Exploring Tofino by Sea, Air, and Vintage Land Cruiser
Antique seaplanes, hidden hot springs, hand-built cabins, and empty surf breaks deep in British Columbia
Canon 5D Mk IV, Mamiya RZ67Proii
Kodak Portra 400
Local photographer Shayd Johnson picked us up from Vancouver in his 82 Land Cruiser stocked with a dozen Cartems donuts and a 12 pack of local cider on deck. From that very first moment it was on.
Once on Vancouver Island, in the pissing rain we ventured out to surf Cox Bay. Gorgeous, cold, rugged. We then hunkered down and warmed up in an A-frame overlooking Tofino bay, where Shayd shared the most compelling Sasquatch siting I've ever heard, and even backed it up with some maddeningly blurry video.
Between storms we caught a day of low pockets of fog and crisp sun, perfect for a trip into the fjords in a 1952 Beaver float plane. We’re talking full analog controls—levers and knobs flaking paint and stained with oils from over 60 years of use. It was a humbling experience to be bouncing over remote mountains and high seas in an antique flying machine. Spotting migrating gray wales from the air made the perspective even more surreal. It’s amazing to watch intelligent mammals so at home in such a rugged environment.
After landing in a calm inlet we hucked a few backflips off the dock into the balls-shriveling water and trekked through the rainforest to a hot spring that cascaded over cliffs into the ocean. Again, surreal.
Post flight back we jumped right onto a boat helmed by Dan, a local boat guide. Without consulting any charts or the help of buoys we slalomed around shoals and reefs, and landed on the rocky beach of a tiny island with a hidden path leading through the forest to a rogue backwoods cabin that Dan's been building by hand over the last five years.
Once warm we got back on the water and continued deeper into the narrowing inlets. On a whim we pulled up to a local fisherman in a tiny boat and bought a bag of huge Dungeness crabs for a paltry $20.
The final destination was Dan’s fantasy project—a floating sauna, where we cleaned and boiled the freshest, most succulent crabs I’ve ever tasted. Totally stuffed, we kicked back in the falling light and watched jellyfish, geese, and a bald eagle cruise by.
I get why they call it the Great Northwest.