind each other of being back there together. And boy, did that thought get us through a lot of frustrating times.

Our trip was incredible. Even better than we thought it would be, not least because Daz proposed to me at Moraine Lake, our favourite spot (more on that soon). And it definitely sucked more when we had to fly home, though we are now definitely determined to call Canada home one day. 

If either of us had experienced the hammering rain, the chilled out vibes of Tofino, the sounds of Vancouver Island’s rainforests, Vancouver at night, the beauty of the Rockies, or seeing an avalanche on our own, it would have been pretty cool. But to do, see, and experience all of that next to your best friend, is the best feeling in the world.

Sure, travelling with someone isn’t always 100% rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies (I’m really not gonna pretend it is). I’m a miserable moose when I’m tired at the best of times, tired and annoyed at road closures is not a great combination and unfortunate for anyone around me. I’m also always convinced I know the right way (spoiler alert: I almost never do) and am a frustrating co-pilot because I say right when I mean left, and left when I mean right. But then again, nothing is ever 100% rainbows, butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along (shout out to anyone who gets the Maroon 5 reference – from when they were good).

Daz is my favourite adventure buddy and I’m looking forward to so many more adventures with him and giving him the wrong directions, forever.

Happy birthday, Dazzle.

Who is your favourite adventure buddy?

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