A Weekend in Tofino, Vancouver Island

With its rugged beaches and peaceful coastal rainforests, Vancouver Island’s west coast can feel like the edge of the world—but the stylish surf town of Tofino has put this dreamy destination on the map. Replete with whale-watching tours, First Nations canoe trips, and beachfront lodges—not to mention an enviable food scene—Tofino (and the surrounding wilderness) makes for a great weekend trip.

a boat sits on the water in Tofino Harbor
Tofino Harbor. Photo © Elena Elisseeva/Dreamstime.

The weather on the west coast can be cooler, damper, and more changeable than elsewhere on the island, so bring layers, rain gear, and shoes or boots that can get wet. Whatever the weather, the west coast is a laid-back region where surfers carry their boards on their bikes, the seafood is always fresh, and cocktail hour is a sacred ritual. And it’s hugely popular with travelers: Tofino’s population of 2,000 can swell to more than 20,000 on weekends in July and August. Don’t worry, though. Even in midsummer, there’s plenty of room here at the edge of the world. Here’s what to do with a west coast weekend.

Start your day with a morning stroll along the beach; Chesterman Beach is one of the area’s most beautiful. Then wander through the Tofino Botanical Gardens to explore the old-growth rainforest, stopping at Darwin’s Café when it’s time for a coffee break. Wolf down the delicious fish tacos at the orange food truck, Tacofino, then head for Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to check out the displays in the Kwisitis Visitor Centre and hike near the shore. Later, take a surfing lesson, go swimming, or book a First Nations Canoe Tour with the excellent guides at T’ashii Paddle School—you’ll learn about the local indigenous communities while paddling in hand-carved dugout canoes. For dinner, don’t miss the potato-crusted oysters at The Wolf in the Fog, where all the local seafood is bound to be stellar.

wide swath of beach on the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver
Named for its location on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Rim National Park encompasses a long, narrow strip of coast that has been battered by the sea for eons. Photo © James Wheeler/iStock.

The next morning, pick up coffee and a ginger scone at Common Loaf Bake Shop before heading to the waterfront for an offshore excursion. Take a full-day trip to Hot Springs Cove, a kayak excursion to Meares Island, or a shorter whale-watching or bear-watching tour. Afterwards, clean up and drive to the Wickaninnish Inn for a cocktail in their window-lined lounge facing the sea. Stay for a special dinner at The Pointe if your budget allows, or head into town for a restorative bowl of ramen at Kuma Tofino or the wild salmon chowder at SoBo. Either way, be sure to stop for a few sunset photos over the harbor to remember your west coast adventures.

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