Untouched, rugged coastline, pristine rain forest & an abundance of wildlife, Tofino is most definitely one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited.
We spent 5 days there, camping under the stars & had tons of rain, with it being only April but even that didn’t dampen our spirits. It was a truly unforgettable experience & one of the highlights of our time in Canada.
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How To Get There
Coming from Vancouver we hired a car at the airport & took a ferry over to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island from Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver. The ferry terminal is very well signposted but as usual we would always recommend MAPS.ME for finding your way around. Ferries leave approximately every 2 hours, some can be reserved but it’s always worth checking the BC Ferries schedule to be sure & note that ferries can get booked up quickly during busy periods. Pre-booking or arriving early to avoid having to wait for the next ferry or even the one after that is highly advisable out of low season. It cost us CAD 91.90 one way but again we would recommend checking for up-to-date prices.
If you arrive early at Horseshoe Bay you can leave your car & walk into town for a worthwhile 5 minute stroll. The town is small with a small harbour which has the most spectacular backdrop. We were there when the trees were in full blossom, the sun was shining & the whole place was just postcard perfect! There are also a few restaurants & a couple of small shops, including a liquor store.
The ferry journey itself was the most scenic either of us have ever been on, pulling away from Horseshoe Bay we saw the skyline of Vancouver in the background along with the dramatic coastal mountains of British Columbia. We took the ferry just as the sun was setting which made the whole thing even more magical.
Nanaimo to Tofino
We actually arrived in the early evening so chose to stay in Nanaimo for the evening, in favour of driving over to Tofino in daylight hours so we could see everything along the way. The 200km (roughly 3 hour) drive was absolutely spectacular, with nothing but winding roads & epic scenery the further west of the island we got.
We set off early from Nanaimo & stopped off at Qualicum beach, a beautiful spot for a breakfast on the hood of our car. One of our favourite things about road tripping is the option to stop off wherever we like & take things at our own pace. There are plenty of options to do this on Vancouver Island, all with awesome scenery to just stop & stare at.
Once we were inside the Pacific Rim National Park we stopped off at the BC Parks info centre on the road to Ucluelet & Tofino to take a look at the campgrounds on offer in the area. We decided upon staying at Bella Pacifica Campground which is just outside Tofino’s town centre on the picturesque beach, MacKenzie. We could not recommend this campground enough, we absolutely loved it there, each pitch has its own bench & fire pit, there are washing & shower facilities on site & it is literally right on one of the prettiest beaches we have ever seen. It cost us CAD 33 per night to stay there in low season, please note that rates do vary between low & high season. Next door also on MacKenzie beach is the MacKenzie Beach Resort a great alternative is you don’t fancy the camping life, with amazing cosy beach side cottages with ocean views!
Mackenzie Beach at only a few km’s long is in a protected little bay, has a few rocky outcrops to walk to & explore & is a great spot for both sunrise & sunset. We loved morning & afternoon strolls along it & had the weather been less stormy than it was we would have definitely opted for one of Bella Pacifica’s beach front camping spots.
Morning sunrise stroll along the beach right in front of the site we are camping on, just WOW! I am literally falling in love with this place 💙 Such raw & natural beauty🌲🌊 🇨🇦 #beautifulbritishcolumbia #canada150 • • • • • #vancouverisland #sunrise #beach #trees #ocean #camping #beachcamping #beachwalks #campingbellapacifica #mackenziebeach #tofino #britishcolumbia #nature #naturephotography #natural #earthpix #travelpic #travelgram #instatravel #adventure #passionpassport #travelawesome #seetheworldthroughmyeyes #mytinyatlas #travelblog #travelblogger #explorationinspiration #destinationaddict
We spent most evenings sipping wine or beer whilst cooking over our campfire, finishing off with s’mores a Canadian treat that I had never tried before – they are made by melting marshmallows which are served between two crackers with a piece of chocolate squashed & melted in the middle & are pretty darn delicious. When the nights were clear enough we spent them with our heads out of the tent, gazing up at thousands of stars, it was perfect!
