Stories, Storms, and Front Row Seats – The Best Storm Watching Hotel in Tofino

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His fingers ran along the side of the live edge post that stood tall in the centre of the room. The pillar was a hand-carved western red cedar that was harvested from this land to build the Inn. “Each room has been designed to incorporate three essential elements; bringing the outside in, elements of both the sea and land and texture – lots of texture.” Charles shared how each pillar was crafted with handmade tools, each groove representing the magic of creation that can only be executed with an artist’s touch. This is the story of the best storm watching hotel in Tofino.

inside room view at the best storm watching hotel in tofino
Photo credit: Kyler Vos

It’s that combination of artistry and passion for the location that makes the Wickaninnish Inn such an incredible place to experience, especially during storm season. Deeply rooted in the natural environment that is home to the resort, every element of design and guest experience is carefully curated to create a deep personal connection to the land and the place that is uniquely Tofino. Charles and his family dreamed of welcoming guests to experience Winter Storm Season in Tofino and there’s no more extraordinary way to experience the wild west coast than storm watching at the Inn. 

Once Upon A Time, Where the Wickaninnish Story began…

dark and moody photo of the best storm watching hotel in tofino taken from the ocean with large waves crashing
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

The story of the Inn starts with Charles McDiarmid who was raised on this majestic coastline, where he grew up watching the huge waves crash into the sandy beaches that run parallel with old growth rainforests. Today Charles can walk down the winding dirt path recounting his childhood from many years ago. On these trails, you can feel the seven-year-old spirit and envision Charles as a child running barefoot, back and forth in between the off-grid family cottages with his brothers.

view of the stormy ocean off the coast of tofino, bc
Photo credit: Michael Becker

For almost 70 years, Charles and the McDiarmid family have called Tofino home. When their family first arrived in 1954, Tofino was a remote town, with no roads in or out. The community relied on the Princess Maquinna, a boat that came into Tofino twice a week transporting supplies and people. His dad was offered the job that “no one wanted,” to be the doctor at the new Tofino hospital. 

Dr. McDiarmid had big dreams- to work hard in the remote “wilderness town in the boonies” of Tofino for a few years then sell his practice and move the family to the big city. Little did he know that soon life in Tofino would surpass all of his dreams. In 1971, he decided to formalize his love for the area and started purchasing properties in Chesterman Beach. At that time oceanfront lots were $2500 so Dr. McDiarmid purchased all the lots on Chesterman Beach, and over time sold off pieces along the southern half of the beach to cover the property taxes. Someday he wished to open a motel and welcome guests to the area.

aerial view of the wickanninish inn, the best storm watching hotel in tofino
Photo credit: Wickanninish Inn

Charles had different ideas though. After high school, he earned a degree in hospitality and then worked in Four Seasons resorts around North America. Upon returning to Tofino, Charles didn’t want to open a motel, he wanted to open a chateau and give guests a world-class experience that would align with the natural beauty and grandeur that is the wild West Coast. Charles crafted a business plan, solidified investors, and had partners for the first five years from 1996 – 2001.

The Foundation of Family

a couple holds hands while standing on a rock in the ocean off the coast of tofino
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

Since 2001, the Wickaninnish Inn has been exclusively a family-run business. Charles is now the Managing Director, and as he walks throughout the property he can quickly spot his children and nieces and nephews working around the resort, showcasing just how engaged the extended family is. That intention of keeping it a family-run business is part of the ethos that aligns directly with the curated guest experience that they want visitors to have when staying at the Wickaninnish Inn.

sunset view of the outside of the dining room at the wickanninish inn, the best storm watching hotel in tofino
Photo credit: Abby Cooper

Guests are invited to become part of the Wickaninnish Inn family for a minimum of three nights, allowing them to immerse themselves in the ecosystem that is uniquely Tofino. A place where time is not meant to be monitored and the region is meant to be explored. Where the trails that meander through the forests could tell a story, the locals are the whales and bears, sea otters and eagles that call this place home. Where sand in your hair is always a good idea and watching the waves crash into the sunset each night is a ritual. Where rest and healing are achieved just by simply being. This is what makes the Wickaninnish Inn the best storm watching hotel in Tofino.

