Tofino with Kids … er, a Baby

Vancouver-based mom Elaina Spring Eden, husband and adorable 9-month-old daughter Ava just traipsed off to Tofino, BC for almost a week. Tofino — located off the west shore of Vancouver Island — is well-known for opportunities to hike, whale-watch and unwind from the world.

But that last part (unwinding) isn’t always so easy for new parents, as we all remember.

“My husband I both realized that our days of laying in bed in terrycloth robes and staring out at the ocean for hours on end are on hiatus for a while,” Eden says. “The idea of rest and relaxation has taken on a whole new meaning in our lives at this point.”

“I find it humorous that I would easily trade a million dollar view for a microwave and a few extra feet of ‘crawl space.’”

So let’s find out how Eden successfully chilled out with her little one:

Q. Did you stay in any kid-friendly Tofino hotels on Vancouver Island?

Yes!

The first three nights we were at the Long Beach Lodge. Overall, the property was kid friendly. They happily provided a pack n’ play and high chair for our room.

However, if you are traveling with little ones, I highly recommend one of their two-bedroom cottages over the beachfront rooms in the lodge. It is nice to have the privacy and the extra space (1,000 sq. ft) as well as a full kitchen.

We put baby upstairs in a pack n’ play and enjoyed having the entire downstairs area to ourselves after she went to bed.  There is a gas fireplace as well as a private hot tub off the master bedroom.  We used the BBQ one night and ordered food to go from their restaurant another night (they don’t offer room service). I emailed in advance to make arrangements for a babysitter one evening. It was $15 an hour and allowed us to enjoy a nice dinner in their restaurant that was not particularly family friendly in the evenings.

standing at tofino hotel for families with a kid-friendly windowWe also stayed two nights at the Wickaninnish Inn. In a word, it was amazing. Their attention to detail was truly extraordinary. Riedel stemware in our guest room, homemade butter with every meal, cedar carving lessons, rain jackets, pants and boots, a hybrid Lexus for borrow, the world’s best hair dryer, HBC wool beach blankets, a caring smile at every turn and breathtaking scenes of rain forest, rock and ocean. The staff could not have been more accommodating and courteous.

We were in a fairly standard “deluxe” guest room and it was extremely spacious and absolutely lovely.  The bathtub was enormous and provided our baby girl hours of enjoyment.  It was as if she had her very own swimming pool!  They also provided a microwave in the room, which made heating up her baby food a breeze.

On their third floor they have a wonderful little library with all kinds of children’s books, puzzles, games and videos. Perhaps the best part for us was the complimentary in-room childcare for guests who wish to dine at the famous Ponite Restaurant. We were fortunate to experience the chef’s five course tasting menu during our visit and it was simply amazing truly incredible. The meal was simply amazing.

We also ordered room service a couple of times, which was just as delicious.  I was impressed that they came to our room four times to bring us our dinner in courses: appetizer, starter, entree and dessert.  It was expensive but I have to say the return was worth every loonie.  This is the ultimate “family friendly five star” resort in British Columbia.

We also spent one night in a cabin at the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort in Parksville. This place prides itself on being family friendly and it shows.  We stayed in a private cabin that was adorable and had everything we could wish for, including a full kitchen (with a dishwasher and microwave), a back deck with a private picnic table and BBQ, and a wood burning fireplace.

The resort itself has a link on the website for “families” and features several different organized activities, programs and amenities for kids.  We used their babysitting service to visit the spa and have dinner and were extremely happy.  The restaurant is also 100% kid friendly for all meals. Apparently it is also a great place to bring the family during the winter holiday season.

I had no idea how easy it was to arrange an in-room baby sitter at each of these properties.  What a pleasant surprise!

Q. Some families would be worried to leave their baby with a babysitter they’re unfamiliar with. What reassured you?

Regarding the babysitting service, it was easier than I thought it would be.  I did some research in advance and all three resorts have such a good reputation it immediately gave me some confidence.  It also helped that I knew we were just a few moments away on the same property.

The Wick and the Long Beach Lodge interview and train existing in-house guest services staff to provide childcare.  At the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort they also hire and train staff.  As noted on their website “All of our sitters have been interviewed by Tigh-Na-Mara and have their Babysitting Certification. Babysitters will provide their own transportation to and from the Resort. Children under the age of two years require a mature sitter, 18yrs and over.”  The person who looked after Ava was the mother of the woman who ran the hotel gift shop.  She was delightful.  We were truly happy with all three babysitters.

My advice is to trust your gut instincts when the sitter arrives and if everything feels okay … escape and enjoy a leisurely two-handed paced meal.  You will be so glad you did.

Q. Did you eat any memorable Tofino meals? Did you find a great baby-friendly or kid-friendly restaurant in Tofino?

At the Trans-Canada Highway with kids at Tofino BC A friendly mum on the ferry recommended we try Sobo while in Tofino and I am so grateful.  It was a bit hard to find (a couple of blocks off the main drag) so it isn’t a place you would just stumble upon but it is definitely worth seeking out.

Not only was the food fresh, local and seasonal, but the restaurant is perfect for families. There is patio with a play area for kids as well as some fun picnic tables. Our server  (also the mother of a nine month old) was incredibly kind and even offered to bring out some special “baby friendly” food for Ava.  They also offer all kinds of items pre-made and ready to take-away. Their fresh cookies and other decadent desserts are to die for.

Q. Which family-friendly activities you enjoy with your baby daughter, in Tofino?

At a Tofino beach with baby and family

Photo credit: Christopher Pouget

One cool thing we did was hire a professional photographer to take some family shots.  The scenery is so extraordinary that we simply couldn’t leave without capturing it.  We worked with local photographer Christopher Pouget and he was great … personable, professional and patient.  His price was extremely affordable and his images are priceless.

kid-friendly Pacific Rim National Park hike

Rainforest Walk

Another fun thing was the “Rainforest Walk” in the Pacific Rim National Park. The path we did was an easy half hour journey on a raised boardwalk.  It is not stroller friendly but we managed beautifully with our baby carrier.

Q. Did you find that it was easier to meet and talk with people when your infant daughter was traveling with you on Vancouver Island, compared to before kids?

Yes, we found people to be extremely friendly.  Having a baby is great conversation starter but then again, I am much more outgoing when I am with Ava. I enjoy talking with people who have kids and never hesitate to strike up a conversation. I guess it is the same as always … you tend to find what you are looking for, in that regard.

About Lora

Lora Shinn writes about travel for regional and local publications, including AAA Journey, National Geographic Traveler, Bankrate.com, Natural Health and Whole Living.

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