Have you ever driven down a highway all the way to its end? It’s not often we do that or can do that. But you can in Tofino! It’s the end (or start) of the Trans-Canada Highway, the furthest west one can drive in Canada along this highway (by the time it reaches Tofino, though, it looks like a simple street, not a bustling major highway). Tofino is located in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which is along the west coast of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada.
I must admit, when I first arrived in Tofino, I thought it was a strange town. It gave me the impression that if Tofino is not careful, in twenty years, it will be a glorified tourist trap. But for now, I think the best word for Tofino is “quirky”. The town is pretty laidback and full of easy going people. Apparently, about 2000 people live here all year round but the summer tourist season always increases that number dramatically. I was there in the shoulder season of early spring. Tofino is a town that attracts all sorts of folks from all over the world (even those who work there – I had Australian waiters and surf instructors) but the one thing everyone has in common here, is a love of the outdoors.
No matter what you think of Tofino, there is no denying that it occupies a fantastic location. In town itself, there are a number of things to do to keep yourself busy. Check out tons of unique and high-quality restaurants, gorgeous art galleries (many of which emphasize First Nations art), and many a viewpoint that will make you drool over the beauty of Mother Nature. Outside of town, well, that is why one comes here to begin with.
“The one thing everyone has in common is a love of the outdoors.”
The best time to go to Tofino depends on what you want to do. If you are interested in calm weather, hiking, bird watching, bear watching (yes, that’s a thing), whale watching, and getting wet in the ocean (swimming, surfing, kayaking), go during the spring to fall months. The winters, while mild temperature-wise, they are great for storm watching.
A few things for which to keep your eye out when in Tofino:
- Eik Cedar Tree: A Western red cedar tree near the entrance of town. It is believed to be about 800 to 1000 years old! In 2001, it was almost cut down as it was deemed an “insurance hazard”. Seriously. Thankfully, people got together and figured out how to fortify the tree. Today, it has a steel cage around it that keeps it from toppling down on your head.
- Surf schools: Tons from which to choose. You can’t NOT surf when in this part of Canada!
- Crosswalks: Even the lines on the roads that keep pedestrians organized and safe are pretty quirky.
- Eagle Aerie Gallery: One of many art galleries in Tofino. This one displays and sells the amazing work of Roy Henry Vickers, a Canadian artist whose produces beautiful art influenced by his First Nations heritage.
- The Pacific Terminus sign: the end or start (depends on your perspective) of the Trans-Canada Highway.
- Dock: Great place to admire the ocean and watch boats as well as sea planes do their thing. Near here is also where you can find water taxis to take you out to the islands nearby. Meares Island is highly recommended.