What To See
There is tons to see even just around Tofino itself, the town is a lovely place to have a stroll round for a few hours with friendly locals & a relaxed surf vibe!
Whilst we were there we decided to take a whale watching tour with Tofino Whale Centre an excellent tour at 3 hours long, we were fortunate to see seals, see otters & glimpses of a grey whale. We would definitely recommend tours with this company, our driver & guide, a native of British Columbia was very knowledgeable & careful not to disturb the sea life, explaining to the group the importance of having respect & not getting too close. The tour cost us $90 each & included a complete dry/warm suit, something which on a chilly April day was definitely needed! There are also other options for tours with this company including natural hot springs & bear watching tours.
There are tons of hiking trails in the area, our favourites were Tonquin Beach & The Rainforest Trails. Tonquin is a rugged beach with a gorgeous backdrop & with it being low season we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves, giving us a real “shipwrecked” feel! The Rain Forest Trail which is located on the road between Tofino & Ucluelet actually has two loops A & B. We took both & were absolutely blown away by the beauty of dense, lush rain forest. We particularly liked all of the information dotted around the forest, an education on the environment as we went. Both hikes were short & easy, Tonquin being only 3km & The Rain Forest Trails only 2km.
Another great thing to do is take a walk around Tofino’s harbour area, the scenery is just as amazing as it is everywhere else & if you get down there when it’s quieter you might be lucky enough to spot some wildlife. We had a seal pop up right next to us as we were strolling around which was pretty cool!
Where To Eat
For such a small town there are plenty of great eats around. Being British we were super excited to find a Fish N’ Chip shop & were not disappointed with “Big Daddy’s Fish Fry” located just on the main road, next door to Tofino Whale Centre. Their fish & chips are excellent all served in a basket with delicious sides.
Other places that we went to & really loved were Tuff Beans Coffee House for a morning brew & some very yummy cakes. Wolf In The Fog, with a great menu, happy hour & a real “pub” like feel. Shelter Restaurant, a place we went to on our last night in Tofino, with an open conservatory area complete with comfy chairs & open fires & a fantastic food & wine menu, it was the perfect place to snuggle up after a week of camping in the rain.
Wine & candles inside whilst it’s tipping it down outside, the perfect way to get warm & cosy after a week of camping in the rain 🏕🌧 • • • • • #wine #vino #cozytimes #travelcouple #travellove #candles #howromantic #rainydays #campinglife #optoutdoors #explore #goexplore #explorebc #travelpic #travelblog #travelblogger #instatravel #travelgram #passionpassport #freeasabird #travellerslife #exploreshareinspire #bc #beautifulbc #canada150 #itsevenawesomeintherain #explorationinspiration #destinationaddict
As there are not many grocery shops in the area we would recommend stopping off at a supermarket in Nanaimo to stock up before making the drive over to Tofino. There is if you need if a supermarket in Ucluelet, just opposite the leisure centre.
As the showers on the campsite we stayed on required us to pay, we actually just drove over to Ucluelet a couple of times to the leisure centre there meaning we got to use their swimming pool & sauna as well as taking a shower. It was only a half an hour drive & was a great way to go & warm up for an hour with all of the bad weather that we had during our week there.
One of our top tips always for bad weather is to come prepared so you can still enjoy things come rain or shine. A good waterproof coat & boots are a must as well as plenty of layers for keeping warm or taking them off to cool down when the sun comes out. A piece of tarp or sturdy gazebo are also advisable when camping in the rain for a dry cooking & seating area.
Tofino is a huge surfing area so if surfing is your thing this is definitely the place to do it! We didn’t give it a go this time round but the surf did look awesome!
Tofino for us is one of our most memorable travel experiences, we felt totally at one with nature when we were there & being there in low season although we had bad weather meant that we got the feeling of having the place to ourselves.
We absolutely fell in love with the place & cannot wait to go back & visit again one day!
If you are thinking of visiting Vancouver Island, be sure to pay Tofino a visit, we are sure you will not be disappointed.
Have you been yourself & have anything to add, tell us in the comments! Have any questions for us? Ask away!
Happy Adventuring 🙂
Kelly & Adam x