Tofino’s Top Attractions
There are many routes to the “end of the road, where the ocean begins” in Tofino, British Columbia. Whatever route you take, you’ll be rewarded with the stunning natural beauty surrounding this Canadian gem.
Like all great places in the World, this destination justifies the journey. Only 1,800 residents call Tofino home, and over 1 million tourists visit year round. Located on Vancouver Island’s western coast, visitors come to fish, surf, storm watch, beachcomb, hike, kayak, bike, boat, and enjoy the most spectacular scenery and beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Locals claim Tofino is “half the pace, twice the pleasure!”
Where to STAY:
The Wickaninnish Inn exudes “rustic elegance on nature’s edge”, and has received umerous accolades throughout the years, including #1 Resort in Canada, #1 Resort in North America, and #3 Resort in the World. It’s known as “the original storm watching destination”, where you can see towering 25 foot waves pound the beach and shores around the Inn.
The Wickaninnish Inn is associated with Relais & Châteaux, representing the world’s finest hoteliers, chefs and restaurateurs. Charles McDiarmid, Managing Director, is a native of Tofino and his family established the world-famous Wickaninnish Inn in 1996. His family roots go deep into this community. In 1955, his father, Dr. Howard McDiarmid, arrived into Tofino as the only doctor in the area. Since that time, he’s supported the community with medical care, and made great impact politically and environmentally with the Pacific Rim Park.
Charles shared with us the origin of the name “Wickaninnish is derived from Chief Wickaninnish, the chief of the Tla-o-qui-aht band, and one of the most powerful chiefs in the late 1700’s. The direct translation is, He who no one sits in front of in the canoe.” The McDiarmid family and other residents integrate with the First Nation peoples in the area and everyone respects each other’s ways, and value their dependency on one another, and with nature to live a sustainable healthy life.
To book a reservation call #1.800.333.4604, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to DO:
1. Take a surfing class!
Surf Sister School offers professional & fun surf lessons to groups or you can have a private lesson.
We signed up for the beginner’s course and learned how to use the surfboard in the water, the “pop-up” technique, and surf etiquette, then went into the water to ride Tofino’s gentle waves on Cox Bay. Co-ed lessons are available for all ages, so bring your family, husband/partner, friends, sisters and catch a wave!
2. Go Fishing!
Tofino is a prime habitat for B.C. salmon and halibut. We met Adam, our fishing guide of Clayoquot Ventures at Dock #4, and headed 20 mins. offshore to the Pacific Ocean to fish for Chinook Salmon. Adam took us straight to one of the saltwater “hot spots”, rigged our gear, and dropped the downriggers to 160 ft. We trolled the waters for 2 hrs without much luck, and then at slack tide, Adam put us on an 11 lb. King which we reeled in. Shortly after, we finished our charter reeling in a nice Quillback Rockfish.
Adam’s wife Claire and daughters greeted us as we came back to the dock. Adam prepared the fish at the cleaning station, and made arrangements for fish processing so we could take it home. Book your Tofino Fishing for your saltwater or freshwater charter – Salmon & Halibut, Inshore Saltwater Fly Fishing, or Inshore Light Tackle Salmon Fishing at Clayoquot Ventures, call #1.888.534.7422
3. Fly Over Tofino
We loved our flight with Atleo Air: Our Pilot Dan said, “You haven’t seen Tofino until you fly over it!” To truly get oriented and see where Tofino is on the map, you’ll want to take a seaplane flight. The scenery is majestic and jaw dropping! This is the best way to see the pristine landscape, Tofino, and the surrounding islands, mountains, and shores of Vancouver Island.
You may get lucky just as we did and see a Grey Whale! For a breathtaking scenic flight throughout Clayoquot Sound, Barkley Sound or the West Coast of Vancouver Island, book your reservation with Atleo Air located at the Wingen Lane Dock in Tofino.
There are several hiking trails in the Pacific Rim National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and surrounding areas of Tofino, like the Tonquin Trail. We heard the vistas from Radar Hill trail are magnificent! You need to do at least one as you visit Tofino Top attractions!
5. Spa Day
Check in at the Ancient Cedars Spa: this spa is a sanctuary surrounded by nature! It’s located on the Ocean level of the Wickaninnish Inn at the Pointe. Guests sit outside; dip their feet into the giant copper pans warm foot bath, as they sip a cup of comforting tea and lookout to the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
After this welcome, guests surrender to signature treatments like the Sacred Sea Thalassotherapy, Hot Stone or Lomilomi Massage, in the “Rainforest Haven” or “Cedar Sanctuary” treatment rooms. After a soothing treatment, you’ll find your body, mind, and spirit at peace.
