Tofino’s Top Attractions
There are many routes to the “end of the road, where the ocean begins” in Tofino, British Columbia. Whatever route you take, you’ll be rewarded with the stunning natural beauty surrounding this Canadian gem.
Like all great places in the World, this destination justifies the journey. Only 1,932 residents call Tofino home, and over 660,000 tourists visit year round. Located on Vancouver Island’s western coast, visitors come to fish, surf, storm watch, beach comb, hike, kayak, bike, boat, and enjoy the most spectacular scenery and beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Locals claim Tofino is “half the pace, twice the pleasure!”
Here’s our list of recommendations of Tofino Top Attractions: where to stay, what to do, where to dine & how to get there!
Where to STAY & DINE:
Long Beach Lodge Resort offers 41 lodge rooms and 20 quaint cottages on Cox Bay, just 5 miles from the town of Tofino. We stepped outside our room and explored 8 acres of oceanfront rain forest and walked the beach at sunrise and sunset. This 4-star hotel is a great place to stay if you love a little luxury with your adventures.
Opened in 2002, the Lodge was designed and constructed to resemble a grand West Coast style residence. We felt right at home with comfortable interiors, a warm design and a friendly staff ready to help with guests needs. This was a wonderful place to stay while exploring the wildest coast of the west.
Our room was comfortable and spacious with a private patio looking out to the Pacific Ocean. The bathroom had a large bathtub and spa amenities, including bath salts.
One of our favorite places to relax? We had a couple favorite spots including the lounge chairs looking out to the beach. Also, the Great Room with its large fireplace and Douglas Fir post and beam construction, where we had panoramic views of the sandy beach, surfers and the lighthouse.
Guests and locals enjoy fine dining here as well, where Chef Shaun Snelling created a medley of Pacific Northwest inspired dishes with fresh seafood, local seasonal ingredients, artfully presented.
What to DO:
1. Take a surfing class!
Surf Sister School offers professional & fun surf lessons to groups or you can have a private lesson.
We signed up for the beginner’s course and learned how to use the surfboard in the water, the “pop-up” technique, and surf etiquette, then went into the water to ride Tofino’s gentle waves on Cox Bay. Co-ed lessons are available for all ages, so bring your family, husband/partner, friends, sisters and catch a wave!
Also, ask for Chance who is the Manager at Long Beach Lodge Resort’s Surf Club Adventure Center where you can find professional, customized surf and SUP (stand up paddleboard) instruction, full equipment rentals.
2. Go Fishing!
Tofino is a prime habitat for B.C. salmon and halibut. We met Ryan, our fishing guide of Clayoquot Ventures at the Dock and headed 20 mins. offshore to the Pacific Ocean to fish for Chinook and King Salmon. Our guide took us straight to one of the saltwater “hot spots”, rigged our gear, and dropped the downriggers. We trolled the waters without much luck, and then at slack tide, we reeled in an 11 lb. King. Shortly after, we finished our charter reeling in a nice Quillback Rockfish.
Tofino Fishing can prepare the fish at the cleaning station, and make arrangements for fish processing so you can take it home. Book Tofino Fishing for your saltwater or freshwater charter – Salmon & Halibut, Inshore Saltwater Fly Fishing, or Inshore Light Tackle Salmon Fishing at Clayoquot Ventures.
3. Fly Over Tofino
We loved our flight with Tofino Air: Our Pilots Craig and Phil said, “You haven’t seen Tofino until you fly over it!” To truly get oriented and see where Tofino is on the map, you’ll want to take a seaplane flight. The scenery is majestic and jaw dropping! This is the best way to see the pristine landscape, Tofino, and the surrounding islands, mountains, and shores of Vancouver Island.
You may get lucky just as we did and see a Whale! For a breathtaking scenic flight throughout Clayoquot Sound, Barkley Sound, the Hot Springs Cove or the West Coast of Vancouver Island, book your reservation with Tofino Air.
There are several hiking trails in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, a UNESCO Biosphere Region, and surrounding areas of Tofino, like the Tonquin Trail. We heard the vistas from Radar Hill trail are magnificent! You need to do at least one as you visit Tofino Top attractions!
Some of our favorite hikes and walks were right outside our hotel door at the Long Beach Lodge Resort, where you’ll find trails through the old growth rainforest that lead to the beach.
