Travel Guide: Hidden Gem Getaways on the West Coast

With all the stress and turmoil from your everyday lives, occasional getaways over the weekend or during time off prove to be crucial. The value of vacation is something that should be appreciated more now coming out of a pandemic than ever before. However, it can be difficult to find or plan a leave that serves it’s purpose in fun and recuperation. While most of North America’s largest tourist destinations are loud and raging cities, that can be the last thing you want after a long working period. On the flip side, staying at somewhere like a pampering hotel or all-inclusive resort may be relaxing, but still very pricey. To unwind, you deserve a vacation that is peaceful, but still full of culture, aesthetics, and activities, without breaking the bank. This compilation of destinations should highlight some of the hidden gem getaways on the west coast of North America, that offer rewarding and resting perks, for any budget. Beginning in the northern islands of British Columbia, all the way down through seaside Washington, to the underrated Oregon coast, this list introduces locations for now or later.

Tofino
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Tofino, British Columbia

Starting off in the Canadian province of British Columbia, Tofino is a unique and gorgeous visit that is held dear to Canada’s heart. Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino is a surf town of approximately 2000 people. Tofino is a small community full of big adventure possibilities. With being right on the Pacific Ocean, there are opportunities to fish, paddleboard or surf off the 35 kilometres of beach. Surfing is a crucial part of this community and there are a variety of surf schools and shops to assist tourists on their personal journey. Tofino has even been dubbed one of the best surf locations in all Canada; you may have seen it featured throughout pop culture, such as on “The Amazing Race.” The adventure is endless with the addition of extensive biking or hiking trails, natural wildlife encounters, and storm watching on seasonal occasions.

Tofino Surf Waves
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Along with the refreshing range of physical activities, Tofino has many local businesses to explore and support. There are vibrant grocers with fresh produce, legal cannabis stores, trendy bakeries, as well as Tofino branded brewing and distillery establishments. Tofino Kombucha operates out of the town, one of the tastiest fermented beverages in British Columbia! On your stay, there are multiple vacation homes or smaller scale hotels. Many of these lodging possibilities are waterfront and owned by those who love Tofino.

Tofino Kombucha
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Hidden Gem of Tofino

The hidden gem experience of Tofino is WILDPOD, described as a luxury waterfront “glamping experience.” These pods are studio rooms designed for two people, perfect for a romantic getaway. Overlooking the water and nature of your surroundings, these pods contain broad and prominent windows, that allow for light to enter and for the views to be more apparent. This experience is heavily popular and definitely worth trying for at least a night of your experience.

WILDPOD Tofino
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Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria Parliament
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Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, additionally situated on Vancouver Island. While it is the 7th most densely populated city in Canada, it is definitely quieter than most of British Columbia’s mainland. Victoria contains of many exquisite experiences and iconic locations. The inner harbour of the city contains most of the action, beginning with the parliament buildings. These operating landmarks signify a rich history of politics and royal establishment right in the downtown core. Neighbouring the parliament buildings is the Royal British Columbia Museum. The history of this museum dates back to its founded date in 1886, containing many intriguing exhibits of various cultures, nature progression, and human history. Within a close proximity is The Empress, an esteemed Victoria hotel. This glorious hotel is now a luxury stay, still is one of the oldest opened back in 1908. Other Victoria highlights include the Butchart Gardens, the Craigdarroch Castle, and Fisgard Lighthouse Historic Site.

The Empress Victoria
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Another Victoria favourite is their Fisherman’s Wharf. Reminiscent of that in San Francesco, this small collection of food stands, and attractions thrives in the summer. The sea bus is a mode of transport that docks and travels here, and some Victoria residents even have picturesque homes situated on the water.  As far as food is concerned, Victoria has it all. The cuisine is diverse and inclusive, as it is in many parts of British Columbia. One entertaining and historical phenomenon is the afternoon and high tea locations. With Victoria’s British routes, this tradition of enjoying tea and finger foods is exquisite. Victoria adds its modern flair to this meal, experimenting with the incorporation of Asian influence and exotic flavours into the menu. Aside from tea, Victoria has an assortment of craft beer, cider, spirits, and wines. If given the chance, make sure to try a “Nanaimo bar,” an Island favourite dessert consisting of wafer, nut, and coconut crumb.

Victoria FIshermans Wharf
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Hidden Gem of Victoria

Located just outside of Victoria, is “Blue’s Bayou Café,” the chosen hidden gem of this stay. Overlooking and situated right over the water, this small shack of a restaurant offers an extensive Cajun inspired menu produced by one chef and private, personalized service. This gorgeous location, the food phenomenal, and exclusive atmosphere makes for a fabulous meal. Definitely worth indulging in during your stay.

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Walla Walla, Washington

Heading down into the United States, Walla Walla is another location suitable for all demographics. If you get past the silly name, there is much to explore within this city. Walla Walla is four hours away from Seattle and/or Portland, situated in the east. This funky community offers much selection in entertainment and enjoyment, for people of every age. Walla Walla houses the Children’s Museum of Walla Walla, a family friendly aquatic center, an arcade, and a plethora of toy shops. If you’re travelling without children, the possibilities increase.  Walla Walla is a hot spot for all the outdoor activities you love, such as cycling, golfing, and hiking. Additionally, you can explore the 120 various wineries, the Lavender farm, and of course, Bennington Lake, a nature hotspot with 20 miles of explorable trails. The area is heavily influenced by arts as well, with its own cinema, orchestra, and various performance or creation halls.

