With its rugged natural beauty, Tofino in British Columbia is a delightful place to explore on holiday. Famous for its easy-going, friendly nature and excellent surfing, it also boasts many upscale resorts, spas and restaurants. Whether you are looking for a holiday with hot sunny beach days, long hikes through the old-growth forests, or cosy ‘snuggled under a blanket watching the crashing winter waves’ kind of days – Tofino is the place for you!
The city’s downtown is located on the tip of the peninsular and has a lovely fresh openness about it, with sea on all sides. The streets are lined with charming local stores, restaurants and cafés leading down to the waterfront and docks. There are many ways to get out onto the water, from fishing trips into some of the country’s best salmon and halibut areas – available even for those who have never fished before - to kayak or canoe adventures, surfing or paddleboarding lessons, and of course whale watching trips. You cannot leave town without heading out to see these magnificent creatures and Tofino offers many well-informed tour guides ready to provide you with an unforgettable experience. Make the most of the opportunity to watch grey, humpback whales and the distinctive orcas play and display in their natural habitat. You may also spot sea otters and friendly seals frolicking in the waters, and black bears feeding on the banks.
There are a great many scenic hiking trails in around the town, from gentle strolls along the rocky shorelines, exploring the colourful tidal pools on Long Beach, to more strenuous hikes through the forests and marshland. Take a water taxi across to Meares Island and follow the Big Trail along the boardwalks through the ancient cedar forest to the impressive Hanging Garden Tree. If you are feeling energetic, hike the challenging Lone Cone trail up the steep slopes to the summit of the Lone Cone Mountain for some simply stunning views across Clayoquot Sound and the islands.
Tofino has a strong arts scene and there are several galleries and studios in the area, including the Eagle Aerie Gallery downtown which is housed in a traditional-style longhouse and showcases the work of Canadian artist Roy Henry Vickers. If you are lucky enough to visit while he is in town, you can hear his inspirational stories first hand. The town loves a festival and there is always something going on. The Winter Music Series’ happens in February, the great Pacific Rim Whale Festival is in March when the whole region celebrates the Grey Whale Migration, and the Clayoquot Oyster Festival is in November where local chefs compete to create delicious new oyster recipes.
The beauty of Tofino is that is doesn’t close down for winter. Their philosophy is you simply need more layers and wellies! Winter storm watching is a popular pursuit and there are few better feelings than standing on the edge of the forest, clad in full wet-weather gear watching the awesome winter waves crashing on the shores, tumbling huge pieces of beautiful driftwood up the beach and dragging the pebbles back with a throaty roar. Followed, of course, by a hearty meal of delicious fresh local produce cooked by one of the town’s fantastic chefs.
Tofino welcomes you at any time of year, and its charming rugged landscapes cannot fail to captivate. In fact you may find you want to return just to experience its many changing seasons.
Things to do
Popular things to do in Tofino
View grey whales, humpback whales, transient orcas and a myriad of other marine wildlife and discover the beauty of Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Travel in a large cruising vessel with indoor and outdoor seating with superb viewing from upper and lower decks. Commentary is also given by an experienced and knowledgeable crew. Departures: daily from May 1 to Oct 31, 2015 Duration: 2.5 hours
Top tips for visiting Tofino
Top Tip 1
• Tofino has been home to the Nuu-Cha-Nulth First Nations for thousands of years and with Tla-Ook Cultural Adventures you have the chance to share in their history as you paddle an authentic cedar dugout canoe to Meares Island, with some fabulous storytelling and traditional songs from your informative guides along the way.
Top Tip 2
• Don’t miss a trip to the Botanical Gardens which is a charming collection of gardens, thought-provoking sculptures and artwork, ponds, farm animals and a great café, nestled within acres of rainforest.
Top Tip 3
• The town has its own brewing company producing five different beers which are available around town. You can visit the brewery and buy your own reusable glass Growler filled with your favourite beer to enjoy at your leisure.
Top Tip 4
• For a seaside adventure take a thrilling seaplane ride to Flores Island and soak in the seven geothermal hot pools, with some lovely waterfalls and beautiful views of the ocean.
Top Tip 5
• There are several beaches in the area with plenty more to offer than simply sunbathing. On Chesterman Beach, walk the sandspit at low tide to Frank Island for amazing panoramic vistas or pop into the Carving Shed by the Wickaninnish Inn and watch the local artists at work.
Top Tip 6
• Tofino boasts many relaxing spas, but for a real treat, visit the Ancient Cedars Spa. Perched on the rocky coastline overlooking the ocean, the views are unrivalled and the sound of the crashing waves is the perfect accompaniment to their wide range of pampering treatments.
Top Tip 7
• Those with a sweet tooth must not leave town without paying a visit to Chocolate Tofino. The rustic cottage houses a wealth of delicious homemade chocolates and ice-creams made on the premises, perfect for taking home as gifts - if you can resist them that long!
Top Tip 8
• During the winter months, storm watching is a popular attraction. Whether you watch the twenty-foot waves crashing towards you from the beach or from the comfort of one of the many oceanfront restaurants and bars, the sights are spectacular.