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How to get from Vancouver to Tofino & the must-do road trip stops!

How to get from Vancouver to Tofino & the must-do road trip stops!

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A road trip to Tofino is a quintessential Vancouver weekend getaway. The Tofino beaches are beautiful as is the forest and, even the journey over there is picturesque!

If you’re planning a weekend in Tofino you may be wondering how to get to Tofino from Vancouver. In this guide you’ll get the low down on the Vancouver to Tofino drive, the float plane to Tofino, getting a bus to Tofino and the places to stop along the way (more so if you’re driving).

How Far is Tofino from Vancouver? 

As the crow flies, flying to Tofino from Vancouver is 200 kilometres. Since you’re not a crow, and if you’re not going to fly to Tofino, then you’ll be driving. The drive is 285 kilometres and includes the Vancouver to Tofino ferry journey.

Driving without stopping will take between 5-6 hours, but there are some great stops between Vancouver to Tofino, so factor in more hours if possible.

Drive to Tofino from Vancouver: 5-6 hours (longer with stops)

Driving from Vancouver to Tofino is the most popular way people get to Tofino. Not only is a road trip fun, but it gives you the flexibility of taking as much as you want and leaving whenever you want to. Plus, you can stop off at fun places along the way including the Hole in the Wall in Port Alberni, Taylor River Rest Area and the Giant Cedar Trail.

The Vancouver to Tofino drive is beautiful and getting BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen to Nanaimo also allows you to relax for a bit while soaking up the coastal views. You can even see whales sometimes as you sail by!

Top tip: Time your ferry from Vancouver to Tofino with sunset in one direction!

Since Tofino is on the west coast (the far side of Vancouver Island), there’s no direct ferry to Tofino. You have to go to Nanaimo (or drive Victoria to Tofino, but Nanaimo is closer), then drive across Vancouver Island from there.

The two different ferries to Nanaimo are run by BC Ferries and are:

  1. Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay  
  2. Tsawwassen to Duke Point

If you are driving to Tofino from November to April, check the road conditions to Tofino ahead of time. Sutton Pass between Port Alberni and Tofino gets snow fairly regularly. DriveBC is the best place to get information for any road trips throughout the province.

Where to stop on a Tofino road trip

how to spend a weekend in tofino and ucluelet
Surfers near Long Beach Tofino

The drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is simple enough, there aren’t many places you can go wrong. The drive is a bit windier and narrower than you may be used to, but nothing too out there.

Once in Nanaimo, you’ll join BC-19, following signs to Parksville and then Port Alberni.

There are a couple of places you can stop along the way, or on the way back, that are well worth extending the drive time.

Goats on the Roof

Just as you’re leaving Parksville, there’s a fun roadside attraction and store known as Old Country Market/Goats on the Roof. As the name suggests there are goats on the roof of the store! The goats live up there and you can pull over to watch them. I’d also recommend popping into the store as there are some great finds in there. It’s the perfect place to stock up with some snacks for your road trip!

From here you’re on the scenic part of the drive where you’re driving surrounded by forest, spot mountain peaks in the rearview mirror and go past lakes and rivers bluer than you thought possible.

Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni

Hole in the Wall in Port Alberni is a cool spot not far off the main road. The Hole in the Wall itself is man-made and was formed many years ago when a hole was drilled through the solid rock to create space for a pipeline. Though the pipeline is no longer there, the hole still is.

Now you can see the river flow through the hole into the clear pool below. If it’s hot enough this area is great for a quick paddle, or just for taking photos.

Cathedral Grove

The next stop on your Vancouver to Tofino road trip is Cathedral Grove. Here you’ll find impressive Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedars some of which are 800 years old!

If you’ve never walked among trees like this, you’ve simply got to stop here and soak up the forest’s beauty. Some of the trees reach 9m wide!

There are a few short trails, some of which are wheelchair and stroller accessible, and the loop through the forest returns you back to the pullout where you’ve parked up.

As you continue and drive through Port Alberni the drive just continues to get better!

Taylor River Rest Area

Another absolutely beautiful spot on your Vancouver to Tofino drive is the Taylor River Rest Area. It doesn’t sound like much and if you’ve stopped at many rest areas before you’re probably not expecting much. However, this rest area is where you’ll find a beautifully clear emerald green river.

It’s perfect for paddle boarding or swimming (just maybe not in spring if the river is high and fast-flowing).

Giant Cedar Trail

If you didn’t stop off at Cathedral Grove, then make time for the Giant Cedar Trail. This short trail through the forest takes you along a river to a huge cedar tree. It’s incredible how tall and wide they can grow!

Kennedy Lake

how to spend a weekend in tofino and ucluelet

Kennedy Lake is one of the final stops to make on your drive to Tofino. We stopped here on our first trip to Tofino and I even managed to get a swim in. It’s a lovely lake but does get busy in the summer months!

Flights from Vancouver to Tofino – 45 minutes

how to spend a weekend in tofino and ucluelet
Vancouver to Tofino by plane could have you viewing amazing sunsets like this

The quickest way to get from Vancouver to Tofino, or Tofino to Vancouver, is by flying. There are a couple of options here. You can either take a standard airplane, or you can take the Vancouver to Tofino seaplane.

The closest airport to Tofino is Tofino/Long Beach Airport. You can fly from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to Tofino Airport (YAZ) daily with Pacific Coastal Airlines. It’s a bit of a drive from the airport to Tofino centre so you’ll need to either rent a car, take a taxi or get the bus. Some accommodations can also offer airport transfers if you check with them beforehand.

Alternatively, you can get the seaplane from Vancouver to Tofino. Not only is this incredibly fun, with amazing views over the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island itself, but the seaplane departs right from downtown Vancouver, and then drops you off right in the centre of Tofino at the harbour.

The only downside is that this is typically the most expensive way to get to Tofino! Vancouver to Tofino flights can cost $300+ return.

Book your flight with Harbour Air from Vancouver to Tofino here.

Public Transit: Bus from Vancouver to Tofino: 5-7 hours

There is no direct public transport from Vancouver to Tofino so if this is the route you’re choosing you’ll need to link a couple of different methods together.

To get from Vancouver to Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay you can take a bus and catch the ferry as a foot passenger. From Nanaimo, you’ll need to have pre-arranged a Tofino bus service through Vancouver Island Connector.

Vancouver Island Connector don’t run all the time, though they typically run throughout summer which is the most popular time to visit Tofino. You should book in advance online and you can check schedules and fares here.

At the time of writing, buses left daily from the BC Ferries terminal in Nanaimo at 12:30 pm arriving at 4 pm in Tofino.

Best places to stay in Tofino, Vancouver Island

There are many accommodation options in Tofino and Ucluelet which are just down the road from each other. If you’re staying in Ucluelet, Ucluelet to Tofino is a 35-minute drive and Ucluelet is actually my preferred town out of the two!

Tofino accommodation by the beach is sought after and can be expensive, it’s worth checking out Airbnb in Tofino as they can be cheaper if splitting the coast between friends.

Tofino Hotels

  • Long Beach Resort Tofino: This Tofino beachfront resort has a stunning location, and beautiful rooms and offers private surf lessons all year long.
  • Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino: Perched between the ancient rainforest and the sea, our location offers unparalleled access to the true nature of Vancouver Island’s west coast.
  • The Shoreline Tofino: Set in Tofino, within a few kilometres of Mackenzie Beach and Chesterman Beach, The Shoreline Tofino has a garden and offers guests a barbecue. Each room includes a balcony with mountain views.
  • Tofino Paddlers Inn: Close to the centre of Tofino, this waterfront Inn has views of the harbour and Meares Island and is more affordable than other hotels in the area.

Tofino Camping

  • Surf Grove: The newest Tofino campground. It’s got super cute branding and great amenities and it is right on Cox Bay Beach!
  • Bella Pacifica: Bella Pacifica has a variety of camping and RV sites, each with a picnic table and fire pit. Advance reservations are required for summer camping and are recommended throughout the season.
  • Mackenzie Beach Resort: A beachfront collection of camping and RV sites as well as rustic cabins and re-imagined vintage Airstreams. Super cool spot!