5. Spa Day
Check in at the Ancient Cedars Spa: this spa is a sanctuary surrounded by nature! It’s located on the Ocean level of the Wickaninnish Inn at the Pointe. Guests sit outside; dip their feet into the giant copper pans warm foot bath, as they sip a cup of comforting tea and lookout to the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
After this welcome, guests surrender to signature treatments like the Sacred Sea Thalassotherapy, Hot Stone or Lomilomi Massage, in the “Rainforest Haven” or “Cedar Sanctuary” treatment rooms. After a soothing treatment, you’ll find your body, mind, and spirit at peace.
6. Walk a Beach:
Beach combing and tide pooling are traditions in Tofino. Locals and tourists spend hours strolling along these beaches and get lost in its tidal rhythms. Our favorite beach to stroll was Chesterman’s Beach to Cox Bay.
Word of Caution: check the tide schedule before you head out to Frank’s Island, or you will be stranded til the tide ebbs!
7. Watch a storm!
Many visitors come to this area during the months of October – April to experience the dramatic Pacific storms. Giant waves ride into shore and you can see the power of nature up close.
8. Take a Yoga Class
There are several classes available throughout Tofino.
9. Visit Artist Studios:
“Feather George”, is the nickname of George Yearsley – the Wickaninnish Inn’s Resident Carver.
Visit his on-site Carving Shed on Chesterman Beach. If you love wood carved bowls, trays, visit Keith Plumley’s Burlwood Studio Gallery – call to make an appt. #250.726.5098.
One of our favorite shops in Tofino is called BLUE, where owner Christy Feaver makes her own jewelry, engraves thoughtful sayings on driftwood, and also sells other local artists items in her boutique.
10. Dine! Dine!
Saving the best for last on this list of Tofino Top Attractions! Tofino is a culinary destination! This town’s boat-to-table food culture thrives here with talented chefs, farmers, fishermen, harvesters, and purveyors. Chef’s creations are inspired by the season’s bounty, and local abundant supply of fresh produce and fish.
Click here to see our list of dining recommendations.
HOW TO GET TO TOFINO?
One option is to take the Vancouver B.C. ferry to Nanaimo, or Victoria Clipper to Victoria, then drive to Tofino, or you can drive the entire distance to Tofino. The quickest way to get there though is to fly Kenmore Air to Nanaimo, then drive the scenic Pacific Rim Highway from Nanaimo to Tofino.
Kenmore Air: Kenmore brings Tofino closer to anyone who departs from Seattle. Known as “The Peninsula’s fastest Seattle connection”, we booked one of the daily non-stop flights on Kenmore Air Express from Boeing Field direct to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in B.C. Canada. Kenmore offers complimentary ground shuttles, and makes it easy to fly out of Seattle’s Boeing Field. We flew over the scenic San Juan Islands towards Vancouver Island, and arrived to our destination in about an hour. You can reach Tofino by car, ferry, but if you want a fast, convenient and stress-free way to get there, fly Kenmore Air!
It’s easy to escape the ordinary and discover the extraordinary on Kenmore Air with daily flights to over so many spectacular Northwest destinations. The scenic views are unforgettable! Book a flight online or call #866.435.9524
Budget Nanaimo Car Rental:
Once landing at the Nanaimo terminal, we exited the Kenmore flight, went through customs, and arrived to the Budget Nanaimo Car Rental counter. It took a minute to sign the agreement and get our keys, and we were on the road headed west to Tofino!
Nanaimo is the Gateway to Tofino, and the ~2.5 hrs drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is beautiful – we think it’s one of B.C.’s top scenic drives! Once you get onto Highway 4 – the Pacific Rim Highway, the road winds through the spectacular Cathedral Grove and historic Port Alberni, then you past Sproat and Kennedy Lakes. Keep a lookout for the Old Country Market where goats feed on the grass covered roof of a remote country store.
When you arrive on the west coast, you’ll take a right onto the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway. From the highway, take a left and stop at the Kwisitis Visitor Center, located within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and you’ll find beaches and trails where you can stretch your legs. Or from the highway, on the right, stop at the Tourism Tofino Visitor Centre for some helpful information about the area. As you approach Tofino, there are cottages and resorts tucked into the forest lined beaches that stretch forever along the Pacific Ocean coastline.
Budget Nanaimo Car Rental, 33 Terminal Avenue South, Nanaimo, BC, V9R 5C4, Canada
Book a reservation at: 250-760-7368
Vancouver Island, B.C. Tourism Site
Tofino Tourism Site
Acknowledgements: we’d like to thank Kenmore Air, Budget, Tofino Fishing, SoBo for hosting us during our stay! We also thank Long Beach Lodge Resort for partially hosting our stay.