8 Ways to Experience Tofino

The 1,876 full time residents who call Tofino, British Columbia home are on to something special.

Not convinced that this surf town on the west coast of Vancouver Island should be at the top of your “to visit” list? Here are eight reasons to drop everything, pick up a surfboard, and make a trip to Tofino.

The Journey is Part of the Destination
The trip to Tofino is part of the fun. Most people opt to take the scenic ferry from Vancouver across to Nanaimo—be sure to sit on the top deck, and keep your eye on the water for wildlife. From Nanaimo, it’s about a three hour drive to Tofino. While the road can be a little iffy in the dark, it’s a beauty to drive in the daytime.

When you need a break from the beautiful scenery (yeah, right), stop along a few of the quirky spots along the route. Coombs offers an infamous market that actually has goats on the roof and serves ice cream cones the size of your head. Cathedral Grove is a beautiful rainforest with some serious massive and seriously impressive trees. The boardwalks through the park are the perfect place to stretch out your legs. Don’t forget your camera!

No Wal Marts Here
You won’t find a Wal Mart, a Starbucks or even a Subway restaurant in Tofino. The town has proudly resisted chain stores, and instead embraces small boutiques and locally operated dining spots.

As a result, you’re bound to meet some of the colourful locals and to find some one-of-a-kind artwork, clothes or sports gear to take back as a souvenir.

Did I Mention the Surf?
The water is a little colder than, say, Hawaii—you’ll need a full wetsuit year round to tread these waters—but you’ll be well rewarded for venturing into the Pacific waters. Tofino is home to the Rip Curl Pro for good reason.

Rental shops and surf schools are aplenty, so do your research, make your pick and explore the beaches and surf of Tofino.

There Are Plenty of Fish (And Mammals!) in the Sea
If you prefer to experience the water without actually getting wet, hop on a boat. Anglers (even amateurs) will appreciate the thrill in reeling in a salmon or watching king crab scatter across the boat floor.

Whale watching is another unforgettable adventure, preferably experienced from within a zodiac boat. Once you’ve acclimatized to the roller coaster feeling of the boat riding the waves, you’ll have some time to take in the outrageous scenery that surrounds you—until you’re disrupted by a whale swimming past your watercraft.

Seeing these mammoth creatures so close to you will remind you of your very, very small place in this world. No extra charge for philosophical revolutions.

Accommodation for Everyone
Tofino is only 4.07 square miles, much of which is in its glorious natural state. As such, accommodations can be limited and expensive.

If you’re looking for indulgence, the Wickanninish Inn is the place to see and be seen. This oceanfront resort will cater to your every desire. It’ll cost you an arm and a leg, but as they say, you only live once.

For those who’d rather spend their money on surf equipment, there are tons of campsites around town. Book ahead to be safe, and respect the incredible environment you’re lucky enough to experience. With a bit of luck, you’ll meet some other enthusiastic people the next campsite over.

The Local Fare is Simply Divine
Sure, there is a fine selection of gourmet fare to satisfy the snootiest foodie, but the best way to experience Tofino is to keep it simple. Burgers from Shelter, fish tacos from the infamous food cart, Tacofino, or ice cream from just about anywhere—something about the salty air and laidback vibe makes even the most basic food taste exceptional.

It’s the Place to Be
The Tofino Food and Wine Festival, Tofino Beer Festival, Tofino Oyster Festival, even the Tofino Film Festival—Tofino is clearly a happening town, with events taking place throughout the year. Do some research to see what will be happening while you’re in town, and use it as a unique way to explore the community.

In the Winter, It’s a Whole New World
Most of the aforementioned activities are centered around the touristy summer season. Weathered locals will tell you that the winters in Tofino are not for the weak, but if you’re looking for a true escape, there is no better place to be.

Accommodations offer significant discounts, so treat yourself to a suite with a cozy fireplace and a plush couch to cuddle up to and watch the famous storms. Imbibe in a cup of tea or glass of wine and watch nature do its thing. You’ll begin to understand why the trees all look so delightfully craggly.

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