A road trip in Western Canada is on many bucket lists. Frequently visited places are Banff and Jasper National Parks, as well as the cities of Vancouver and Whistler. But what should also certainly not be missed during a tour is a visit to Vancouver Island. On this island you can find a lot of untouched nature and you can take many special walks. We would like to highlight 2 hotspots, namely Ucluelet and Tofino, both can be found on the west coast of the island!
How to Get to Vancouver Island and Tofino or Ucluelet
Your tour of Western Canada will probably start in Vancouver and from there you can easily get to Vancouver Island. Our advice is to do Vancouver Island at the beginning or at the very end of your tour through Western Canada. How do you get to the island? From Vancouver you can easily take the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay or to Nanaimo. What is the best choice for you depends on the places you want to visit on Vancouver Island. Nanaimo is at least closer to Ucluelet and Tofino.
Rent a Car if You Are Going to Vancouver Island and Want to Go to Tofino and Ucluelet
To easily travel around Vancouver Island, a rental car is highly recommended , because you have to travel quite a few kilometers to get everywhere. If you prefer not to do this, there are also several bus lines on the island, such as the Tofino bus. Nevertheless, a rental car is really our preference, because you can easily stop along the way if you see something beautiful.
Nice Stop on the Way to Tofino and Ucluelet: Cathedral Grove
On the way, from the ferry on the east coast to the west coast, you see nature in abundance. A place where you should definitely stop is at Cathedral Grove, here you will find 800-year-old trees of up to 75 meters high. Very impressive to look at and there is a nice path where you can take a short walk. Then continue your journey to the west coast. From Cathedral Grove it is about a 2 to 3 hour drive to Tofino or Ucluelet. At some point you come to a fork and you have to choose; either you continue towards Ucluelet or you go to Tofino. The distance between the two places is about 40 kilometers and in between there is mainly nature and beach. So choose one of these places as your place to stay and discover the rest of the area from there.
Ucluelet is a small village surrounded by nature and the sea. It is a good place to stay to explore the area. It is also less touristy and busier than Tofino, but in the meantime still has plenty to offer; think of nice restaurants (Floathouse Patio & Grill for example) and there are beautiful hiking trails nearby. Recommended places to stay are the very cozy B&B A Snug Harbor Inn with a beautiful view over the sea and the more affordable West Coast Motel located on the harbor with good and clean rooms.
Tofino is slightly more touristy and busier than Ucluelet. So there is more to experience here. Especially the center is very cosy. You will find many shops, restaurants and a number of museums and galleries here. You can enjoy good food at 1909 Kitchen on the water and at Big Daddy’s Fish Fry. Along the water you also have the chance to spot eagles, so watch out when you sit there! From Tofino you can take various wild life tours, to spot black bears and whales, among other things. Fun tours can be booked through Adventure Tofino Wildlife Tours. A highly recommended place to stay near Tofino is Ocean Village Resort. These are small cabins on the beach, so very cool! Something to keep in mind: the accommodations in both places are quite pricey. A good alternative is therefore Airbnb. If you book well in advance, there are still very nice apartments and rooms to book.
You Want to Do These Three Walks in the Area of tofino and Ucluelet
This part of Vancouver Island offers many beautiful hiking trails. We found the following 3 routes especially special and therefore recommend that you do them:
Along the road between Tofino and Ucluelet are two short walks “Rainforest Trail A & B”. These walks are both only 1 kilometer long, but well worth the effort. A path made of wooden scaffolding leads you through a rainforest with huge red cedars. If you want to see the sea for a while, you can add a bit to your route by following the path to Halfmoon Bay (500 meters long).
Wild Pacific Trail
The Wild Pacific Trail consists of two parts: the Lighthouse Loop of 2.6 kilometers and the coastal route of approximately 5 kilometers. Both routes offer fantastic views of the Vancouver Island coastline. Both routes are very accessible and challenging at the same time. You will find a clear explanation on this map.
Lone Cone Trail
Despite the fact that we unfortunately didn’t have time for this, this seems to be a very cool walk: the Lone Cone Trail. This walk is really for experienced hikers because of the steep slopes that you have to cover. But the view from the top seems to be amazing! The start of this walk actually starts in Tofino, here you take a water taxi to Maeres Island. The boat trip takes about 15 minutes and costs about 40 dollars per person for a return ticket. Once arrived on Maeres Island, the route is fairly specific, the route is further explained on this site.
Surfing at Tofino
When you think of Canada, you don’t immediately think of surfing. Still, Tofino is one of the best surf spots in North America. We, as novice surfers, also took the test. Around Tofino you have some good beaches for surfing and we chose Cox Bay. There are hardly any buildings on the beach. This is because the Pacific Rim National Park literally ends at the beach. And this creates an incredibly beautiful image when you are on the beach; the afforestation flows directly into the sea.
This Is How You Plan a Surf Session at Cox Bay
You can therefore rent a surfboard and wetsuit elsewhere than at Ucluelet and Tofino. Fortunately, there are several surf schools along the side of the road and you can often rent straps etc. here to take the supplies with you. Note: definitely rent gloves and shoes, because the water is often very fresh! Surfing went reasonably well for us, but especially the environment provided an unforgettable experience. By the way, we rented our gear from Live to Surf. An advantage of this surf school is that it is on the same terrain as the taco trick of Canada, Tacofino! Tacofino started out here and now has several locations in and around Vancouver and they make the most divine tacos. There is often a line, but it is well worth the wait!