While TOFINO is showing the effects of its ever-increasing tourist influx, locals are keeping development to a minimum, clearly realizing they have a vested interest in preserving the salty, waterfront charm that brought them – and visitors – here in the first place. Sleepy in the off-season, the place erupts into a frenzy during the summer.
Crowning a narrow spit, the fishing village is graced with magnificent views. There’s an unexpectedly rich restaurant scene, as well as top-notch accommodation and a wide variety of boat and seaplane tours. Most of the latter have a whale-watching, surfing (Canada’s best surf is close at hand) and fishing angle or provide a means to travel out to the nearby islands and hot springs.
It’s worth visiting the small Whale Centre at 411 Campbell St, one of many places to book whale-watching and bear-spotting tours, but also home to artefacts centred on local seafaring and First Nations culture. Another notable spot is the Eagle Aerie Gallery, 350 Campbell St, a gallery housed in a traditional longhouse-style building with a beautiful cedar interior.
Two fine beaches lie southeast of town: MacKenzie Beach and Chestermano Beach (for access to the latter take Lynn Rd right just beyond the Dolphin Motel). The former is one of the warmer spots locally, the latter home to a fair number of out-of-town accommodation possibilities. The quietest beach around is Templar: ask at the visitor centre for directions.Read More
There are plenty of whale-watching operators in town (the season runs from March to mid-Oct), most offering similarly priced excursions: all you need do is decide what sort of boat you want to go out on – Zodiacs (inflatables), which are bouncier, more thrilling and potentially wetter, or rigid-hull cruisers (covered or uncovered), which are more sedate (see Whale-watching in Pacific Rim National Park). If you take tours to Meares Islands and Hot Springs Cove, you stand a good chance of seeing whales en route – some operators try to combine whale-watching with excursions. Reckon on spending around $90 for a two- or three-hour trip in a Zodiac or rigid-hull. Operators in Tofino include:
Clayoquot Connections 606 Cambell St t 250 726 8789, t 1 800 667 9913, w clayoquotconnections.com. Offers a relatively inexpensive ($25) tour of the harbour and Meares Island.
Jamie’s Whaling Station 606 Campbell St t 250 725 3919, t 1 800 667 9913, w jamies.com. Founded in 1982, this offers a whale-watching choice of Zodiac boats ($89) or the 20m Leviathan II, which comes with heated cabin ($99). If you don’t see whales, Jamie’s offers vouchers which can be used on another trip. Also runs the same themed tours as Ocean Outfitters. Has another location in Ucluelet at 168 Fraser Lane (t 1 877 726 7444).
Ocean Outfitters 368 Main St t 250 725 2866, t 1 877 906 2326, w oceanoutfitters.bc.ca. Offers 2.5hr whale-watching tours (March to mid-Oct) on rigid ($89) or Zodiac boats ($89), as well as bear-watching (April–Oct; $89), hot springs (year-round; $119) and Meares Island tours (year-round; $25).
Remote Passages 51 Wharf St t 250 725 3330, t 1 800 666 9833, w remotepassages.com. Also long-established (since 1986) is Remote Passages, another laudable operation running whale-watching (Zodiacs, $89; cabin, $95), hot springs ($115), bear-watching ($89) and sea-kayaking tours ($79).
Bear-watching, Fishing, surfing, kayaking and hiking
In addition to these tours, many of the companies listed above also offer bear-watching, kayaking, hiking, fishing charters and other tours. Guided hikes and easy nature rambles in the forest and along the seashore are offered by several companies; contact the visitor centre in Tofino for details. Tofino is quickly becoming the surfing capital of Canada thanks to some enormous Pacific waves.
Braedy Mack Charters 899 Brabant Place t 250 726 8499, t 1 888 732 3077, w fishingtofino.ca. A long-established fishing specialist who’s quite happy to have novices aboard.
Live to Surf 1180 Pacific Rim Hwy (3.5km east of the town centre) t 250 725 4464, w livetosurf.com. For surfing information, board rental and equipment, contact Live to Surf, which rents boards (from $25) and offers lessons (without gear from $55 for 2.5hr, $75 with gear).
Paddle West Kayaking 606 Campbell St t 250 725 3232, w paddlewestkayaking.com. For kayaks (no experience required), this operator offers 2hr 30min, 4hr and 6hr trips ($59/75/99). Also runs longer, customized tours with lodge accommodation or wilderness camping.