Vancouver Island’s rugged west coast and pristine beaches are part of what draw visitors to road trip from Victoria to Tofino. What awaits is one of Canada’s best road trips, a drive past lakes, over mountains, and through old-growth forests, not seen in much of the rest of British Columbia.
But Tofino is still a hidden gem for many, even Canadians, and now is the perfect time to explore this natural paradise on Canada’s west coast. While first timer’s to British Columbia visit Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria, Tofino is another of the top places in BC to visit.
There are not many options when it comes to driving from Victoria to Tofino, there is only one main route for much of the drive. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a ferry to Tofino? While summer is traditionally Tofino’s high season, this rugged part of Canada sees storm watchers venture to the coast to watch the full power of the Pacific Ocean hitting land even in the winter!
Since 2020, many tourist destinations in British Columbia have seen an extended high season and 2022 seems to be no different. The entire town can be out of accommodations on most weekends and summer accommodations can be slim if you wait until the last minute, even in shoulder season. If you are planning to drive from Victoria to Tofino whether it is for a weekend getaway or during the week, make sure you plan your Tofino accommodations in advance (there are some suggestions at the end of this article!
There are other ways to get to Tofino, you can fly into the airport and also arrive by floatplane, but due to the marine fog that rolls in and off the coast, flights can often be canceled, leaving disappointed vacationers. Because of this, driving from Victoria to Tofino is a much more reliable option.
How to Get from Victoria to Tofino by Car
Tofino is accessed by first traveling to Nanaimo. The entire drive takes about 4.5 hours depending on getting out to Victoria. Hop onto Highway 1 and you will head out of Victoria, past Goldstream Provincial Park and over the Malahat.
Duncan and Ladysmith come up next until you finally arrive in Nanaimo. It takes about 90 minutes total to get from Victoria to Nanaimo.
Victoria to Tofino: Part 2 – Drive Across the Island
As I alluded to above, there is only one main road that goes to Tofino. It involves climbing mountains, passing through old growth forests and curving around lakes. It is a beautiful drive in good weather, but it can be treacherous in snowy conditions.
If you are visiting from Fall to Spring, ensure you have snow tires or all-season tires into order to be prepared for Sutton Pass on Vancouver Island.
From Nanaimo, you are going to take the Island Highway (Hwy 19) Northbound towards Campbell River. You will go past Parksville and almost to Qualicum Beach.
Take EXIT 60 towards Port Alberni and you are now on HWY BC-4
Follow HWY 4 past Coombs, MacMillan Provincial Park (home to 800-year-old trees), Sutton Pass (your chance for snow in winter conditions), through Port Alberni, and when you almost reach the other side of the Island, the highway will make a right to continue to Tofino. (Left will take you to Ucluelet, another great place to stay, and a bit more low key than Tofino. Check out places to stay)
After you have turned right on HWY4 you will travel through Pacific Rim National Park for about 30 minutes to Tofino!
The total drive is a little under 3 hours without stopping.
Where to Stop on your Victoria to Tofino Road Trip
One of Vancouver’s newest attractions is the Malahat Skywalk and it is easily accessed off the highway a little over 30 minutes into the Victoria to Tofino drive. The Malahat SkyWalk is an accessible 600 m TreeWalk through a beautiful arbutus forest leading to a spectacular gentle spiral ramp that takes you up 32m to a sightseeing lookout offering views of Finlayson Arm, Saanich Peninsula, Mount Baker and the distant Coast Mountains
Little Qualicum Falls
Often overlooked because it is a bit out of the way, Little Qualicum falls is the perfect stop for those who are not in a rush. The path to the falls is well maintained and family-friendly. It offers spectacular scenery and one of the best waterfalls on Vancouver Island
Coombs and Goats on the Roof
This little gem is less than an hour from Nanaimo and the Old Country Market is known for its “goats on the roof.” If you ask anyone from British Columbia, they know about the goats on the roof in Coombs.
Make sure you try some Ice Cream and get yourself some locally made treats
In MacMillan Provincial Park you will literally drive through amazing old growth forest right on the highway. If you stop at Cathedral grove, you will find a small parking area and a trail that takes about 30 minutes to see some of the oldest trees in British Columbia.
Port Alberni is known as a pit stop when crossing the Island, but it is underrated for sure. For budget conscious travelers, this is a great base to visit both the West Coast and the East Coast of Vancouver Island on day trips.
For photo enthusiasts, a stop and visit to Port Alberni’s “Hole in the Wall” is a must-do! It offers a waterfall with a unique backdrop that you will not find anywhere else!
Pull over at Sproat lake, if only for a chance to take a good look and a few photos.
As I mentioned above, once you are across the island, HWY 4 will come to a T. Left will bring you into Ucluelet and Right will take you into Tofino. Both are great places to visit.
Ucluelet offers the Wild Pacific Trail. Consider the ancient cedars loop before you head to your final stop in Tofino. It is also a great spot to stop and spend the night. Then you can drive from Ucluelet to Tofino the next day (or even stay for two!)
What to Pack for Your Vancouver to Tofino Trip
A waterproof jacket is always a good idea when visiting the west coast of Canada, and especially Tofino. The marine fog can roll in and Tofino is literally surrounded by water and rainforest, it is always quite damp in this part of Vancouver Island.
I have a whole packing list so you do not forget anything when you are planning your trip. You can find it in this What to wear in Tofino post.
Where to Eat In Tofino
Tacofino is a popular choice, and for good reason.
Wolf in the Fog is always busy. It is probably the most well known place in Tofino
Chocolate Tofino Do not miss this gem for ice cream and locally made chocolate. Try the lavander ice cream and chocolates for a unique and satisfying flavor.
Check out these other great places to eat in Tofino.
Popular Things to do in Tofino
Fishing – Want to experience salmon or halibut fishing? Consider a fishing daytrip in Tofino!
Boat Tours – If you are not a serious fisherman, how about a day on the water with some fishing, crabbing and sightseeing? choose a Tofino boat tour!
Where to Stay in Tofino
Tofino has fabulous resorts and small boutique hotels.
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.
Resources for Visiting Canada in 2022
Travel Insurance for Canada
There are a few other things to think about when it comes to international travel. The first thing is travel insurance. Whether it is an emergency room visit for something as simple as strep throat, or an emergency appendix surgery, or an unfortunate moped incident things do go wrong when people travel everyday. Canada is a very expensive country for medical care and a doctor’s visit in an Emergency Room is over $800 to just see the doctor.
I highly suggest travel insurance and a good policy. I personally never travel without it, and I even checked into my policy about care for my children if I am ever in an accident or hospitalized. There are just too many things to think about.
You can find out more information and buy your travel insurance here.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
Rental Cars are very popular in British Columbia. There is just so much to see and there is not a train or bus network outside of Metro Vancouver or Victoria. If you plan on leaving Vancouver and want to see even the local ski hills, I suggest a rental car. You can get a rental car before you arrive.
More Travel Resources on getting to Tofino:
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!