Tofino Travel Guide: 8 Things To Do In Tofino, Canada

If you’re looking for wild and rugged coastal beauty then you need to visit Tofino. It is a small surf town located on the western coast of Vancouver Island, best known for its laid-back vibe, thriving food scene and untamed beaches. Whether you want to go on an active adventure or kick back and relax, Tofino is the perfect spot to add to your Canada bucket list – so, read on for my Tofino travel guide.

The Practicalities

  • Getting There: From the UK you can get direct flights to Vancouver. From Vancouver you need to rent a car, get the ferry over to Vancouver Island and then drive across to Tofino. It’s a long journey but totally worth it. Just make sure you book your ferry tickets in advance. 
  • Getting Around: It is absolutely essential you have a car to explore Tofino and the surrounding area. I highly recommend renting one which is four-wheel drive and high clearance, especially if you plan on doing any of the hikes I suggest. Roads are typically pretty good in Canada but once you get into the wilderness they can get a lot rougher.
  • When to Visit: The best time to visit this region is in the summer months of early July through to early September. However, some people love to visit Tofino in winter to go “storm watching”.
  • How Long to Stay: You probably need about 3 full days in Tofino as a minimum, but having four allows for you to work around any bad weather – which can hit the coast at any time.
  • Price: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Canada isn’t cheap. The prices we experienced reflected those of the UK when it comes to meals, hotels, car rental, etc. So be sure to budget accordingly. 
  • What to Pack: Pack for all weathers, no matter the season. The west coast is wild. Even in the height of summer, the weather can switch from sunshine and blue skies to cold, cloudy and stormy in minutes. Take layers, waterproofs and suitable footwear. If you plan on surfing, ensure you rent a wetsuit as the water is cold. If you need guidance on what gear to take, check out my hiking kit guide here.

A Suggested 4-Day Itinerary

  • Day 1: Go on a morning bear watching tour, followed by surfing, paddle boarding or bodyboarding in the afternoon.
  • Day 2: Take a full day hike up to Triple Peak.
  • Day 3: Go on a morning scenic flight. Spend the afternoon walking from Tonquin Beach down to Mackenzie.
  • Day 4: Take a morning whale watching tour and spend the afternoon at a sauna or spa.

The Best Accommodation in Tofino

Tofino is home to an abundance of beautiful hotels, so there is no shortage of incredible places for you to stay. We ended up at the luxurious Wickanninish Inn and I would go as far as saying that it is one of my favourite hotels I have ever stayed in. The service, the rooms, the food, the setting – it is all on a whole other level. The highlight was our gigantic bathtub, which overlooked the wild waves of Chesterman Beach. It was complete and utter bliss! However, it does come with a hefty price tag and is more suited for special occasions. So if you’re looking for some slightly more affordable options, I have heard great things about The Shoreline, Long Beach Lodge & Middle Beach Lodge.

The Best Things To Do In Tofino

There is no shortage of activities to do in this beautiful region, but here are some of my personal favourites:

  • Go Bear Watching. Tofino is an incredible place to see black bears from the comfort of a boat! The bears have adapted to the coastal location and go foraging on the remote beaches in the area, offering a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with them in the wild. On our bear watching tour, we also spotted hundreds of sea otters and seals too! We used Jamie’s Whaling Station.
  • Eat Delicious Food. Tofino has an absolutely thriving food scene, with plenty of incredible restaurants to choose from – just make sure you book in advance for any evening meals! Our personal favourite sports were Shelter, Shed, Wolf in the Fog, Kuma and The Pointe. Tacofino is a very hyped up Mexican food truck, but in our experience it was a huge let down, I would recommend prioritising other restaurants.
  • Get in the Water. Tofino is surrounded by incredible coastal waters which are cold but beautiful. There are plenty of aquatic activities on offer, from surfing and bodyboarding to kayaking and paddle boarding. You can either take lessons or just rent the gear for yourself. Take your pick, but make sure you rent a wetsuit so you can last in the chilly water!
  • Explore the Beaches. The wild and untamed beaches are what Tofino is so famous for after all! My personal favourite walk was from Tonquin Beach down to Mackenzie. Other rugged beaches to explore are Long Beach, Chesterman Beach and Cox Bay (as well as the lookout above it).
  • Enjoy a Sauna. It can get a little soggy and stormy in Tofino, so a great rainy day activity is to rent out a sauna. We went to Tuff City Saunas and absolutely loved alternating between hot sauna sessions and cold sea swims. Another great option is the remote floating sauna at Tofino Resort – it comes with a seriously hefty price tag, but is great if you fancy a unique treat.
  • Take a Scenic Flight. If I could recommend one thing to do in Tofino above everything else, it would be this. The inlets, lakes and mountains surrounding this small coastal town are absolutely breathtaking when viewed from the air. There are many different flight paths to choose from, including one which takes you to a remote hot springs cove. You may even get lucky like we did, and see whales from above.
  • Go Whale Watching. Tofino has a seriously long whale watching season, stretching from March through to late November. It is an incredible place to see grey whales, humpback whales, killer whales and so much more. I recommend booking through Jamie’s Whaling Station. We were lucky enough to see a group of four whales breaching on our trip, which was an absolutely incredible sight. 
  • Go Hiking. If you fancy a physical challenge then there are a couple of tough trails about a one hour drive from Tofino. Triple Peak and Cobalt Lake are routes which are steep, scramble-y and totally stunning. Plus they aren’t on the typical tourist hit list, so stay super peaceful. Just a warning though, you definitely need a high clearance 4×4 car to access the trail heads.

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Safe travels,

Zanna x