5 years ago, Jared and I found ourselves driving in the dark towards the surf town called Tofino. The location wasn't intentional, but we were serendipitously guided there by a stranger and a map while onboard the ferry headed to Vancouver Island. At that point we had no specific plans, so we decided to take their advice and drive to "the end of the road."
Since we had never even heard of Tofino, we had no idea what to expect. But what we found was beyond what we could have imagined. It was immediately obvious to us this little town on the western edge of Canada was unique. Its remote location combined with its incredible stretch of beaches, old growth forests, islands, mountains, and wildlife made it feel like we had reached Neverland.
Our stay was short but we committed to returning so we could research and explore the location at length. Well, it took us 5 years to return but we made it! And while the town has grown in population and popularity, the magic of Tofino shines even brighter than before.
Where to Spend Time Outdoors:
Cox Bay: We were told by multiple locals that Cox Bay Beach is the most exposed and always has a wave. A paddle out at sunset proved their point as dozens of surfers from beginners to experienced were in the lineup. Not into surfing? Walk the beach from point to point (about 1 mile), look for intertidal zones full of barnacles and starfish and definitely stick around for sunset.
Chesterman Beach: This beach stretches for almost 2 miles and attracts locals and visitors for surfing, sun worshipping, bird watching and jogs along the packed white sand. Time your visit right and you can visit Frank Island, which is located between North and South Chesterman and is only accessible at low tide.
Tonquin Trail: This trail begins near town at the Tofino Community Hall. It's a short out and back gravel trail that leads you through old growth forests and beaches with views of Clayoquot Sound. Two beaches are accessible from the trail; Tonquin and Third Beach. Tonquin is a wide sandy beach great for swimming and seashell searching while Third beach is more of a pocket beach. Both provide quiet and seclusion. Pro Tip: The well-maintained path is great for trail running!
A Float Plane Tour!
Tofino Air- http://www.tofinoair.ca/
#50, 1st Street
Jared and I had been talking about going on a float plane for years. Finally, we thought, what better place to do it then Tofino? We booked a 45-minute glacier tour with Tofino Air and lifted off with 3 other passengers at 5pm. The view from above was unlike any I have ever seen. We flew over islands, around Mount Mariner glacier, through Herbet Inlet, over the picturesque beaches in Tofino and even spotted a gray whale. The beauty of British Columbia was magnified from the air and I could have stayed suspended over the landscape for hours.
What to Eat:
Wolf in the Fog - http://www.wolfinthefog.com/
150 Fourth St - 250.725.WOLF(9653)
Inspired by the forests and ocean surrounding Tofino, this local ingredient-driven restaurant is the spot for a romantic dinner, or gathering place for friends and family. The food shares the spotlight with the extensive cocktail menu. I recommend ordering the Cedar Sour (cedar infused rye, lemon, thyme, egg white) and the Green Soul (the rotating vegetarian dish of the day).
Pro Tip: Request a table upstairs and outside. You'll stay warm with their outdoor heaters while enjoying a view of the water.
Kuma - http://www.kumatofino.com/
101-120 Fourth St - 250.725.2215
This Japanese comfort food restaurant served us one of our favorite meals. Feeling famished on Friday night as we drove into town, we ordered the 'to-go' rice bowls to enjoy in our pajamas in our Airbnb. My miso veggie bowl was topped with agedashi tofu, seasonal veggies, pickled ginger and a sweet miso glaze. Jared enjoyed the chicken karaage bowl complete with cabbage, avocado, tomatoes, yuzu and a smothered in spicy mayo.
Tacofino - https://www.tacofino.com/location/tofino-original-truck
1184 Pacific Rim Hwy - 250.726.8288
You cannot go to Tofino and NOT eat at Tacofino. It would be a sin. My only regret is that we didn't eat there twice, because their fresh ahi tacos are out of this world. In my two times visiting, I don't think I've ever wavered from the fish tacos despite their extensive menu. It's the PERFECT post surf meal but be prepared to wait in line. Tacofino is no secret to visitors and from the time they open to the time they close, they're one busy taco truck.
Where to Shop:
Caravan Beach Shop - https://caravanbeachshop.com/
346 Campbell Street
This lifestyle shop is packed with style carrying surf brands, handcrafted home goods, and jewelry made from local artists. It would be easy to blow your vacation budget in this shop alone, while simultaneously feeling good for supporting local. I had a hard time not purchasing a few prints from Tofino photographer Jeremy Koreski.
Pacific Surf School - https://pacificsurfschool.com/
441 Campbell St
We rented our surfboards and wetsuits from the lovely locals at Pacific Surf School. In addition to having a range of boards to choose from, they have a stocked store of merchandise with their name and logo on everything from hoodies and hats, to patches and beanies.