6. Walk a Beach:
Beachcombing and tide pooling are traditions in Tofino. Locals and tourists spend hours strolling along these beaches and get lost in its tidal rhythms. Our favorite beach to stroll was Chesterman’s Beach at the Wickaninnish Inn. The Inn has complimentary Wellington boots and yellow slicker jackets you can borrow for your walks. If you want a really long beach walk, head to 6 mile Long Beach, the largest and the longest beach in the area.
After a long beach stroll, retreat to your Wickaninnish room and warm up by the fireplace and read. Or wrap yourself in a Hudson Bay blanket provided in the room, and sit on your private balcony to take in the vistas. There are many places to relax at this Inn and enjoy nature. Word of Caution: check the tide schedule before you head out to Frank’s Island, or you will be stranded til the tide ebbs!
7. Watch a storm!
Many visitors come to this area during the months of October – April to experience the dramatic Pacific storms. Giant waves ride into shore and you can see the power of nature up close.
8. Take a Yoga Class
We recommend the one at Ancient Cedars Spa: we attended a small class for a Hatha Yoga session with an experienced instructor who shared personalized guidance. After class, our teacher cocooned us in warm blankets as we relaxed on our mats, and listened to the wind and the crashing waves outside.
9. Visit Artist Studios:
“Feather George”, is the nickname of George Yearsley – the Wickaninnish Inn’s Resident Carver.
10. Dine! Dine!
Saving the best for last on this list of Tofino Top Attractions! Tofino is a culinary destination! This town’s boat-to-table food culture thrives here with talented chefs, farmers, fishermen, harvesters, and purveyors. Chef’s creations are inspired by the season’s bounty, and local abundant supply of fresh produce and fish.
In fact, every May, there’s a Feast Tofino, a month-long celebration of coastal food featuring resident and regional chefs, special events and exquisite menu features. We met visiting Chef Trevor Bird from Fable during the Themed Week for Shellfish. #feasttofino www.feasttofino.com. Click here to see our list of dining recommendations.
HOW TO GET TO TOFINO?
One option is to take the Vancouver B.C. ferry to Nanaimo, or Victoria Clipper to Victoria, then drive to Tofino, or you can drive the entire distance to Tofino. The quickest way to get there though is to fly Kenmore Air to Nanaimo, then drive the scenic Pacific Rim Highway from Nanaimo to Tofino.
Kenmore Air: Kenmore brings Tofino closer to anyone who departs from Seattle. Known as “The Peninsula’s fastest Seattle connection”, we booked one of the daily non-stop flights on Kenmore Air Express from Boeing Field direct to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in B.C. Canada. Kenmore offers complimentary ground shuttles, and makes it easy to fly out of Seattle’s Boeing Field. We flew over the scenic San Juan Islands towards Vancouver Island, and arrived to our destination in about an hour. You can reach Tofino by car, ferry, but if you want a fast, convenient and stress-free way to get there, fly Kenmore Air!
It’s easy to escape the ordinary and discover the extraordinary on Kenmore Air with daily flights to over so many spectacular Northwest destinations. The scenic views are unforgettable! Book a flight online or call #866.435.9524
Budget Nanaimo Car Rental:
Once landing at the Nanaimo terminal, we exited the Kenmore flight, went through customs, and arrived to the Budget Nanaimo Car Rental counter. It took a minute to sign the agreement and get our keys, and we were on the road headed west to Tofino!
Nanaimo is the Gateway to Tofino, and the ~2.5 hrs drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is beautiful – we think it’s one of B.C.’s top scenic drives! Once you get onto Highway 4 – the Pacific Rim Highway, the road winds through the spectacular Cathedral Grove and historic Port Alberni, then you past Sprout and Kennedy Lakes. Keep a lookout for the Old Country Market where goats feed on the grass covered roof of a remote country store.
When you arrive on the west coast, you’ll take a right onto the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway. From the highway, take a left and stop at the Kwisitis Visitor Center, located within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and you’ll find beaches and trails where you can stretch your legs. Or from the highway, on the right, stop at the Tourism Tofino Visitor Centre for some helpful information about the area. As you approach Tofino, there are cottages and resorts tucked into the forest lined beaches that stretch forever along the Pacific Ocean coastline.
Budget Nanaimo Car Rental, 33 Terminal Avenue South, Nanaimo, BC, V9R 5C4, Canada
Book a reservation at: 250-760-7368
Acknowledgements: we’d like to thank Wickaninnish Inn, Kenmore Air, Budget, Tofino Fishing, Surf Sisters, SoBo, The Spotted Bear, Red Can, Wildside Grill, Atleo Air, and the Tofino Tourism Office for hosting us during our stay!
By: Patricia Stone, a travel writer and consultant