After far too many months cooped up inside, I made a post-pandemic restrictions trip to Vancouver Island. I spent three awesome days searching out what to do in Tofino and Ucluelet. From beachcombing and breweries to hiking trails and whale watching, here are my tips and takeaways on what to do in Tofino and Ucluelet.
Getting to Tofino & Ucluelet
Located on the Esowista Peninsula on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino and Ucluelet are about as West Coast as you can get in Canada. You can take a floatplane from Vancouver and Vicotria through Tofino Air. Harbour Air also offer seasonal flights to Tofino and makes for one scenic ride. There’s also an airstrip smack dab in between Tofino and Ucluelet with scheduled service by Pacific Coastal Airlines.
Flying to Tofino and Ucluelet is one of the most scenic flights in the province. I was lucky enough to experience landing in Tofino with my brother a few years ago and it was an incredible trip. That said, driving from Vancouver or Victoria is picturesque and includes some great stops along the way. From Vancouver, the drive takes about five hours. This includes an hour and forty-minute ferry to Vancouver Island. Driving from Victoria will take you four hours.
What to See in Tofino and Ucluelet
With a coastline ranging from rugged to sandy and rainforest surrounding it all, there’s no shortage of natural beauty to take in with three days in Tofino. Here are some of my favourites.
If driving to Tofino, you’ll pass by MacMillan Provincial Park, home to some of the tallest trees in the provience. Affectionally known as Cathedral Grove, this picture-perfect park is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. There are several short loops starting from the parking lot including the Big Tree Trail which has informational placard’s explaining the area’s 800-year-old trees.
Goats on the Roof
Just before Cathedral Grove, you’ll come upon Coombes Old Country Market. What sets this pitstop apart is the grass roof and the goats grazing on it.
While the area has become touristy and crowded over the years, the market itself has a great bakery and deli. This makes it a good spot to stock up on supplies for your three days in Tofino and Ucluelet.
Pacific Rim National Park
Dividing the Esowista Peninsula in between Tofino and Ucluelet is the Pacific Rim National Park. This is without a doubt the regions biggest draw. With arguably Canada‘s best stretch of sand, it’s easy to see why.
On warm summer days, visitors can enjoy cooling off in the cold water, beachcombing, and, of course, surfing.
What is there to do in Tofino & Ucluelet?
From hiking through rain forests to Canada’s best surfing, here are the best things to do in Tofino and Ucluelet.
Tofino‘s biggest draw is its beaches. Known as some of the best places in the country to go surfing, visitors from British Columbia and beyond come to the peninsula’s sandy shores to surf. Despite the cold Pacific waters, this is done year-round thanks to the mild climate and a good drysuit.
Don’t have a board? There are several operators in Tofino and Ucluelet that rent gear and offer lessons.
Whale Watching in Tofino
Tofino is also an excellent place to see some of the oceans largest creatures. With a long whale watching season stretching from March to October, your chances of seeing a whale in Tofino and Ucluelet is high. Gray whales, humpback whales and orcas all swim past the peninsula. On top of that, sea lions, bears, and bald eagles can all be spotted from the water.
There are several tour operators in the area however I recommend West Coast Aquatic Safari for its whale spotting guarantee!
Hot Springs Cove Provincial Park
Just north of Tofino is Hot Springs Cove Provincial Park. This beautiful spot can be accessed by boat (1.5 hours) and, paired with a whale watching trip, makes for a great west coast adventure. Those short on time or looking for a way to take in the area from a different vantage point can fly to Hot Springs Cove (20 minutes). Check out Ocean Outfitters for the latest rates and times.
There’s plenty of trails in and around Tofino and Ucluelet to enjoy the coastline and rainforest surroundings. The Wild Pacific Trail stretches north of Ucluelet as well as a loop around the southernmost point on the peninsula. The Wild Pacific Trail offers visitors plenty of spots to take in the area’s unique scenery. The Lighthouse Loop is a short 2.6 km trail with plenty of vantage points. Also, sunsets from the Amphitrite Lighthouse are something else.
