Listening to someone say the word, “Tofino,” immediately creates images of unbroken stretches of soft sand, crashing waves and the bobbing heads of surfers in the line-up for their perfect wave. With several choices, each seemingly better than the next, it’s hard to imagine that a single beach could take the title of “Tofino’s Favourite Beach.” It does exist, however, and although many have a personal favourite, most would agree that the overall winner is none other than Chesterman Beach. Its name comes from an early settler, John Chesterman, who used to live in the area. Besides the history lesson, though, there are numerous reasons why locals and tourists alike fall in love with Chesterman. In fact, it’s not just locals that have placed Chesterman at the top of the list. In U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, the small-town beach made the top of the list of the world’s wild and remote beaches, beating out destinations in places like Fiji and Papua New Guinea. So, what’s all the hype about?
Have you ever gone to a beach and have it been so crowded that you’re laying towels next to strangers and having sand kicked in your face all day? Not at Chesterman. Gracing the coast of the Island for 3km from Rosie Bay, past Frank Island and onward to Wickininnish, you’re guaranteed to find a patch of sand just for you. Speaking of Frank Island, it is a unique little crop of land at the tip of the Chesterman Spit, which lies between North and South Chesterman. The secret behind Frank Island is that it’s only accessible at low tide; half the adventure is the potential being stranded, passing the time between tides until you can get back. At least the view is stunning.
Of course, no beach in Tofino, the surf capital of Canada, could be ranked highly unless it was surf-able. Chesterman Beach has been rated as one of the top 10 places in North America to learn how to surf. However, it’s far from being a place just for beginners – North Chesterman often proves to be just right when the winter swells over at Cox Bay are too big. It’s a fairly steep beach, which means it handles the bigger swell way better. More than that, the waves come in with a bit more enthusiasm and it breaks with some of the bigger west swells around. Some southerly ones even sneak in too, providing an escape from the crowds at Cox on a good day. Most locals will say it is their favourite spot to surf.
Tons of contests take place here too! Check out our Surfing Season post for more!
Although surfing takes the cake for activities, the southern end of Chesterman offers some of the best tide-pooling that can be found in Tofino as well. This transforms it into a fantastic family spot to take those rambunctious kids. Anemones, crabs, urchins, nudibranchs, sea stars and gooseneck barnacles are just the tip of the iceberg for treasures that can be found in the rocky outcrops. Marine life is backed a variety of shorebirds and even eagles and ospreys. Keep your eyes peeled for whales along the horizon, too. Finally, the sheer expanse of sand lends to a plethora of classic beach activities: kite flying, skim boarding, sand castles, Frisbee, bocci ball, bonfires, cook-outs and some good old tanning can all be done simultaneously with ease by multiple people at this beach. Not to mention it puts on a pretty good show at sunset; this is the west coast after all.
It’s hard to imagine that a single place could offer so much, and yet Chesterman proves it every single day. With surf, sand, sun and pretty much everything else, what’s not to love?
For places to stay on Tofino’s favourite beach, check out our accommodation page.
For more amazing Vancouver Island beaches, check out Discover Vancouver Island’s list of top beaches here.
Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk