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How to Get from Vancouver to Tofino +BEST Road Trip Stops

How to Get from Vancouver to Tofino +BEST Road Trip Stops

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There is something about Tofino that just puts people at ease. It is a small surf town on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, known for its long sandy beaches and stellar sunsets. This dream destination has been getting international recognition in recent years, attracting visitors for the spectacular scenery and laid-back vibes.

There are tons of exciting things to do in Tofino, and surfing ranks pretty highly among them. It is the surf capital of Vancouver Island after all! Surfing here should be on your bucket list, whether you’re a pro or have never tried out a surfboard before.

For a small town, Tofino also has lots of good places to grab a meal (Tacofino anyone?) as well as a great brewery.

Tofino is quite remote, but it’s one of the best places to visit on Vancouver Island. It’s located about a 3-hour drive from Nanaimo, the closest large city. There is just one highway in and out of the Tofino area, which is absolutely stunning to drive along, especially in the spring and summer.

Vancouver is where many people start their journey, as its international airport (YVR) is most likely where you’ll fly into if you’re taking a flight to BC. But once you’re in Vancouver, there are a few different options to get to Tofino and some must-see stops along the way.

We will walk you through our top road trip spots and all your options to get to beautiful Tofino!

Get a Shuttle from Vancouver to Tofino

Road with pine trees on the side on Vancouver Island, Canada
Let someone else do the driving!

If you’re not keen on renting a car and making the long drive on your own, you can catch the shuttle from Vancouver to Tofino. Tofino Bus is known as the “Island Connector ” and has stops all over Vancouver Island. There are quite a few pick-up locations in Vancouver, one of them being the Vancouver International Airport, so you can head directly to Tofino as soon as you arrive.  

As of 2023, Tofino Bus is now a seasonal shuttle service operating from May to October. If you can’t find a bookable route online during that time, you may have to call directly to book in advance. Also, take note that you can bring checked luggage along, there’s just a limit of two bags per person.

Tofino Bus is a good option for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the stress of renting a car and driving themselves, but still wants the freedom to explore without a guided tour. If you were hoping for a tour option, we have more info on that below!  

Go on an Organized 2-Day Tour  

View of Tofino Bay from a viewpoint with a totem pole
Tofino is so beautiful!

Okay, when it comes to guided tours, this private tour to Tofino tops our list. You can sit back and relax without any of the hassles of arranging transportation, driving, or organizing activities. You just get to take in those glorious West Coast views and enjoy Tofino to the fullest!

The tour not only includes round-trip transportation from Vancouver to Tofino (with some top Vancouver sights along the way), but it also includes a guided sightseeing tour of Tofino and a cruise aboard a ferry through the Strait of Georgia.

Make sure to have your camera ready for the stunning ferry ride – it’s a highlight in itself. The ride through the strait, passing many of the beautiful gulf islands, has endless photo opportunities. It is not uncommon to see pods of whales or porpoises (they look very similar to dolphins, only usually a little shorter) during the ferry ride. We recommend walking around the outer deck if the weather is nice, and getting the fresh Pacific Northwest air.  

This entire tour is two days long, which may not sound like a very long time, but the guides are so knowledgeable and will give you tons of interesting information that you will likely learn more than someone who spends a week here.

Plus, because it’s a private tour, you can customize it – whether you want to surf at Wickaninnish Beach or hike the Schooner Cove Trail, it’s all up to you!

Book your private tour from Vancouver to Tofino here for $2,575 CAD per person.

Related Read: Check out other Tofino tours to Vancouver here for more options!

Ride in a Seaplane  

View of English Bay from a sea plane traveling from Vancouver to Tofino
Flying out of Vancouver

This option might be a little bit more expensive than renting a car and driving yourself, but trust us when we say that it will be way more epic! Not only will this save you many precious hours in travel time, but it will be a trip that you will not soon forget.

Having taken a seaplane flight in Vancouver where we crossed the Strait of Georgia by air and had a bird’s eye view of all of the gulf islands as well as Vancouver Island, we can say that this flight to Tofino would be even more amazing.  

You have two options for this flight. You can either take the Vancouver to Tofino seaplane flight or the reverse if you’re looking for a cool way to get back and fly from Tofino to Vancouver.

