Have you ever stood on the edge of the world? That’s what it feels like standing on Long Beach, in Tofino on Vancouver Island, on the (nearly) most westerly point of British Columbia, Canada. Standing on the beach on this wild west coast, there is nothing between you and Japan except the cold, vast, churning Pacific Ocean.
The tiny village of Tofino is truly one of those very special places on the globe. Whether you want to experience a long weekend of storm watching in Tofino in winter or plan a summer family vacation by the beach, we’ve got the low down on things to do in Tofino with kids or on a romantic couples getaway.
Things to do in Tofino with kids
Tofino is filled with kid-friendly and family travel activities to keep the littles as busy as beach crabs. Here are 14 suggestions for things to do with the kids in Tofino.
- Pull on puddle-jumpers and raincoats for a walk along one of the broad public beaches.
- Build sandcastles on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park.
- Enjoy a hike on Radar Hill.
- Visit Tuff City Skatepark.
- Take a bear watching tour.
- Take a tour of the displays at the Wicknannish Interpretive Centre
- Look for critters in the tidal pool at Chesterman Beach.
- Sign the kids up for surfing lessons.
- Play in the playground at the Village Green in town.
- Roast marshmallows over a fire while camping or at a resort.
- Visit the Whale Center Museum in town.
- Go whale watching or take a fishing boat charter.
- Walk or bike along the new Parks Canada accessible, multi-use pathway through Pacific Rim National Park. Named ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee), the 25 km/15.5 mile pathway was developed in partnership with local First Nations.
- Visit Ucluelet Aquarium in nearby Ucluelet, south of Tofino.
One of the newest attractions in Tofino that isn’t terribly kid-friendly but should still be on your radar for a romantic trip to Tofino is the remote floating sauna experience. Located 30-minutes by boat from Tofino, in the UNESCO Clayoquot Biosphere Preserve, the West Coast Floating Sauna is a unique wellness escape that can accommodate up to 8 people for up to five hours. With a wood-fired sauna, outdoor fire pit, paddle boards, rope swing and kayak, this gorgeous slice of west coast heaven offers quiet bliss or gentle activity, depending on your mood.
Where to Stay in Tofino
There are many great family-friendly accommodations in Tofino. The first hotel/resort that always comes to mind for families is Pacific Sands Beach Resort. They are the original family beach resort, and it’s owned by a wonderful local family that lives in town. Like many of the hotels and resorts here, they have options for rooms, autonomous suites and beachside cottages, which provides a good range of price options.
Pacific Sands is on Cox Bay Beach, which is an amazing crescent of sand that ends at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. There are two other resorts on Cox Bay that are both family friendly too. Cox Bay Beach Resort, which provides amazing suites and laundry facilities; and the some-what oddly named Long Beach Lodge Resort (it’s on Cox Bay, not Long Beach).
Moving north along the beaches, I have to mention the Wickaninnish Inn. The service is impeccable — not pushy, not in your face, but everything and everyone is always present, pleasant and perfect.
The Wick (as it’s locally known) is a bit more expensive than the other resorts I’m mentioning, but the luxury, service and amenities are pretty darned amazing. And the location perched above Chesterman Beach is flat-out stunning.
Speaking of location, Middle Beach Lodge is located on a lone rocky outcropping between MacKenzie Beach and the incredibly isolated Middle Beach. It’s another great resort. They have a unique approach to welcoming families where they have one lodge that is adult-only and one lodge that is family-friendly. Middle Beach Lodge is the only resort that provides direct access to two different beaches which makes for some excellent beachcombing and exploring.
Hotel Zed has opened a funky and colorful hotel in town, ‘oozing 1970’s swank’ (their words). The hotel includes such amenities as a mini disco, psychic’s den, a hidden 1980’s arcade, and pet-friendly room, all within a seven minute walk to Chesterman Beach, one of our personal faves.
There are wide variety of vacation rentals and Airbnbs in Tofino as well. It’s recommended to book as far in advance as possible.
Where to camp in Tofino
There are only a few places to camp in Tofino. Camping at Bella Pacifica Campground is popular. It’s located on the most family-friendly beach in Tofino, MacKenzie Beach.
The campground is extremely busy in the summer months. But it’s well kept and provides direct access to the best family beach in Tofino (albeit without a summer surf break).
