If you’re looking for a long weekend getaway from Vancouver and want to experience the raw natural beauty of the great outdoors, Tofino has got you covered. Located on the shores of the pacific ocean, Tofino is a surfer’s paradise, but not only. I have been to Tofino twice in a month, and I think it’s fair to say I absolutely loved it and can’t wait until I get to plan another visit to the island. But in the meantime, here’s your guide to visiting Tofino, British Columbia.
How to Get to Tofino from Vancouver
Traveling to Tofino from Vancouver is a beautiful journey in itself as it involves taking the ferry to Vancouver Island. Taking ferries is always fun, and with breathtaking views over neighboring islands, this one is no exception.
By car: Take the ferry at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Nanaimo. You can purchase your ticket online or buy it directly at the terminal. I recommend booking online whenever possible, especially during the weekend or public holidays as tickets do sometimes sell out. Then, take Hwy 1 from Nanaimo to Parksville, and finally Hwy 4 to Port Alberni through to Tofino.
By bus: The Tofino bus used to connect Vancouver to Tofino. Unfortunately according to their website, it doesn’t seem like this route is offered anymore. However, they do have a bus running daily between Victoria and Tofino.
What to Do in Tofino
Tofino is a laid-back surf town where time seems to slow down and invite you to put down your phone and disconnect. From reading a book at the beach to surfing and hiking, you’ll be so relaxed you’ll want to stay there forever (or more realistically, plan another trip to the island as soon as possible). Here are the best things to do in Tofino, British Columbia.
Relax at the Beach
Tofino has some of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever been to. Long stretches of sand lined with dense forests, the mist that often dwells in the air lends them a magical feel. Head to Chesterman Beach, Long Beach, or Cox Bay and enjoy a day of relaxation watching surfers coming in and out of the water in search of the perfect wave.
Surf like a Seal
But why just watch? Join them! Surfing is a must when in Tofino. While the water is cold, you won’t even notice once you have your wetsuit on. There are many rental shops in town that offer surf lessons as well as surf equipment rentals (including wetsuits, boots, gloves, and hoods if necessary).
Hike to a Lookout Point
Trade your surfboard for your hiking boots and explore some of the trails in Tofino. There are many hikes to choose from, some as short as 20 minutes like Shorepine Bog and longer ones like Lone Cone. If you’re up for a challenge, make sure to check out the short but uphill (and very rewarding) hike to the Cox Bay Lookout.
Explore the Rainforest
Last but not least, take in the beauty of the Pacific Rim National Park following the scenic rainforest trail. Lined by 800-year-old cathedral-like trees, follow the boardwalk and enjoy a peaceful escape among the old giants. Choose from loop a or loop b or do both if you have time! Each loop is just over one kilometer.
Where to Eat in Tofino
Tofino might be a small surf town but you won’t run out of delicious options when it comes to mealtimes. Start your day off on the right foot at Rhino Coffee House or Tofitian with a mouth-watering breakfast sandwich or bagel and a cup of locally roasted coffee. For lunch, grab tacos from the now-famous Tacofino or a salmon hamburger from Wildside Grill. Finally, head to Shed for a casual dinner al fresco, Basic Goodness Pizzeria for your pizza cravings, or Kuma for Asian comfort food. Finish the night off at Tofino Brewing Co. with beers brewed locally with Pacific Northwest hops.
Where to Stay in Tofino
Tofino boasts some great campsites and hotels. Whether you want to sleep under the stars or book a room with a view, make sure to pick a campsite or hotel near the beach you want to spend most of your time at if you don’t want to drive around a lot.
I camped (glamped, really) both times I went to Tofino. The first time at Mackenzie Beach Resort and the second time at the newly opened Surf Grove. They both have great amenities and outstanding locations so I would highly recommend either of them. I slightly preferred our spot at Mackenzie because we were camping practically on the beach but loved Surf Grove because the campground is situated right next to my favorite beach, Cox Bay. However, here are a few other options as well.
- Mackenzie Beach Resort – for the location
- Surf Grove – for the amenities
- Bella Pacifica – for the privacy
- Himwitsa Lodge – Best rated on Booking.com
- Ocean Village – for the location
- Pacific Sands Beach Resort – for the view!
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