Few know the pull of the ocean like Charles McDiarmid. “My childhood was a bit like Huckleberry Finn’s,” says McDiarmid, who’s spent most of his 50-plus years on one of British Columbia’s iconic beaches. Long before there was a road across Vancouver Island to the west coast he was building sand castles and beachcombing the endless strands outside Tofino. The McDiarmids went on to build the Wickaninnish Inn in 1996 on land that the family patriarch purchased on Chesterman Beach. “We especially loved winter storms, when the entertainment was compliments of Mother Nature.”
At “the Wick,” the McDiarmids created a Storm Watchers experience for getting up close and personal with winter’s gale-force winds and thundering waves, as well as a drying space at the après-storm Driftwood Café, and a fireplace in — and sea view from — every room.
Those wild Pacific Ocean waves also prompted a surfing craze at Mystic Beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, near Victoria on the Island’s southern tip. A 2.5-kilometre (1.5-mile) hike through mossy rainforest and across a suspension bridge ends at a dramatic, bluff-lined beach with caves, a rock arch and a magical waterfall plummeting right to the sand, perfect for a post-surfing shower.
Other B.C. beaches are almost tropical, with glittering turquoise waters and white sand. Tribune Bay on Hornby Island in the Gulf Islands, accessible by ferry from Vancouver Island’s east coast, is nicknamed “Little Hawaii.” In summer, it’s sun-warmed to balmy temperatures, and only a five-minute walk to the island’s funky village.