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Located on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island and within the territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations is the iconic village of Tofino.
Nestled in the heart of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Clayoquot Sound, Tofino is a hugely popular place to visit all year round with its rugged beauty, excellent surfing and incredible hiking routes.
What makes Tofino even more attractive is the fact it is a key stop on many driving routes. If you’re staying in Vancouver and are looking at using a car rental service in Canada, then it’s worth making the five-hour long drive to Tofino. As part of this trip, you can enjoy a scenic ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia and take in highlights such as The Old Country Market, MacMillian Provincial Park and the Pacific Rim National Park.
If you’re planning to stay for a couple of days, then there are lots of things to do in Tofino during your Canadian holiday so check out our guide.
Our suggested itinerary
Morning – Go on a kayaking adventure
Afternoon – Get on board and go surfing in Tofino
Evening – Stroll around the botanical gardens
Morning – Start the day with a yoga class (in summer) or walk the Wild Pacific Trail
Afternoon – Enjoy Tofino’s diverse wildlife
Evening – Delve into the culinary talent Tofino boasts
WATCH THIS VIDEO ABOUT TOFINO:
Morning: Go on a kayaking adventure
As the town’s centre is located on the tip of the peninsula, with sea on all sides and a lovely waterfront and docks, a great way to explore the area is on the water in a kayak.
By kayaking, you’ll see Tofino and its islands in a new perspective and it is an activity that can be done year-round in Clayoquot Sound.
A guided tour is a great way to discover the highlights and stay safe, one of the most popular operators is Black Bear Kayaking. They were founded in 2010 and have since been offering kayak adventure tours in Clayoquot Sound.
A spokesperson from the company told us about what you can experience on one of their tours, “First of all, Tofino is located on the beautifully rugged west-coast of Vancouver Island, at the end of the Esowista peninsula, sticking out into the Pacific. The area offers some of the largest existing temperate rainforests left in the world. It inhabits one of the most diverse ecosystems of land-based and marine animals and plants.
“Next to the main island, Clayoquot Sound consists of more than 200 islands, some of them in close proximity to Tofino harbour from where our tours start. Dealing with our tides and currents can be just as much fun as it is challenging which is why we recommend going on a guided kayaking tour. Most companies, like Black Bear Kayaking, are very safety-oriented and follow the standards set by the Sea Kayaking Guide Alliance of British Columbia.
“Last but not least, kayaking is one of the best things to do even if the weather is ‘not optimal’. We provide rain-gear, dry-bags and spray-skirts. This way, once you’re in your boat it’s just different but just as enjoyable!”
You can go on lots of different day tours ranging from two hours up to eight hours and include a hike along the Big Tree Trail. If you’re staying in Tofino for longer you can even go on overnight kayak adventures lasting two to four days.
Afternoon: Get on board and go surfing in Tofino
Sandy beaches and huge waves. Welcome to Canada’s Surf Capital!
With 30-plus kilometres of beaches and stunning coastline, it’s little surprise that surfers from across the globe head to Tofino to enjoy year-round surfing.
During your holiday in Tofino, you just have to experience the very best surf conditions in Canada. Krissy from Surf Sister, one of the most popular surf lesson operators in the area, tells us about what you can expect.
“Tofino is a great surfing destination for a beginner or advanced surfers alike. We have over half a dozen beautiful surf beaches located along the coast between Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park. Each beach faces a slightly different direction which means that there is almost always a quality wave to surf despite changing wind or swell conditions. Many of our bays are gradual sloping beach breaks which makes a perfect playground for beginner surfers as there is tonnes of whitewash to practice in. With a 5mm wetsuit and boots, you can surf year-round in Tofino.”
Surf Sister offers lots of different types of lessons, but for your first time, it is recommended that you go on a group surf lesson. It will give you a great introduction to the sport and at $89 Canadian it is very affordable. For families, there are private family lessons available, so your children can surf alongside you.
If you’re wondering which beaches you should explore, then some of the top beaches in and around Tofino are:
•Cox Bay Beach
Evening: Stroll around the botanical gardens
After the adrenaline rush of surfing, a great way to relax is to go for a lovely evening stroll around the twelve-acres of gardens, forest, and shoreline that make up the Tofino Botanical Gardens.
There is a network of paths and boardwalks that will take you through the Kitchen Gardens, Duck Pond and Children’s Garden into the coastal temperate rainforest, where clearings have been transformed into a series of pocket gardens.
These gardens display plants that once thrived in other temperate rainforests around the world. They also celebrate the various cultural groups that have made Clayoquot Sound their home now and in the past, particularly the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and early Japanese fishing families. The area has even been a draw for hippies!
Kelby, who works at the Tofino Botanical Gardens, tells us about the variety of things you can enjoy during your visit to the gardens.
“The Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation has been created to support educational and cultural events in the Garden. More than just gardens, the grounds contain outdoor sculptures created to enhance and display the connection between art and nature.
“Darwin’s Cafe is a venue for visual artists to exhibit their work, and for authors, poets and musicians to express their crafts with the community. Festivals we host include the Tofino Winterlights, Tofino Lantern Festival, Food and Wine, Surfrider Film Festival, The Farm and Garden Show, Tofino Jazz Festival, as well as weddings, private events and music throughout the summer. Tofino Botanical Gardens is just to set your heart free.”
If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat after your visit to the botanical gardens, then one restaurant you could head to is The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn, which is just a four-minute drive away.
