The only guide you'll ever need for Tofino Travel
Pacific Rim Park/Tofino has some of the most expansive and unique beaches in the world if not the BEST on this entire planet. They are rarely crowded for this reason and perfect for a pandemic escape. Three of the must-see beaches are Wikaninnish, Long Beach and Chesterman. Wikaninnish beach is a little outside the town of Tofino and is great to drive into on your way in. Access is off Wick Rd. There is a large parking lot here complete with modern and large washroom facilities, change rooms and outdoor showers, and you can purchase a park pass for your visit. The surf in the summer and storm watching in the fall/winter are world-class.
Rent a bike to make the epic trip to Tofino from Vancouver!
Long Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Canada!
The Long Beach access parking lot is large and wide with plenty of parking! At the time of writing we’ve only seen it completely full on long weekends in the summer. There are two modern washroom facilities, multiple change rooms to put on your wetsuit and also outdoor showers to rinse off after getting out of the water. They are cold!
Lovekin Rock is an island just off the beach here. It’s not advised to surf or swim anywhere near it as there have been tragic accidents. It’s best to stay well away from Lovekin Rock and pick a landmark on the shore to watch for as the rip tides and currents will often pull you in different directions and possibly towards the rock, which could be deadly. There are no lifeguards on duty at any of the beaches in the area though there has been a push from locals and Parks Canada to bring them back. On busy days in the summer months, there are Parks Canada staff present to help educate visitors on the dangers of the water which helps save lives.
At Long Beach there is a Parks Canada campground called Green Point which usually fills up quickly once reservations are open in January, but it’s fairly easy to book a campsite in January for the summer but be sure to book early for long weekends! This is a great way to stay in Tofino on a budget should you wish to try this or return next summer when the campground is open.
Chesterman Beach cannot be missed while visiting Tofino
You will find Chesterman beach closer to Tofino and very close to the mouthwatering Tacofino food truck which is a ritual for so many beachgoers and surfers. There are washroom facilities even (you guessed it!) an outdoor shower to rinse off if you dare to go for a swim/surf- surprisingly a lot of people will just go for it year round. One of the beach hacks with Chesterman is that a park pass is not needed to visit this beach and if you are looking to budget where possible this is the way to do it. I’ll never forget my first time here. It was magical walking from the parking lot through the forest and onto the beach. It was love at first sight. I was speechless over how massive the beach is when the tide is out.
Looking from something other than the beach while in Tofino, try Radar Hill!
Radar hill has beautiful views from a picturesque lookout point and is totally accessible though portions of the pathway to the lookout point are steep. After parking in the large parking lot (which can accommodate about 50 vehicles), you can easily walk up the short pathway and to the scenic views that follow.
Another quick local secret I’ll mention is the hike to the downed Canso bomber near radar hill. While this is not entirely a simple hike for adults or children it may be worthwhile checking it out if you are up for adventure. Access is a little tricky but if you go hunting around for it, you’ll see where local people are going in off the highway.
Spend some time in Tofino for a small town experience like no other
Perhaps the best way to get around Tofino to peruse the great shops, restaurants and art galleries and to the beaches is by bicycle, in fact there is a paved trail that goes all the way from Tofino to Ucluelet. This ingenious trail to promote walking and cycling off the highway (which is narrow, winding and bumpy in spots) was constructed in 2019. There are bike rentals available, and it’s the perfect way to safely explore the area solo or in a group. You’ll often see bikes with surfboard holders and riders in wetsuits heading to the beaches for a session.
A great place to stop for breakfast is Wolf in the Fog. With a nice patio and more of a gourmet style of food with quality ingredients and a central location, it’s hard to miss.
Rhino Coffee is another great spot to stop for breakfast and can easily be distinguished by the line that sometimes winds far down the sidewalk in front. Rhino Coffee has A+ coffee from drip coffee to lattes with everything in between. Their doughnuts, other pastries and breakfast sandwiches are the most economical and delicious way to eat breakfast in Tofino. Try the Bad Boy Bagel which truly is mouthwatering. It’s huge, has some greens on it to go along with the pork and egg. If you are looking for something smaller go for the Bronut which is a doughnut style breakfast sandwich, a must-try if you are looking for the complete Tofino experience.
After a meal, one can easily walk to Roy Henry Vickers art gallery which is an incredible display and a must-see for anyone visiting. The gift shop / area here is a place I’ve picked up gifts for friends worldwide and is quintessential west coast art. As far as I can see booking ahead is not currently required.
Some other great places to eat without a big line are Big Daddy’s Fish Fry, Pizzamoto and Basic Goodness Pizza. Outside of the town there is Little Ronnie’s BBQ (often with live music), and Surfside Grill (at Pacific Sands Resort). Surfside Grill is a local secret as the pricing is not bad and there’s ample free parking with usually no line to get food. Beware, this guide may change that!
After you've checked out the town be sure to get out to the Rainforest trail
The breathtaking rainforest trail is located in Pacific Rim national park and is managed by Parks Canada. You will need a park pass to access the Rainforest Trail. There is parking for approximately 30-40 vehicles in the parking area(s), which essentially run along the length of the road connecting the two loops / routes which are named A and B. At the end of the roadway parking there is a lot near loop A’s access point. Parking is paid, but free parking is provided to annual pass holders for up to four hours at the time of writing this article.
Access to loop A is simple from the parking lot. Just walk down the pathway until the sign and map can be seen marking the area. There is a directional arrow to follow the raised boardwalk for loop A here. This boardwalk was custom crafted to give an elevated platform like experience while taking in the beauty of the Pacific Rim Park. Loop A has a variety of stairs, boardwalks and small seating areas to congregate with a group for photos. It’s safe and secure with railings and sturdy construction. Everyone on the loop was mindful of personal space given how tight some areas are.
After completing the ~1KM loop A, walking back towards the parking lot and following the roadway parking will take you to the highway. The highway must be crossed to access loop / route B (the signage calls it loop B on the other side of the highway). The highway can be safely crossed as there is a crosswalk taking you to the equally spectacular route B of the Rainforest trail. Route B is longer and has many more stairs with optimal viewing of the incredible protected forest in the area.
Follow up the Rainforest Trail with another unique experience
Looking to follow up your time in the rainforest with another unique experience? Try to get a beach camping spot at Mckenzie Beach Resort. While these sites book up fast, it is possible to get a last minute spot often through inquiring at the Tourism Tofino office nearby. They have daily lists of campsites and other accommodation with availability and sometimes last minute deals!