The flight is around one hour, and every minute of that will be absolutely stunning. Not only do you fly across the Strait of Georgia, but you get to see the expanse of Vancouver Island from the east coast to the west coast of the island.  

This option is perfect for those who have limited time and want to spend their time in Tofino, instead of getting there. It is also great for anyone who just wants the convenience of going from harbor to harbor, without the travel time and hassle of driving.

As there is only one highway in and out of the Tofino area, taking a flight allows you to beat any traffic and highway closures (the highway closes often for repairs – more on that in the “Drive Yourself” section below).  

Book your tickets online for either the Vancouver to Tofino route or the Tofino to Vancouver seaplane flight.

Related Read: A seaplane flight (combined with a stop at Butchart Gardens!) top the list of the best tours in Victoria for us!

Drive Yourself and Take the BC Ferry to Nanaimo

Bailey enjoys a coffee on the outside deck of a BC Ferry to Vancouver Island
It’s like a scenic cruise!

This option requires a little more pre-planning than the other options above but allows for the ultimate freedom in your Vancouver Island road trip. We recommend this option for those laid-back travelers who want to take their time and experience Vancouver Island the local way.  

If you don’t have your own car with you, you will first start by renting a car. If you’re flying into the Vancouver airport, you can always follow the signs to the rental car area and rent one when you arrive. However, if you’re going during peak season (May – September), we recommend booking one in advance to make sure there is one there for you, especially if you’re particular about the type of vehicle you want.

We usually use Discover Cars to book rental cars as they have great prices and lots of options between different rental car companies.  

Once you’ve got your car, your road trip snacks, and your road trip playlist, you’re ready to hit the road! You will have to take the ferry over from Vancouver to Nanaimo. If you’re looking to travel from Vancouver to Victoria, you could also take the ferry to Victoria to see the city. You can also start a road trip to Tofino from Victoria from there as well.

Overall, if you’re just interested in going to Tofino from Nanaimo, the ferry to Nanaimo will save you a couple of hours on the road. All the ferry schedules can be found on the BC Ferry website.

There are two options for departure terminals in Vancouver: either Tsawwassen ferry terminal or Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. Both options have ferries to Nanaimo Duke Point ferry terminal.

If you’re going from the airport, Tsawwassen is the closest option. It is also the main terminal in Vancouver, so there are usually more sailings from Tsawwassen than Horseshoe Bay.

Daniel eats a Eggs Benedict on a BC Ferry to Vancouver Island
I must admit it’s pretty relaxing!
Eggs Benedict on a BC ferry to Vancouver Island
The Eggs Benedict is pretty good too!

We recommend booking your ferry ride in advance to ensure that you don’t have to wait at the terminal for multiple sailings if the ferries are fully booked. The fares will run from around $75-$125 CAD for a vehicle and two passengers, depending on which fare option you select.

You do pay a little bit extra to reserve in advance, but it is worth it if you don’t want to risk missing your chosen sailing time. Especially if you are trying to get to Tofino before a highway closure (more on that later).  

There are multiple sailings from 5:15 am to 10:45 pm. You can see the full schedule on the BC Ferries website.  

The ferry ride is spectacularly scenic, so relax and enjoy the view for the two-hour sailing. Be sure to keep your eyes out for whales and porpoises!  

Once you’ve arrived at the Nanaimo Duke Point ferry terminal, you have around a three-hour drive ahead of you, without including any stops. Don’t worry though, the drive is incredible – it’s truly a dream road trip.  

Something to take into account when planning your road trip is the highway closures. The highway into Tofino (Highway 4) is the only way in or out of the area. There’s a section of highway around Kennedy Hill (about 14 kms/8.5 miles northeast of Tofino-Ucluelet junction) that is getting some major upgrades.

While the work is going on, the highway alternates single-lane traffic for that stretch or can be completely closed for hours at a time. When we went to Tofino, the highway was closed from 11 am to 3 pm, so this is really something you have to pay attention to as you don’t want to be stuck waiting for the highway to re-open, especially if you have a ferry to catch. You can find the most up-to-date closure information here.

Related Read: Another road trip that starts from the Nanaimo Duke Point ferry terminal is the drive from Nanaimo to Victoria!

The BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Tofino  

1. Nanaimo

Food and drinks at Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island in Nanaimo, BC
Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island
Bailey enjoys a Nanaimo bar in Nanaimo, BC
Bailey enjoys a Nanaimo bar in Nanaimo, BC

Once you drive off the ferry into Nanaimo, you can hit the road immediately, but there are a couple of notable stops if you want to go at a more leisurely pace!

Of course, you HAVE to try the dessert this city is known for – the nanaimo bar. This classic chocolatey dessert was created here and has three layers including a base of crumbed wafer, coconut, and nuts, custard icing, and a chocolate ganache on top. Hands down, my favorite in the city is the peanut butter crunch nanaimo bar at Hearthstone Artisan Bakery – grab one to eat there and another for the road!

I also like wandering around downtown Nanaimo – known as the Old City Quarter. This historic area is full of neat small businesses with some buildings dating back to the 1800s. Make sure you walk past the striking Nanaimo Courthouse! If you happen to be craving the best BLT while walking around the Old City Quarter (complete with guacamole), stop into Real Food. This is one of my favorite things to eat here, I can never get that BLT-G out of my head!  

Another one of the cool things to do in Nanaimo is to head to Petroglyph Park, which is not too far from downtown. These Petroglyphs are carvings that are over 1,000 years old! It’s a great place to see ancient artifacts without the price tag.

If you love food and drinks by the water, be sure to take a trip to the Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island. Offering a unique perspective of Nanaimo, we had a blast drinking beer and eating delicious fish tacos while enjoying the coastal views on this floating restaurant. To get here, you can choose to take the ferry or kayak your way to the restaurant. It is just as fun to get to this pub as it is once you’re there.

Where to stay in Nanaimo: 

If you’re on a budget, we recommend the Painted Turtle Guest House. This no-frills option may not have TVs or phones in the rooms, but the beds are comfy and the prices are great!  

If you are looking for something mid-range, The Spot is a great place to stay that was just renovated in 2022. This hotel has the typical amenities of a mid-range hotel like included wifi and TVs in all of the rooms.  

For a luxury option, check out Coast Bastion Hotel. This clean and modern hotel has all of the in-room amenities you could want, such as a fridge (which is great when on a road trip and traveling with food!). The location is stellar – right downtown and about 3 km (2 miles) from the ferry terminal.  

2. Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

The beach in Rathtrevor Provincial Park
We woke up to this beach every morning from our campsite!

Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is about a 30-minute drive from Nanaimo. It makes a beautiful place to get out and stretch your legs for a bit, or if you need a bathroom break.

The provincial park is home to HUGE old-growth trees, which are truly a wonder to behold. If you’re wanting to get a jump-start on the beach atmosphere, Rathtrevor Beach is a large, flat, sandy beach perfect for taking a stroll.

At low tide, the beach is 5 km (3 miles) long, and exposes the tidal pools which are so cool to check out – especially if you are traveling with kids! I think this is the perfect spot to have a little picnic on a sunny day. You can also camp in the park overnight if you book in advance on the BC Parks website.  

Related Read: Another gorgeous camping spot (with the largest campgrounds on the Gulf Islands) is the stunning Salt Spring Island, BC!

3. Parksville

Bailey with a meal and wine at the 17 course dinner at Tigh-Na-Mara, Parksville
There was so much food!
Bailey on Little Mountain Lookout for Sunset in Parksville
Little Mountain Lookout!

This town is an amazing beach destination! There are a ton of things to do in Parksville with countless beaches to explore, lots of hiking trails, an excellent foodie scene with delicious local ingredients, and lots of markets and festivals to take in.

If you have the time and are looking to spend more than just a quick pit stop here, we recommend spending the night (or a few!) at Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara. We had our favorite Parksville experience here called the Sip & Dine which let us relax in the mineral pool before indulging in the 17-course (yes, 17!!) tapas-style tasting menu. This was one of the most relaxing dinners of my life, in part because the restaurant has a robe-only dress code. Staying here is a dream, and worth it if you can spare the time!  

Another fantastic spot was Little Mountain Lookout. A winding scenic drive takes you right to the top of the mountain, where you can enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding valley. That’s right, no hiking required to reach this lookout!

If you don’t have the time to stay overnight in Parksville, another thing we loved to do in the town was the Parksville Waterfront Walkway. This walkway has beautiful views of the water and mountains in the distance and is a great option if you’re just wanting to get out and stretch your legs for a little while.  

