We know Tofino as a magical place of raw and rugged beauty. It has drawn us back to visit dozens of times over the years, even in the depths of winter. Indeed, the stormy months shouldn’t deter anyone from considering a trek to the west coast of Vancouver Island; Tofino in winter is quieter, moodier, cozier and a welcome change from when it’s overrun with tourists in summer. It just feels more like itself without the crowds, but with the same great restaurants, accommodations, and shops, not to mention bigger, better surf. We’ve put together a selection of our favourites below, plus some notes on a few seasonally-specific events and activities that you might want to check out. Take a look… Check it out (again) as soon as you can, and let Scout be your guide…
Learn how to surf with experts.
Go beachcoming on Chesterman Beach
Head out on the open ocean for a day of whale watching
Take a float plane up to Hot Springs Cove
Explore tide pools on McKenzie Beach
Wander the Rainforest Trail
Spend some time browsing the shelves at Mermaid Books
Sleep under the stars at Bella Pacifica Campground
Relais & Châteaux Wickaninnish Inn on Chesterman Beach, with its beautifully appointed Pointe Restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Though outstanding year round, it’s especially cozy in winter with all its fireplaces.
Tofino Resort + Marina is located right in town – not only does this reasonably priced resort have a view of the inner harbour (from floatplanes and whale watching boats to wildlife and stunning sunsets, ther eis always something going on in the harbour) it also has an on site restaurant and a pub.
One of our more approachable favourites is Ocean Village on Mackenzie Beach, with its adorable beehive cabins. It’s an easy choice that’s affordable, kid- and dog-friendly, equipped with kitchens, and with direct access to the beach.
If you’re looking for a more homey vacation rental option, there are many gems to be found including the modern, cabin-style Lucky Eagle Guest Lodge with architecture utilizing the richness of locally salvaged and milled materials (including a cedar sauna). Also worthy of note is the Tofino Tree House, which is tucked away in the rainforest with a heated wet-room and a big soaker tub with a view of the forest. For a smaller rental, check out The Loft cabin with its private outdoor shower.
Tofino gets its name from nearby Tofino Inlet, which was named by Spanish Captains Galiano and Valdés in 1792 in honour of Admiral Vicente Tofiño, under whom Galiano had studied cartography.
The first use of the name Tofino was recorded with the opening of the Tofino Post Office in 1909.
In its early days Tofino was an isolated, rough maritime trading town, it was from these beginnings that Tofino earned the nickname “Tough City” (or Tuff City) – a moniker that carries on today most likely due to its long, rainy and stormy winters.
Tofino, known as the tree-hugging capital of the world, is home to an 800-year-old Western red cedar known as the Eik Cedar (or Herbie). Located on Campbell Street across from Shelter Restaurant, this tree was declared an insurance hazard in 2001, but was saved from destruction in 2002 through the efforts of passionate locals and a supportive steel girdle.
One of Vancouver’s favourite taco joints, Tacofino, started in 2009 from a food truck at the back of the Live to Surf parking lot in Tofino.
Started in 1999 to encourage more women to try surfing and to empower them out in the water. Tofino’s Surf Sister is the biggest all female instructor surf schools in the world.
Since 1986 Tofino has been home to the Pacific Rim Whale Festival that honours the annual migration of the Grey Whale past its shores.
In 1970, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was created. It is a 511 square kilometre park that is divided into three areas: the West Coast Trail, the Broken Group Islands and Long Beach.
In the summer of 1993 Clayoquot Sound (in which Tofino sits) became the focus of one of the largest displays of civil disobedience in Canadian History. The Friends of Clayoquot Sound campaign to end the logging of old growth forests cumulated with more than 850 people being arrested for blockading logging roads on Mears Island.
In January of 2000, Clayoquot Sound was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with a guiding principle based the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations philosophy “Hishuk ish ts’awalk,” or “everything is one.”
Tofino’s surf culture emerged in the late 1960s. One of the better-known Tofino surf pioneers was Jim Sadler. He travelled west on horseback from Olds, Alberta to Victoria in 1948. Eventually settling in Tofino in the mid-1960s, he began paddling the swells on a 13-foot plywood board.