Tofino was calling our name for a LONG overdue family vacation, and let’s just say that it didn’t disappoint! From surfing lessons to eating our way through the picture-perfect little town, here is a recap of our trip including where we stayed and printable lists for where to eat and what to pack!
Charles and I have had our heads down working so hard this past year that we just realized that it had been almost a year and a half since we had taken a family vacation… yikes! We both LOVE Vancouver Island (he was born there and I spent 2 years at UVic), so we decided to take a little break, pack up the boys and hop over to the rugged west side of the island to Tofino.
Our drive over to the ferries should have been very uneventful. But as luck would have it we ended up following Google Maps which wasn’t updated to reflect construction and, somehow … ended up in the US lol. Without passports. Ugh. We had no way to turn around, and to make a long story short US customs held us up for so long (just doing their jobs) that we missed our ferry reservation. At least they have a good playground and a ton of little food kiosks at the terminal on that side! Try the mint chocolate chip ice cream if you have a chance;). Oh and bonus, if you have a kid who likes Paw Patrol one of the buildings looks like the Lookout.
Once you are (eventually) at the BC Ferries Terminal, Tofino is a short ferry ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo (you can take either the Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay Ferry, they each take around 2 hours) and around a 3 hour scenic drive across the Island to Tofino. Ok, so here’s the deal. Make a ferry reservation. It’s only about $17 and is money well-spent! Twelve hours later and 1382 bouts of “are we there yet?” we arrived at our destination (you can also fly direct to Tofino from Vancouver with Pacific Coastal Airlines for the record)!
Where to Eat
We joke that we ate our way through Tofino… but we really did! I’ve included a printable list (at the bottom) that rounds up the best places to eat that we either tried or were highly recommended to us by many people (but ran out of belly room) along with a list of things to pack. I read through hundreds of messages from you guys on Instagram to make sure I captured them all! A couple of them that we DID try really stood out and deserve a special mention.
Ok, so 1909 and The Hatch Waterfront Pub were truly outstanding, and I talk more about them along with The Pointe at the Wickaninnish Hotel below (top notch for fine dining, we had the BEST dinner). Wolf in the Fog is an absolute must as far as restaurants go. The cocktails were unique and UH-MAZING (try the Isabel), the ambience is really cool, and the food was outstanding. We tried the Charred Octopus, Kale Salad, Fried Humboldt Squid and the kids loved their food too – don’t miss this one! Go to Shelter and be sure to order the Coconut Curry Mussels and whatever you do, stop in at Tacofino food truck for their world-class tacos that do not disappoint (they are worth standing in line for, and that’s a promise). If you’re in the market for a good coffee (and if you’re a parent, of course you are), check out Rhino Coffee House and hey, I won’t judge you if you can’t resist one of their hand-crafted donuts;).
We rolled into town on a magical evening at sunset and spent the first three nights at the Tofino Resort and Marina which is located right in the heart of Tofino. We loved this place! If you’re looking for outdoor adventure and great food at your fingertips within walking distance of the town, this place is it. In fact, they were kind enough to offer a code for you all to get 10% off the rack rate if you use code STAY10.
The resort has an epic Adventure Centre where they can coordinate basically anything you can imagine; from ocean kayaking, bear watching to fishing or free diving (you can even forage your own food for dinner), they have it. We opted for a guided wildlife tour where Captain Jeff took us on a 2 ½ hour cruise to watch whales, blow kisses to an adorable resident sea otter and even look for wolves along the shoreline. Max passed out sitting up 10 minutes in to the boat trip (see below, so cute) but Charlie was completely beside himself!
The Tofino Resort and Marina is home to two incredible restaurants that I previously mentioned, 1909 and The Hatch. Let’s just say we ate very well. The head chef Paul Moran has honed his talent at some of the top restaurants all over the world and forages for many of the ingredients himself daily. He also happens to be one of the last chefs standing on the latest season of Top Chef Canada as I write this. Their wood fired pizzas are to die for, and if you like seafood try the albacore tuna ceviche or really, any of their seafood dishes (we had halibut that was caught that day and delicately cooked in seaweed … beyond incredible!).
