We know Tofino as a magical place of raw and rugged beauty that draws us year after year through all four seasons. To help you navigate its awesomeness, we’ve put together this guide that includes great places to stay, reader rankings of the best food and drink spots (plus a handy map that will steer you to all the best places), lists of sweet things to see and do, some background intel and a gallery of our own photos. We hope to see you up there on your next trip!
COOL THINGS WE’VE SEEN IN TOFINO
HOW TO GET THERE
By far and away our favourite way of getting to Tofino is via BC Ferries, leaving Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver bound for Nanaimo, then across the island on one of the most breathtaking (and occasionally white-knuckle) roads in the province. Alternatively, for those pressed for time, one can fly from YVR to Tofino-Long Beach Airport via Pacific Coastal or KD Air, or harbour to harbour via Harbour Air seaplane.
COOL THINGS TO CHECK OUT
Learn how to surf with experts
Go beachcombing (especially tide line debris) on Chesterman Beach
Walk the trails of Pacific Rim National Park
Head out on the open ocean for a day of whale watching
Take a float plane up to Hot Springs Cove
Enjoy First Nations artwork at Roy Henry Vickers Gallery
Explore tide pools on MacKenzie Beach
Wander the Rainforest Trail
Spend some time browsing the shelves at Mermaid Tales Books
Watch local riders rip the outdoor concrete skatepark.
ESSENTIAL FOOD & DRINK
WHERE TO STAY
If we remember to book well in advance, we’ll almost always start our Tofino visits with a night in one of the waterfront campsites at Bella Pacifica on Mackenzie Beach. Hearing the waves above a roaring campfire puts us immediately at ease.
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.
FASCINATING THINGS OF NOTE
These entries via Scout staff historian by Christine Hagemoen…
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, 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 Meares 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.