April 7, 2023
Tofino, BC: What to See and Do in Tofino
By Kilee LeBlanc
When you think of Canada, the last thing you’d think of is surfing. However in Canada, and more specifically the province of British Columbia, boasts some of the best cold-water surfing in the world. Located on the far west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino is an incredibly popular area for not only surfers but hikers, bird watchers, campers, whale watchers, fishers, and all-around outdoor enthusiasts. It’s wild, natural beauty makes it the perfect place for adventures but also a great place to sit back and relax on the beach with a glass of wine and a good book.
Whether you’re looking to get active, relax, or a mix of the two, Tofino is the perfect place to spend a weekend or an entire week. But you may never want to leave! Here are some ideas of things to see and do in Tofino.
The Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal is a quick twenty-minute drive from the depot with a one hour thirty-five minute crossing time that takes you to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. This route is preferred if you have extra days to explore nearby provincial capital of Victoria and the surrounding area as the drive from Swartz Bay to Tofino takes around five hours. There are many scenic stops along the way so rushing through would involve many missed opportunities.
Alternatively, the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal is one hour away from the Escape Camper Vans depot with a one hour forty minute crossing time that takes you to Departure Bay on Vancouver Island. Though the distance to the ferry terminal itself and crossing time is longer, this is the more direct route to Tofino as the driving time from Departure Bay to Tofino takes three hours.
Make your reservations early for the ferry ride.
Especially during weekends in the summer, ferries fill up quickly and waiting times can take hours if you do not have a reservation. Making a ferry reservation is highly recommended and can be done via the BC Ferries website. There is an additional charge to reserve, but it is so worth it!
When reserving your Escape campervan on the BC Ferries website, make sure to note the length and height of your Escape campervan. The Santa Cruz and Mavericks models are standard, but the Big Sur and Newport Camper models are longer and taller than the standard. This can be indicated on your reservation so that BC Ferries makes sure to allocate enough room onboard for your vehicle.
You can find campgrounds that are close to the beach.
Where to Stay in Tofino, B.C.
Tofino is a camper’s paradise with many options to park your Escape campervan within a very close distance to the ocean. Bella Pacifica Campground, Crystal Cove, and Mackenzie Beach Campground are private campgrounds steps from Mackenzie Beach that offer sites perfect for campervans. Be sure when booking to choose a site that will fit the campervan, are some are slated for tents only.
Green Point Campground is the only campground in Pacific Rim National Park and is located on Long Beach. The campground is extremely popular and books up quickly during its operating dates from May to October. Like the campgrounds on Mackenzie Beach, make sure to book a drive-in site as some are slated for tents only.
If the popular oceanside sites are booked up, Surf Junction and Long Beach Campground are located inland and offer great sites, along with a few other campgrounds in the neighbouring town of Ucluelet.
It is important to be aware of operating dates of campgrounds. Some are open only from Spring to Fall (May to October). During this time, campgrounds fill up quickly especially on weekends and it’s recommended to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
At the Tofino Brewing Company.
Where to Eat & Drink in Tofino, B.C.
Being so close to the ocean, Tofino is teeming with fresh seafood. Catch it yourself on a fishing tour, purchase at the Trilogy Fish Company to cook up at your campsite, or head into town to enjoy a meal at one of the many different restaurants in town serving seafood.
A short distance from Mackenzie Beach is the Live to Surf complex which houses the incredibly popular (and rightly so) Tacofino serving up fresh and delicious tacos and burritos out of a food truck at the back of a parking lot. You’ll likely be greeted with long lines, but for the best fish taco in town, it’s worth it. For those looking for something other than Mexican inspired, the Wildside Grill next door offers fish and chips, succulent salmon burgers, and a Boston style creamy clam chowder that will warm you up after a morning of cold surf.
Wash your meal down with a beer from Tofino Brewing Company. Order a tasting flight in their cozy brewery to discover your favourite brew and take a growler to go enjoy back at your campsite. Be sure to try their Kelp Stout and Spruce Tree Ale for a taste that’s uniquely West Coast.
Get out on the water with surfing lessons in Tofino.
What to Do in Tofino, B.C.
Get involved with the local’s favourite pastime and take to the water in a surfing lesson. Lessons provide it all: equipment (wetsuits and boards), transporting the equipment to the beach, and instruction in and out of the water to get you catching waves in no time. Don’t let the cold ocean deter you.The wetsuits are rated for cold weather and will keep you comfortable in the water. Tofino Surf Adventures offer affordable three-hour lessons that will keep you smiling and hanging ten with their fun and encouraging instructors.
There are so many beaches and coves begging to be walked on in Tofino that you could spend your entire trip doing so and never walk on the same beach twice! Mackenzie Beach, Cox Bay, and Chesterman Beach are located close to the town of Tofino and do not require a parks pass whereas Long Beach and Florencia Bay do require a parks pass.
When taking the turnoff towards Tofino, make a pit stop into the Pacific Rim Visitor Centre to pick up your park pass along with maps and brochures for the park. There are so many different interpretive walks, boardwalks, and beaches to explore and having a map makes it handy to mark off the ones that you’ve done.
Another popular tourist attraction is whale watching where you’ll search for humpback whales, killer whales, and grey whales among sea otters, sea lions, and spot birdlife, bears, and even wolves from the coastline. Do this with Jamie’s Whaling Station and take the earliest Hot Springs Cove tour where you’ll not only spot wildlife but are rewarded with a soak in natural hot springs at the edge of the ocean.
First Nations History
Nuu Chah Nulth First Nations were the first inhabitants of the Clayoquot Sound and have lived in the area for over ten thousand years. They thrived in the area due to an abundance of natural resources and continue to live in the area today. Be sure to check out the Kwisitis Visitor Centre on the south end of Wickanninish Beach to learn more about the Nuu Chah Nulth people and history of Tofino and the surrounding area.
Taking in the sunset on the beach in Tofino.
Tofino is one of those places where you’ll book for a weekend and never want to leave. Do yourself a favour and plan to spend at least three nights exploring, eating fresh seafood, and watching incredible sunsets in this West Coast paradise. From Escape Campervan’s Vancouver rental site, it has never been easier to catch a ferry over to Vancouver Island and see why the island is known for its relaxed vibe, people, and lifestyle. You’ll see there’s lots to do in Tofino. So go ahead and book your campervan today.
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