Tofino, BC – A Bucket List Trip
When planning a trip to a place as unique as Tofino on Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim, be prepared to get busy and enjoy everything it has to offer. With only 4 days and 7 of us in our group, we had a jam packed but amazing visit. Relive our stay in one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see.
Day 1 – Travel and Arrival
After a scenic ferry ride from the Vancouver mainland we took a pit stop in Nanaimo, then hit the road for the 3.5-hour trek to Tofino. If you haven’t done the drive before, the beaches of Parksville, goats on the roof at Coombs, Cameron Lake and Cathedral Grove are all worth while stops along the way. Our first stop in the Tofino area however was Long Beach. And they weren’t kidding – it’s huge! The tide was out, the breeze was blowing and all we could think about was flying kites. The kids could run while we took in the view, felt the sand between our toes and then dipped those toes in the Pacific Ocean. Ahhhhh… any stress washes away and you can’t help but feel inspired with the beauty.
We carried on to check-in at our campsite, Crystal Cove Beach Resort. It was a top-notch resort and campground with everything you could need to make you feel at home. Check out their website to see for yourself! We also had firewood delivered to our site each day and we were permitted to have fires on the beach.
Crystal Cove connects right on to MacKenzie beach, which is a premiere location for taking in a sunset. You feel as if you’re on the edge of the earth as the sun sinks below the horizon. This became our nightly routine.
Day 2 – Divide and Conquer
The boys were out early to the dock for a chartered salmon fishing excursion. An experience like none-other, they caught Chinook and Coho and created memories that our 7-year-old son will remember for a lifetime.
The girls explored the downtown shopping and walked to the Tonquin Beach trailhead. This well-maintained, easy trail took us down to a secluded beach. The tide was out just enough to spot a bright orange starfish and of course draw pictures in the sand.
Once the group was back together, we knew we wanted to visit the Eagle Aerie Gallery of local artist (and our friend!) Roy Henry Vickers.
Our day capped off with sunset family photos at Middle Beach with local photographer Danielle of Rooted By Love Photography.
Day 3 – Touch Pools and Surfs Up!
We had heard such great things about the Ucluelet Aquarium so off we went! Did you know everything in the aquarium is from the local bays and is Canada’s first catch and release aquarium? Lucky for us, one of the knowledgeable staff offered to guide us through all the touch tanks and tell us about each of the amazing creatures – very cool!
Now for my absolute highlight of our Tofino adventure… surfing lessons! We arranged a private lesson for 5 of us (3 adults and 2 kids) through Tofino Surf School at Cox Bay. After an intro and some dry land training we hit the waves. I have to say, wetsuits are an amazing thing. Not only do you not feel cold at all, but they are extremely buoyant. Surfing is hard, but it is so much fun. There is a reason Tofino is known around the world as a surf town and it’s certainly worth taking the plunge to give it a go.
Day 4 – The Final Countdown
We were pulling out that afternoon but still had some attractions to cross off our list. We’re a golfing family, so our first stop was the Long Beach Golf Course for a quick round of mini golf. Every one of us managed to rack up a hole in one! To celebrate, we had lunch at the famous Tacofino food truck followed by ice cream at Chocolate Tofino.
A true hidden gem is the Tofino Botanical Garden and a perfect final stop to walk off lunch. We spent way longer here than we anticipated and thoroughly enjoyed the walk through the rain forest and along the shoreline. The kids especially loved the Children’s Garden where “adults must be supervised”.
This was a bucket list trip for me and it did not disappoint! The area is so beautiful and unique, it’s no wonder that people travel from around the world to visit this tiny surf town.
If this area interest you, check out our drive:
From Coast to Coast on Vancouver Island: Vancouver to Tofino
For more campgrounds in Tofino and other areas of British Columbia check out the Camping Map.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, BC is a Great Place to Visit in the Off-Season
One of the best parts of living in British Columbia is being close to both the mountains and the sea. BC has a lot of mountain-based national parks, but it also is blessed with a spectacular coastline – and none more spectacular than what you find in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is made up of three units spread along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Long Beach, the unit furthest north is the most accessible and arguably the best known. It is named after the 16-kilometre long stretch of sand lining Wickaninnish Bay and offers abundant opportunities for beach-combing, storm-watching, and surfing. Further south, the Broken Group Islands section is made up of over 100 small islands and is a dream destination for beginner and advanced kayakers alike. Further south still, the West Coast Trail is a challenging 75-kilometre backpacking route not to be taken lightly.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a popular summertime destination, but it should not be overlooked for an “off-season” getaway. In the winter, the Pacific Ocean is whipped in to a frenzy and the storm watching is second to none. No matter which season you plan your visit, you will find many things to see and do while you are there.
What to do
Highlights in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve include:
- Beachcombing: One of the best things to do in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is beachcombing. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day wandering the shores of Long Beach. Bring your dog, too. Long Beach is one of the only dog-friendly protected areas in Canada, however dogs must be on-leash at all times.
- Kayaking: With some advanced planning, kayaking the Broken Group is an adventure you will never forget. The Broken Group is rich in wildlife, including sea lions, whales, and bears. It is also home to unique coastal features including sea arches and sea caves.
- Kwisitis Visitor Centre: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is on the traditional lands of the Nuu-chah-nulth people. At the Kwisitis Visitor Centre you can take in the spectacular views from the deck before heading inside to learn about the area through a variety of exhibits. After your time at the Visitor Centre, head out for a self-guided walk on the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail.
- Surfing: Numerous licensed operators work in Pacific Rim and without too much trouble you should be able to find someone who can hook you up with rentals and lessons. Don’t forget a wetsuit, the water is cold even on the warmest summer day.
- Storm Watching: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is not only a summertime destination. In fact, from November to March the park comes into its own as a winter storm watching destination and is known worldwide for its huge waves.
In the Area
Tofino and Ucluelet have capitalized on their coastal location and proximity to Pacific Rim National Park and both offer a variety of activities and attractions. In Ucluelet, check out the Wild Pacific Trail for an easy coastal walk. My favourite section of the trail is the 2.5 kilometre Lighthouse Loop that takes you out to the 102-year old Amphitrite Lighthouse. In Tofino, consider joining a tour or hiring a charter and heading to Hot Springs Cove, a series of natural hot pools accessible only by boat or float plane.
Where to Stay
Camping in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve can be a bit tricky as there is only one campground within the Long Beach unit. The Green Point Campground offers 94 drive-in sites and an additional 20 walk-in sites. During the summer season, advanced reservations are a must if you want to stay in the park itself. A handful of private campgrounds are available in both Tofino and Ucluelet, but just like in the National Park, make a reservation ahead of time if you are travelling during the busy summer season.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offers a huge range of opportunities for exploration. From highly accessible and popular options in the Long Beach Unit to the extreme backcountry of the West Coast Trail, you are guaranteed to find something to suit whatever your heart desires. Keep in mind this park’s popularity when planning your trip. It can sometimes be a challenge to find accommodation on busy summer weekends and you will be greatly rewarded if you book your trip in advance. Don’t worry, though, with 16 kilometres of sandy beaches in the Long Beach Unit, you are sure to find a place that feels as though it is meant just for you.
If this area interests you, check out our drive:
From Coast to Coast on Vancouver Island: Vancouver to Tofino
Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:
Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc
Published: August 17th, 2017
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