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18 BEST Stops on the Drive from Victoria to Tofino (2024 Guide!)

18 BEST Stops on the Drive from Victoria to Tofino (2024 Guide!)

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No visit to Vancouver Island is complete without spending some time in the magical surf town of Tofino. As one of the best places on Vancouver Island, this tiny town has that ‘je ne sais quoi’ element, or x-factor if you will, that makes everyone who visits it fall in love with its charms! Yet, for such a popular tourist spot, it’s a little hard to reach and is quite a lengthy drive from the two major cities on the island, Nanaimo and Victoria.

The capital city of BC – Victoria – is by far the most popular starting point for all Vancouver Island road trips. Why we recommend driving to Tofino instead of joining a guided tour or getting the bus is because you can stop off along the way where and when you please. Basically, you have the freedom to make the journey as short or as long as you like.

In saying that, we suggest allowing a minimum of two full days for this 317 km (197 mile) drive, stopping off, and spending the night in Duncan or Nanaimo to break up the drive. Without stops, this drive will take you just over 4 hours, but we definitely don’t advise rushing it because there’s so much to see along the way, like the totem pole capital of the world (Duncan) and the breathtaking Goldstream Provincial Park!

Born and raised in the neighboring province of Alberta, I’ve been lucky enough to complete this road trip countless times over the years, and so I’ve experienced all of the stops listed below and can vouch that they’re all worthy of your time. In this blog post, you’ll read about my 18 suggestions for your road trip between Victoria and Tofino!

Related Read: You may also want to check out our guide on how to get from Vancouver to Tofino if you’re coming from that direction!

About the Drive from Victoria to Tofino

the road with fall colored trees on wither side on the drive to Tofino
Heading to Tofino!

The drive from Victoria to Tofino is one of Vancouver Island’s most popular driving routes because it connects two major tourist destinations and is exceptionally pretty. It truly highlights the best of this idyllic island!

Without stops, this route will take around 4 hours and 20 minutes (317 km/197 miles), but it would be a real shame to drive this scenic road without stopping a few times! There’s so much beauty to be discovered from the newly opened Malahat Skywalk, which offers epic views and a fun slide to the pretty town of Ladysmith which is actually Pamela Anderson’s hometown.

As I mentioned above, we recommend two full days to complete this road trip because really it’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination! This trip incorporates so much from other-worldly provincial parks (hello Goldstream Provincial Park), wild and rugged beaches (Long Beach and Cox Bay Beach), and even a couple of bustling towns (we’re looking at you, Duncan and Nanaimo!).

To ensure you make it to as many of the 18 stops listed below as possible, you’ll need to spend the night in either Duncan or Nanaimo – both of which have loads of great accommodation options. The itinerary below is spaced out so that you’re stopping about every 30 minutes, but you can cut that down to just a few select stops if you want to make it to Tofino quicker.

Before you begin this particular road trip, there are a few things to note:

  • In winter, you won’t need winter tires, unlike other parts of BC – that’s because the weather in this part of Vancouver Island is much more temperate.
  • In the summer, you should prepare for traffic along the way as it’s the busiest season.
  • Also, parking can sometimes be a problem at popular attractions like Goldstream Provincial Park and Little Qualicum Falls during the busy summer season. So at this time of year, your best option to avoid the crowds is to hit the road early in the morning.

Something you’ll also need to consider when planning your road trip are any road closures. Highway 4 is the only way in or out of Tofino. And a section of the highway near Kennedy Hill (about 14 km/8.5 miles northeast of the Tofino-Ucluelet junction) is undergoing some major upgrades at present.

While the work is ongoing, the highway alternates between single-lane traffic or being completely closed for hours. When we visited Tofino, the highway was closed from 11 am to 3 pm! Planning ahead is essential as you don’t want to be stuck waiting for the highway to re-open. You can find the most up-to-date closure information here.

BEST Stops on the Drive from Victoria to Tofino

1. Victoria

Flowers and Victoria harbor on Vancouver Island, BC
Victoria Harbor is so beautiful!

Most likely, you’ve arrived into Victoria via ferry from Vancouver. Before you hit the road, you’ll want to spend at least a full day exploring the capital city of BC! Ideally, you should spend a few nights in Victoria to really get a feel for this pretty city! There’s so much to see and do in Victoria, but a few of our highlights include wandering through the colorful Butchart Gardens or one of the top Victoria tours is heading out on a whale watching cruise to see the “giants of the sea” up close! 

