How to get to Tofino 101
Tofino is closer than you think but just away enough that you’ll feel far from regular life. Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, this small fishing and surfing town is easy to get to. Here’s a few tips on how to drop in smoothly and ride the wave.
Let’s Talk About BC Ferries
Almost universally hated by Islanders but 100% required to keep the island running, BC Ferries can be an annoying nightmare or a surprisingly enjoyable experience. It’s all how you plan it, and how full your glass normally is.
- First off, get a reservation. You’ve come this far…what’s another $10-20 to reserve a spot on the one hour and forty minute ride between the mainland and Vancouver Island? You won’t regret it.
- Pack your own snacks and drinks to avoid paying too much for mediocre ferry food.
- Even better, eat before you sail. Even even better? Hit up Yelp to source a sweet restaurant on Vancouver Island where you can eat after driving off the ferry. That way you avoid the post-ferry traffic rush. In Nanaimo, Nori serves great sushi that will keep your belly happy before the cross-island drive. The Firehouse Grill is a good option that will show you downtown in the Harbour City. Docking in Duke Point? Try the Crow and Gate Pub in Cedar, B.C.
- Get outside. One of the best parts of BC Ferries is that it’s in B.C., but you won’t experience that sitting inside drinking $7 Starbucks. Take your coffee upstairs and out into the wild windy upper decks. For the optimists and adventurers on board, there’s simply no place else to be. If you’re lucky and sharp-sighted you’ll see whales, seabirds and sailboats plying the Salish Sea. For the pessimists, you’ll have an opportunity to shift your worldview. Don’t think of the trip as transportation. Think of it as sightseeing. That’s better, right?
- Don’t book your ferry reservation home until you know when you return. Tofino has a way of making you want to stay longer. The weather shifts. The surf gets better. You want to hit that one restaurant one more time. You get a job and stay forever. For real. These things happen.
The Best Drive in B.C.?
Highway 4 is legendary. Twisty, turny, and fun as heck for those who consider themselves an upper-case Driver™, this road rewards those who love to cruise but the rivers and mountains along the way can also intimidate those who get scared easily. Either way, the road to Tofino is part of the journey. Here are some tips to make it as sweet as it can be.
- Fuel up with both food and gas. From Nanaimo to Port Alberni there are more than a few options to get what you need, but after Alberni you’re on your own. No gas stations. No craft breweries. No restaurants. It’s only an hour and a half but traffic and frequent sightseeing pullovers can extend that time. Plus, you may want to stop for an extended period of time, which leads us to the next point.
- Pullover, damnit. Highway 4 from Port Alberni to Tofino is one long stretch of beautiful viewpoints. It’s also a narrow-ass road. Capitalize on the pullouts to stop and take in the beauty, stretch your legs and let the traffic go by. Because the worst part of traffic is being part of it. Crack your cooler, enjoy a frosty drink and a snack, take a dip in one of the few rivers the road parallels along the way, explore the forest trails, and just generally acclimatize to the Tofino pace…slow and chill. The beaches will still be there when you arrive.
- Be cool with construction. First-time Tofino visitors are always shocked by the way Highway 4 can cling to the cliffs and hang high over the lakes and rivers beside it. That’s all thanks to hard-working construction crews, so make sure you slow the hell down and obey their signs. Safety first, right?
- Check closures. Speaking of construction, go here to make sure the road is open when you’re passing through.
- Kennedy Lake love. You’re in the car. The odometer tells you you’re close. You come over a hump and there it is…the wide-open expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Oops, no it isn’t. It’s Kennedy Lake, a freshwater Utopia worth visiting on the way. Stop and jump in. Baptize yourself in the fresh waters of Vancouver Island. Our rivers and lakes are some of the best on the planet. This is one of them. Plus, you’ll arrive in Tofino without that “all day travel stank”.
- “The T”. When you arrive to a crossroads, you can left to our friends in Ucluelet or right to Tofino. Before you do either, stop at the Visitor Centre on your left and get a park pass. Canada’s parks are incredible, and it’s all of our duties to chip in to keep them safe, clean and growing. More parks mean more adventuring for everyone.
Flying into Tofino
Ok, here’s the biggest secret: Harbour Air flies directly to our resort. Like, literally. The big comfy modern float planes land in Tofino Inlet and pull up to our docks. It’s the most beautiful way—and fastest—to get to Tofino. No advice needed. Just go here.
Coming from the States? We can’t wait to show you a warm Canadian welcome. Seattle-based Kenmore Air offers direct charter flights aboard their PC-12. This luxurious travel experience is the quickest way to cross the border and reach the end of the road.