The Half-Ass Tofino Guide to Beaches
Last month, we asked Tofitian and Olympic Hopeful Mathea Olin to rank Tofino beaches in order. This month, we explore the good, bad, and rad of each sandy Tofino treasure. Paddle in, folks. We’re exploring Tofino’s best assets one by one, from worst to first.
We all know South Chesterman isn’t the worst of anything, but it’s certainly not the best surf spot. The good news is, because of its low ranking for surfers, it’s sits high on the list for the more tentative of us. We are the beach sleepers, the boogie boarders, the beginners and the families. We are legion, and we love South Chesterman. The tide pools of Frank Island are a bonus for this spot. So is the lack of a need for a park pass to hang here. Did you know, Chesterman Beach is the closest beach to Tofino, and is named after John Chesterman, who was an English coxswain (navigator) and a copper and gold prospector? Of course, long (long) before he arrived, both the Tla-O-Qui-Aht and Nuu’chah’nulth First Nations played, lived and harvested these beaches. Their names will ring truer anyday.
A bit trickier to get to, and definitely finicky with surf, Rosie Bay has sea caves and tidal pools for the explorers in your crew, AKA kids. Wait for low tide and walk south from South Chesterman. or paddle over if you’re a strong (very strong) surfer. This spot is tiny but cool as heck, and home to some of the coolest architecture in town, including the infamous John Travolta house, which wasn’t John Travolta’s house.
Mathea ranks Long Beach at fourth place, but for many newbie surfers it’s a holy grail and is certainly one of the most iconic spots in Canada. This is where many surfers first catch a wave. There’s a reason shops tell rookies to come here: beach breaks are softer on beginners when they inevitably get tossed off their board and auger into the sandy seafloor. The biggest bonus to Long Beach is in the name; it’s most likely the longest and widest expanse of sand anywhere on the west coast, and is a stunning beach. Surf or not, it’s a must-visit spot for tourists. Pro Tip: bring a bicycle and ride the hard sand at low tide. Bring a lunch. Bring beer. Bring friends.
North Chesterman Beach
While South Chesterman often gets unfairly beat up on by surfers, it’s sister beach North Chesterman is an old dependable stretch of beautiful beach. It’s often busy, as it’s the closest to town, but it’s a solid choice for most surfers.
The good stuff is found here, but if we’re being honest, it’s better left to the experienced surfers in your crew. If you’re coming from out of town and want a chill surf session, find less crowds and easier breaks elsewhere. If you know how to sink a proper bottom turn in with power, use the channel for a paddle out, and respect the game, this might be a place for you. Maybe.
Winner: NunyaBusiness Beach
“Where is that?” This questions is the bane of every surfer’s existence on social media. And the answer should always be “Nunyabusiness.” Good surf is where you find it, as Gerry Lopez famously writes about, and the best surf location, break, weather, etc., changes by the hour if not the minute. Sometimes it’ll be Cox. Sometimes it’ll be Long Beach. Other times, it will be in Ucluelet. Don’t plan a trip around a beach you hear about on Instagram. Plan it around the truest measure of good times: adventure with friends. See you out there, you frothy animals.
*Honourable Mention: Tonquin Beach
In town. No surf. Swimmable. Chillable. Beautiful rainforest hike to get there. Boom.
Did we get the list right? Probably not, but we don’t care. Any beach is a good beach, and internet debates are dumb. Pick a beach and get out there.