Tofino is not a place you just happen upon. In fact, this town on Vancouver Island calls itself the “Pacific terminus of the Trans-Canada highway.” A former hippie hangout, Tofino now attracts surfers as well as affluent travellers looking for beautiful beaches, unique locations, and fine restaurants.
Although the journey is only 45 minutes by plane from Vancouver, it is well worth taking around five hours to travel by ferry and drive through the giant trees of MacMillan Provincial Park. This rainforest of Douglas fir trees—some more than 800 years old—and towering Western red cedars illustrates Canada’s incredible diversity.
A small town of some 2000 inhabitants, Tofino has kept the bohemian spirit of its hippie days, despite its increased popularity. While it has no chain stores, it does boast some of the country’s finest restaurants, like Wolf in the Fog, which focuses on locally sourced products.
Superb accommodations offer guests a front-row seat to nature’s beauty. Among them, the Wickaninnish Inn, a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association, is also home to one of the town’s most beloved restaurants, The Pointe. The inn overlooks magnificent Chesterman Beach, where you can see students from the Surf Sister school try to stand up on their boards. However, if you are thinking about following their lead, be forewarned that the water temperature never rises above 17 degrees, even during the summer. Regardless of the season, you will definitely need a wetsuit!
The surrounding area also offers much to see and do. Poised between the forest and the ocean, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a definite must, even if only for a short hike. For insight into Indigenous culture, the T’ashii Paddle School offers a guided walk on the Big Tree Trail. Participants paddle a traditional-style canoe over to Meares Island to see the Hanging Garden, one of the largest red cedars in the world, believed to be 1500 to 2000 years old!
A buyer for Groupe Voyage Québec in Western Canada, Marie-Ève Dupuis fell in love with Tofino. One of her favourite local establishments is the Tofino Distillery: “They have the best artisanal gin.” Finally, you cannot leave town before enjoying a sunset dinner at The Great Room in the Long Beach Lodge Resort overlooking Cox Bay Beach, where surfers ride the waves until dusk.
Around a half hour drive from Tofino, the village of Ucluelet has retained a slightly wilder side. Waves crash against the rocks just below the gorgeous Black Rock Oceanfront Resort perched atop a dramatic headland. Winter storms have become veritable tourist attractions. In addition to spectacular views and hiking trails, Ucluelet also has excellent restaurants, including Pluvio, which opened in 2019.
For those who prefer to work with an agency, Groupe Voyage Québec has created summer packages featuring a bear-watching tour aboard a Zodiacstyle boat, as well as winter storm-watching packages.
Whatever the season, one thing is certain: Tofino is the type of place you will want to visit time and again.
Old-time car at the end of Trans-Canada Highway, Tofino
Combers Beach hiking trail