Travel tips for a Tofino adventure Canada. Great eats and accommodations for travellers
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
A town that I believe never planned nor wanted to be as much of a tourist attraction as it has become, Tofino is a highly and heavily recommended stop on any Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island holiday. While the locals may not appear to be happy about the amount of tourists, for a town so popular it doesn’t emit the ‘overpowered-by-tourists’ vibes that other cities struggle with.
Instead, Tofino keeps its local charm and aesthetic, and lets any visitors enjoy it for what it is - a local surf and beach town. If you’re looking for a holiday in a town that still feels local, is orientated around the beach and surf culture, has plenty of coastal walks, and is surrounded by the smell and vibes of the Pacific Ocean, then definitely include Tofino in your travel plans.
If you’re driving, all you have to do is catch the ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo, and from there it is just over 3 hours driving until you get to Tofino, making it easily manageable in a day. The drive from Nanaimo features many scenic stops and a lot of potential for black bear sightings, so keep those eyes peeled! Driving to Tofino will take you directly past the turn off to Ucluelet, another small beach town that is a bit quieter and more blue collar than Tofino.
For those that want to be right in the thick of it, Tofino has oceanfront resorts and cabins dotted along the Pacific all the way from Ucluelet to Tofino. There’s also an oceanfront Hostel, Hi-Tofino, and can you really go wrong with any accommodation featuring the words “oceanfront” and work on a backpacker budget?
If you’re looking for a quieter place to stay, while still being right on the Pacific, Ucluelet boasts some beautiful and quiet spots. The Cabins on Terrace Beach have both “rainforest” and “ocean front” cabins, all with different sleeping arrangements and layouts so there’s literally an option for any group. Surrounded by trees, looking out over a semi-private cove of the ocean, stepping stones away from the lighthouse loop, and a lot less populated than a Tofino equivalent while still only 30 minutes from Tofino’s centre, I honestly cannot recommend this stay enough if your budget can handle the high price offering.
View from the Cabins in Ucelet.
Once in Tofino of course you’re going to need to eat, and where better to start than Tacofino? Anyone in lower BC will have heard the name, and probably eaten there already, but you really can’t go wrong by heading back to where it all started - the humble food truck beginning. What started as a way to feed the surfers has now blown up into a mini franchise, serving up seriously good tacos, burritos and local goods in 8 different locations across Tofino, Victoria and Vancouver. The lines are big, but the food, atmosphere and bragging rights of saying you ate where it all began are well worth the wait.
While it’s necessary to know where the good food stops are, it’s important to know where to find the best coffee - and in Rhino Coffee Houses’s case, also donuts. As I’m from a country built on great coffee that is notorious for its flat-whites, it is always hard to find something comparable to what you’d find in humble New Zealand. Perhaps being on the other side of the Pacific helps, because Rhino honestly offers some spot on coffee, perfectly frothed milk, and all the snacks to go with it. Donuts are a must if you visit, but they also make some killer sandwiches, wraps and breakfast snacks. Rhino Coffe House is the perfect pit stop to stock up before heading to the beach, or you can dine in to experience some of local the vibes. Rhino Coffee House is a must for a taste of the chill, casual surf and beach culture that Tofino is built on.
Tofino and Ucluelet both face right onto the Pacific, and between the two of them have upwards of 10 beaches to explore, and an equivalent amount of incredible walks. Quite honestly no beach can be recommended over the other as they are all beautiful, sandy, host camping spots and the majority have great surf for the surfers out there. Long Beach is a popular spot for tourists, locals and surfers alike. Long Beach lives up to its name, being 16km in length there is quite seriously endless space for your beach adventures. Situated almost directly in the middle between Ucluelet and Tofino, it’s a pretty perfect spot. Other notable spots are Cox Bay and Chesterman beaches, both closer in proximity to Tofino and boasting good surf, camping, and resort and cabin stays close to town. On the other end are Ucluelet’s beaches such as Terrace Beach - a smaller, cove like beach surrounded by trees and granite rock it’s a perfect sight-seeing spot -, and Big Beach, boasting similar scenes as the beaches closer to Tofino, but tucked into the quieter end of Ucluelet.
As for hiking, if you’re in Ucluelet don’t miss the Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse loop. A somewhat quiet, easy and scenic 2.6km walk (or run) it offers you plenty of what the Pacific boasts. On a stormy or wet day you will finish smelling like salt and feeling like you swam in the ocean, but it is worth it for the views and scenes along the way. If you’re more of a tree dwelling sort, then the Rainforest Trail would be the best bet. 2km of hiking up and around the trees, you’ll be surrounded by the old growth of the forest and the new, but do be aware that this trail features a total of 731 stairs, so only embark on this of your level of fitness is going to allow it to be enjoyable. If you want a bit of everything, and want to experience the initial draw to the area, then the Wild Pacific Trail is the perfect walk for you. The longest of the mentions at 8.8km, but more similar terrain to the Lighthouse loop, the Wild Pacific Trail will offer you a bit of everything - from some of the best coastal views, to the rainforest and old growth surrounds of the forest. You can’t go wrong with any of the walks in these areas, but do be prepared for wet weather, and make sure you don’t embark on anything outside your comfort or fitness level. These are views you don’t want to miss because you wore the wrong shoes and can’t walk any further!
Tofino - and Ucluelet - really are parts of British Columbia that shouldn’t be missed. Offering the perfect amount of adventure and chill, these local surf towns are perfect for every traveller. Be you traveling solo, with friends, or with family, there is plenty to offer in all respects and you definitely won’t be disappointed. Two small beach and surf towns left almost untouched by the tourists that head out there, I’d recommend you get there sooner rather than later and enjoy the still pristine beaches, walks, and culture that Tofino - and Ucluelet - have to offer.
Many thanks to Frankie Knight for another great post.
Getting into the Canada road-tripping spirit?
Why not check out out:
Our main page, www.outheretravel.ca with all the details about our awesome adventure road trips?
Our newsletter, with amazing content to get you road-tripping, your way - similar to this content.
Our Instagram, @outherecanada with amazing photos & videos of the experience
Our facebook page for even more goodness!