Victoria is named after Queen Victoria, and in keeping with its “royal” vibe, several castles are sprinkled in and around the city. The best one, in our opinion, is Craigdarroch Castle, an unforgettable Scottish Baronial mansion. You can visit the castle alone and take your time, or book this bike tour which also visits Beacon Hill Park and the Legislative Building. 

If you happen to be visiting in the summer or get a sunny day at any other time, you should head out for a walk along the beach next to Dallas Road, which offers awe-inspiring views of the Olympic Mountain range. If you’re traveling with kids, then be sure to hit up Cordova Bay Beach, where the little ones can climb on the large pieces of driftwood scattered along the sand and search for clam holes, which funnily squirt water on you. Another great beach nearby is Gonzales Beach, nicknamed “a little piece of Hawaii in BC” as it offers soft sand and ideal swimming conditions. 

We believe no visit to Victoria is complete without spending a few hours walking around the spectacular Butchart Gardens. As a matter of fact, it’s one of my favorite things to do in all of BC! Your eyes will be treated to a myriad of colorful flowers and plants, and if you have time, you can enjoy afternoon tea here. The Rose Carousel is a local favorite and a good idea on a nice day is to grab a gelato, take a seat and admire the scenery.

You can visit without a guided tour, but it’s worth noting there are some excellent Butchart Gardens tours from Victoria that stop here, including this private luxury tour that takes you strolling through the flower-lined paths of the gardens along with time for sightseeing around the city.

Did you know that Victoria is home to the oldest Chinatown in Canada? And interestingly too, Fan Tan Alley, one of the most famous streets in the district, is the narrowest commercial street in North America. It’s so photogenic and boasts some pretty cool little stores.

You can explore Chinatown on a walking tour in Victoria or on your own. Make sure you pop into Dumpling Drop and try their delicious handmade dumplings. The story behind this eatery is lovely – the owner was caring for her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, when she decided to open the shop, and she found that having her mother help her create the dumplings helped with her muscle memory.

Of course, for wildlife lovers, a whale-watching tour from Victoria is also a must! This half-day whale-watching adventure takes you looking for orcas and humpback whales and includes complimentary photos and a whale sighting guarantee. If you don’t see whales on that tour, you can go again for free until you do!

Where to stay in Victoria

Before you depart on your road trip to Tofino you should consider spending a night or two in Victoria, here are some of our favorite accommodation options for this stunning city!

Helm’s Inn – $

This budget-friendly hotel is a great option when traveling in Victoria. All of the rooms at Helm’s Inn are suites equipped with kitchenettes, so if you’re looking to save a bit of money and cook a few of your meals yourself, this is a great amenity to have! The location is fantastic as well, right across from Beacon Hill Park and walking distance to downtown!

The Embassy Inn – $$

The Embassy Inn is right in Victoria’s downtown inner harbor, so it makes an amazing home base for exploring the city! If you’re flying into the harbor airport or taking the downtown connector ferry from Vancouver, this is one of the best places to stay as the hotel is right near the docks. Breakfast is included, which helps cut costs.

Fairmont Empress Hotel – $$$

The Fairmont Empress Hotel is definitely a luxury option, but it is the most iconic Victoria hotel. The Empress is the beautiful chateau-style hotel that you see front and center whenever you see a photo of Victoria’s downtown inner harbor skyline. The rooms are stunning, and they even have high tea in the tearoom.

2. Goldstream Provincial Park

Bailey walks down some steps in Goldstream Provincial Park, Vancouver Island
Walking along the boardwalk at Goldstream Provincial Park!

Goldstream Provincial Park is only 16 km (10 miles) from Victoria, but it feels like a whole different world – one filled with old-growth forests, waterfalls, and wildlife.

You can spot Chum salmon between October and December as they return to the Goldstream River to spawn. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles during the winter, too – there’s a good chance you’ll see one or two swooping down to catch the salmon.

If you visit during the summer, we recommend bringing your swimwear and swimming in the Goldstream Falls. These gorgeous waterfalls are the perfect spot to cool down on a hot day and soak in the area’s natural beauty.

There are several other waterfalls in the park – in fact, there’s even one named Niagara Falls! But don’t get confused; this waterfall is only a fraction of the size of the real Niagara Falls. However, it’s still worth seeing if you’ve got the time.