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Wandering through the downtown of Walla Walla is extremely eventful; every corner is a new opportunity. There is a unique selection of stores such as apothecary stores, antique malls, clay exhibitions, retro book & game stores, boutiques and jewellers. You’ll surely notice the hilarious names and intriguing concepts behind each of these locally owned businesses. For example, “Inland Octopus” is a cutely decorated children’s store, and “Yeehaw Aloha” is a favourited thrift store! There is also an apparent range within the dining options, ranging from fine sit down establishments, to the causality of food trucks. You never know what you’ll get in Walla Walla!

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Credit: http://www.preservewa.org

Hidden Gem of Walla Walla

Walla Walla has such a strange of activities for nature, art, or wine lovers. Many who have visited this area recommend a private guided wine tour, to visit the friendliest people, most tasteful wines, and explore most of the art or nature via drives and walking that there is to offer! The wine tours are surely the hidden gem of Walla Walla. Be sure to check them out!

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Orcas Island, Washington

Yet another island spot, Orcas Island is the most populous of the San Juan Islands, in Washington. This island is referred to as “the gem” of the islands, and is ideal for reconnection with all aspects of nature and is. Orca’s Island is 57 square miles and shaped like a horse shoe, accessible by ferry or flight. Hence the name, it is known for spectacular whale watching. There are opportunities for horseback riding, sea kayaking, and sailboat chartering as well. Just as prior destinations on this list, there is an opportunity to get up and move around, enjoying the flow of the day.

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Orca’s Island is rich in history. Their tourism website (linked below), states that there have been a whirl wind of historical events throughout the San Juan islands, such as early coastal settlements and close threats of international war. While there are many historical sites that may interest you, Orca’s island has much more to offer. Every business is small and locally owned, and there are a few luxury resorts ideal for a romantic meal. With a multitude of agriculture, farms, and artisanal producers, there is much to be said about the quality of food.

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Hidden Gem of Orca’s Island

Depending on the time of year you spend on Orca’s Island, you may be lucky enough to encounter their hidden gem known as the Orca’s Veg Fest. This festival celebrates plant-based lifestyle and how it positively impacts health, nature, and animals. Even if you don’t lead this type of vegetable based life, this experience is certainly both educational and nutritional. Orca’s Island is a place often overlooked due to its size and anonymity. Still, with little tourism and big possibilities, this is the perfect weekend escape!

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Credit: https://www.exploreveg.org

Seaside, Oregon

Cannon Beach huge rock
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The last on this list is definitely a fan favourite. Seaside is a dear destination that holds memorable capsules of time for many families. Located on the Oregon coast, Seaside has an atmosphere like no other, with picturesque views around every corner. This beach side town turns 100 in 2021, celebrating a century of bliss!  Seaside is walkable or bikeable, consisting of both an old fashioned downtown segment, and a beach front house showcase. The architecture of Seaside is simple and classic, the type of homely design that doesn’t feel the need to make a big deal of itself. Seaside has a traditional feel, a charm that extends many decades of tourism. With the beach close by, there are many opportunities to get in touch with nature. You may notice many birds fluttering around, in search of companionship or food from a human friend. Believe it or not, this is one of the factors that draws people to Seaside; the bird watching! If you are an equipped expert or just a wandering eye beginner, you’ll be blown away by the variety of species.

Stones on cannon beach
Credit: https://www.seasideor.com

The downtown segment is littered with many memorable stops, be it restaurants or attractions. Schwietert’s Cones & Candy offers a delicious array of sweets, including the famous saltwater taffy. Another family favourite is the traditional carousel. The Seaside Carousel resides within the Carousel Mall, and has delighted children and family alike over 25 years! There is a variation of animals from the regular default of horses, and offer an enjoyable ride for cheap! An entertaining way to spend a night is also Gearhart Bowl and Fultano’s Pizza. Originally, Fultano’s was a speciality pizza place alongside an extensive arcade. In the new age, the state-of-the-art bowling alley has been born and is open for your business!

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Hidden Gem of Seaside

The hidden gem of Seaside will certainly allow you to get some good quality exercise. While this attraction may be found in multiple places along the coast, specialty bicycling within Seaside hits different. There are many locations where you are able to rent these types of bicycles, ranging from tandem riding bikes, to double or extensive surreys. Surreys are moving bicycles that have pedals for up to 8 people! This attraction may be difficult to get going, nevertheless are very fun to bond with family or friends. With rates from $20-$30 an hour, this is a must try!

Seaside specialty bicycling with rows of bicycles seen
Credit: https://www.seasideor.com

The West Coast of North America is jam packed with multiple cities of manmade or natural beauty. Still, these handpicked favourites are ideal for a quiet, weekend getaway. The hidden gems highlighted within this article differ from traditional trips in the sense they are offering up nature, peace, and diversity. After a busy week marinated in stress, leaving the city and resorting to a small beach town can be the perfect remedy. While these stays may not be the most glamorous or bougee, they offer an opportunity for redefinition and relaxation. Regardless of where you decide to travel in your life, there is a certain charm about these small town, nature packed vacations that offers an intense feeling of connectedness.

Pacific Ocean Warming
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Further Reading:

Tofino Accommodation & Activities | The Official Tourism Tofino

Tourism Victoria | Explore Everything Victoria, BC Has to Offer

Walla Walla, Washington | Information on Walla Walla

Top Things To Do & See On Orcas Island In Washington (visitsanjuans.com)

Visit Orcas Island

Visit Seaside, the Oregon Coast’s Favorite Vacation Destination (seasideor.com)

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