You will enjoy a 240-degree view of the Pacific Ocean and enjoy a range of Vancouver Island ingredients and a large wine menu. Check out the menu here.
READ OUR OTHER ‘48 HOURS IN…’ GUIDES HERE:
Morning: Start the day with a yoga class (in summer) or walk the Wild Pacific trail
If you’re looking for a relaxing start to the day and want to indulge in a wellness adventure, the beach yoga and yoga wellness retreats in Tofino should certainly feature on your bucket list.
Tofino Yoga offers classes throughout the summer that allow you to imprint your toes in the sand while you take in the sound and stunning views that surround you. There’s beach yoga, SUP yoga and wellness retreats you can try.
Founder of Tofino Yoga and an E-RYT yoga teacher (E-RYT is given to teachers who’ve completed over 200-hours of yoga teacher training), Dede Monette, tells us about the different classes you can try during your visit.
“Beach Yoga is a delightful way to experience Tofino! Offered on Mackenzie Beach; 4 times a week between the months of May to October, Beach Yoga is the perfect Tofino experience. Alternatively, Private Beach Yoga is offered year-round!
“Furthermore, while visiting Tofino for a few days, make sure to sign-up for our signature Tofino Yoga Wellness Retreats, which typically take 2.5 days to complete. Our Tofino Yoga Wellness Retreats are inclusive of but not limited to: 4 Private Beach Yoga classes, 1 Surf lesson with Surf Sister, 1 SUP (Paddleboard) excursion and a delightful massage.”
For keen hikers, we’d recommend going on the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet and although it is a little drive away (40 kilometres and just over 30-minutes to be precise), it is well worth making the effort.
The 9km trail came from one man’s vision, Jim Martin, also known as Oyster Jim because he was an oyster farmer, and it follows the stunning coastline through a nearly impenetrable fortress of a rainforest. The trail is a world-class hiking destination, offering visitors a journey along the edge of the open Pacific Ocean with its majesty, power and beauty in full view.
It is a perfect destination for photographers, storm watchers, bird watchers and hikers of all abilities. There’s also lots to see and Shannon Szymczakowski from the Wild Pacific Trail Society picks out some of her must-see attractions.
“Highlights of the trail include a 100-year-old lighthouse built after a series of tragic shipwrecks, remote beaches, tide pools rich with sea life and a pristine coastal temperate rainforest teeming with ferns, mosses, and massive cedars, hundreds of years old, reaching for the sky. Interpretive signs and free year-round guided walks offer insight into the natural and historical context of the area.”
Oyster Jim, the founder of the trail, adds, “There’s not one best spot, the whole trail is like a jewelled necklace.
“From Day 1, I told people this is a world treasure. This is an eighth wonder of the world. Every corner is like streaming postcards.”
Afternoon: Enjoy Tofino’s diverse wildlife
Tofino isn’t just home to friendly Canadian people as the other locals include black bears, transient orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, harbour seals, bald eagles, deer, sea lions, sea otters, porpoises and a plethora of different birds.
The west coast of Vancouver Island is home to the most amazing ecosystem. The nutrient-filled ocean is loaded with a variety of marine wildlife, which means a wildlife watching tour with expert guides is a must. Some of the most popular ones are the bear watching and whale watching tours as you get to see and learn about these majestic animals.
Ocean Outfitters offer whale and bear watching tours aboard luxury covered vessels and open Zodiac (rib) boats and Ocean Simone Shine, the General Manager, tells us about their trips.
“Our goal is to educate and inspire stewardship so our guests learn about local history, and threats to the area, as we make our way through the surrounding islands and out into the open ocean to experience as much wildlife as possible.
“Clayoquot Sound offers the most incredible coastline for viewing black bears. These adventure tours cruise through the protected and calm waters surrounding scenic Meares Island. Our resident bears come down to the beaches at low tide to forage for such beach delicacies as rock crab, starfish and even a bit of kelp. They are an absolute pleasure to watch from the boat and thanks to their poor eyesight, they are usually unaware of our presence so long as we keep a quiet and respectable distance upwind.
“All of our tours are unique, and we pride ourselves on having highly knowledgeable guides, most of whom have grown up in the surrounding area and know Tofino’s hidden treasures.”
Part of the fees you pay for your tour will go towards projects intended to improve the welfare of wildlife, restoration, and conservation in and around Tofino.
Evening: Delve into the culinary talent Tofino boasts
Tofino boasts a diverse community of culinary talent and on your last night you should delve into the foods which have been inspired by the coast.
No matter what your taste, there is something of all flavours. Below we’ve listed some of the best restaurants.
•SoBo Restaurant – This popular family restaurant serves simple, fresh and locally produced dishes in the heart of Tofino. The region is famed for its seafood and this restaurant serves up some of the best dishes – smoked fish chowder and Cibolo shrimp are two of our favourites.
•Lil’ Ronnie’s BBQ – If you speak to the locals, you’ll be told this place serves up the best BBQ in the world and with the finest cuts of brisket, ribs, turkey breast and sausages it’s hard to argue with them.
•Driftwood Café – Ideally located on Chesterman Beach, the café is famed for its signature driftwood bar. In the day you can enjoy a latte, smoothies or a cappuccino, but in the night, you can cosy up on the beachfront patio and enjoy seasonal Vancouver Island produce and Tofino seafood.
Plan a visit to the area during your next Canadian trip and take a look at our Tofino holidays.
Image Credit: Tofino Yoga.