Where to stay in Parksville:  

The Tide’s Inn is a great budget-friendly motel option. The highlight of this motel is the on-site mini golf! Unlimited mini golf is included in your stay, which is great for families traveling with kids, or couples looking for a fun date night.  

A perfect luxury option would be The Beach Club Resort by Bellstar. This beachfront hotel is gorgeous! We recommend springing for a room with an oceanview balcony.

4. Qualicum Beach  

The Award winning burger at Q Burger, Qualicum Beach
The award-winning burger at Q Burger, Qualicum Beach
Bailey has a coffee at Di-Lile Bakery and Cafe in Qualicum Beach
Such a cute cafe!

This lesser-known little town might be slightly out of the way, but I think it’s well worth visiting for some lunch with a view. Qualicum Beach is right at the foot of Mount Arrowsmith – one of the tallest mountains east of Port Alberni.

This is a town full of artists and artisans, and has the most welcoming vibe! There are a ton of little shops to meander through. If you happen to be there when the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market is taking place (every Saturday from 8:30 am – 12 pm all year round), be sure to check out all of the local vendors.  

If you’re making a pit stop for lunch in Qualicum Beach, we have two recommendations: Q Burger was voted one of the best burgers in Canada, and we can see why! This place has a ton of different burger options, from the classic burger to more imaginative ones. The burgers we had were honestly so incredible, so you can’t go wrong getting anything off the menu.

If you’re not much of a burger person, we recommend stopping in at Di-Lile Bakery and Cafe. This place has the most incredible pastries. I would recommend stocking up and getting some for the road before you leave! The coffee is great too. This cafe is really popular with the locals in Qualicum Beach, so be sure to get there early before everything is sold out. Trust us – you want to get to these pastries before they are gone.  

Where to stay in Qualicum Beach:  

For a budget-friendly option, look into Laurel’s Cottage by Elevate Rooms. This cozy little bed and breakfast is right in downtown Qualicum Beach and includes breakfast!  

If you want to spend a little bit more to stay in a lovely hotel, Crown Mansion Boutique Hotel & Villas is a great option. This hotel is about 600 yards from the beach, and has a beautiful garden. Some of the rooms even have ocean-view balconies!  

The option that we always choose to stay in is Qualicum Beach Inn. This hotel is larger than the other two options, so it has great amenities like a pool and gym. This hotel is in a great location too, just across from the beach.     

5. Coombs

Goats on the Roof Farm in Coombs
How funny!
Bailey poses for a photo in Coombs, Vancouver Island

This quaint little community is a classic Tofino road trip pit-stop for locals on Vancouver Island. The Old Country Market, or as it’s more commonly known, Goats on the Roof Farm has a ton of amazing food (the perfect place to stock up on road trip or picnic snacks!).

They also have a huge variety of homemade goods like ceramic dishware and hand-painted tiles. We bought some of the painted tiles, which are in the style of Spanish-painted tiles, and use them as coasters at home! If you’re a candle lover, they have an assortment of beautiful pillar candles for only $5 CAD each.

You might be wondering about the name of this market … yes, there really are goats on the roof! The roof of the marketplace is covered in grass and there are goats that hang out on the roof during the day just chowing down. It is such a funny sight to see.

You’ll likely notice lots of yellow and black “Goats on the Roof” stickers on the bumpers of Vancouver Island cars, as it’s such a classic Vancouver Island sight. Even if you don’t want to stop in at the market, pull into the parking lot so that you can take a few pictures of the goats before carrying on to Tofino.  

6. Little Qualicum Falls

Little Qualicum Falls, Parksville
It was too cold for a swim the day we went!

As you get close to the halfway point of the drive from Nanaimo to Tofino, stop off at Little Qualicum Falls. Nothing like chasing some waterfalls on a road trip!

The provincial park borders the southern shore of Cameron Lake and the Little Qualicum River runs right through a rocky gorge within the park. The waterfalls here are impressive as they pour off the rocky gorge surrounded by a forest. It’s like a postcard come to life!

You can hike the trails to see a stunning waterfall cascading down into a pristine pool. I recommend venturing a bit further along the forested paths to explore the upper and lower portions of the waterfall. This hike is fairly easy and I’d plan for around 45 minutes to complete the 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) return trail.

