For most people, the phrase “Pacific Northwest” brings to mind images of mossy old-growth forests, magnificent beaches, abundant wildlife and fierce ocean storms. If that kind of untamed nature is your jam, then there’s nowhere “Pacific Northwest-ier” than Tofino and Ucluelet!
Located in spectacular Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, BC, these two small towns are about 20 minutes from each other. An abundance of well-serviced RV campsites and a wealth of beautiful trails and beaches make “Tuff City” and “Ukee” – as the locals call them – popular destinations for any wilderness-loving RV enthusiast.
When travelling to a new destination, it’s always helpful to have a local perspective on the best things to see, do and eat. Since we happen to know some Tofino residents, we thought we’d poll them for their favourite local places to go in their downtime. Part One will be a list of 5 special places to visit in Tofino, while Part Two will cover their 5 favourite things about Ucluelet. We hope you find this list handy!
Meares Island Water Taxi
Named for the Meares Island Tribal Park (just one of many locations you can visit on this nautical taxi), Meares Island Water Taxi is one of the area’s newer boat services but also one of the best! Captain Vince, the former Tofino Harbourmaster, has a wealth of local knowledge about natural and First Nations history and is happy to share. He is passionate about the preservation of Clayoquot Sound; in fact, he is one of the volunteers who help maintain the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island. He can recommend some fantastic out-of-the-way hiking, surfing and kayaking spots, and his ferry has room to get you there with all your gear – all for a very reasonable price.
Tofino Public Market
Every Saturday from mid-May to mid-October, 10 am – 2 pm, rain or shine, Tofitians (as the residents of Tofino are known) gather on the Tofino Village Green. They are there to meet their friends, browse a delightful assortment of local handmade jewelry, fine art, clothing, photography, plants, pottery, knits, wood works and up-cycled creations while listening to live local music. Kids shout and chase each other across the Village Green’s playground equipment while parents chat to each other about local goings-on. If folks are hungry, there are always some local food and drink vendors offering tasty treats. If your Tofino itinerary includes a Saturday, why not drop by for a bite, a souvenir and the chance to chat with the locals?
Is that one of the local bears growling… or is it your stomach? If you need to appease the hunger beast, you might as well do it West Coast style with a meal from Wildside Grill. A partnership between commercial fisherman Jeff Mikus and chef Jesse Blake, the Wildside Grill food shack is a Tofino must-try. Their menu includes locally- and ethically-sourced seafood, chicken, beef, pork and elk, and consists of simple staples like burgers, fish and chips and tacos. (You HAVE to try their fish tacos. So good.)
Starting right next to Tofino Community Hall, not far from the village centre, this gravel trail winds through 3km of majestic cedar forest down to Tonquin Beach, Third Beach and Middle Beach. The trail is well-maintained and is an easy hike for the whole family. Tonquin Beach is a great place for kids to play and tends to be less crowded and busy than the famous surfing beaches like Mackenzie and Cox Bay, while tiny Third Beach feels like finding a delightful secret. As a bonus: Tuff City mountain bike park, a favourite hangout for local kids, is right next to the trailhead.
Tofino Sea Kayaking & Harbourview Coffeehouse
Last, but definitely not least, this Tofino treasure features two businesses in one.
Tofino Sea Kayaking is an excellent place for newbies and experienced kayakers alike to start their Tofino kayak journeys. They offer kayak & kayak equipment rentals and sales as well as day trips led by knowledgeable, eco- and safety-conscious guides. Paddle out to Meares Island or discover some of the lesser-known areas of Clayoquot Sound with the Hidden Places tour. (These tours can be quite popular, so it’s best to reserve in advance.)
When your tour is over, spend some time warming up with a hot drink and a snack at the Harbourview Coffeehouse. In addition to having the best view of any coffee place in town, they are often much less busy than other cafes. You might even see some whales go by as you sip. After your drink, you can browse for locally-made souvenirs in their gift shop.
Bonus: Protect the Clayoquot Wilderness
If you love the wild West Coast as much as we do, you might like to learn more about the fauna and flora of Clayoquot UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Check out the following two organizations for a ton of educational materials about these precious, threatened ecosystems, and find out what you can do to help preserve them for future generations.
Raincoast Education Society: https://raincoasteducation.org
Friends of Clayoquot Sound: https://focs.ca