Road Trip to Tofino from Vancouver— Day 1 of a 5-Day Trip in Tofino
We visited Tofino in November and stayed 4 nights. Tofino is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island and is known for its surfing. Although busier in the summer, Tofino is equally great to visit during the fall. We picked up vietnamese sandwiches in Vancouver for breakfast and continued to Horseshoe Bay to catch an early ferry to Nanaimo. On the ferry, we caught a rare glimpse of a pod of humpback whales! Despite growing up in the Lower Mainland, I had never been to Tofino before and I was really excited!
Our first stop on the way to Tofino was Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. This provincial park is home to the Qualicum Falls Loop — a short trail leading to two waterfalls. At the base of the trail, there are two potential routes — Lower Falls and Upper Falls. The trail is a loop so you can still see both waterfalls whichever way you go. We opted to head to the Lower Falls first.
The trail is mostly flat and surrounded by lush greens. Within a 10 minute walk, we reached the Lower Falls. Another 15 minute walk along the stream and we reached the Upper Falls.
We drove past Cathedral Grove, which was unfortunately closed, so we continued to Port Alberni. We stopped at the Clam Bucket in Port Alberni, ordered cajun popcorn shrimp to go, and continued to Sproat Lake. We snacked on the cajun popcorn shrimp by the lake.
Sproat Lake glistened under the sun against a beautiful mountainous view. The lake is also home to petroglyphs, which we did not stop to see, as we wanted to get to Tofino before the sun set.
We had one last stop before Tofino — Wally Creek. The weather shifted immensely in between Port Alberni and Wally Creek (and once again in Tofino). This part of the highway passes high in the mountains so it is much colder than Tofino and Port Alberni. Part of the creek had frozen over! Wally Creek is just off the highway and is easy to miss. Pay attention to the locks on the fence and the small sign labelled “ Wally Creek”. We got to Wally Creek as the sun was starting to set, which created a beautiful backdrop. This was my favourite location of the day!
After another hour drive, we finally reached Tofino. Despite a 3 hour drive from Nanaimo to Tofino, the multiple stops made the trip go quickly. As we got closer to Tofino, it became warmer and we saw more temperate rainforests. We checked in to our Airbnb on Gibsons Heights, which we shared with two friends. The airbnb was spacious and was less than a five minute walk to downtown Tofino, making it a great place to stay.
We headed to Kuma Tofino for dinner, which was extremely busy. The wait was about an hour and half, so we put our name on the list and headed to Tonquin Lighthouse Trail for an evening walk in the woods. Hiking in the dark is an interesting experience. The trail down to the beach is not very steep. Make sure to bring head lamps and go in a group if you decide to make the trek down to Tonquin Beach in the dark! After about twenty minutes, we reached the beach, turned off our head lamps and looked up at the stars. Without the light pollution from the city, each star sparkled brightly in the night sky. Absolutely mesmerizing. I was very disappointed that my camera was not advanced enough to capture this experience.
We headed back to Kuma Tofino for dinner. Kuma Tofino specializes in Japanese comfort food. Ramen sounded like a great idea after our walk. We ordered chicken karaage, okonomiyaki, and tonkotsu ramen to share — yum! I also ordered a Tofino Brewing Company Lager to enjoy with my meal. What a perfect way to end the evening!
After dinner, we headed back to the Airbnb for the evening.
Complete Day 1 Itinerary
*Travel times may vary. Check BC Ferries and Google Maps for most accurate travel details.
8:00am: Grab breakfast in Vancouver.
10:30am: Catch the ferry to Nanaimo BC (either from Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen). Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo is a 1 hour and 40 minute sailing time, while Tsawwassen to Nanaimo is a 2 hour sailing time.
12:30pm: Head to Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park (an hour drive from the Nanaimo BC Ferry terminal) and enjoy a forest walk through Qualicum Falls Loop.
2:30pm: Stop by Cathedral Grove (10 minute drive from Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park).
3:30pm: Head to the Clam Bucket in Port Alberni (17 minute drive from Cathedral Grove) for an afternoon snack. Option: Takeout and eat it at Sproat Lake!
4:30pm: Visit the petroglyphs at Sproat Lake (12 minute drive from Port Alberni).
5:30pm: Stop by Wally Creek (25 minute drive from Sproat Lake).
6:00pm: Continue to Tofino (1 hour and 7 minute drive from Wally Creek). Check in to the Airbnb and head to Kuma Tofino for dinner.
8:00pm: Go on an evening walk (with headlights!) on the Tonquin Lighthouse Trail down to Tonquin Beach (20 minute walk to trailhead from Kuma Tofino).
5-Day Tofino Itinerary
Click “Download” below for an excel version of my 5-Day Tofino Itinerary. Feel free to use the excel file as a planning template for your own trip to Tofino!