7. Cathedral Grove

Daniel stands underneath the largest tree at Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island
This is one big tree!
Bailey poses for a photo with the tallest tree at Cathedral Grove, Canada
You can’t miss Big Tree!

Located within MacMillan Provincial Park, you’ll find the majestic Cathedral Grove. This old-growth forest filled with towering Douglas-fir trees will make you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time or maybe to a different planet – scenes for Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi were filmed here!

This area of colossal trees is easy to miss – at first it just looks like a rest stop on the side of the highway. But for those who are in the know (like you now!), this is one of the top places to visit in BC. You don’t have to visit long to appreciate the beauty of these trees – I’d say an hour or two is plenty.

There are well-maintained trails on both sides of the highway and even stroller-friendly boardwalks. It’s completely free to visit too!

Make sure you take the path on the south side of the road as that’s the Big Tree Trail. Completing this short walk is a must, as it’s where you’ll find the largest tree in Cathedral Grove. It measures more than a 30-foot (9-meter) circumference and has been growing for centuries. In addition to the massive Douglas-firs, there are also groves of Western red cedar. 

Parking is limited so I recommend making this an early morning or later evening stop.

Related Read: Another place to see huge trees on Vancouver Island is the Ancient Cedars Trail near Ucluelet, BC! It’s less busy than Cathedral Grove too.

8. Port Alberni

The waterfront in Port Alberni, BC
Where the coast meets the mountains!

Port Alberni is the last town that you’ll pass through before getting to Tofino, so it’s a good place to stop for fuel – whether you need a snack for you or gas for the car.

There’s no shortage of things to do in Port Alberni if you have some time. When we’re hungry, we always head to the Harbor Quay to eat at its cute waterfront restaurants.

Port Alberni is known as the salmon capital of the world, so if you’re on the hunt for some good seafood, you’re in the right place! The Starboard Grill is one restaurant that we stop in whenever we are in Port Alberni – everything we have had on the menu so far has been great, but the salmon chowder is one that we love and order every time we go now.  

Once you’ve eaten, go for a wander around the harbor. This is the center of a fishing town like Port Alberni and there’s always something interesting to do. On a sunny day, the harbor is such a relaxing place to stretch your legs before hitting the road again. For families, there’s the Waterfront Park and Playground, or climb up the iconic Waterfront Clocktower for the best view.

If you’re feeling like a bit more physical exercise than that, you can hike out to the Hole in the Wall! Many people who do the Tofino road trip will hike out for a photo at the huge hole that was carved into a wall of rock for a pipeline. The hole now has a small waterfall that runs through it and is an essential Vancouver Island road trip photo.  

Where to stay in Port Alberni:  

For a budget-friendly option, Char’s Landing Hostel is a great place to stay. It is located right in downtown Port Alberni. All of the rooms are private, so you don’t have to worry about sharing bunk beds in a dorm room.  

For something a little nicer, check out Hummingbird Guesthouse. This stay includes breakfast (which is delicious), and each room has either a kitchen or kitchenette, so you can cook your other meals yourself if you wish.  

For a chain hotel option, The Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel is our choice when staying in Port Alberni. The location is great, and you always know what you’re getting with a Best Western. 

9. Sproat Lake

The beach in e Sproat Lake Provincial Park outside of Port Alberni
This is one of the best lake beaches on Vancouver Island!

Just outside of Port Alberni, there’s the huge and gorgeous Sproat Lake. There are over 320 km (200 miles) of lakeshore which means beaches galore.

This is a freshwater lake and the water is SO clear you can see 30 feet below! In the summer, this water is decently warm too, so it’s a great swimming spot or you can fish or even water ski. The entire lake is lined with forest, so it’s an absolutely stunning setting too.

One of the best things to do here is hike to see petroglyphs carved into the rocks. To get to these ancient carvings, follow the trail on the east side of Sproat Lake. There’s a well-marked path to a viewing platform and it’s only a short walk from the picnic and beach area. These carvings, known as K’ak’awin, are considered one of the best examples of prehistoric petroglyphs in the entire province!

This is also a popular spot to camp and spending a night under the stars here sounds pretty great to me. Camping fees are also affordable at $13 CAD nightly per party in the winter and $25 CAD per party in the summer.