Goldstream National Park also has many hiking trails to explore. You’ll pass by 600-year-old Douglas fir trees venturing through forests on a series of paths. What’s great is that there are accessible pathways for strollers or wheelchairs, as well as more challenging hikes where you’ll pass by abandoned gold-digging sites from the Gold Rush.

If you’re a camping enthusiast, you can stay overnight in the park’s campground, which we highly recommend. Reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s best to get there during the week, especially if you’re visiting during peak season (between May and September).

3. Malahat Skywalk

The slide at the Malahat Skywalk in Malahat, British Columbia
The slide at the Malahat Skywalk!

The next stop on your drive from Victoria to Tofino is brand-new (having only opened in 2021), and it offers some of the best views on Vancouver Island! The Malahat Skywalk is set within the beautiful Cowichan Valley and is part of the traditional territory of the Malahat Nation. In fact, developers partnered with the Malahat people to operate the Skywalk, so it’s a great spot to learn about the importance of this region to the Malahat people. 

Would you believe it cost a mighty $17 million CAD to build? The Skywalk was built in under two years and is constructed from steel and Douglas Fir timber. 

Visiting the Malahat Skywalk will take you an impressive 250 meters (820 feet) above sea level. Follow the gentle spiral walkway that takes you up to a viewing platform. You’ll slowly wind your way up the walkway until you’re at the top, and now the tops of those ginormous trees are below you, so you’ll be treated to some amazing 360° views! 

There is also a net at the top with a large drop below it, showing you just how high you are from the ground. I admit it’s pretty scary to walk on, but totally safe. Once you’ve finished taking in the views up here, it’s time for the best part – the huge slide! Yep, you can slide down the 20-meter (65-foot) slide. It takes just 8 seconds to reach the bottom and is a pretty epic ride. 

The Skywalk is wheelchair and stroller friendly, so everyone can experience the amazing views! Adult tickets are $34.95 CAD, children are $20.95 CAD (but kids under five are free!), and seniors are $30.95.  

4. Mill Bay

Bailey sits at a table at BruGos coffee with coffees and snacks
BruGos is the perfect road trip stop if you’re hungry!

The little village of Mill Bay is a nice place to stop and grab a coffee or something to eat. If you need a caffeine kick, we loved BruGos Coffee. They make great hot drinks, and the baked goods are super tasty!  

If you feel super-hungry and a pastry won’t cut it, we recommend checking out Bridgemans Bistro. They have a bunch of burger/sandwich options and great pizzas too! Their happy hour is from 2-5 pm, so bonus points if you’re there during that time!  

If taking a stroll on a beautiful orchard sounds up your alley, stop in at Merridale Cidery & Distillery. The farm here is stunning, and the cider is even more delicious! If you happen to be there on a Saturday, you can book orchard tours, or you can also do a self-guided tour if you prefer.

The Farmhouse Eatery at Merridale has delicious food if you need something to soak up the cider and spirits. You can even spend the night here in a yurt (a circular wood-frame tent). They sometimes host events like picnics and live music, so check their website to see if anything is happening on the day you plan on going.  

5. Duncan

Worlds thickest totem pole in Duncan, BC
The world’s thickest totem!
A bald eagle at the Pacific Northwest Raptors show near Duncan, BC
A bald eagle at the Pacific Northwest Raptors show near Duncan, BC

There’s more to Duncan than meets the eye! Sure, when you’re driving up to it on the highway, it looks little more than a couple of box stores on both sides of the road, but don’t let first appearances throw you off. The actual town of Duncan is full of amazing activities and sights.

Considering it’s the smallest city in Canada (by size), you can easily see the whole of the downtown area in a few hours. Known as the land of the Cowichan First Nation, this city is full of impressive totem poles, including the thickest totem pole in the world. In fact, Duncan’s nickname is the “city of totems.” These poles are an important part of First Nations history and represent ancestry, people, spirituality, and events. 

Your stomach is probably grumbling at this stage of your road trip to Tofino, so we recommend popping into Craig Street Brew Pub for their infamous Reuben sandwich! If you’re not driving, be sure to sample one of the five house beers they have on tap. Or, if you’re not a beer fan, we urge you to try the Merridale Cider, which is made right here in the Cowichan Valley!  

