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

When it comes to how to get to Tofino from Vancouver, you’ve plenty of options.

My favorite is to plan a road trip to Tofino. Spending the weekend at this pretty beach town on Vancouver Island is a quintessential Vancouver weekend getaway and it’s easy to see why once you’ve made your first trip there.

The Tofino beaches are beautiful as is the forest, there are loads of great hikes around Tofino, 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).

south beach trail tofino

How Far is Tofino from Vancouver? 

As the crow flies, flying to Tofino from Vancouver is 200 kilometers. 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 kilometers and includes the Vancouver to Tofino ferry journey.

The Vancouver to Tofino driving time 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, the 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.

As a result of there being no Tofino to Vancouver ferry, you’ll 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:

  • Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay  
  • 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.

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

Where to stop on a Tofino road trip

Now you know how to get Tofino from Vancouver, let’s talk about where to stop on the drive.

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 coombs vancouver island bc

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.

We stopped off here on our way to and from Campbell River and it’s such a fun and unique place to find!

hole in the wall port alberni bc

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 tofino vancouver island

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 vancouver island

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 vancouver island

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!

how to spend a weekend in tofino and ucluelet

Kennedy Lake

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!

cox bay lookout tofino

Cox Bay Lookout Trail

Just off the Pacific Rim highway near Cox Bay Resort is Cox Bay Beach.

Here you’ll find one of the worst-kept secrets in Tofino that you just have to check out!

The Cox Bay Lookout hike is a short and relatively easy hike with some of the best views in Tofino. You’ll look down onto Cox Bay beach and it’s the perfect hike for sunset!

There are loads of other great hikes in Tofino to try too!

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

Flights from Vancouver to Tofino – 45 minutes

The quickest way to get from Vancouver to Tofino, or Tofino to Vancouver, is by flying.

So, if you want to do a day trip to Tofino from Vancouver, then this is how you should travel to Tofino since the other methods won’t leave you enough time to explore.

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 center 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 like Galiano and Vancouver Island itself, but the seaplane departs right from downtown Vancouver, and then drops you off right in the center of Tofino at the harbor.

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 Tofino to Vancouver seaplane flight with Harbour Air from Vancouver to Tofino here.

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

For how to get to Tofino from Vancouver without a car things are a bit tricker, but totally possible (plus you could fly as above).

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.

The Nanaimo to Tofino drive is about 3 hours on a fairly windy road (windy for Canada that is!).

Vancouver Island Connector doesn’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, the Vancouver to Tofino bus from Nanaimo left daily from the BC Ferries terminal in Nanaimo at 12:30 pm arriving at 4 pm in Tofino.

pacific sands tofino

Best places to stay in Tofino, Vancouver Island

Now you know how to go to Tofino from Vancouver, it’s time to think about where to stay in Tofino.

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!
schooner cove trail tofino

FAQs about the drive from Vancouver to Tofino

Is there a ferry from Vancouver to Tofino?

There is no direct ferry from Vancouver to Tofino. You can get a ferry from Vancouver to Victoria or Nanaimo and drive from there to Tofino.

How do you get to Tofino from Vancouver without a car?

For how to get to Tofino without a car, you can take a combination of bus and ferry to Nanaimo and then take a pre-arranged Tofino bus service. Alternatively, you can take a flight from Vancouver to Tofino.

How do you get from Vancouver Island to Tofino?

To get from Vancouver Island to Tofino, you can drive across the island from Nanaimo or take a pre-arranged Tofino bus service from Nanaimo.

Is it worth it to go to Tofino?

Tofino is a popular tourist destination known for its beaches, surfing, and wildlife, and is definitely worth a visit for those who enjoy the outdoors and nature.

How many days do you need for Tofino?

The length of stay in Tofino will depend on personal preferences and interests, but ideally, 3-4 days would allow enough time to explore the beaches, forests, and wildlife, and to take part in some outdoor activities such as surfing, kayaking, or hiking.

Can you drive from Vancouver to Tofino?

Yes! There’s a ferry journey involved too, but you can drive the whole way on either side of the ferry.

cox bay lookout tofino

Final thoughts on getting to Tofino from Vancouver

This guide has hopefully helped you plan your trip to Tofino from Vancouver. Ultimately, the best way to get to Tofino from Vancouver depends on how much you want to spend, and how much time you have.

The distance between Vancouver and Tofino is 200 kilometres by air, but driving including the ferry to Tofino from Vancouver journey is 285 kilometres and takes 5-6 hours.

The drive Vancouver – Tofino Canada is scenic and includes places to stop such as Goats on the Roof, Hole in the Wall, Cathedral Grove, Taylor River Rest Area, and Kennedy Lake.

Flights are available from Vancouver to Tofino and take 45 minutes, while public transportation involves taking a bus and ferry to Nanaimo and then a pre-arranged Tofino bus service. Buses leave daily from Nanaimo to Tofino at 12:30 p.m. and make it possible to do a Tofino trip from Vancouver without a car.

If you’re looking for more things to do on Vancouver Island, be sure to check out these easy walks near Victoria, this guide to the best things to do in Victoria, and what to do in 1 day in Victoria.

Canada Travel Planning Guide

Should I buy Canada travel insurance?

100% YES! — You should have travel insurance for all your trips. Though Canada has “free” healthcare, it’s only for residents. If you’re just visiting, you’ll need travel insurance should you need medical care. It also helps you claim for delayed flights or lost/stolen baggage. We use SafetyWing for our travel insurance!

Is it safe to rent a car in Canada?

Yes — Renting a car is a good idea in most of Canada as public transit isn’t the best!

Car hire is usually quite reasonable, especially compared to some other countries and they’ll all be automatic so you shouldn’t have a problem driving it if you’re used to manual transmission.

I personally use a mix of DiscoverCars and RentalCars to find the best deal that works for me when I rent a car. I used them in Norway, Italy, and Canada when we first moved, and have never had an issue. For RV rental I recommend Outdoorsy.

What’s the best way to pay/exchange money for Canada?

Wise (formerly Transferwise!) — I use my Wise card everywhere these days. I fill it with a certain currency and then I can spend it in countries across the world, online and even for direct debits. Wise has the best currency exchange rates (and they’ll even tell you when you can get it cheaper elsewhere!). When you pay in another currency through chip and pin or tap/wireless, they’ll automatically convert it for you – it’s easy! This link gets you a fee-free transfer.

Do I need a visa for Canada?

Many countries do not need a visa to travel to Canada — However, you may need an ETA which costs $7 (you need this if you’re from the UK). You can buy them online and they usually take a few hours to come through though it can take longer. Only ever buy from this official website otherwise you’ll end up paying more money necessarily. If you want to move to Canada, check out my guide to the Working Holiday Visa which is how we first moved there! Always check the official Canadian Immigration website to see whether you need a visa to travel there.

Will my phone work in Canada?

It depends — Some American and European companies work in Canada for a certain amount of data or time but many will not work at all. Getting a Canadian SIM card will help you get around with Google Maps and stay in touch with people back home. There isn’t much free WIFI in Canada so you can’t really rely on that, especially if you’re heading outside of major cities.

Where can I book my Canada accommodation?

I always check Booking.com for hotels or Hostel World for hostels. If I’m looking for something for a bigger group of people, or a bit more unique (cosy cabins, luxury beach houses) then I use VRBO.

When we first moved to Canada we used Trusted Housesitters to get free accommodation!

What’s the best site to buy Canada flights?

I only ever use Skyscanner to find cheap flights no matter where I’m travelling!

Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Hannah

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