Like other spots on Vancouver Island, summer is the most popular season with thousands of visitors. But don’t discount visiting or camping in the off-season, you’ll have huge sections of the lake to yourself!

10. WestCoast WILD Zipline

WestCoast WILD Adventures zipline
Photo credit: WestCoast WILD Adventures

If you know us, you know we never miss an opportunity to go ziplining! For an epic road trip pitstop, West Coast WILD Adventures offers tours that will have you soaring through the forest canopy in the wild Kennedy River Canyon.

To get here, keep going along the Pacific Rim Highway, about 45 minutes west of Port Alberni. The tours here are offered four times a day during the ziplining season of March to October.

Get geared up to fly above steep canyons over 6 different platforms. Along the way, we learned a lot about the history of the valley from our guides. Speaking of the guides, they were super conscientious checking our gear and telling us fun facts about the area. We didn’t have any time to be worried about the height!

Tours cost $130 CAD per person for a 90-minute guided zipline adventure. I think you’ll have an absolute blast – the guides make this experience so fun!

Related Read: For more high-flying fun, ziplining is one of the best tours in Whistler! (Seriously, the ziplines in Whistler are epic).

11. Kennedy Lake Provincial Park

Kennedy Lake in Kennedy Lake Provincial Park on the road trip to Tofino, Vancouver Island
Kennedy Lake in Kennedy Lake Provincial Park on the road trip to Tofino, Vancouver Island

As you start nearing the final stretch of highway to Tofino, you’ll find Kennedy Lake Provincial Park. This park has two sites along Kennedy Lake, on the southern edge of the shore.

This is the largest freshwater lake on Vancouver Island and in the summer, this makes a great swimming spot! Or you can set up a picnic on the beach with all of the delicious food that you’ve accumulated on your journey so far.

The park is for day use only, so there is no camping permitted. There is a picnic area that has a wheelchair-accessible pit toilet. There are no designated trails in the park, but it’s a beautiful place to spend some time on the beach! There is even a boat launch if you happen to be towing a boat along with you.  

12. Long Beach

Daniel surfing at Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino
Daniel surfing at Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino

This is one of the main surf beaches around Tofino and Long Beach is a total must-visit. As the name suggests, this is a “long” beach, so there’s a ton of room. We didn’t find it got crowded – even during the peak summer season.

I’d say you want some surfing experience before trying to surf here. The rip can be dangerous close to Lovekin Rock. If you’re just starting out or looking for lessons, Cox Bay Beach (next on our list!) is a better bet.

Even if you’re not into surfing, this is a lovely beach for hanging out and chilling. There are rocks that you can climb on and tide pools to explore. It’s also so nice to just walk along and soak up the views.

This really is an idyllic spot for a beach day in Tofino! It’s stunning on a sunny day with the sun sparkling off the water, but the misty, rainy days have their own magic to them … plus you’ll basically have the beach to yourself those days!

13. Cox Bay Beach  

Daniel and Bailey high five before going out for a surf at Cox Bay Beach in Tofino
Bailey and I about to go surfing at Cox Bay!
Daniel and Bailey kiss at Cox Bay Lookout in Tofino
Cox Bay Lookout!

If you can only pick one spot to go surfing around Tofino, go to Cox Bay Beach. Both beginners and pros love it here and this is where most surf competitions in Tofino are held.

If you need a board or some lessons, there are a handful of surf schools and rental shops around here. We rented our boards from Surf Grove Campground for $55 CAD each for a 24-hour rental, which also included a wetsuit. 

If you’re not interested in surfing, this beach is also a gorgeous place to walk or catch a sunset. I really like walking the entire beach and then taking the short hike up to the Cox Bay Lookout for the best views of the area. It’s a short hike, but by no means is it easy. For 20 minutes, you’ll be on a trail that’s practically vertical, so be prepared to sweat.

However, all of your hard work will be worth it once you get to the lookout point. Here, you can soak in the views of Cox Bay Beach and the mountains in the distance. It’s absolutely breathtaking (literally after that hike!), and you’ll likely want to stay here for quite a while to take it all in. Our best friends got engaged here – so this is an extra special spot for us!

To get started, head to the left end of Cox Bay Beach (when facing the ocean) and take one of the trails. There are many paths to choose from but they all lead up to the same lookout point, so you can’t go wrong. Be warned, though, the trails can get pretty muddy and slippery when it rains, so it’s best to tackle this one on a drier day.

