While Tofino’s current townsite was established in 1909, the human history of this region dates back thousands of years. The traditional territory (Ha-Hoolthee) of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations includes Meares Island, Tofino, Long Beach, extending to Sutton Pass, now known as Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Vancouver Island’s west coast. Traditions run deep, and there are opportunities to explore the culture of the coastal Nuu-chah-nulth people.

 

 

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is home to the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, situated on the traditional territory of both the Tla-o-qui-aht and the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nations. Perched on the edge of expansive Wickaninnish Beach, the Centre (Kwisitis means “other end of the beach” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language) offers two floors of exhibits including a replica of a traditional whale hunt, audio versions of First Nations stories, and a theatre running films about our coast.

Starting just behind the Kwisitis Visitor Centre is the 2.5 kilometre  (one-way) Nuu-chah-nulth Trail, which traces some of the path used by First Nations to travel between the places we now know as Tofino and Ucluelet. While the trail is mostly on an elevated boardwalk, remnants of the original path are still visible at times. This takes you through the contrasting landscapes of thick old growth forest and a bog, with the sound of the waves nearby. Look for interpretive signs that explain how First Nations thrived here. The trail ends at the parking lot accessing Florencia Bay, a sandy, c-shaped beach named for a cast-off brigantine blown into the bay in the late 19th century. We recommend taking the steps down to the beach and basking in its rugged beauty. Just keep your energy level up for the walk back to the trailhead at the Kwisitis Visitor Centre!

One literally immersive experience offered in Tofino is the opportunity to paddle a traditional First Nations dugout canoe, led by a Nuu-chah-nulth guide. Master Carver Joe Martin has been crafting canoes for decades, while daughter Tsimka trains her team to lead tours on these very canoes, sharing knowledge about the past and present of the area. Opt to explore thousand year-old trees on the Big Tree Trail in Meares Island Tribal Park from a First Nations perspective on a four-hour tour. Custom canoe trips to other sites, like the traditional whale hunting village of Echachis, can be available upon demand.

Cultural walks with First Nations interpretation are usually available during winter storm watching season. Meet face to face with a member of the local First Nations community, who will guide you along a path to discovery.

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