If you’re an animal lover, you simply must visit the Pacific Northwest Raptors – a bird sanctuary that houses birds of prey like falcons, eagles, and owls. We suggest purchasing the “Close” General Admission, which allows you entry for the whole day and access to the flying demonstration!

You get to see the birds of prey up close, which is definitely a bucket-list-worthy experience. They fly so close to you that you will feel the rush of wind from their wings. 

Wine lovers rejoice! Just outside of Duncan is the Averill Creek Winery, which offers a self-guided wine tasting for only $10 CAD or a guided tour for a little more ($25 CAD) and includes a cheese board. Reservations are recommended for the guided tour, especially in the busier summer months.  

Where to Stay in Duncan:

There are lots of great places that fit a variety of budgets in Duncan, with especially plenty of guesthouses and B&Bs, which we recommend booking as soon as you know your travel dates as they fill up fast. These are our top picks!

Hummers Haven Bed and Breakfast – $

If the homemade pancakes aren’t enough to reel you in, the stunning garden on the property just outside Duncan (with lots of deer popping by!) will seal the deal. The rooms at Hummers Haven Bed and Breakfast are comfy and you’ll enjoy the private entrance and lots of room for parking. 

Best Western Cowichan Valley Inn – $$

Right off the highway, the Best Western Cowichan Valley Inn is an easy stop on your road trip. The rooms are a good size and you’ll get the quality and convenience you’d expect from a hotel chain. There’s an outdoor pool and a restaurant on-site and it’s close to attractions like the BC Forest Discovery Center.

Related Read: Duncan is also a great place to catch the ferry to explore Salt Spring Island!

6. BC Forest Discovery Centre

The train at the BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan, BC
The BC Forest Discover Centre is a worthy stop!

Next up, on your trip from Victoria to Tofino, you’ll have the opportunity to trade in your wheels to travel by train for a bit! It’s a must-stop for train lovers!

The BC Forest Discovery Centre is an open-air museum covering over 100 acres, and while you can learn all about the history of logging and forestry, the coolest way to get around is by train. And not just any train – they have vintage gas and steam locomotives you can ride over the Somenos Lake Trestle and around the property.

We opted for the best of both worlds and took the train to the halfway point, then continued to walk around and explore.

The museum is open (and the train is running!) from April to September, from Thursdays to Mondays. Ticket prices range from $16-$18 CAD for adults and $14-$16 CAD for kids – check the schedule and prices here before you go.

7. Chemainus

Chemainus Public Market
Photo credit: Chemainus Public Market

The tiny artisan village of Chemainus makes for an ideal quick pitstop on your drive from Victoria to Tofino. Filled with small art galleries and local stores, you’ll find it easy to kill an hour or two here. 

The best thing to do in Chemainus is to hit up the popular Public Market, which houses several artisan and food vendors. Even if you’re not hungry, be sure to pick up a (strong) coffee from Coffee Row to keep your energy levels topped up for the drive ahead. 

This small town boasts a sand and gravel beach in the downtown area – Kinsmen Beach Park. Here you’ll find lovely views across to some of the Gulf Islands, such as Thetis and Penalakut Islands. If you’re doing this road trip with kids, it’s a great spot to spend an hour or so, as there’s a playground, a picnic area, and public and accessible washrooms. On summer days, the water is usually warm enough to swim in!

There’s also a dock that features a slide into the water – again, a lot of fun for older kids. Or if you’re keen on a game of volleyball to get your muscles moving, you’ll find volleyball courts here too. 

8. Ladysmith

Coastal views in Ladysmith, BC
Ladysmith is stunning!

Ladysmith is a small town of about 9,000 people. Many people drive right through without stopping to see how cute this town is, and we think they are missing out! This town is built on a hillside overlooking the water. Yes, it’s as dreamy as it sounds!  

We always stop at the Old Town Bakery because they are famous for their cinnamon buns, voted Vancouver Island’s best cinnamon bun! While we haven’t tried every cinnamon bun on the island, we would be willing to wager that this is correct. They have a ton of other baked goods and pastries as well. Their bread looked amazing, so it could be fun to get a loaf, grab some meats and cheeses from the grocery store, and head down to the waterfront for a picnic!  