The parking lot on the north side of the beach has washrooms and showers, which is great if you’re getting out of the salt water. Further down the beach, there is a second parking lot with more spaces. You don’t need a Parks Pass here, but parking isn’t free.

14. Tofino

Scenic view of the waterfront in Tofino
The view from the wharf is hard to beat!

You’ve finally arrived! As you drive into Tofino, you can probably already feel the magic of this place. We recommend dropping your car off at your accommodation and stretching your legs by walking around the town and beaches!

There are a ton of little shops to explore in Tofino. If you’re feeling a bit tired and need a caffeine pick-me-up, we recommend checking out Rhino Coffee House or Tofino Coffee Roasting Company if you make it before 3 pm. We always grab a bag of the medium roast espresso “Old Growth” from Tofino Coffee Roasting Company whenever we are in town, as it’s so delicious!  

If you’re looking for the quintessential Tofino Beach experience, head to Chesterman Beach. Whenever a local in Tofino says they are going to the beach, this is surely where they are headed to. This beach was rated one of the best beaches in the world for good reason! The sand is soft and the waves are plentiful. You will have to pay for parking at the beach, but it is so worth it!  

We recommend making a reservation at Wolf in the Fog, an AMAZING upscale restaurant in Tofino. Shelter Restaurant is a personal favorite of ours, but unfortunately, the restaurant burned down in December of 2022. If they have rebuilt by the time you visit, definitely make a dinner reservation!

The one place you simply cannot miss is Tacofino – a little taco truck that everyone stops by at least once while in Tofino! There are other Tacofino locations on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver (including one of the best restaurants in Gastown, Vancouver), but this is the original – complete with the Tofino vibe.

For drinks to celebrate the end of your road trip, make sure to stop in at Tofino Brewing Company. We recommend getting a flight of beers so that you can sample some different options. There isn’t food at the brewery, but there is a little food truck set up beside the brewery if you get hungry.  

Where to Stay in Tofino

jacuzzi at the Cox Bay Beach Resort
The perfect place to relax! Photo Credit: Cox Bay Beach Resort

Now that you’ve arrived in Tofino, it’s time to find a place to stay so you can enjoy this little piece of Vancouver Island. Luckily there are plenty of choices so you can spend as long as you like discovering all its hidden gems.

Tofino does book up in the summer especially, so once you have your travel dates figured out, it’s a good idea to get on booking a room. To help, you can check out our full guide on where to stay in Tofino or these are my top picks below for a variety of price ranges.

Cox Bay Beach Resort – $$$

Right on one of the most beautiful beaches in Tofino, Cox Bay Beach Resort is all about location, location, location! You can easily slip out of your room and be on the beach in seconds to go surfing or just sit on the sand soaking in the view. With in-suite laundry, a kitchenette, and spacious apartment-style lodgings, this will become your home away from home. Check availability at the resort and book online.

Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort – $$

Just off the Pacific Rim Highway and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find the Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort. It’s located on MacKenzie Beach, so every room has a view of the water and you can hear the waves from your balcony. You can even book surfing lessons or rent a board on-site! Breakfast is included too, so you’re all fueled up before you hit the beach. Easily book a stay here through Booking.com.

The MAQ Hotel – $

In the heart of Tofino and close to the harbor, The MAQ Hotel has newly renovated rooms with ocean views. The rooms are small but cozy and the location places you close to restaurants, shops, and activities around Tofino. Or you can enjoy live music at the hotel pub. Rooms can be booked online here.

Related Read: If you’re craving another Vancouver Island road trip, we love the quick drive from Courtenay to Campbell River! There’s plenty of things to do in Campbell River, as well.

Renting a Car in British Columbia

A rural road with Mt Currie in the background
Road trips are the best way to explore Canada!

If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province, and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a seflie in Tofino, Vancouver Island
Thanks for reading!

I hope this blog has helped you plan your trip from Vancouver to Tofino. Whether you’re taking a shuttle, seaplane, or driving here, once you arrive, you’re in for an amazing time exploring this part of Vancouver Island.

If you’re headed to BC soon, be sure to check out our other Vancouver Island blogs or some of our articles detailing travel in British Columbia. We have lots of ideas of places to see and things to do – no matter what season you visit.

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