A visit to Tofino means stepping onto ancient territory, rich with cultural heritage and stories of the First Nations inhabitants and European settlers alike. Vibrant doesn’t even begin to explain Tofino’s history! Ocean Village’s own story is worth sharing, as our resort has been a much loved return destination for families from all over the world for over 40 years. Read on for a quick history lesson on Tofino’s earliest settlers, and to learn more about Ocean Village’s family-run roots!
The Town At The End Of The Road
Tofino, as we know it today, was officially incorporated as a village municipality on February 5, 1932. Prior to this designation, Tofino had simply been referred to as a “post office and steamer landing” by the British Columbia Gazetteer newspaper (the Tofino post office was founded in 1909!) But as we’re sure you’re aware, these mostly Scottish, Norwegian and English immigrant settlers were far from being Tofino’s first inhabitants. Tofino lies within the traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, and specifically, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. The Nuu-chah-nulth have called this abundant coastal area home for over five thousand years. Due to burgeoning industries like the fur trade (sea otters, mostly) and forestry, settler homesteads began appearing on the Tofino peninsula around the 1890’s. The singular road that continues to bring travellers to Tofino today wasn’t opened until 1959 – just 17 years before Ocean Village’s first cabin appeared on Mackenzie Beach! As proud, longtime residents of Tofino, we honour and respect the first peoples and give thanks to them for continuing to provide access to their parks, trails, beaches and seas for all the enjoy. In 2000, the United Nations recognized Tofino as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: an area of unparalleled and relatively unchanged natural beauty – and the same could be said for our little resort.
It was a groovy time for Tofino in 1976 when a local family with Norwegian roots called the Hellesens announced a vision for creating a row of cabins along the calm shores of Mackenzie Beach. Ben Hellesen ran fishing camps along the West Coast, and he felt that homey, rustic cabins were the perfect fit for weathered adventures along this particularly tranquil and surf-break protected shoreline. And you can’t beat the location for sunset viewing! The Hellesen family vision included creating a getaway that future generations could come together at the beach and enjoy. As they set about felling cedar trees from their property to mill into timber for the cabins, the Hellesens began constructing the signature beehive-shaped cabins that make up Ocean Village Resort today! Ben Hellesen eventually passed the resort onto his daughters, keeping Ocean Village family owned and operated until the time came to sell in 2009. Their vision is kept alive today by our continued commitment to local community involvement, as well as our devotion to Ocean Village remaining a retreat for all ages to enjoy. Life’s better at the beach!
A Greener Future
The original 1976 cabins were updated in 2009 when new owners Jason Gordon and Robert Brown reimagined the resort with an eye for sustainability and a desire to reduce our impact on the planet. Today, Ocean Village is proud to be recognized as a registered Ocean Friendly Business, staying true to our laidback and heartfelt coastal roots. With a bounty of modern amenities to enjoy, our resort remains an affordable return destination for families all over the globe. It remains a family affair at Ocean Village; everyone from our owners to our dogs can be regularly spotted roaming the property, usually on their way to the beach.
We encourage you to learn more about the history of Tofino by paying a visit to the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum the next time you’re in town. And don’t forget to take a moment and thank your sturdy cedar cabin for staying strong through 43 years of west coast winter storms!