If Bella Pacifica is full, check out the forested campground at Long Beach Golf Course. The onsite restaurant, Wildside Bar and Grill, is family-friendly and one of the top places to eat in Tofino. There’s also a mini golf course and a driving range, which is great entertainment for the family.
The Green Point Campground at Pacific Rim National Park offers marvelous camping in British Columbia. With a forested, beachfront setting in a pristine national park, getting a coveted spot here isn’t easy. Mark your calendar for when Parks Canada booking dates open.
Where to eat in Tofino with kids
Wildside Grill for fantastic fish and chips. The place is owned and operated by a commercial fisherman and an acclaimed chef. How can you beat that? Wildside has two locations; in the Live to Surf parking lot, which offers take out or outdoor seating; and the the aforementioned Wildside Bar and Grill located at the golf course which has a great bar, indoor and outdoor seating and that location has a kids menu.
SoBo for lunch. Their Miso Udon Noodle Soup is probably the most popular kids meal order in all of Tofino. The soup is fantastic and the kids don’t even notice that it’s super nutritious. And if you or your children haven’t tried the Polenta Fries, I suggest you get over there pronto and order up. SoBo is located at the corner of 1st and Neill Streets, across from the BC Liquor Store.
1909 Restaurant sits on the pier at the Tofino Resort + Marina, with a beautiful view over the water to watch fishing boats coming and going in the inlet. The dining room serves tasty breakfasts and features lots of freshly caught local seafood on its dinner menu, along with wood-fired pizza, burgers and vegetable dishes.
Shelter for dinner. This is one of Tofino’s most popular restaurants. The line-up can get long in the summer, so phone ahead for reservations. If you can, sit on the patio with the kids, or get a booth in the lounge section where surf movies are playing on a never-ending reel. Shelter is located across from Jamies’ Whaling Station on Campbell Street.
RedCan Gourmet. Order the pizza and trust me, the kids will thank you. We always get a half cheese half Hawaiian pizza for the kids and it’s one of their favorite meals in all of Tofino. The bonus is that adults can choose from an incredible menu of Chef Tim May’s gourmet take out items. Takeout only, located up Industrial Way.
Roar is the newest restaurant on the Tofino scene. Located in Hotel Zed, this large, cosy family-friendly restaurant with an extensive patio features food cooked over a live fire. Ingredients in the sumptuous cocktails highlight local flavors with names like Surrender to the Sea and A Place Called Kokomo.
At The Pointe Restaurant at the Wicknaninnish Inn on Chesterman Beach, expect gourmet fine dining and superb service while overlooking the beach and the Pacific Ocean. The Pointe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and its bar is open for après cocktails and small plates and snacks. The gourmet dinner tasting menu with wine pairings is the perfect way to celebrate your Tofino stay in high style. The seasonal menu can be customized for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free diners, and each dish is exquisitely prepared.
Best Tofino local secret
If you plan to do hiking in Tofino, check out the Radar Beaches hiking trail. While it is an unmarked hike in the Pacific Rim National Park, this out and back Tofino hike can be walked by kids young and old. Just make sure you have proper footwear. This trail is a grind, so be super prepared and know your family’s limits. The trail’s steep, muddy and requires some route finding, but the secluded beaches at the end are certainly worth it. FYI: Tofino is black bear country so be on the lookout and be bear aware.
Can’t get enough? Experience the Ultimate in Wild Luxury at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort north of Tofino
Surfing in Tofino with kids
Cold water surfing is THE thing to try in Tofino. Kids as young as 6 or 8 years old have been rocking it out in the surf since they were two. Kids are so much more adept at surfing than adults. I can tell you from experience that it’s a weird blend of embarrassment and pride when kids love surfing and catch more waves than you do.
Even if you haven’t ever tried surfing, I’d put this on the top of any list of things to do in Tofino. I tried it recently myself and highly recommend a surf lesson. The ocean is wild and unpredictable, with strong currents and rip tides. You want to be there with someone who knows the lay of the land, so to speak, and can help you catch some waves. I managed to get up and ride a small wave and it was thrilling.
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Photo Credits: Wickaninnish Inn, Claudia Laroye
Have you visited Tofino? What was your favorite thing to do in this beautiful oceanside village?