The Canso Crash Site Trail is another great thing to do in Tofino. This trail leads to the 1945 crash site of a Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007. It remains well intact to this day. Note, if raining or wet (which is often!), the trail can be boggy and muddy. Dress accordingly!
Where to Eat and Drink in Tofino & Ucluelet?
Canada‘s West Coast cuisine is on full display in Tofino and Ucluelet. On top of that, the craft beer scene is well served with two great breweries on the peninsula. Here are some of my favourite spots to check out with three days in and around Tofino and Ucluelet.
No trip to Tofino is complete without a stop at the iconic Tacofino food truck. This taco stand has been serving up fresh fish tacos for over a decade. Since its 2009 opening, Tacofino has subsequently spawned several restaurants in Vancouver and Victoria. I highly recommend the tuna and fish tacos.
NOTE: Tacofino can get extremely busy. Expect to wait an hour on weekends.
Recently rated as one of Canada‘s best new restaurants, Pluvio is a dining experience, to say the least. Menus are set with West Coast-inspired dishes with an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients. This includes local halibut, tuna, steelhead, Fraser Valley pork, and BC grown fruit and veg. There’s also a great cocktail list and a well-stocked bar. Reservations are highly recommended.
The Pointe Restaurant
Located in the Wickaninnish Inn, The Pointe Restaurant offers west coast flavours with an incredible beachfront view, 240-degrees to be exact! Consistently ranked as one of the best places to eat in the province, dishes are contemporary and beautifully plated. Reservations recommended.
Located in downtown Tofino, Rhino coffee serves up some of the best brew in town. On top of that, they have tasty doughnuts with unique flavours like maple bacon. 😋
If you have access to your own kitchen, consider picking up a local Dungeness crab from the docks of Tofino and Ucluelet. Most hotels with kitchens include large pots and utensils for this purpose.
Tofino Brewing Company
With its new taproom, there’s plenty of space to enjoy a pint at Tofino Brewing Company. Space is open and airy and they offer several types of beer on top. The kelp stout is a personal favourite. The tasting room is open 1 pm – 9 pm daily.
Ucluelet Brewing Company
With harbour and mountain views, Ucluelet Brewing has one of the best patios in the province. We watched the sunset off of Mount Ozzard while a deer grazed on the tall grass below us. Oh, The beer is pretty great too!
Dog Mountain Brewing
If you are a beer lover, on the way in or out of Tofino, make a pitstop in Port Alberni. There are three breweries in this small town. My preference is Dog Mountain for its large upstairs patio and the focaccia bread they serve.
Where to Stay in Tofino and Ucluelet?
From Oceanfront suites to tents on the beach, there are plenty of accommodation options no matter your budget. Here are three options I recommend personally after staying in them.
Sitting on a rocky outcrop with waves crashing at its steps is one of Ucluelet’s best hotels, the Black Rock Resort. A mix of metal, rock, and wood, the building is stunning and set amongst tall trees. Most rooms include waterfront views that are beautiful year-round. On top of that, guestrooms and suites feature fireplaces, rainfall showerheads, and Meile appliances in the kitchen. A true getaway destination and the perfect place to explore Tofino and Ucluelet from.
Cox Bay Beach Resort
If you’re looking for more of a beachfront with your stay in Tofino, consider Cox Bay Beach Resort. Located on the sandy shores of Cox Bay, this resort features modern rooms with west coast design. There is a great outdoor hot tub and a lounge with a cosy fireplace. Suites include pots and utensils for a crab cookout.
Best Western Plus Tin Wis
Arguably one of the nicest locations for a Best Western, this budget hotel shines thanks to its beachfront location. Guest rooms are spacious and breakfast is included, making it a value-friendly option in the Tofino and Ucluelet area.
For a true West Coast experience, pitch a tent on one of the many campsites running between Ucluelet and Tofino. There are several options however Bella Pacific is your best bet for beachfront sites.
The Pacific NorthWest at It’s Best!
As you can see, Tofino and Ucluelet are packed full of activities and adventure. Hiking, beaches, beer, and plenty of great eats round out a great list of things to do in Tofino and Ucluelet. It truly is the Pacific Northwest at its finest.
What am I missing from this list of things to see, do, eat and drink? Let me know in the comments below!
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