How to explore Tofino in 3 days
Travelling to Tofino, B.C. has been on my bucket list for a very long time. I have travelled quite a bit in Canada, especially within BC, but I haven’t been to Tofino all these years. We were supposed to go in 2020 for a wedding but it was cancelled due to Covid. We finally got a chance to do it, and WOW, what a beautiful place!
Let me share how to explore Tofino in 3 days
We left Kelowna on Thursday and stayed the night in Vancouver. We were up bright and early to catch the first ferry at Horseshoe Bay (we weren’t able to get reservations with it being a long weekend). Once we arrived to Nanaimo, we started our journey to Tofino which is about a three hour drive down Highway 4. We stopped at Cathedral Groves (otherwise known as Macmillan Provincial Park) to check out the old growth trees. It’s about a fifteen minute walk and the trees are MASSIVE! I highly recommend checking it out. It is right before you hit Port Alberni so make sure you look out for it on the left hand side.
The road to Tofino is quite windy but it was a such a clear day so we could see all the mountains and lakes. The big lake you’ll notice on the right hand side is Cameron Lake. We stopped in the little town of Ucluelet which is about half an hour before Tofino. It’s a cute little village known for its fishing. We stopped at a local coffee shop called Zoe’s to grab a cup of coffee for our walk to the Lighthouse Loop. The walk is easily accessible and takes you right up to the Amphitrite Lighthouse. The lighthouse is build like a bunker to withstand the forces of the sea.
After we left Ucluelet, we continued onto the last stretch to Tofino. What’s really cool is that they developed a multi-use trail through Pacific Rim National Park that connects Tofino and Ucluelet if you wanted to bike. The point of the trail is to link the two towns in an environmentally friendly way.
We stopped at our first beach of many, Long Beach, which is between Ucluelet and Tofino. I can see where it get its name from as the beach is over 15 km long and it’s the longest beach on all of Vancouver Island.
After visiting Long Beach, we finally arrived in Tofino! My initial thoughts was that it reminds me of Mexico. The blue sky and beaches makes it feel like you’re somewhere tropical, but it’s in Canada! You drive down the main drag and there are several resorts and shops you can turn off to visit. Once you continue down to the end, you finally make it to the downtown area. We stayed at the Tofino Resort + Marina which was right on the water.
With the resort being located on the edge of town, it was easy to walk to all the local shops and restaurants. 1909 Kitchen was just footsteps away so we made use of that a lot (as you could tell if you were following me on Instagram stories). As well, the marina was below the resort so we would go down there for walks every morning with coffee.
I highly recommend booking accommodations as far as you can in advance. The hotels in Tofino fill up quite quickly and it was hard for us to even book ours. If I were to go to Tofino next time, I would love to stay at the Oceanfront Cabins or the Best Western, as both sit right on Mackenzie Beach. Or if you’re looking to splurge, definitely check out Pacific Sands Resort.
Once we settled into our hotel, we took a walk downtown to get our bearings. The downtown is super cute, there are no stoplights, and no chain restaurants or businesses. It gives me Nelson/Banff vibes with it being home to many cute boutiques and shops. I didn’t realize how small Tofino actually is. It’s a town of 2k people with much of the population not even being from Tofino. During the day time it’s hustling and bustling but once the evening hits, it quiets down. The downtown core has a lot of charm with it facing out into a peninsula. We actually bumped into a couple pay phones which we don’t see around anymore!
The first eatery we ran into was Savary Pie Company. Of course I had to have a piece of pie and it was delicious!
For dinner that night, we had reservations at 1909 Kitchen. I also recommend booking resos as again, the restaurants fill up very quickly in Tofino! 1909 is known for their amazing wood fire pizza.
They have have a more casual laid back vibe which we loved. Attached, is the Hatch Pub which has live music some nights. 1909 turned out to be one of our favourite spots so we dined there three times in total and had really great service.
The next morning, we checked out 1909 for breakfast. We both got eggs benny and morning bevvies!
