Where to Stop Along the Way to Tofino, British Columbia
By Kilee LeBlanc
You’ve arrived on Vancouver Island and it’s time to make your way towards Tofino, British Columbia. You could get off the ferry and drive the three hours non-stop to get to your destination, but there’s plenty of fun to be had along the Alberni Highway in your campervan. Give yourself a bit of extra time to enjoy the sights, stretch your legs, and fuel up before arriving at your destination on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Places to Visit on Your Way to Tofino
Coombs Old Country Market
Where can you stop to eat ice cream and fresh tacos, browse antique shops and grab all your groceries for a weekend away? The Coombs Old Country Market is an eccentric marketplace that has everything you could ever want under one roof, and speaking of the roof – it’s grassy and covered with goats! Be sure to check out their epic cheese department, home-baked bread, and selection of colourful Mexican homeware.
It’s hard to miss Cathedral Grove – as you’re driving, you’ll be swathed amongst the towering Douglas fir trees in MacMillan Provincial Park. Parking stalls are directly off the highway, making it a great stop to breathe in some fresh air and stretch your legs. On the south side of the park, you’ll find the largest Douglas firs – one measuring more than nine metres in circumference. The park features leisurely strolls to see these giants along with toilets for your convenience.
The Donut Shop
Pick up a dozen delicious donuts from this cozy shop on the waterfront and enjoy service with a smile at The Donut Shop. Owned and operated for more than twenty-five years, The Donut Shop is the place to grab a coffee and choose between the twenty-four different flavours of donuts – anything from peanut butter cup to maple bacon and the classic chocolate dip.
Twin Cities Brewing Company
For beer aficionados, Twin Cities Brewing is a stop you cannot miss. This community brewery serves up innovative brews alongside a lineup of tasty meals such as hand-stretched pizzas and smoked meat sandwiches. Try a flight of their famous beers, nosh on local fare, or gather friends and family around for a games night – there’s something at Twin Cities Brewing for every palate.
Where to Stay on Your Way to Tofino
If you’re looking to break up your trip to Tofino, or if you’re arriving on a late ferry and would prefer to drive in the daylight staying at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is a great option. As the name entails, it is located on the ocean a quick forty-minute drive from the Departure Bay (Nanaimo) ferry terminal. It features a large provincial campground suitable to park your Escape campervan, but reserve early if you’re planning to travel during the busy summer months as the sites book up quickly. The park is home to majestic old-growth trees, beautiful ocean sunsets, and a wide sandy beach that recedes along a kilometre at low tide making for excellent beachcombing opportunities.
How to Get to Tofino
From the Escape Campervan depot in Vancouver, there are two options to get to Vancouver Island – via the ferry from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal or the ferry in Horseshoe Bay.
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 Campervan 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.
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 Campers 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.
Take the time to smell the flowers en route to your trip to Tofino, and you may end up discovering some hidden gems you wouldn’t otherwise have seen if you gunned it to your destination. With an Escape Campervan, having a home on wheels makes it easy for spontaneous adventuring on Vancouver Island. Just don’t forget to book your campervan early, especially during the busy summer months.