Front Row Seats – Wickaninnish Inn Storm Watching

view of two people on chesterman beach in tofino, walking in the sun, as viewed from the window of the wickanninish inn, the best storm watching hotel in tofino
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

Imagined on the floor of the family cabin back in the 1960s, the McDiarmid’s were always fascinated by storm season and dreamed of welcoming guests to experience mother nature in her full force. 60 years later, the Inn provides intimate experiences and natural connections with the environment. Storm-watching gives guests front-row seats to be a part of the action – all within the cozy comfort of their own room. From the moment you walk into the lobby, floor-to-ceiling windows greet you, allowing you to feel as if you’re standing on the edge of the sandy shore, smelling the salty air and looking down at the seaweed on the sand. This view continues for guests in every room, with large windows offering expansive views. Whether you’re soaking in the vista from your individual balcony or your large sunken bathtub, you’re immersed in the sights and sounds of mother nature at every turn.

Artistic Integrations At The Wickaninnish Inn

an artist speaks with someone outside an art studio on the beach at the wickanninish inn
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

As incredible as the coastline of Chesterman Beach is, the unique artisans of Canada’s West Coast bring equal talent to be admired. Local artists are an integral part of the Wickaninnish Inn and their influence can be seen in every element of design throughout the guest experience. Upon entry, guests are greeted with hand-carved textured walls in the lobby, crafted by Henry Nolla, the resident artist and carpenter at the time. Every design element that can be aligned with local artists is executed beautifully. Hand soaps are crafted by a local Tofino-based creator. The wood tissue boxes are made by a local carpenter from Port Alberni. Artwork is abundant throughout the resort and guests can look for placards that will indicate if the piece is available for purchase or if it’s part of their collection. So when you are not storm watching, take a tour through the property and check out all of the incredible artwork on-site, visit the Henry Nolla Art Gallery which features 3-4 artists at a time or walk out to Henry Nolla’s carving shed to see a local resident artist at work.

Award Winning Experience

inside view of the dining room at the wickanninish inn, the best storm watching hotel in tofino
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

With roots that date back to the 1950s and stories that could last a lifetime, it’s easy to see why staying at the Wickaninnish Inn is an incredible experience. The Inn has won a long list of awards, for its guest experience, leadership in sustainability, meticulous service, and exceptional amenities. While the resort has won many accolades, it’s your experience that awaits that will rival it all.

Leadership in Sustainability

starry sky behind a lit up wickanninish inn at night
Photo credit: Chris Pouget

“We live in an area that is one of the most beautiful places on the planet – surrounded by an old-growth temperate rainforest with First Nations history that goes back 10,000 years. We have a national park at our doorstep, and we’re in a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) biosphere reserve. We look out on the mightiest ocean on the planet. If those elements don’t make you want to respect the environment, nothing will.” 

~ Charles McDiarmid

Being leaders in sustainability was always at the core beliefs of the McDiarmid family. Inspired by the gravitas of Chesterman Beach, they wanted to serve and care for the land that they were living on and would soon share with guests. Designing the Inn included Charles and his brother Bruce clearing brush by hand, to ensure all of the vegetation would be preserved in its’ most pristine state. Trees that were removed for the development of the property were repurposed inside the building and created the pillars, the walls, and the trim around the doors.

aerial view of a road winding its way through the forest in tofino
Photo credit: Simone Mondino

While the foundation of sustainability was set in the 1990s, the work continues today with the Wickaninnish Inn’s sustainability committee and their ongoing commitment to innovation and leadership in creating sustainable and regenerative travel experiences.

