My children have grown up on the beaches of Tofino, located on the rugged west coast of British Columbia. Every August, we pack our vehicle for the road trip, excitement overflowing to see the wild landscapes and beautiful sandy beaches that Tofino is known for. It is truly our favourite week of the year and we look forward to our annual Tofino vacation all year long. Here are our suggestions for the best things to do in Tofino.
How to Get to Tofino
Getting to Tofino is part of the fun. It’s not an easy task but is very enjoyable regardless of how you decide to get there.
- You can fly from Vancouver’s south terminal on Pacific Coastal Airlines to Tofino or you can fly into Tofino Harbour on Harbour Air.
- If you are driving from Vancouver, you will need to take a ferry aboard BC Ferries. You have two options of departure and arrival terminals. You can leave from Horseshoe Bay Terminal in West Vancouver and arrive at Departure Bay in Nanaimo. Or you can leave from Tsawwassen Terminal south of Vancouver, close to the border, and arrive at Duke Point which is 15 minutes south of Nanaimo.
- You can take a bus using Tofino Bus
What is the best time of year to go to Tofino?
The weather in Tofino is quite mild throughout the year, with winters that are perfect for storm watching and summers that are perfect for surfing. The busiest months of the year in Tofino are July and August and accommodations are often booked up so if you plan to do during those months, make sure to book early. Late spring offers some incredible sunshine in Tofino and fall is mild but beautiful with all of the changing colours.
How many days should I spend in Tofino?
A perfect amount of time in Tofino is five days in my opinion. There is so much to see and do in Tofino and after the effort made to get there, you don’t want to turn around and go home too quickly. You can easily spend just three days but in order to tackle the best things to do in Tofino, we highly recommend spending five days there.
RELATED: Packing for a vacation is important and to make sure you can do the best things in Tofino, we have written an extensive post “Tofino Packing List” in order for you to prepare for your trip.
Here are the Best Things to do in Tofino:
Spend the Day at the Beach
Every day is a beach day in Tofino. From the minute my boys wake up until they fall asleep, they are outside on the beach, digging in the sand, surfing, boogie boarding and just plain having fun. There is nothing like the feeling of Tofino sunshine in the summer and the waves are perfect for kids to safely learn how to surf.
I find our summer Tofino vacation so relaxing because our boys are so active every day, all day long. I can often sit on the beach with a book while they spend hours digging in the sand a short distance away. Or my husband and I will put our wetsuits on and play in the waves while they boogie board. Rain or shine, fog or sunshine, our boys head out the door together and play all day long.
Beaches in Tofino
There are so many beaches in Tofino to choose from. Long Beach is the most well-known beach in Tofino because it is the longest beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Here is a list of the other beaches:
- Chesterman Beach
- Cox Bay
- Wickannish Beach
- Florencia Bay
- Tonquin Beach
- Middle Beach
- Mackenzie Beach
- Combers Beach
- Schooners Cove
Map of Tofino Beaches
Surfing in Tofino with Kids
If you or your kids have never tried surfing, it is absolutely one of the best things to do in Tofino! Kids as young as 6 can easily and safely surf the waves in Tofino and the smiles on their faces when they catch a wave are priceless. The ocean in Tofino is cold so wetsuits are required and I highly recommend the booties to go along with them for younger kids.
Surfing lessons are easy to come by in Tofino and if you are staying at Pacific Sands Resort right on Cox Bay Beach, Surf Sister is located right on site. They provide rentals and lessons and it is a great way to start off your vacation in Tofino. They also have a shop right in Tofino and will provide group and private lessons at various beaches in the area.
If you have surfed before and your kids are comfortable in the water, just grab some wetsuits with booties and a surfboard and head out into the waves. You will be surprised at how quickly kids pick up surfing. They are so much lighter and can easily pop up onto the board while catching a wave.
My kids pictured above were 8 and 6 years old. Both of them starting surfing at the age of six when they felt comfortable being on the board by themselves. My husband stood in the waves with them for hours and held the board for them until they decided they were ready to try it on their own. Please keep in mind that both my husband and I are right nearby in the water with them (wearing our own wetsuits) in case they need us.
Most young kids don’t wade too far out in the water and the whitewater waves are perfect for them near the shore. Our favourite beach for kids to surf is Cox Bay. It is an ideal beach especially if you are staying at Pacific Sands Resort. You can literally walk out the door of your oceanfront accommodation and walk right onto the beach.
Surf Lessons in Tofino
There are many options for taking a surfing lesson in Tofino. Here are some companies that can get you out safely into the waves and have rentals to make the whole experience easy from start to finish:
- Tofino Surf School
- Pacific Surf Co
- Swell Tofino
- Surf Sister Surf School
- Live to Surf
- Westside Surf
Whale Watching in Tofino
Getting a glimpse of Humpback Whales, Orcas and Gray Whales is quite a sight and one that many people clamour for when they come to Tofino. British Columbia’s west coast is known for great whale watching adventures and Tofino is the perfect location as it is part of the migratory path for several types of whales.
