Exploring the West Coast

4 Days visiting Tofino

We just returned from a great trip to Vancouver Island. I would like to share my experience with you and I hope you will be thrilled to visit that wonderful region.

How to get to Tofino from Vancouver:

The best way is to go by car to Horseshoe Bay (30 minutes drive from Downtown Vancouver) and from there take BC Ferries to Departure Bay in Nanaimo (Vancouver Island). Price for a standard vehicle is CAD 51.25 and each adult passenger pays CAD 15.65.

BC Ferries offer total comfort for you and your family. There are plenty of clean bathrooms, free wi-fi and a restaurant serving full breakfast (ideal if you travel early in the morning) and also  delicious sandwiches and snacks.

My tip #1: As soon as you park your car inside the  ferry  go to the restaurant because it looks like everyone does the same on board. This way you will get a shorter period waiting on the line.  There are plenty of choices specially delicious salmon, halibut, fries, etc.   Enjoy!

My tip  #2: If you are traveling on busy days (Fridays, weekends and Mondays) or busy hours during the week, it is recommended that you make a reservation. The first time I used BC Ferries a couple of months ago  I didn’t know it was possible to make  reservations on line and we waited three hours to get in a ferry, as  almost everyone got reservations and we had to wait for a free space.  You will pay CAD 18.50 to book a place for your car.

My tip #3: Traveling free! If you have a senior traveling with you and you have  flexible dates, try to use the service between Tuesday and Thursdays as seniors travel free!

From Nanaimo to Tofino:

You will travel along Highway 4, a super scenic highway. As it is usual in Canada,  you can expect excellent conditions regarding road maintenance, road signs and security warnings along the many twisted turns. It can get foggy there. Again, if your dates are flexible have a look on the weather forecast before getting into the road.

Driving time is approximately 3 hours and I recommend you fill up the tank while in Nanaimo as there is only one gas station along the way.

Where to Stay in Tofino:

From campgrounds to 5 stars resorts you will find something that fits in your pocket. Most of the resorts are situated along the coast, between Tofino and Ucluelet.

Tofino crosswalkLovely crosswalk in Tofino’s main street: Campbell St.

What to do in Tofino:

It’s a long list! You can go surfing, kayaking, biking, hiking, sightseeing… The region is so beautiful that when you notice the day is over and you wished you had a day with at least 40 hours!

We took our bikes with us and it was  delightful  to go biking  along the marked trail that runs parallel to Pacific Rim Highway  from Tofino to the Long Beach Lodge Resort (where the exclusive bike trail ends).

Biking along Pacific Rim Highway

Biking along Pacific Rim Highway

Below you will find the attractions we visited during our 4 days in Tofino:

1. Hiking along the Lighthouse Trail in Tofino – This is a well marked trail that starts at the side of Tofino Bike Parking.  If you are staying downtown Tofino you don’t need a car to go there, as it’s only a 4 minutes walk from Campbell Street (Tofino’s main street). The Lighthouse trail has amazing views of the ocean and is very well marked.

Lighthouse Trail, Tofino

Lighthouse Trail, Tofino

2. Beaches: There are several beaches and it’s tough to choose a favorite one! We visited  Cox Bay and it was great to  watch the surfers. We also went to Long Beach, North Chesterman, South Chesterman and Middle Beach

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3. Drive to Ucluelet along the Pacific Rim Highway.  Located only 30km south of Tofino, Ucluelet is a village that should not be missed during your visit. Originaly, Ucluelet had its economy moved by fishing and logging. With logging regulations making it  more difficult to the log industry  and with industrial fishing taking place over artisanal fishing,  Ucluelet has been devoting to a new  form of income: The tourist industry. Many charming B&B and gourmet restaurants have been attracting a growing number of visitors.

We drove there and the Tourism Office was already closed as it was already past five. A nice lady noticed that we found it closed and asked what we were looking for. We said we want to visit the best attractions because we were staying in Tofino.  She was  so kind! She went to pick up a map in her car, showed where we were at that moment and give us the advice to start our visit going to the Lighthouse.  Dear lady, if you ever read this post, thanks again for being so nice! We loved our time there!

Ucluelet Lighthouse:  Situated in a gorgeous location, with a big and free parking lot the Lighthouse and the adjacent Wild Pacific Trail are remarkable attractions!

You can hike along the loop trail (approximately 2.8km) with incredible views to the ocean and  surrounded by centenary trees.  The trail is very well maintained and signed. There is a restroom located along the path that links the parking lot to the lighthouse.

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4. Go Bear Watching.  We went on a bear watching tour with Remote Passages. The tour cost CAD 102.50 per passenger  including taxes. We had Peter as our guide. He  took us to watch the  black bears in a zodiac boat. We saw many bears, including a mom and her cub! Peter was very nice and  managed to get up close to the bears. I highly recommend this company to  anyone visiting Tofino.

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5. Go to Hot Springs Cove. We went to Hot Springs Cove with Remote Passages and they offer you a 10% discount on the second excursion you book with them. It cost CAD 122.32  per passenger including taxes and the described discount.