Stories Before The Storm – New Podcast For Guests

close up view of the wickanninish inn, the best storm watching hotel in tofino, surrounded by huge crashing winter storm waves at dusk.
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

The Wickaninnish Inn was conceived because of the McDiarmid family’s love of storm-watching from their family cabin on Chesterman Beach. With the launch of their new podcast “A Journey to Nature’s Edge,” Charles personally recounts stories for listeners to learn how the family came to live in Tofino and all the adventures along the way while they pursued their dreams of opening an Inn on North Chesterman Beach. 

If you’re planning a storm-watching trip to Tofino you’re invited to listen and learn about the Inn’s essence and history. Future episodes are scheduled to include topics such as “An Ocean Adventure with a Friend in the Fog,” and “The History of Secret Viewpoints.” This podcast is a unique way to hear the stories right from Charles himself and create a unique pre-trip experience which will undoubtedly enhance your time while visiting the Inn.

Best Storm Watching Hotel in Tofino

birds eye view looking down at the wickanninish inn on chesterman beach, the best storm watching hotel in tofino
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

The combination of the stories of which the resort has built a foundation off of for the past 70 years, aligned with the sustainable practices of which to preserve this region, makes the Wickaninnish Inn the best storm watching hotel in Tofino. Whether you choose to stay in your cozy room by the fireplace and watch the storm roll in or opt to gear up and walk along the beach to see the waves crashing up close, there is no better place to watch the storms than on the rocky shores of Chesterman Beach.

Tofino Storm Watching FAQs

Best time to visit Tofino for storm watching?

surfer catching huge air off a wave right in front of the wickanninish inn, the best storm watching hotel in tofino, bc
Photo credit: Marcus Paladino

Tofino is a mecca for storm watchers where from late October to early April the shoreline is pounded by huge waves and lashed with powerful winds.

What month is best for storm watching in Tofino?

surfer carrying their surf board across chesterman beach, heading out towards the waves, on a dark and stormy day
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

The peak season for storm watching is mid-January to mid-February when storms are frequent and action on the sea is intense. Be sure to book your stay at the Wickanninish Inn, the best storm watching hotel in Tofino, early, as dates book quickly.

What should I wear for storm-watching in Tofino?

a couple holds hand while climbing on the rocks beside a very stormy ocean at chestermans beach in tofino on vancouver island
Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

If you’re looking to head outside for storm watching, guests are invited to enjoy the amenities that are provided at the Inn which include rain jackets and pants, as well as boots which you can order in your size from the concierge. Boot dryers are available in the driftwood cafe, allowing you to dry off and enjoy a warm drink and treats after being out in the storm. Beach towels, beach blankets, and backpacks are also available for guest use to help plan your day’s adventure. 

Can I bring my dog storm-watching in Tofino?

a cute golden retriever puppy looks at the camera while lying in front of the fireplace in one of the rooms at the wickanninish inn, the best storm watching hotel in tofino
Photo credit: Christopher Pouget

With family as the foundation, it’s no surprise that four-legged guests are also welcomed on your trip to Tofino. From the moment you register, your dog is a guest and they will start to “receive” emails in anticipation of their arrival. With a special welcome basket for your pooch, dog towels down at the beach, and puppy beverage stops around the resort, you can enjoy sharing the special place that is Tofino with your dog. 

To start planning your storm-watching trip to Tofino head over to the Wickaninnish Inn’s website.

About The Author
Jami Savage
Jami Savage
Jami Savage is one of the top Family Travel Writers in Canada, and has been featured on CTV and Vancouver Sun, and more. Go here to read our families story about how we went from backyard adventurers to world travelers, and how you can do the same. If you want to send Jami a quick message, visit her contact page here.
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Jami Savage

Full Time Travel Writer, Mom who is passionate about empowering and educating travelers on how you can use your own tourism dollars as a catalyst for positive change worldwide. Click here to learn more about us, our family, and how we lead an adventure filled life!

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