Seven Things to Do in Tofino

I’ve been bogged down with schoolwork, two jobs, and moving out, but Halloween weekend finally gave me an excuse to travel.
My boyfriend and I loaded his car with supplies to last us the 10-hour roadtrip from Kelowna to Tofino, spread out over two days with an overnight stop in VanCity.

From Horseshoe Bay, we hopped a ferry to Nanaimo. It’s not cheap – $88 one way for a car and two passengers – and the unnecessary reservation fee is an extra $20. We arrived an hour early and borded easily, although we nearly fell asleep and missed our ride waiting in the vehicle line. Whoops!

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The drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is a 3-hour trip down curvy, rough-edged terrain. The interior of Vancouver Island takes me back to The Land Before Time while the coastline looks like a scene from Narnia. About half an hour outside of Port Alberni is an awesome waterfall, excessible by a metal staircase next to a giant fallen log. After a total of 8 hours in the car, Mark and I finally made it to Tofino.

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Hailed as one of Canada’s premier surfing spots, Tofino also draws in avid storm-watchers. The laid-back, island vibe captured me immediately as my best friend welcomed us into his cozy flat. Our first stunning ocean view came atop the pier, which we literally drove straight on top of.

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Tof (pronounced “Tuff”) is made up of about 3 intersecting streets, all of which hold a grand total of around 8 stores and under 12 restaurants. In the summer, Tofino bursts with outdoor adventurers, but in off-season, the population drastically declines. Island life is pricey, but knowing the right people can go a long way. We felt like locals when we were invited to an outdoor DJ Halloween house party at the community rave spot Crab Apple. The bubble around Tof reminded me of the snow globe that surrounds ski resorts – everywhere you go, there’s someone that you know (and a shit-ton of Aussies).

If you’re planning to check out this cozy community, there are a few things you should not miss:

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1. Mackenzie Beach
The photo speaks for itself. Surf, sun, sand… beer 🙂 This place is perfect for a picnic (or a hangover cure).

2. Tofino Brewing Company
I ran into an old friend in this garage bar & stocked up on quality brewskis!  Tuff Ale was my favourite: red, smooth, and flavourful. The 2L Growler jug makes a great souviner and can be refilled for $10 . A word of warning, it must be consumed within 48 hours 😉

3. Jack’s
I’m a little bit biased as my friend cooks here, but if you’re looking for quality pub food, a place to play pool, and live music on top of the ocean, this place is my number one pick. Oh, and when you go, say hey to James for me 😉

4. Native Art Gallery
Mark Hobbson masterfully creates glowing nature pieces that contain underlying animal images. Although a print may be too pricey, a $4 card will definitely brighten someone’s day.

5. Tacofino
This quaint food van is an attraction to tourists and locals alike. Featuring fantastic fish tacos, the best burritos, and tasty nachos, the little complex- okay, parking lot – it’s held within is also worth exploring.

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6. The Botanical Gardens
Due to a lack of time and an onset of rain, I didn’t actually make it inside the Botanical Gardens. But even from the outside, I was entranced by carved logs, bleating goats, and a peaceful garden that I will certainly take my time to wander through next time.

7. Cox Beach
You can’t go to Tofino and not try out surfing (unless you’re me). The winter waves at Cox were sparsely spread with a thin layer of black wetsuit-clad surfers, always in search of the best spot along the bay.

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There’s so much more of Vancouver Island I want to explore – but I’m not in a huge rush. Don’t expect to get too much done over only a weekend. Instead, slow down and sink into the easy-pace that makes Tofino Tuff.

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