Despite being born and raised in Vancouver, I didn’t start going to Tofino, a small district on Vancouver Island till three years ago. They say better late than never! Each time I visit Tofino I fall more and more in love with quaint spot, known for its countless sandy beaches and year-long surfing. You’ll definitely want to spend a minimum of two nights here, as the trip from Vancouver can be up to six hours with ferry and driving. Having visited three times, I’ve gathered a few travel tips and made note of some of my must-visit spots.
Where to Stay
A few options here. There’s your budget friendly motels like Marina West – an affordable option if there’s only two of you, especially during the high season summer months. If you have a bigger group (say 4 or more), I would strongly consider booking a cabin. The best spot to find these are Tofino Vacation Rentals – you can also try VRBO. What I love about staying at a cabin is – they’re often a quick walk to one of the beautiful beaches, and you have big shared living spaces and a full kitchen, BBQ’s and if you’re lucky, a hot tub. Do book early, as Tofino has limited availability during high season. I stayed at Wit’s End and loved the secluded cabin with a deck that overlooked the water, perfect for morning coffees. If you are splurging and want to do a romantic getaway – The Wickaninish Inn is the spot.
Where to Eat
You may have enjoyed these delicious tacos in Vancouver – and this truck is where it all started. It’s one of the most popular spots, so there’s often line-ups. Have patience, it’s worth the wait – even in the rain! On the menu, their famous fish tacos, gringas – like a quesadilla, try the kimchi and pork combination and the burritos, my fave is the crispy chicken with guac. There’s ample outdoor seating (uncovered) to enjoy your meal.
Also situated in the same lot with Tacofino is Wildside Grill. Every time I’ve been in Tofino I make a point to pop by to get their gumbo. There’s something about a cozy gumbo on a chilly Tofino day. You’ll also find fish and chips, burgers and more tacos here. Save your receipt and you can walk across the way to Chocolate Tofino for 10% off gelato – you always say yes to their gelato.
You’re on vacation – treats are a must. I was so happy to see a construction crew building an extension to this quaint little chocolate shop on my last visit. Chocolate Tofino is known for their fresh chocolates and gelato. I still have flashbacks about the salted caramel sundae I had before, sadly – they’re closed on Sundays – so I didn’t get to indulge this time around.
Wolf in the Fog
Foodies will most definitely want to make a reservation (fast, the prime times on the weekend are always booked full). Named one of Canada’s top new restaurants, the Wolf in the Fog has a warm and rustic vibe, where you’ll experience plates with locally sourced ingredients, including lots of seafood. They do awesome share plates too – like The Block Party (fried chicken, BBQ ribs, pulled pork, cornbread and greens), Creole Sablefish and Shrimp and Shellfish and Chicken Laksa. The spot is open for brunch/lunch and dinner.
Places to Shop
Loved walking inside this print shop – where you’ll find t-shirts, sweatshirts, prints and mugs with everything outdoors – fish, whales, bears, eagles and wolves. The kid’s collection was particularly adorable. The perfect gift for anyone who loves nature – in my case, my Dad who’s been an outdoorsman since forever.
Caravan Beach Shop
This beach shop is an adorable curated collection of things – you’ll find their signature crewnecks, kid’s Granted sweater vests, cute baby moccasins, Pendleton enamelware and dainty jewellery like skinny rings.
Sometimes you just need to get a little something for yourself. At Habit, you’ll find Hunter and Tretorn rainboots, Brunette Label sweatshirts, Lisbeth Jewellery, Mala Collective beads, dresses from Gentle Fawn and denim from Mavi Jeans and Citizens. All making up that laid back West Coast style.
Things To Do
There’s A LOT of sandy beaches in Tofino. Each time I visit, I can go to 5 beaches in a row and never get bored. They’re all spectacular in their own way. A few of my favourites are Long Beach, Chesterman Beach (named by The Guardian as one of the 50 Best Beaches in the WORLD), Wickaninnish Beach and Florencia Beach – this beach was recommended by a local – it’s where the local’s surf. If you’re staying in downtown Tofino, enjoy the secluded and small Tonquin Beach – it’ll feel like your private beach.
Tofino is known for its surfing. Bring or rent a surf board or sign-up for surf lessons from Pacific Surf School or Surf Sister. I once did a two-hour tour with Tofino Sea Kayaking – I really enjoyed it. Keep in mind, they don’t rent kayaks on their own, just as a tour. Whale watching is also super popular in Tofino, I’ve also done a tour before and we spied pods of orcas, a pretty amazing sight.
Two easy trails (beginner level) to go on a leisurely hike are Rainforest Trail – there’s two loops (A & B), both are about 2KM, with a wooden boardwalk through the forest. I also enjoyed the Schooner Cove Trail, another 2KM hike with wooden boardwalk that leads you to the beach! Make sure to take your time to enjoy the sights and sounds inside the forest and packs snacks and water.