Another fun thing to do is to head down to the Ladysmith Marina and have a bite to eat at the Oyster Bay Cafe (note that they are only open seasonally). There is also a little maritime museum at the harbor which is cool to check out! If you want a tour of Ladysmith, you can stop by the Harbour Heritage Centre and get a guided tour of the Ladysmith harbor.  

Fun Fact: Pamela Anderson was born and raised in Ladysmith, BC, and has recently moved back!

9. Nanaimo

Bailey takes a photo with the Nanaimo Sign
The Nanaimo sign!

The next stop requires at least a couple of hours of stop-off before you finish up the last leg of your trip with the drive from Nanaimo to Tofino. There are heaps of things to do in Nanaimo, so allow enough time here. If your Vancouver Island itinerary allows, try to spend a night here!

This city is famed for the dessert of the same name – the nanaimo bar. This yummy chocolatey treat has three layers – crumbed wafer, coconut, custard icing, and finally, chocolate ganache. My mouth is watering thinking about it! My favorite version of this dessert is the peanut butter crunch nanaimo bar at Hearthstone Artisan Bakery!

If you’re a photography lover like myself and love taking fun photos to remember your road trip, be sure to stop by the giant, colorful Nanaimo sign in front of the Swy-A-Lana Lagoon in Maffeo Sutton Park.

The Old City Quarter in downtown Nanaimo is also worth exploring and has lots of small businesses and neat shops in buildings that date back to the 1800s. While you’re in the area, be sure to snap some photos of the hard-to-miss Nanaimo Courthouse!

If you have the time, a good idea is to head a little outside of town to Petroglyph Park, where you’ll be able to see rock carvings that are over 1,000 years old! It’s free to enter, too, so it’s ideal if you’re traveling on a budget!

If you plan to spend a night in Nanaimo, be sure to allocate half a day for a memorable whale-watching tour. It’s one of the best things we did on our drive from Victoria to Tofino, and during our tour, we spotted a pod of orcas swimming around our boat. The tour we did was this open boat whale-watching tour it’s very well-rated, and the professional guides are so friendly and knowledgeable.

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 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.  

Related Read: As you can see driving from Victoria to Nanaimo is a memorable road trip, check out our blog post on the road trip in reverse from Nanaimo to Victoria here!

10. Parksville

Bailey walks the waterfront in Parksville, Vancouver Island
Walking the waterfront walkway in Parksville!

Your next stop should be Parksville, a popular beach destination with Vancouver Island locals. There are countless beaches to explore here, heaps of hiking trails for all abilities, and a surprisingly great foodie scene. Yep, in Parksville, foodies will be spoiled with the delicious local ingredients served in the area’s restaurants as well as the many markets and food festivals throughout the year. 

But, one of the best things to do in Parksville involves spending the night here – at Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara, to be precise. The Sip & Dine experience was one of the best things we did on our Victoria to Tofino road trip. This unique package involves sitting down to an impressive 17-course tapas-style tasting menu in your robe (the restaurant here has a robe-only dress code). So, you’re sure to feel super-relaxed dining here. 

If you’re tight on time and don’t have room in your itinerary to spend the night in Parksville, then an excellent idea is to spend a short and sweet hour here walking the Parksville Waterfront Walkway. This walkway boasts stunning coastal and mountain views and is a good place to stretch your legs and break up the journey. 

Another great thing to do in the area is drive up to Little Mountain Lookout. This winding scenic drive takes you to the top of a mountain, from where you can enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding valley. 

11. Coombs

Goats on the Roof Farm in Coombs
Can you see the goat on the roof?!
Bailey poses for a photo in Coombs, Vancouver Island
Exploring Coombs!

One of the most memorable stops on your drive between Victoria and Tofino is sure to be the famed Goats on the Roof Farm, aka the Old Country Market. This market gets its name from the goats that graze on its grass roof; yup, your eyes aren’t fooling you. Those are real goats chowing down on the grass on the roof!  

This spot is so beloved by Vancouver Island locals that many cars here are adorned with the black and yellow “Goats on the Roof” bumper stickers – maybe you’ve already seen them on your drive so far! 

Inside the market, you’ll find mostly food stalls and craft stalls. So, it’s the perfect spot to stock up on snacks for the car journey ahead, or if you’re keen to take a unique souvenir home with you, you’ll find lovely hand-painted tiles and ceramic dishware for sale. If you’re a candle lover (like me), you can check out the wide range of beautiful pillar candles on sale for the bargain price of $5 CAD each.