Whale watching season in Tofino is from March through the end of October. There really isn’t anything as exciting as watching these incredible creatures breach the surface of the water! Here are some companies offering Whale Watching Tours in Tofino:
- Northwest Ocean Adventures
- The Whale Centre
- Adventure Tofino
- Jamie’s Whaling Station
- Tofino Resort + Marina
- Remote Passage Marine Excursions
Fishing in Tofino
If there is one adventure other than surfing that is synonymous with Tofino it would be fishing! There are a few companies in Tofino that offer specialized excursions just for families and it truly is an adventure of a lifetime. In Tofino, you can fish for salmon, halibut, lingcod, snapper, crabs and prawns.
If you are feeling truly adventurous, you can head offshore and fish for Tuna. I would recommend staying closer to shore if you are with your kids and just enjoy the day out on the water, the fun facts your captain will provide and the endless attempts at catching that big one. There is also a good chance of seeing whales, sea otters, seals, sea lions too.
Companies that offer fishing charters for families in Tofino:
- Northwest Ocean Adventures
- Cleanline Sportfishing
- Tofino Fish Guides
Enjoy Truly Phenomenal Accommodations
We normally book our accommodation at Pacific Sands Resort located on the shores of Cox Bay where they have incredible suites with waterfront views and we can literally just walk out the front door and walk straight out onto the beach. They have an amazing Kids Club during the summer months with different activities each day and it is a really great opportunity for parents to get a few hours to enjoy their Tofino vacation at their leisure.
Each night in the summer months, we roast S’mores around the campfire and it is a hit with kids and adults alike. And the best feature is my opinion is that some of their units have the most incredible patio’s with hot tubs facing the ocean, there is truly no better way to enjoy a Tofino vacation!
Hotels in Tofino
There are many options for accommodations in Tofino but if you are planning on coming during the busy summer months of July and August, make sure you book early. Here are some hotels in Tofino that we recommend:
- Pacific Sands Resort
- Wickaninnish Inn
- Long Beach Lodge Resort
- Best Western Plus Tin Win Resort
- Ocean Village Resort
- Tofino Resort + Marina
- Cox Bay Beach Resort
- Hotel Zed (not located on the ocean)
Where to Eat in Tofino
The restaurant scene in Tofino is thriving and has made our list of best things to do in Tofino because it is such an enjoyable and delicious experience. Even the coffee in Tofino is outstanding. When we had brunch at Long Beach Lodge, the coffee was some of the best I had ever tasted. It turned out that the coffee came from The Foggy Bean Coffee Co. in Ucluelet.
Wherever you eat in Tofino, your tastebuds will thank you and I’m sure you will find some new favourites that will delight every member of your family, even the pickiest ones.
Restaurants in Tofino
When we first started travelling to Tofino over a decade ago, we were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was and how many different options of restaurants there are. There is anything from upscale dining rooms to casual breweries and pubs and everything in between. One ingredient that you will always get fresh is fish so be prepared to eat lots of it!
One of our personal favourite restaurants is The Great Room at Long Beach Lodge. We specifically love it for brunch and the views from their tables no matter where you sit in the restaurant are spectacular. We also love The Great Room because it is a two-minute walk down the beach from Pacific Sands Resort and we can enter directly from the oceanside. It is a true Tofino eating experience.
The following are some pretty awesome restaurants in Tofino that you will want to check out. Reservations are highly recommended especially during the summer months of July and August.
- Kuma Tofino
- Shelter Restaurant
- Wolf in the Fog
- The Pointe Restaurant
- The Schooner
- 1909 Kitchen
- RedCan Gourmet
- The Hatch Waterfront Pub
In addition to dining at restaurants, there are also some pretty amazing casual outdoor options like the infamous Tacofina Cantina food truck or the Surfside Grill at Pacific Sands.
The Best Coffee in Tofino
Like I mentioned earlier, I discovered my favourite coffee in Tofino and there really is no better location to sip that warm cup of goodness. Tofino has some incredibly hip and cool coffee shops and cafes so plan to spend a lazy morning or leisurely afternoon at one of the following:
- Rhino Coffee House
- The Foggy Bean Coffee Co (Ucluelet)
- Tofitian Cafe
- Tofino Coffee Co
- Common Loaf Bake Shop
Relax by the Ocean in Tofino
Sometimes we get so caught up in exploring Tofino that we forget that we are on vacation! Take a break and relax by the ocean and marvel at the wild surroundings. Enjoy the sunshine in an oceanside hammock or sit around by the campfire at night. Or sit on your patio and read a book and listen to the sound of the ocean waves.