If you’re lucky enough to join them for breakfast try the Breakfast Burrito or the Smoked Salmon Benny – the kids raved over the pancakes too (and they’re kind of pancake snobs so I take their review seriously!). We loved our view from our hotel room deck that overlooked the marina and harbour that is dotted with islands and brimming with sea life complete with eagle watching over dinner. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect start to our vacation.
We began our second day in Tofino with a family photoshoot with Jen, a photographer with Flytographer. There’s something so special about getting professional photos to capture travel memories (which really are the best memories). Jen took many of the photos pictured here and was so lovely! Flytographer was sweet enough to offer you a code for $50 off your next travel photoshoot: just use code FRAICHE50 when checking out! The code is valid until December 31 2019 and is good for any photoshoot or gift card.
After the photoshoot we ventured out to take surf lessons with our awesome talented instructor Chase at Long Beach Lodge, which is the only luxury surf resort in Tofino. It was a dream come true for Charlie! Again, Max passed out before he got a chance to catch a wave (apparently he takes his naps pretty seriously!). Charles spent the day nestled in his dry suit without touching the water (best dad ever), and my lack of surf skills told me we should have switched places.
After biting it enough times I decided that wine drinking was more my forte and decided to watch Charlie instead – he caught on right away and is now busy making plans to buy a Winnebago and spend his life catching waves. I have to say that they take the hard work out of learning to surf and supply EVERYTHING you need, including a gorgeous change room with a hot clean shower, towels and an outdoor hot tub to warm up after! If you’re going to give surfing a try look no further. They also have a stellar family friendly restaurant with panoramic beach views (and great food… we ate there too lol!).
After checking out of the Tofino Resort and Marina Hotel we took the kids on a day trip to Ucluelet to check out the aquarium; they were thrilled. The aquarium is Canada’s first catch and release aquarium; it’s small but has a number of little stations filled with marine life that the kids can touch which of course they loved. Ucluelet is about a 35 minute drive from Tofino and is home to a few restaurants that I listed in the printable list at the end of this post including Pluvio (the sequel to the renowned Norwoods which is now closed), Jiggers (fish and chips) and Zoe’s Bakery. We didn’t get to try any of the restaurants since Max’s nap pulled rank, but so many people recommended the above to me in case you get more time there than we did!
Days Four & Five
Our trip wrapped up with a two night stay at the famous Wickaninnish Hotel (fondly referred to as the Wick), and I honestly can’t rave enough about our experience. From the moment you walk in the door you are treated like absolute royalty: they take care of every detail imaginable. Every guest room has a spectacular ocean view (even from the bathroom), a deck with adirondak chairs, Hudson Bay blankets for sitting outside, binoculars, a fireplace, Helly Hansen rain gear and umbrellas along with one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept in.
The Wick is adorned with local art and has a sweet little coffee shop with local baked goods, a library that overlooks the waves crashing on the beach that is stocked with books and games and DVD’s. Worth noting, they even offer in-house babysitters to allow you to enjoy a romantic dinner at their incredible restaurant with panoramic ocean views, The Pointe (sorry kids, we love you but it’s simply not the same experience with you there). It was so nice to have some quality time alone with Charles. And don’t get me started on their wine selection (and new wine cellar – wow)!
(The pictures below are from the Wick’s collection)
I was lucky enough to get a bit of ‘me’ time with a semi-private yoga class at the Ancient Cedars Spa to start the second morning. I wish every day could begin with yoga overlooking the ocean to the sound of crashing waves! I 100% will go back to enjoy the spa treatments and highly recommend a little pampering should you have the chance!
Stepping on to the property feels like entering another world. We spent countless hours building sandcastles on the beach (they supplied the sand buckets and shovels), looking for seashells and exploring the little tide pools filled with fascinating sea creatures. Whether you have kids and want a super chill and pampered family experience, are alone and need a place for reflection, or are searching for a couple’s getaway I seriously recommend the Wick.
I hope you find this helpful if you’re planning a trip to Tofino anytime soon! The Tofino Resort and Marina Hotel have also put together an amazing guide for things to do in Tofino that you can find here. I included two printable lists below, one for where to eat and the other for what to pack (it is chilly and rains a fair bit so pack accordingly).
Have you been to Tofino? What did I miss? I know the comments are always so helpful for others reading the post!
T O F I N O places to eat
T O F I N O packing list