If you don’t have time to stop at the market, definitely make a quick pit stop at the parking lot so that you can take a couple of snaps of the goats before continuing on your drive. 

12. Little Qualicum Falls

Little Qualicum Falls, Parksville
So pretty!

As you edge closer to Tofino, try to squeeze in a stop at Little Qualicum Falls. It’s a great quick-stop option that allows the opportunity to stretch your legs and see a beautiful waterfall. 

The provincial park borders the southern shore of Cameron Lake, and the Little Qualicum River runs right through a rocky gorge within the park. It’s a 10-minute drive here from the Goats on the Roof Market. The waterfalls within the park are impressive as they pour off the rocky gorge surrounded by a forest, and it’s like a postcard that’s come to life!

You can hike the trails to see a stunning waterfall cascading 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.

13. Cathedral Grove

Bailey poses in between two large trees in Cathedral Grove
Bailey with the largest tree in Cathedral Grove, Canada
There are some BIG trees!

Star Wars fans probably know about the next stop – Cathedral Grove, a magical old-growth forest that was featured in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi. Again, it’s not too far from the previous stop (Little Qualicum Falls) at a 10-minute drive away, and this forest is located within the larger MacMillan Provincial Park. Plus, it’s completely free to visit! 

But, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, this stop can be easy to drive past. FYI, it looks like a nondescript rest stop on the side of the highway. But this area of giant Douglas fir trees is one of the best places to visit in BC.

So, if time allows, we advise spending about two hours here. If you love hiking and nature, you may want to allow longer as there are a couple of hiking trails within the park, and there are even stroller and wheelchair-friendly boardwalks here. 

The best (and most popular) walking trail here is the Big Tree Trail which begins on the south side of the highway. It’s a short trail at just 500 meters (1,600 feet) long, but along the way, you’ll be treated to an up-close look at one of the biggest trees in Canada. At a whopping 30 feet (9 meters) in circumference, you’ll need to see it in person to appreciate how big it really is. You’ll also pass by groves of Western red cedar along this trail. 

14. Port Alberni

Bailey with the totems at rbor Quay in Port Alberni, BC
With the impressive totem poles in Port Alberni!

Port Alberni is the last town you’ll pass through before reaching Tofino, so it’s a good place to stop for fuel or a snack. There’s no shortage of things to do in Port Alberni if you have enough time, and if you can, we advise spending a couple of hours here. 

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 lovely and 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 make the Tofino road trip will hike out for a photo at the huge hole that was carved into a rock wall for a pipeline. The hole now has a small waterfall that runs through it and is an essential Vancouver Island road trip photo.  

15. 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!

The huge Sproat Lake is a little under 20 minutes (14 km/8.7 miles) from Port Alberni. With a whopping 320 km (200 miles) of lakeshore, there are plenty of beaches to relax on! It’s so photogenic here, too – the entire lake is lined with lush green forest! 

The best thing about Sproat Lake is how clear the water is. In fact, it’s SO clear that you can see 30 feet beneath you! In the summer, it’s a popular swimming spot as it’s a nice temperature (warmer than other BC lakes, at least), and you’ll also see lots of people water skiing and fishing here! You can try it yourself if you have enough time. 

You can spot petroglyphs (aka ancient rock carvings) on the trail on the east side of Sproat Lake. It’s a short, well-marked trail and leads to a viewing platform where you can get up close to these carvings, or K’ak’awin as they’re also known. These petroglyphs are considered one of the best examples of prehistoric petroglyphs in the entire province!

You can also camp here, and the fees are very affordable at $13 CAD nightly per party in the winter and $25 CAD per party in the summer.

16. WestCoast WILD Zipline

WestCoast WILD Adventures zipline
Photo credit: WestCoast WILD Adventures

And now for an activity for the more adventurous road trippers – ziplining! You’re within arms reach of Tofino, so why not end the road trip on a high with some thrilling fun at West Coast WILD Adventures. Here you’ll find ziplining tours that have you soaring through the forest canopy in the wild Kennedy River Canyon.

WestCoast WILD Adventures is around 45 minutes from Port Alberni, and it’s worth noting ziplining is only offered in-season, which runs from March to October. During this season, you can choose one of four daily ziplining tours. 