We then went walking downtown and checked out the morning market. It was a beautiful day so we went to check out a couple beaches, first starting with Mackenzie Beach. This is a popular beach for families and it’s more sheltered than some of the other beaches.
We then went to see Chesterman Beach which I enjoyed since it’s very sandy. There was some fascinating rocks which we climbed on to watch the waves and surfers. There were so many sea shells so we gathered some to bring back to the hotel with us.
For dinner that night, we checked out The Schooner Restaurant, a steak + seafood house. We both got a peppercorn steak and shared a french onion soup. It was pretty good, but quite expensive!
After dinner, we head to Tonquin Beach which ended up being my favorite place we went to in all of Tofino. It’s kind of tucked away on the edge of town and the only way to access it is by the Tonquin Trail. The trail makes you feel like you’re in a jungle and opens up to the beach. We saw so many starfish here and enjoyed watching the sun set behind the mountains.
Our final day, we got up and checked out Rhino Coffee House for coffee and donuts! We had heard that their donuts were to die for, so we split an apple fritter.
For lunch, we lined up to try the famous and original Tacofino! It had a massive line up but we were willing to wait. If you don’t know, Tacofino is a food truck that serves Mexican food. There are several locations in Vancouver but the first one was created in Tofino. We both got a chicken taco, as well Mason got a beef taco and I got a vegan taco. They all were tasty, but we both loved the chicken taco the best! I feel like there is a lot of hype surrounding Tacofino but it definitely is one of those places you just have to try.
Another popular place we ate at was Chocolate Tofino. They make gelato fresh daily so we both got a generous scoop of gelato in a waffle cone! We both got summer strawberry and I got white chocolate raspberry and Mason got hedgehog (Dutch chocolate with hazelnut). It was sooo yummy!
After that, we went to check out Cox Bay Beach. It’s a good 10 minute walk to the beach and has a lot of driftwood upon the shore. We attempted to do the Cox Lookout hike but it was too muddy.
For dinner, we went to one of Tofino’s finest restaurants, Wolf in the Fog. It is one of the more higher end restaurants which was neat to check out, but it is very expensive. A cocktail is about $18 on their menu. Our favourite restaurant was still 1909 Kitchen but it was fun to check out Wolf in the Fog as well.
The next morning, we were up bright and early and made our way back to Kelowna!
And there you have it! I have no doubt you’ll fall in love with the laidback town of Tofino. From the beautiful scenery, the restaurants, and the culture, it’s the perfect Canadian getaway! It’s definitely a little surfers town, so if you’re ever wanting to attempt surfing, this is the place to do it. Something I didn’t know about Tofino is that it only reaches a high of about 20 degrees in its hottest months. It is pretty cool for the rest of the year and has icy cold waters. That being said, that doesn’t stop anybody to go surfing! People will throw on a wetsuit and go surfing even in the winter. Surf shops are everywhere so you can easily find rentals and take lessons as you need.
My favorite part of Tofino is definitely the incredible restaurants and the beaches! They have some of the best beaches I’ve ever visited and a fantastic food scene. If this isn’t enough to keep you busy, other activities we wanted to try were:
-taking a boat ride to Hot Springs Cove (currently closed until further notice)
-surfing, when it’s warmer 😉
-bonfire on the beach
-Tofino Brewery Company
-Tofitian Coffee for a cup of joe
-The Great Room @ Long Beach Lodge
-Salty’s Buns (Ucluelet)
To summarize my Tofino takeaways:
- Tofino is very expensive so be sure to budget wisely.
- Dress warm! It can get quite chilly there.
- Reservations! The ferries to get to the island, restaurants, and accommodations. Book your accommodations as far in advance as you can to get your desired place. The restaurants also book up quite quickly. And of course, booking a reservation for the ferry makes your life easier.
- The road to get to Tofino currently has construction closures so plan ahead if you’re going! Check out this website here. Because it’s a trek to get out to Tofino, I would recommend staying for a minimum of three days like we did so you can get the most out of it. If not, at least going for a full day trip!
- Tacofino + Chocolate Tofino are tourist attractions so be prepared to wait in long line-ups!
Thanks for reading!