Storm watching on the west coast of Vancouver Island has been an attraction for visitors for many years, with winds reaching over 70km per hour and waves reaching as high as 5 meters. These magnificent storms are best viewed in Tofino and Ucluelet, two coastal communities where you can find lodging at either a bed and breakfast or one of the popular hotels. The best time of year to storm watch is November through to March as huge, powerful waves pound the beach, leaving large timber strewn haphazardly across the hard packed sand. Locals and tourists walk the beach after the storm to discover washed up items from as far away as Japan. Beachcombing is a popular way to spend time relaxing and breathing in the fresh ocean air looking for that special piece of driftwood or ocean treasure.
Be sure to wear the proper clothing when setting off on your journey to Tofino or Ukee (as the locals call it). A rain slicker (rain coat and rain pants) is a must, as well as proper footwear such as rubber boots with wool socks, gloves, and a toque. Umbrellas will not survive the fury of the winds and rain coming at you sideways.
Three beaches where you can spend the day beachcombing after the passing of the storm are listed below. There can be up to 10-15 storms per month during the winter months, so be sure to check the weather forecast before heading west to avoid disappointment.
North Chesterman Beach: View the Pacific Ocean from the Pointe Restaurant in the Wickaninnish Inn. Or outside on the beach looking toward Lennard Island Lighthouse.
South Chesterman Beach: From here you can stroll south toward the rocky headlands of Pacific Rim National Park. If you walk far enough down the beach, you will discover two Red Chairs found on one of the rocky islands close to shore which is accessible when the tide is low. This is a great place to stop for a rest and a photo opportunity of the ocean and the beach.
Kwisitis Visitor Centre: Located in Pacific Rim National Park, this visitor centre offers not only a great spot to see the waves (scenic Wickaninnish Beach) but also interesting info about the natural and human history of the region.