Get geared up to fly above steep canyons over six different platforms. Our guides taught us a lot about the valley’s history along the way. 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 drop below us!

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

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

17. Long Beach

People stand on a rock at sunset at Long Beach!

Long Beach is one of the best places to go surfing in Tofino. As the name suggests, it’s a long beach, so it never feels too crowded. But because the rip can be dangerous here (especially at Lovekin Rock), surfing here is most suitable for experienced surfers. 

But, not to worry if you’re a beginner – just be sure to avoid the Lovekin Rock area and hit the waves when they’re a bit calmer. You can also simply park and watch the waves roll in if you’re tight on time or quickly head out onto the beach for a walk. While you’re walking, you’ll come across some tidal pools – which kids love. You never know what creatures you’ll spy in them! 

18. Cox Bay Beach

Cox Bay Beach is stunning!

If we had to narrow it down to just one place to go surfing in Tofino, we’d pick Cox Bay Beach. It’s where most Tofino Surf Competitions are held, and it’s ideal for both beginners and pros. 

If you need to sharpen your surf skills with some lessons or simply need to rent a board, there are a few rental shops and surf schools nearby. Prices vary, but we rented our surfboards and wetsuits from Surf Grove Campground for $55 CAD each for a 24-hour rental. 

Besides surfing, another popular thing to do here is to hike up to Cox Bay Lookout, which boasts arguably the best view in Tofino. It’s a short trail, but be prepared – there’s a 20-minute section that’s super-steep that’s sure to get your heart pumping! Therefore, we recommend a reasonable level of fitness for this hike. However, your hard work will be worth it once you reach the lookout point. Here, you can soak in the views of Cox Bay Beach and the mountains in the distance. 

The trail starts from the left end of the beach (if you’re facing the ocean). Take any of the trails here (there are a handful to choose from), but they all lead to the same viewpoint. It’s worth noting that these trails will be quite muddy and slippery after rain. 

The parking lot on the beach’s northern end has showers and washrooms. Further down the beach is a second parking lot with more spaces. You don’t need a Parks Pass here, but you will need to pay a small fee for parking. 

19. Tofino

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

Whew, and you’ve finally reached your last stop, and what a place it is! The magical surf town of Tofino exudes a relaxed atmosphere that makes almost everyone who visits want to relocate here.

It’s one of our favorite places to visit in all of Canada, and for a small town (just 2,500 people live here), it’s got a surprising amount of epic things to do. Of course, you can try surfing here, but it’s also one of the top fishing destinations in BC plus, there are plenty of great hikes here, too – including one to an old plane wreck.

Your first stop in Tofino after all that driving should be to Rhino Coffee House or Tofino Coffee Roasting Company for a caffeine pick-me-up! 

If you want the quintessential Tofino Beach experience, head to Chesterman Beach. This beach was rated one of the best beaches in the world for good reason – the sand is so white and soft, and the waves are plentiful. It’s awesome on a sunny day, but the moody vibes here on a rainy day can’t be beaten, in my opinion!

While if you’re looking for a great hike, consider the Canso Plane Crash hike. This unique, super easy walk follows through a forest and leads to the remains of a crashed Royal Canadian Air Force Canso bomber plane that crashed here during World War II. This hike takes around two hours.

As for food, the Wolf in the Fog is an AMAZING upscale restaurant in Tofino, or if you’re after something a little more casual, you can’t miss Tacofino – a little taco truck that is a Tofino institution! Honestly, you can’t visit this beachy town without trying a Tacofino taco! Afterward, hit up Tofino Brewing Company to celebrate the end of your road trip!

P.S. There are other Tacofino locations on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver (including one of the best restaurants in Gastown, Vancouver)!

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. You can check out our full guide on where to stay in Tofino here or our top picks below!

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.

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 right on MacKenzie Beach, so every room has a view of the water and you can hear the waves from your balcony.

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.

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!

Bailey and Daniel at Tofino Brewing, Vancouver Island
Thanks for reading!

Wow, I really enjoyed writing this ultimate guide to the drive from Victoria to Tofino. It has brought back so many great memories! And I just know that you’ll love this gorgeous BC road trip as much as we did. Have fun!

Hopefully, our guide to driving from Victoria to Tofino has helped you plan your upcoming road trip. If it has or you’re looking for more amazing places to visit around BC, be sure to browse around and check out our other blogs.

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