Tofino is a small somewhat remote seaside town on the western coast of Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, and there are so many amazing things to do here. You feel like you are out of the big city life and all that comes with it when you arrive here but you won’t feel like you are in the middle of the wild.
Surrounded by water lying on a peninsula it is a prime destination for lovers of the outdoors. It’s located in the sprawling Clayoquot Sound and is the entranceway to the multitude of trails and some natural experiences.
It is easy to reach the Island from Vancouver on Canada’s mainland, and taking a road trip to Tofino is one of the best ways to experience it. You will find it truly magical with plenty of stops along the way.
Let’s take a look at some highly-rated things to do here in Tofino!
Walk along the Tofino beaches
Because Tofino is on the peninsula, it is surrounded by water on all but one side. This means there is an abundance of sandy beaches to choose from!
With 10 official beaches to check out, you are spoiled for choice here. Some of the most popular (and therefore slightly busier ones) are Chesterman Beach & Long Beach, which is part of the Pacific Rim National Park. You can expect to see many people taking part in water sports on both of these beaches! Or just walking along the sand. It’s packed in pretty tight so you won’t feel like you are sinking like most beaches.
If you want to avoid people, and would prefer to find smaller and quieter beaches then you’d be better off going to one of these below:
The third beach which is located almost at the “top” end of the peninsula. This beach is a small inlet with rocky terrain on either side of the sand. A perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the larger tourist beaches.
We’ve spoken about the best beaches, but where are the best places to go surfing? One of the most popular things to do in Tofino is go surfing and they have some of the best conditions for the sport right here! It’s been considered one of the best places for surfing in Canada.
For surfers, the best time of year to test out the waves is the fall as that is when the water is at its warmest. The summer sun would have kept the ocean warm all season and it wouldn’t have had time to cool off yet.
That’s not to say you can’t surf the rest of the year, because you definitely can. It will just be VERY cold so bring a wet suit or buy one if you don’t have one. Are you brave enough to give it a go?
Another plus for surfing at this time of year is that there are much fewer tourists so you have more of the beach to yourself. Popular surf spots for the locals are Florencia Bay and Wickaninnish Beach. The most popular spot though in Tofino is Cox Bay.
Visit a Tofino brewery
Tofino Brewing Company is often listed as one of the best things to do after a long day in the outdoors because (almost) everyone likes a drink! You get to unwind from a long day of doing nothing.
As one of only 40 craft breweries on the entire island and the only one actually in Tofino, this is a must-visit. This has been rated as a popular place to visit after a long day at the beach and there’s nothing quite like a cold drink to wake you up.
The Brewery has a limit on the amount of beer they can serve in their tasting room but have no fear. You can purchase customizable crates with a mix of their specific flavors, kegs, and merchandise so you can remember your visit.
Once you are done here you should stop at one of the many foodie-friendly places in town to grab a bite. With these places come great outdoor patios and views, those local ingredients, and a great welcoming feel like you are one of the locals.
Not satisfied by just seeing Whales in the water? What about going out in nature for bear watching too? It’s a fun bucket-list item for any Canada itinerary.
Many of the tour companies that offer Whale tours are also in charge of helping you find bears safely and sensibly. The most common bear you will find here (and across most of the province of British Columbia) are Black bears. These are the smallest of the three bear species to be found in Canada and are found all over the island.
By joining up with an official tour company you’ll be much more likely to see bears as they’re the experts who have learned the bear’s seasonal patterns. Your guides will give you some local history of the area. And this is not the only animal you may get to see while you are out. There are river otters, seals, blue herons, and even a bald eagle or two. A tour usually takes about 2-3 hours but this is well worth part of your day.
Located in the neighboring Pacific Rim National Park, the Rainforest trail is arguably the most popular walking route in the area. Technically this route consists of two trails as each one is situated on a different side of the highway.
There is an elevation gain so you’ll probably experience a bit of a thigh burn whilst climbing up the 731 steps but the forest trail is worth it. If you complete the hikes you’ll be rewarded with overlooking luscious forest views in every direction along with a few natural wonders not to be missed.
Along with unlimited foliage along the boardwalk trail, you’ll also be able to see a few small viewpoints and creeks and the main feature – a giant tree double the size of all those around it. Trust me, it’s worth the walk.
If you crave storms and dramatic weather, then why not visit during the winter months to go storm-watching?
Due to the temperate weather here on the Pacific coast, it doesn’t get as cold as the rest of Canada. With the warmer winter temperatures (sometimes as warm as 6 or 7 degrees C) comes much more chance for impressive weather changes.
Think dramatic sunsets, sideways rain, extremely fast winds, and giant waves. Everything the active storm watcher is looking for. Although storms can be enjoyed all across the Tofino region, one of the best spots is Chesterman Beach due to its huge waves! (Please don’t go surfing during a storm!)
If you’re prepared for the slightly colder weather on the coastline, you can head over to Tofino’s harbor for the start of their Whale watching season in February. The season usually stretches through to April & May when you’re more likely to see the females and their calves swim past.
Grey Whales are the most common species of Whale to be found in the waters surrounding the Canadian peninsula. The western coast of Tofino is along the migration route that the Whales take every year from the warm Mexican ocean up to the freezing Arctic seas.
In the early months of spring, the Whales are known to feed during the protected bays here which is why this is such a great time to spot them in panoramic natural beauty. Multiple ethical tours are available here to safely watch these animals from a safe distance.
Visit the Hot Springs
What’s better than visiting a natural hot spring? Due to the location of the geothermal activity under the earth’s crust here, there are some natural pools that we can sit in – without being cold! There aren’t many places where you can sit in water in Canada that don’t turn you into an icicle.
You normally have to visit the hot springs as part of an official tour rather than independently, but that’s mostly so they can protect the local environment.
When you visit the hot springs you can relax, all while enjoying the stunning natural forest landscape around you.
So Virgin Falls is technically outside of Tofino but it’s such a hidden gem & I highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area. It’s a great place to set up camp and even take a dip if you’re brave enough!
It’s located in the Pacific Rim National Park and is a powerful 53 meters tall. A pretty impressive waterfall with no crowds at all.
To reach the falls you will need to travel through the ancient rain forests and narrow logging roads. This is an active region for logging trucks so you will need to be careful while driving through.
There isn’t much phone service but this just adds to the peace of the National Park and being in such a remote location.
And there we have it, 8 natural places to travel in the small town of Tofino (and one not so natural) for you to enjoy on your visit. This is one of the great destinations for a perfect weekend getaway in BC for both locals and tourists to the country. A beautiful place with majestic nature at every turn on the west coast of Canada.