Canada with Kids: Exploring beautiful Tofino


Photo Story: Tofino
Rocky outcrops




Tofino with Kids

Tofino is Canada's best surf spot
Tofino is Canada’s best surf spot


We visited a number of places our our British Columbia road trip including Whistler, Vancouver and Victoria. However, the small town of Tofino has to be my favourite. Set at the southern end of an area called Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, part of the Pacific Rim National Park, this is Canada’s (almost) westerly point. It’s also incredibly beautiful – wild, natural and rugged.

Tofino was first discovered by Spanish explorers in 1792 when the area was in habited by the indigenous First Nations people, led by Chief Wickaninnish (his name literally means ‘he who no one sits in front of in the canoe’ – possibly the best name ever!). For the next hundred years or so, the area was visited primarily by fur traders and whalers before Clayoquot Sound was opened for settlement in the 1880s. From the turn of the century, Tofino began to grow and in 1913, the C.P.R. steamship Princess Maquinna docked at Tofino and Clayoquot Island for the first time, providing regular contact with the outside world.


Photo Story: Tofino
Chesterman Beach


The first road to Tofino was only completed in 1959 and today the small, hippyish town still feels like you’ve stumbled across somewhere really special. It’s home to only 1,850 permanent residents although these numbers swell during the summer months owing to Tofino’s reputation as Canada’s best surf spot. The Pacific is cold, however! Remember to bring a wetsuit.

The town itself is peppered with restaurants and cafes, including the fantastic Sobo, as well as surf shops and a handful of operators running whale- and bear-watching tours. We took an early morning boat ride in search of bears with Westcoast Aquatic Safaris and, lucky for us, were the only people on the boat. We also saw bears!


Photo Story: Tofino
Going on a bear hunt


Photo Story: Tofino
An early morning boat ride


Photo Story: Tofino
The youngest crew member, not so interested in bears…


In the centre of town, on Campbell Street, you’ll find The Eagle Aerie Gallery that displays the works of award-winning Canadian artists Roy Henry Vickers.


Photo Story: Tofino
The Eagle Aerie Gallery


Just outside town are the whimsical Tofino Botanical Gardens, 12 magical acres of gardens, forests and shoreline dotted with fanciful art installations and garden buildings, such as the ‘historic’ Bernardo O’Higgins homestead. There’s also a fantastic Children’s Garden.


Tofino kids garden
Whimsical statues and the Children’s Garden


Tofino's Botanical Gardens
Tofino’s Botanical Gardens


But however charming the town is, it’s Tofino’s dramatic scenery that is the real draw; a wild mix of ancient cedar and fir forests, windswept beaches and mountains. You really do feel like you are at the edge of the world; stand on any beach and there’s nothing between you and Japan except vast swathes of the navy-blue Pacific ocean.


Photo Story: Tofino
Next stop Japan!


Photo Story: Tofino
The Wickaninnish Inn


We loved Chesterman Beach when we visited, especially for the oversized emerald green sea anemones and plump starfish that we discovered when rock pooling. Other popular beaches are Tonquin and Mackenzie. But these beaches are not just summer destinations, Tofino is also popular during the winter months when visitors come to witness the dramatic storms – the town can receive two to three inches or rain an hour! Not surprsingly, the seas are rough in winter months, stay clear of the rocks if you visit during this time.


Photo Story: Tofino
Jumping for joy


Photo Story: Tofino
Rock pooling


Photo Story: Tofino
Chesterman Beach


Getting to Tofino

Photo story: Tofino
Mountains and beach


About The Author

54 thoughts on “Canada with Kids: Exploring beautiful Tofino”

  1. Be still my beating heart. When I first arrived in Van, I was shocked to hear how far away Van Island was but now that I’ve read this and ogled over your pictures I can see a trip is 100% worth it. Planning for November when Craig’s brother is over.

  2. chloelifeunexpected

    Oh my gosh I am so lost for words. This place looks so beautiful and your video…oh my I really want to visit. How incredible to see the bears up so close. This looks incredible. Your pictures are absolutely stunning and I am insanely jealous. I love your little one asking why he can’t get closer but not wanting to slim. So cute!!! Thank you for linking this post to #whatevertheweather x

  3. Beautiful photos. Glad to know about the surfing option since that is always how I can convince my husband to take me to a new, fun travel destination. I would love to go!

  4. I enjoyed reading this post so much. We actually just visited Tofino this past weekend ! Those emerald coloured sea anemones are really something !

  5. At first I thought you were talking about Italy and then I realized you meant Tofino in Canada, eye opening and bears? very cool. The kids look like they had a great time too

  6. Cannot get over all your beautiful pictures. I have heard a lot of Tofino and would like to visit on a road trip too. That would be a dream come true.

  7. This looks really beautiful. My sister went to school in Seattle, but we never made it to Vancouver or Tofino. (Sighs). It looks amazing and definitely a great destination for kids. If we ever get back that way, we will definitely try to add it to our trip.

    1. There are so many places that I didn’t quite get to when we were either visiting or living somewhere – it’s always the way! I hope you get to visit Tofino one day 🙂

  8. This just looks beyond gorgeous. I’ve never heard of Tofino before and it is now getting pushed way up on my list of unplugged travel destinations. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Canada is very firmly on my bucket list. In fact the more I see of it, the more I think I would like to do an Expat stint there! 😀 Loved your adventures here, it looks gorgeous! 🙂

  10. Vancouver Island is awesome – I was just there this past spring. Re Tofino, I really enjoyed the The Eagle Aerie Gallery, learning to surf, and hiking on Meares Island!

  11. How beautiful! and you actually saw bears! we went to Yellowstone last year and the kids were so disappointed that they didn’t see any bears.

  12. Wonderful place!!! I lived in Canada and never visited this area 🙁 A great reason to come back. I would love to visit this island and see the whales or learn more about them 😀

    Thank you for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  13. Tofino is an absolutely stunning part of Canada. The majestic seaside views are matched only by the tranquil island ambience. Great post and wonderful blog! I’m enjoying the content you’re publishing and will be back in short succession. Cheers from Korea.

    1. Lucky you, I completely fell in love with Canada this summer!! And I agree, there is always so much to see close to home. I think it’s easy to forget that sometimes 🙂

  14. Your photos are gorgeous. I’m not sure why I haven’t yet made it over to Canada, it looks beautiful and full of opportunities to get outside and enjoy that lovely scenery. I need to get there soon! Thank you for linking up to #GlobalKids 🙂

  15. I visited Tofino when I was a teen and I have such fond memories of it, brought back by your amazing photography! I can’t wait to take my kids there one day.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top