Tofino – A Complete Guide

Tofino – A Complete Guide
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Tofino will quite simply blow your mind. An easy weekend road-trip from Vancouver, your trip will take you deep into the wilderness of Vancouver Island; to a small coastal town surrounded by the clear and breathtaking waters of the Clayquot Sound and the Pacific. Whilst the town's reputation is built on it's legendary surfing, Tofino has far more to offer. The lifting of the morning fog will reveal an untouched landscape of inspirational beauty which can be explored by kayaking, hiking, cycling, beach walking or whale & bear watching. If you only have time for one adventure whilst you're in Vancouver, make it Tofino.
 
Below: Take a scenic flight to the Hot Springs with Ocean Outfitters, enjoy a midnight BBQ under the stars on Long Beach, hike the glorious Lone Cone on Meares Island, or simply bask in it's beauty from the relative comfort of your kayak with Ocean Outfitters.
 
 
Getting There
Tofino is located on the Western side of Vancouver Island, and will take you about 6 hours to reach from Vancouver. There's plenty of places to visit en route which i'll cover at the bottom, but Tofino itself is very reachable for a long weekend, or even a regular weekend if you can leave by lunch on a Friday.
 
 
What to do in Tofino

Endless hours of activities, relaxation and jaw dropping natural beauty await you in Tofino. There's no real 'best' order to plan your trip, so for that reason here I've detailed the main draws, and leave it up to you to decide your own agenda.

 
Surfing

Long Beach is legendary; you'll see why! Cox Bay is another great surf location. Chesterman Beach is ideal for beginners.

Pacific Surf School offer complimentary roof racks to go with your surf rental, and offer half or day lessons at good rates. Surf hire is 20 $ for 6 hours. Other surf shops include Tofino Surf Adventures, and Tofino Surf School.

Explore the Beaches

One of my favourite things to do in Tofino is just to pick beach I haven't visited before and just wander down the coastline. I could go back here every year and never get tired.

Long Beach, Chesterman Bay, Tonquin Beach, Kennedy Lake. Honestly they're all gorgeous. Within about 20 miles you have countless beaches to explore, pick one and go. 

Below: Schooner Cove. 

Hiking

Lone Cone - A strenuous four hour hike with incredible views over the Clayquot Sound. Worth hiking even when foggy, as the local peaks often rise out above the sea hugging fog. Lone Cone sits on Meares Island and is accessible by water taxi. If you stay at the Meares Island glamping site complete with hot tub and BBQ, you'll get this water taxi for free! 

Meares Island Forest Trail - Again accessible via water taxi, this trail will take you on a board walk adventure through the ancient forests of BC. With some of the trees here over 1,000 years old, they are some of the biggest in BC.

Below: The view from Lone Cone.

Cycling

Cycling is relaxing way to explore the surrounding beaches of Tofino, allowing you complete freedom of where to go and stop. A few companies will even rent you a surf rack for your bicycle. Check out Pacific Surf School or the Tofino Bike Company to see their prices. 

Kayaking

Kayaking is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the water of the Clayquot Sound. Experienced Kayakers will revel in the scale of the coastline they can explore, several companies offer guided tours. There are some strong tides around Tofino, so it's recommended that you take a guide if you're at all unsure. It's even possible to see whales from your sea kayak!

Fishing

I'm told there's excellent fishing in and around Tofino, both coastal and offshore. Instead of pretending I know anything about it, here's a link to the heart of the action on the Tofino Tourism Website. 

Whale Watching

During the summer months (late June through early September) you stand an incredibly good chance of seeing Whales. Watch as these majestic creatures break the surface to breath and glide effortlessly under the water. It's hard to imagine the size of these animals, even once you see them! Though if you're lucky and one decides to breach out of the water, you may just find out! 

Float Plane Tours

A number of companies run float plane tours from the harbour front at Tofino. There's usually availability a couple of days in advance, though try earliewr if you want a specific time.

 
The Hot Springs

Without doubt a once in a life-time experience. Ride the ocean waves on a speed boat for 1.5 hours to reach Hot Springs Cove, during which you'll stop to look at wildlife such as seals, sea lions, whales and bears. A short board walk through a majestic ocean front rainforest then takes you to the spectacular hot springs, fed by volcanic spring waters from above, with the occasional cool ocean wave rolling gently in to offer a truly unique experience. Whilst you can do Whale Watching as a separate tour, you might as well do it as part of the Hot Springs Tour. Both Ocean Outfitters and Adventure Tofino offer various options to get you there, including a covered boat, an open top 8 man speed boat, or a float plane for surprisingly not much more.

Think about: The earliest and latest tours of the day will have the smallest number of people at the springs. The morning trips may be foggy, no good for wildlife spotting!

Below: The view from the hot springs.

Food & Drink

Location & Getting Around

The Ferry

Tofino is located on the Pacific side of Vancouver Island, so you'll need to use BC Ferries to get there. Vancouver Island is still part of Canada so you won't need your passport. BC ferries take reservations for cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles, as well as leaving part of the boat open for first come first served passengers. Arrive atleast 30 mins before your departure time.

By Bus

Both Greyhound and Tofino Bus offer travel from Vancouver, Victoria or Nanaimo to Tofino. If coming from Vancouver, they'll book your place on the ferry. Once you're in Tofino, there's a free bus that runs along the peninsula from Tofino to Cox Bay once an hour from July through August. You can find the bus timetable here . They'll also carry your surf boards.

By Car

It has to be said that Tofino is made much more accessible if you have a car. You can be more spontaneous with your plans, and parking is generally free. I recommend using CarRentals.com if you need a car, Wicked Campers if you're after a van sized camper. For driving advice in Canada, see our information section.

Hitchhiking

Technically it's illegal to pick up hitchhikers within the town boundaries, though as soon as your out of town you'll have no problem hitching a ride.

By Bicycle

Cycling is a great way to get around Tofino, allowing you complete freedom of where to go and stop. A few companies will even rent you a surf rack for your bicycle. Check out Pacific Surf School or the Tofino Bike Company to see their prices.

Where to Stay

Hi Hostel Tofino is the only youth hostel in Tofino, with a magical view over the island waters and a great common room to mingle with other travellers. From here you'll be a short walk from the town centre.

Lone Cone Campground is located on Meares Island, a short water taxi ride from the main town. Here you'll find a glamping set up, with BBQs, hot tub, and a kitchen. SUP and kayaks for rental, as well as the Lone Cone hike on your doorstep.

Joe's AirBnB is a traditional and cozy little place hosted by a long time resident of Tofino. Joe cooks amazing food in the communal kitchen, and is more than happy to talk you through the local wonders.

Although I've never stayed there, Long Beach Lodge Resort comes highly recommended and offers gorgeous wooden hut style accommodation right on the beach.

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