One of my personal favourite things to do in Tofino is read a book with my boys in an oceanfront hammock.
Go For a Hike in Tofino
A Tofino vacation is not complete without hiking in the wild, natural scenery. There are endless trails to hike and levels from beginner to advanced. What they all have in common are stunning surroundings and a peaceful setting. The weather changes constantly in Tofino so it is important to come prepared for your hikes with proper shoes and a light rain jacket in case the skies open up and start raining.
One of the most beautiful hikes in Tofino is to the Cox Bay Lookout. The trail begins at the end of Cox Bay and is generally quite an easy hike up to the lookout over the ocean. There are a few places that you will need to scramble over rocks and the hike tends to be very muddy throughout the year.
Hiking in Tofino
- Cox Bay Lookout
- Pettinger Trail at Pacific Sands Resort
- Hike to the Canso Plane Crash Site
- Pacific Rim National Park
- The Big Tree Trail
- Lone Cone Hike
- Walk the Wild Side Trail
- Walk along the Wild Pacific Trail
- Tonquin Trail
Get Some Exercise in Tofino!
You may be thinking to yourself that you have no interest in getting exercise on your family vacation! But it is honestly one of my favourite things to do in Tofino and I look forward to it every year. Take a family bike ride along the multi-use path connecting the hotels and resorts to the village of Tofino. It is an easy and beautiful ride for the whole family. We either rent bikes from Pacific Sands Resort or we bring our own with us. We like to bike from Pacific Sands Resort to get ice cream at Chocolate Tofino which is a short bike ride away.
Getting up and going for morning runs along the beach in Tofino is my favourite way to start my day. The scenery is wild and beautiful, the weather is constantly changing and the peace and quiet are second to none. It is refreshing, vitalizing and energizing and has become a staple during our Tofino vacation.
Running along Tofino’s Multi-Use Path is another one of my favourite things to do in Tofino. This 6km path runs alongside Pacific Rim Highway beginning at the tourism centre and goes all the way into the town of Tofino. The path is designed for a variety of uses including biking, walking and skateboarding. Don’t be surprised to see lots of bikers with surfboards heading to the beach!
Bring Your Dog to Tofino
Beaches in Tofino are dog friendly so you can travel with your furry friends and get in some walks along the beach. Mornings are especially beautiful and quiet and a perfect time to take your pooch out for a beach walk to chase the birds.
Enjoy Spectacular Sunsets
Tofino may have some gorgeous beaches and lush rainforest but nothing compares to the spectacular sunsets that are on display every evening. The sun setting on Cox Bay is definitely one of the best things to do in Tofino. You need to witness the flaming skies over this breathtaking landscape.
There are plenty of spots areas to view the sunsets in Tofino. Enjoy a Tofino sunset from your surfboard, in front of the fire in the comfort of your hotel room overlooking the ocean, on a sunset cruise past Lennard Island or from Tonquin Beach in the heart of Tofino.
History of Tofino
The natives who lived in Tofino before it was named were known as Clayquots and their First Nations traditions were rich on their territory in the Pacific Northwest.
In 1794 a Nootka Convention Agreement was signed by Britain and Spain following their explorations of the Pacific Northwest and trading with the First Nations people. It was signed in order to avoid war in this expansive region. Spanish Captain’s Galiano and Valdez were the first to explore Vancouver Island and also have islands named after them.
It wasn’t until 1792 that the southernmost inlet of Clayoquot Sound was named Tofino Inlet, which honoured the Spanish hydrographer who taught Galiano cartography during his expedition.
In the late 1800s, some adventurous travellers would make their way up the coast from Victoria by hitching a ride on steamships transporting miners and equipment and would mark the early beginnings of tourism in Tofino. But in the early decades of the 1900s, it was known for its long, rainy and rugged winters and was mostly an isolated maritime trading town.
Finally, in 1959 a logging road was built between Port Alberni and the coast and a few years later surfers began to appear on the beaches and makeshift camps were erected in the Long Beach area. This was the beginning of Tofino’s thriving surf culture and in 1970, Pacific Rim National Park was created. After the road was paved in 1972, Tofino became the official western terminus of the Trans Canada Highway.
Other Activities to do in Tofino
- Book a day trip to Hot Springs Cove with Tofino Resorts + Marina
- Spend the day in the village of Tofino
- Take a yoga class on the beach with Tofino Yoga
I hope you enjoyed reading our list of the best things to do in Tofino! There are so many different ways to spend your days and nights and it is truly one of the most magical places on Earth. Let us know in the comments if there is something we should add to the list and we hope you will one day get to experience this wild and beautiful part of western Canada.