tofino hot springs in winter visit the photographer's website

Tofino Hot Springs in the Winter - the Icing on the Cake

A visit to Hot Springs Cove, by Sean McCarroll, Tofino



The guttural sound tumbled involuntarily from my lips and echoed slightly off the narrow rock walls surrounding me. My legs held out straight in front of me in a tense sitting position, I used only my arms to slowly ease myself into the shallow pool of hot water.

It normally takes me quite a bit of time to slip into hot tubs. My particular style is lacking the grace of those more accustomed to immersion in near boiling water; nor do I possess the reckless abandon with which others take the plunge. No, my style is more of a slow, cautious submersion; first my feet, then up to my knees, then, bracing myself with my arms, I move into an awkward half-sitting position, exhale deeply, and I'm in.
But this was different. This was much better than any run-of-the-mill hot tub. This was a pristine natural hot spring overlooking mountains and the vast Pacific Ocean.

I shrugged off my usual routine and with one fluid motion I lowered my body into the water. Within seconds I was sitting in the hot springs completely naked drinking cheap red wine out of the bottle and thinking to myself, "It doesn't get much better than this, ole' boy."

I had been told by numerous people that Hot Springs Cove can get pretty busy, but on this cool, sunny December afternoon I had them all to myself; I couldn't get any more relaxed.
I've been to a lot of so-called "natural" hot springs before: the ones found in close proximity to resort towns in the mountains, visited by a constant flow of tour busses, lined with ceramic and crammed with splashing kids wearing underwater goggles.

This was a much different experience. Surrounded by oldgrowth forest on a small rocky beach in the remote northern end of Clayoquot Sound, soaking in a steamy rock pool and listening to waves roll onto shore, isn't a bad way to spend a sunny winter afternoon.

The hot water bubbles out of the ground at nearly 120° F and gathers in five naturally layered, shallow rock pools as it gently cascades down a narrow chasm towards the tide. I was in the second pool from the top, just beneath a hot waterfall churning out small clouds of mist at its base. There was a cool, salt-water breeze blowing on shore. Wisps of steam danced on the surface of the pool before wafting over me and up the rock walls. The water, flowing into the pool, gently massaged my back.

I took another long slug of wine and, just before closing my eyes, I watched an eagle flap its impressive wingspan once and glide by effortlessly overhead.


The pools are open year round and the only way to access them is by air or sea, so a trip to Hot Springs Cove is more than just relaxing in natural wonder; that's just the icing on the cake. Half the fun is getting there.

I'd been in Tofino for about a month and I'd spent a lot of time watching floatplanes take off and land in Tofino Inlet. I'm from the East Coast and you don't see a lot of that back home, so I was pretty excited; I'd never been in a floatplane before.

The small Cessna off from Tofino heading south and then banked around to the north over Meares Island. It was a clear, sunny day so our view of Lone Cone and Opitsat were completely unimpeded. We flew over secluded beaches on Vargas Island, watched a small surf break in Cow Bay on Flores Island and then landed smoothly in Hot Springs Cove.

The plane dropped me off at the public wharf in Maquinna Provincial Park. From there it's a $3 service fee and a 20-minute hike along a wooden boardwalk through old growth rainforest. I knew I was close when I started to smell faint traces of sulphur in the air. I didn't waste any time getting in the water.


I took another slug of wine and adjusted the rock I was leaning against. "This ain't too bad," I said aloud with a smile. Then I took another slug of wine and emptied the bottle.

I reached up to the rock where I left my watch and realized I had to get back to the dock to meet my plane. I groaned at the thought of leaving, then smiled realizing I had a sunset flight back to Tofino waiting for me.

Sean McCarroll is an outdoor and travel writer from Nova Scotia. He is spending a month in Tofino to recover from
his journalism studies at the University of King's College.

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Tofino Hot springs article describing the author's experience on a visit to Hot Springs Cove in the winter.

tofino time january 2006

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