Tofino!

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Tofino is a magical place.


What I love most about Tofino is the incredible sense of space; expansive beaches on the open Pacific that make you feel like you're on the edge of the world. It is this sense of space and openness that makes you feel like you're away from it all and that there's a great big world out there beyond your own little life. Being away from the hustle & bustle of the city and the noise, both internal and external, is so restorative.


If you haven't been, you must go! If you have been, you must go again!


I hadn't been in many years, I can't believe I waited so long. In some ways it's changed a lot, mainly, it's become extremely popular. In others ways it hasn't changed at all, the expansive feeling of nature still intact.


As with most beautiful places in the world, Tofino has been discovered. Unfortunatel it's no longer that affordable but one can still camp and there are a few affordable options.


Tofino has protected itself from getting too overbuilt (although it is much more built up than it was). It has not allowed chains like McDonald's and Starbucks to set up shop - thank goodness! It has managed to maintain it's charm.


There is so much to see and do that our 4 night stay left us wanting more. I think it will have to be at least a week next time and I dream of one day having extended stay.


I had every intention of lying around and relaxing but I have to confess I did very little of that as there was just too much I did not want to miss.


WHAT TO BRING

Even in summer, make sure to pack some warm clothes and jackets (even an umbrella) - the weather can fluctuate a lot! One day it's hot and sunny, the next cold and rainy.


SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE YOU BOOK

Whenever I go away I always ask locals for tips. One tip I got was to go to Tofino around the summer Solstice, June 21, as the tides are super low and it's apparently incredible.


Another thing we wanted to do while we were there is to look at the night sky since we'd be far from the city lights. When we were there, there was a full moon, which was beautiful as well, but I think it's the perfect place to see billions stars. If you agree, check the moon tables before you book.


GETTING THERE

From Vancouver it's about 5.5 hours

Take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, then it's a 3 hr drive to Tofino.

I recommend making a ferry reservation - imperative in the summer if you want to avoid a 1-2 sailing wait!

Take the earliest ferry you can.

*Note: the highway past Port Alberni to Tofino is under construction & there are closures:

https://tourismtofino.com/bulletins/updated-highway-4-road-closure-schedule-at-kennedy-hill/ Make sure to check before you go!



We brought, what I like to call, our "hot dog buns" and used them on the ferry. It was the best! Made the ferry trip so relaxing. These things fold up into a small bag, then you just open one end towards the wind to fill up and roll up to close. Super easy! Especially on the ferry where there's lots of wind. Get one HERE



STOPS ALONG THE WAY

Part of me thinks it's best to drive straight to Tofino and get there early, you want as much time there as possible. I guess it depends on how much time you have in Tofino. If it's a short stay, go straight there.

However, there are some good stops along the way should you wish to explore:


Rathtrevor Beach

https://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/rathtrevor/

A great buffer to transition into holiday mode.

From the ferry terminal in Nanaimo drive 30 minutes to Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville (it's on the way to Tofino).

The tide goes way out and you can go for a beautiful early morning walk. Check the tide charts before you go, although I think the tide is out every morning.

For instance you could take the 6:25am ferry arriving in Nanaimo around 8:00am

Drive to Rathtrevor for 8:30ish and go for a 1 hour walk in low tide, tons of sand dollars!

First time I've seen a live black sand dollar!

There is also a campsite should you want to make this part of your trip.


Top Bridge Park

https://www.rdn.bc.ca/top-bridge-regional-trail


If you fancy a swim, this a great swimming hole.

It's quite popular, so expect lots of people.


15 minutes from Rathtrevor Park

35 minutes from the ferry


It's on the way to Tofino, before Coombs.








Old Country Market

https://oldcountrymarket.com/index.php/hours/

This is the famous market with the goats on the roof that has made Coombs a destination.

It's actually quite an amazing store with everything under the sun, food, trinkets & more.

40 minutes from ferry

15 minutes from Rathtrevor Beach

On the way to Tofino


Cuckoo's Restaurant

https://cuckooincoombs.com/

I can't believe I didn't know about this! Feels like you're in Italy!