It’s a larger boat (compared with the zodiac but no toilettes on board).  The excursion takes approximately seven hours. The journey from Tofino‘s pier to Maquinna Marine Provincial Park  where Hot Springs Cove is located is very interesting and we saw many wild life on the way.  Calm waters means a  smooth trip. We saw one whale, many harbor seals and eagles on our way to the Hot Springs.

By boat to Hot Springs Cove

By boat to Hot Springs Cove

When the boat docks at Hot Spring’s pier the guide said we had two hours  to stay there  enjoying the hot soak.

From the pier to the cove it takes approximately 30 minutes walking along a beautiful boardwalk in the middle of a dense forest.  The boardwalk is very well maintained and large enough  for two people crossing in opposite directions.

Boardwalk to Hot Springs Cove

Boardwalk to Hot Springs Cove

There’s a toilet at the beginning and at the end of the trail.

When you reach the hot spring pool there’s a covered room with a bench where you can leave your clothes.  It’s unsupervised, so if you have important documents, camera or cash I recommend you leave your backpack  on the rocks  so you can keep an eye on it while you are enjoying the sun or soaking your body in the hot pools.

The hot water comes from a waterfall at approximately 50 degrees Celsius. The more you get away from the waterfall and to the natural pools, the colder will be the water, so you can find a place where the water is at the exact same temperature as your body. Delicious!

Hot Springs Cove

Hot Springs Cove

Tip 1:  Leave any kind of jewelry (including gold) at your hotel or campsite.  Jewelry can change color due to the sulphur present in the water.

Tip 2: Before leaving home buy water shoes. We bought our water shoes here  paying  only CAD 25.00. The floor is uneven and the rocks can be tough to walk if you are barefoot.

Water shoes

Water shoes

Tip 3: If you use contact lenses take them off before approaching the pool.

On our way back to Tofino the boat came by the open ocean route meaning huge waves and a lot of adrenaline as well! Our guide Mike was an excellent pilot and we felt safe during the whole trip despite the big waves approaching the boat from its right side.

We saw seal harbors, sea lions and one whale and her baby on our way back to Tofino. 

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6. Hike Schooner Cove and go to long beach. This is a  real delight! You buy a pass to be able to park your car along the Pacific Rim Highway. You can buy it at the Tourism Offices located along the highway or at the automatic machine located at the parking lot. Do not forget this. It’s a fee that is important to keep the park the way it is _ gorgeous.

If you only drive along tPacific Rim Highway  you don’t need to pay the parking fee but if you are going to one of the many  beaches or if you will be hiking along the park’s trails you need  to have the  park permit visible on your dashboard.

Schooner trail is breathtaking! You will see an amazing forest while you walk over a boardwalk. At the end of the trail you will be at Long Beach, the most famous beach in the region.

The way back is along the same trail and you will be able to enjoy the magnificent flora once more.

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7. Watch the beautiful west coast sunset.  An excellent attraction while you are in Tofino is the sunset. It’s a show on its own and it’s free! The best spots to spot the sunset  are:  1st Street Dock and the Wharf Street close to the water. I chose the 1st St Dock and had an amazing time there watching the sky change colors as in a kaleidoscope.

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View of inlet and mountains from 1st Street Dock

Where to eat:

There are many options and here you will find where we ate as well as my opinion about each place.

Shelter Restaurant: My husband ate a pizza and I had the salmon + shrimp risotto . The service is friendly and the food was good BUT the amount of food was ridiculous. A very small piece of salmon and a very small amount of risotto.  Looked like a “sample” than a real entrée.

The Great Room at The Long Beach Lodge Resort: Excellent views and excellent food. We had lunch there and our hamburgers were delicious. Mine was a  vegetarian burger and my husband ate the cheeseburger. Fresh and delicious bread with French fries made at the moment. Excellent selection of beers as well.  I highly recommend this place!

The Great Room

The Great Room

Wildside Grill: Very simple place where you buy the food and seat in a covered patio. Wonderful food! We had fresh halibut with fries and it was delicious! They have salmon, shrimps and other seafood selections. They don’t have a license for selling alcohol so… no beers this time! Excellent food and I highly recommend you go there. Free and abundant parking as well.

Schooner Restaurant: Located in the main street of Tofino. Schooner restaurant has great atmosphere and very good food.  They have very fresh salmon served in generous portions.

Sobo Restaurant: Last but not least comes our favorite one. Sobo has remarkable food. The place gets crowded so my advice is that you call ahead and make reservations. Everything there is delicious. The food comes nicely presented and is creatively made. This restaurant is a “must go” if you appreciate excellent food.

Sobo Restaurant, Tofino

Sobo Restaurant, Tofino

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Thanks for visiting and….

Happy travels!  🙂


About CeciliArchitect

World Traveler ~ Photographer ~ Social Media Specialist ~ Tourism Vancouver Certified Specialist ~ Independent Tour Manager and Events Coordinator ~ Blogger ~ Architect & Interior Designer (in my previous life)
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4 Responses to Exploring the West Coast

  1. Rice Jackson says:

    We are definitely going to the same places Cecilia… we need to synchronize our trips next!


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