• Sarah McLachlan illustration by Camila Pacheco

    Sarah McLachlan. (Illustration: Camila Pacheco/Canadian Geographic)

When I moved to Vancouver almost 30 years ago, I had a friend who kept insisting that I come up to visit her in Tofino. She spent her summers there, at her parents’ little cottage. When I finally went, I was like “Holy crap, this is the most incredible place in the world!”

I still get that feeling every time I drive to Tofino; as soon as the salt air hits my nose, I start to smile. Being there is the closest thing to heaven on Earth that I’ve ever experienced.

I bought a place on the beach 14 years ago, and that’s where I decompress — even if my two daughters are running in and out, looking for wetsuits with kids they met on the beach, or the house is full of friends. I can be social, be a mom, cook, unplug, relax. I rarely ever go into town, unless it’s for groceries or to eat at SoBo, my favourite restaurant.

When I’m there, I’ll usually get out early in the morning when it’s pretty quiet and take the dog for a walk or go surfing. Tofino is a big surf town, which is one of the reasons I love it so much, but by the middle of the afternoon in the summer there’s probably about 300 people on the beach — it’s insane.

Still, it’s wonderful to be so close to the ocean. It reminds me of growing up in Halifax and of my dad. Not long after buying our place in Tofino, I bought the place next door to it for him. I have some great memories of the times we spent together there reconnecting. When he died, I spread his ashes in the ocean, went out there and walked in the water with him. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but it was so profound and beautiful and sad. Every time I go out on the water, he’s there with me.

—As told to Vanessa Hrvatin