I’m propping up the bar at the Wolf in the Fog, a buzzy restaurant in Tofino, cradling a Cracker Jack cocktail — made from popcorn-infused rum, Canadian whisky, honey, macadamia-nut liqueur, lime and local salt water. It’s possibly the effect of that improbable combination, but I’ve lost count of the number of man-buns in the room. I’d heard this 30-mile stretch on the west coast of Vancouver Island was a mecca for foodies and adventure-lovers, but I hadn’t expected this particular town to be so hip.
In the ’60s, Vietnam draft dodgers drifted to Vancouver Island — if you’re looking to disappear, where better than a rugged, sparsely populated, 12,400-square-mile enclave of Canada’s Pacific coast? Most of them settled in Ucluelet and Tofino, two fishing towns about 25 miles apart. Later came the surfers, chasing the big waves.
Eventually the zeitgeist of these villages became sporty-hippy, creating a hub of Canadian and American artists, outdoorsy types and early organic farmers. Nowadays, the best way to describe many of the 2,000 Tofino residents is buff-boho, with bearded men in flannel shirts warding of freezing winds and women clad in shorts and hand knitted beanies year-round.