This restaurant is tucked in behind The Old Country Market. It's a beautiful space with large patios. The line up was big but it moved quickly as the restaurant is huge.

Opens at noon.

Make sure to check what day's they're open if you plan to go, when we were there they were closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays due to staff shortage.



Cathedral Grove *highlight

https://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/macmillan/


This is a must stop!


I recommend doing it on your way back, make sure to leave enough time.


You can make it a quick walk through the forest in 20 minutes or take your time.

Mind blowing 800 year olds trees!


It's a very busy stop right on the highway, if the parking is full, just wait a few minutes and a spot will open up quickly.



Taylor River Rest Stop

A local told us about this stop, I'd never noticed it before.

It's not actually marked as "Taylor River Rest Stop", there's just a sign that says "Rest Stop in 400 metres", then after you pass there's a small sign that says "Taylor River".

The river here is a beautiful turquoise, it looks tropical, but it's cold!

There's no beach but there's a rope hanging off a tree to jump in. There's picnic tables and bathrooms. We drove just past the stop and found a small pebbly beach to lay down and swim.

1 1/2 hours from the ferry

Past Port Alberni

It will show up in maps if you type in "Taylor River Rest Stop".


Kennedy River


Not too much further there is another river stop.


You won't miss it because there will be a lot of cars parked on the side of the highway.


A gorgeous place to stop for a swim and a picnic.


Incredible rock formations and super clear fresh water for swimming!






ARRIVING

At 2.5 hrs from the ferry you will arrive at a T-junction where there is a Visitor's Centre should you wish to go in and gather information on the area:

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/pacificrim/visit/heures-hours


Left to Ucluelet and right for Tofino.

Ucluelet is the little brother to Tofino.

I'm sure it has it's charms, but we did not feel compelled to explore.

The beaches in Tofino are the highlight!


It's a 30 minute drive from the junction to the town of Tofino.

Most of the campgrounds and lodges are along this drive in.


PACIFIC RIM NATIONAL PARK:

The first 20 minutes, you will be driving through the Pacific Rim National Park.

If you left early and are arriving early, I recommend stopping in the park on your way in to Tofino to save time driving back later.


There is a park fee to be paid in the parking lots. Fee depends on your length of stay, for instance, $12.50 for 4 hours. There is also daily and weekly rates. I wouldn't pay for the week unless you have planned to spend a lot of time in the park.


There are some gorgeous beaches outside the park and all accommodations, except Greenpoint Campground, are outside the park.


Greenpoint Campground:

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/pacificrim/activ/camping

Make sure to find out when reservations start as they sell out very quickly.

Try and get one of sites overlooking the ocean, beware it can be cold with the wind off the ocean. Always be prepared for rain!


There are many stops of interest in the National Park:


Rain Forest Walk *highlight

A must do!

Two gorgeous loop walks on either side of the highway built on wooden walkways. Stunning old growth forest with informative signs. Each walk is 20-30 minutes.


Florencia Bay

A beautiful quiet bay which is protected from the wind, unlike many of the other beaches.

Also it is quiet as it is not close to town.


Long Beach *highlight

This is the longest beach and probably the most popular. Lots of surfers.

Even when there are lots of people, it does not feel crowded because it's so big.

My favorite thing to do here is ride our bikes to the end and then cross to the next beach, which is practically empty and ride to the end of that one. Usually there is a mist or light fog and it's breathtaking.

We brought our bikes but you can also rent bikes. If you bring your own bike make sure to hose it off thoroughly right after with the hose by the bathrooms, if you don't, the salt can ruin your bike.


WHERE TO STAY:

For inexpensive, camping is your best bet. The government campsite (Greenpoint) is the best with large spots in amongst the trees. There are a number of private camp sites but they are small, crowded together and usually no trees.


If possible, stay somewhere with some sort of view of the ocean or as close to the ocean as you can, it makes your stay one thousand percent better.


The Middle Beach Lodge *highlight

http://www.middlebeach.com/

On the point between Middle Beach & Mackenzie Beach, last resort before the town.

This is my favorite place to stay by a mile!