When planning a trip to Tofino, it is likely that you are going to have to take a ferry to get to Vancouver Island. The ferry to Tofino also requires you to drive about three hours from Nanaimo to Tofino. There is no direct ferry that lands in the community of Tofino as it lies on the outer coast of Vancouver Island. The ferries from the Vancouver area go to the eastern side of the island and it is necessary to take a car or bus to get to Tofino.
What you need to know about the ferry to Tofino
Tofino is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and the most popular way is to drive from Vancouver to Tofino. It is a full day, taking into account arriving early for the ferry, taking the ferry, and then then drive across the Island.
The first thing you are going to want to know is that you have two ferry options. The first is Horseshoe Bay (in North Vancouver) to Departure Bay (more North in Nanaimo and will save you some driving time) or Tsawwassen to Duke Point (More southern terminal in Nanaimo and about 20 minutes longer driving time).
I highly suggest a reservation on the ferry. This will cut down on possible waits. While the ferry to Tofino is meant to be a continuation of the highway, it is rare that the ferries are not full. On weekends, holidays and all summer long, the boats can sell out for the whole day. The ferries have changed their pricing structure so reserving is simple, almost like booking a plane ticket (but easier, you can change things without hassels!) When you have a ferry reservation, you need to arrive 30-60 minutes in advance.
Option 1: Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal
The Horseshoe Bay Terminal is about 25 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The ferry sailing is 1 hour and 40 minutes and on peak days, there can be 10 ferries per day!
Option 2: Tsawwassen to Duke Point
Tsawwassen ferry terminal operates about 8 ferries per day to Nanaimo on busy days. The ferry sailing is 2 hours.
It makes the most sense to take Option 1 and go from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay, but you do also have the option to get to Nanaimo using Tsawassen to Duke Point Terminals. The Tsawwassen ferry is much less in demand than the Horseshoe Bay ferry. Keep that in mind if you do not have a reservation (or even if you are looking for a reservation.)
More Information on Travel to Tofino by Ferry
Taking a road trip to Tofino (or nearby Ucluelet) has become increasingly popular in the last 5 years. I have an entire post about stops along the way when you drive from Nanaimo to Tofino. I also have a post on getting from Ucluelet to Tofino (or the other way around!). If you are already on Vancouver Island, unfortunately there is not a ferry from Victoria to Tofino. Wouldn’t that be nice! You need to drive (or take a bus) from Victoria to Tofino.
Where to Stay in Tofino
Tofino has fabulous resorts and small boutique hotels for when you arrive. Make sure to book in advance as they sell out in the summer and on weekends (and big winter stormy days!)
Duffin Cove Resort Duffin Cove is newly renovated and is right in Tofino. They have a few A frame cabins right on the water that you can book as well. The nice thing about staying here is that you can leave your car and walk into town. Parking can be busy in town in high season.
Hotel Zed Tofino Hotel Zed is right off the highway and less than 500m from Chesterman Beach. It is 1.1 km from Mackenzie Beach. Your stay includes free parking and there is a restaurant on site. Hotel Zed is known for its eclectic styled accommodations. You cannot miss it! Pets are welcome at Hotel Zed.
Shoreline Tofino Shoreline Tofino offers a rustic feel with A Frame loft-style cabins. it is close to the downtown core of Tofino and on the harbourside.
Pacific Sands Beach Resort Pacific Sands is the epitome of luxury. Featuring townhouse-style accommodations and jetted tubs with a view, few other properties can walk right out to Cox Bay beach! Depending on your accommodation type, you can have a full kitchen and multiple bedrooms. If storm watching or walking the sandy beaches are your thing, choose Pacific Sands! It is perfect for families and getaways with friends!
Long Beach Lodge Resort Long Beach lodge features oceanfront rooms as well as cabins with hot tubs. There are surfing rentals and lessons right on site. It is situated on Cox Bay beach
If you are looking for an AirBNB I have a post on the best AirBNB’s in Tofino for you to have a read.
Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!