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Storm watch at Long Beach Lodge

The gale-force wind howled, the thundering waves pounded against the rocks as the swell surged. It was something to behold.

The gale-force wind howled, the thundering waves pounded against the rocks as the swell surged. It was something to behold.

For some, this may sound like a nightmare, but in Tofino, tourists pay big money to come and watch Mother Nature's wrath at its best.

My sister Johanne and I were in pure heaven on our last day of complete relaxation at the Long Beach Lodge Resort. We bore witness to an endless beach transformed into a barren one, except for one or two brave - or perhaps crazy, surfers.

The lodge offers a front-row seat to this exciting phenomenon. Wearing the pre-requisite storm watching garb - long gum boots, heavy duty rain jackets and bigger smiles - we witnessed a storm like none other.

All weekend, although the weather had called for rain and gusty conditions, we pretty much had beautiful weather. So, think of our excitement when it suddenly turned blustery on the Sunday. After walking the beach, we returned to the warmth of the lodge with mist on our cheeks and slightly drenched, but happy campers nonetheless.

OK, perhaps camper isn't the right word because at Long Beach Lodge Resort, it is anything but camping. This is upscale casual luxury, one which has already garnered the lodge one of the top three resorts in Canada at the 24th annual Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards earlier this October.

The resort is at Cox Bay, seven kilometers south of Tofino and, besides storm watching, it is renowned as a world class surfers paradise.

My sister and I had arrived on Friday afternoon. After we picked up the keys to our stunning oceanfront room, we took in the Great Room. Truly, this space is aptly named.

Staff told me it was designed to replicate the owner's own living room with floor-to-ceiling windows offering sweeping ocean views and clusters of weather-worn leather seating as well as oversized chairs a la Ralph Lauren style - just on a grandeur scale.

It is here in this gorgeous room, with its large stone fireplace, where meals are served and complete strangers chat over a cappuccino or play a game of chess by the roaring fire.

That night, we ate in the room's dining area, which is just adjacent and also offers sweeping views of the bay. I began with a bowl of steaming seafood chowder and Johanne went for the crab and cucumber roulade with an avocado mousse and tomato fondue. Mmmm, both were delightful.

For our main courses, it was a toss up for me. Should I go for the west coast shellfish linguini or the tarragon oil poached local halibut? The halibut won out!

It was beautifully presented with a lentil stuffed smoked vine ripened tomato and yellow pepper coulis. Johanne chose the peel and pull local spot prawns with Kennebec potato

gaufrette. Both dishes were a seafood lover's dream.

The executive chef, 28year-old Liam Paul, is bringing innovation and inspiration into the menu. The mostly self-taught chef took over the kitchen less than a year ago. Paul emphasizes local, fresh and sustainable.

Many of the products, he told me, are sourced from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen.

Typically, we forgo dessert but Paul insisted we try his homemade pumpkin ice cream. It was wickedly good.

Meanwhile, mornings, Johanne and I got up early, enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast and then we would stroll the length of the beach for a good hour.

Saturday morning, Johanne and I decided to hike Meares Island. My sister hadn't been in two decades and remembered it as a beautifully forested trail. We walked into town (a 45minute brisk walk) to Ocean Outfitters, a tour company, to take a water taxi over to Meares Island.

The island was saved from being clear-cut back in 1984. The Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Council declared the island a Tribal Park and thus was able to stop MacMillan Bloedel from logging the three kilometre loop island.

We walked the Big Tree Trail, a 40-minute walk along the boardwalk, put up by the First Nations and the Friends of the Clayoquot Sound.

Meares Island is home to huge cedars, some with girths up to 60 feet wide, as well as trumpeter swans, Canada geese, blue herons and bald eagles. According to Ocean Outfitters, the trees are anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 years old, making them some of the oldest and largest living life forms on earth.

Even the water taxi ride there and back was fun. Our guide regaled us with lots of interesting facts about the surrounding islands and the history of Meares Island.

Long Beach Lodge Resort is one of the best places in Tofino I can think of to spend a dark and stormy night, bundled up in a cozy robe, in a bed that is so comfortable it's hard to leave. The best storm watching season runs from November to March.

mhopkins@richmond-news.com

IF YOU GO:

Long Beach Lodge Resort, 1441 Pacific Rim Highway, Tofino Phone: 250-725-2442 Web: www.longbeachlodgeresort.com

The price of your room comes with a complimentary continental breakfast in the Great Room.

There are 41 lodge rooms & 20 cabins/cottages

Price: Fall: $199 - $319 Winter: $169 - $279 Pet Friendly!

Ocean Outfitters, 5-421

Main St., Tofino

Phone: 1-877-90-OCEAN,

or 1-250-725-2866

Web: www.oceanoutfitters.bc.ca