Many think of Tofino as the end destination, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There’s more beyond this town at the very edge of Vancouver Island! Once you’ve completed all the top things to do in Tofino, or feel like you want a quick change of pace, the surfing town makes a great home base to take some day trips out of. Need some inspiration for a day trip, or day trips, from Tofino? Check out the list below!
Just thirty minutes south of Tofino, Ucluelet is a more relaxed and less touristic version of Tofino – a treat all on its own. Its origins run deep within the art of salmon fishing on the west coast, and the small town’s warm, contagious atmosphere gives hints at what life in Tofino was like before the rest of the world discovered it. While Ucluelet offers many of the same activities as Tofino (kayaking, whale watching, surfing/surf shops and hiking), it is still worth a separate trip. Not only is the famous Wild Pacific Trail and Lighthouse Loop located just beyond the downtown core, there are also great boutiques featuring local goods and artists, fantastic restaurants and bakeries, and better salmon fishing. Whether you pop by for a couple hours just to check it out, or find a way to spend an entire day, Ucluelet is a great side-adventure out of Tofino. Plus, if you’re tired from a day of adventures, you’re just a short drive back to your hotel. Day trips have never been so easy.
For more about Ucluelet, visit www.Ucluelet-Info.com!
Meares Island is accessible by water taxi and offers plenty of fantastic exploring. Not only do you get to enjoy the adventurous boat ride there and back, but the island possesses a hostel, campground, lake and numerous hikes. Challenge yourself with summiting Lone Cone, where you’ll be treated with the absolute best view of Tofino and Clayoquot Sound, or do some forest bathing along the Big Tree Trail, where ancient growth trees tower impossible heights above. Belonging to First Nations, Meares Island has a mystical vibe, as the sense of their history and culture runs deep within the veins and roots of the land.
Hot Springs Cove
Whether you go by boat or by floatplane, a day at Hot Springs Cove will be an easy highlight of your time in Tofino. These incredible, natural hot springs are geothermic and look out from the rugged coastline to the Pacific. After a scenic hop north of Tofino, you wind your way through the rainforest along a boardwalk towards the steam of the springs. Rain or shine and no matter the time of year, Hot Springs Cove will keep you warm and let you literally bathe in the amazing beauty of nature. As far as day trips go, this will be a memorable one.
For more, check out our page about Hot Springs Cove.
Back along the highway to Port Alberni lies Kennedy Lake, Vancouver Island’s largest body of water. Not only is it a temptation on a hot day when heading out to Tofino, it makes for an awesome day trip when you’re tired of being salty and sandy! Rent some kayaks, SUP boards, purchase a couple floaties, or just pack a picnic and head back out to the shores of this ocean-like lake. Locals might be able to give you hints as to where there are turn offs from the road for some nice private beaches, and there are also some designated Provincial Park areas. These will have bathrooms and picnic tables, and some have boat launches for you to make use of. The lake is extensive to explore, so be sure to prepare for the weather, and to have a navigation app to help you find some sweet spots if you’ve got a motorized boat! There are even float homes tucked into unexpected corners, and many owners are happy for you to respectfully make use of their rooftop decks, or picnic gear inside.
Besides the already mentioned trails on Meares Island, there are a number of great day hikes you can do from Tofino. Of course, there are the ones you can find close to Tofino that are on our hiking page here, but there a number that require a bit more of a drive. 5040, located back on the way to Port Alberni, is a top contender with a stunning lake near its summit and incredible views offered from the top. Another great hike with a dash of history is the Canso Bomber Hike, located close to Radar Hill. The moderate trek, made difficult by an ever-muddy bog in its middle, ends at a WWII Bomber plane wreck!
For more about 5040 and some other hikes, check out this blog post!
To read more about an experience finding the Canso Bomber including directions, here’s the story for you.
If you’ve got a good vehicle, an absolutely stunning waterfall is within your grasp. Virgin Falls, featured on Discover Vancouver Island’s Top Ten Waterfalls to Visit, is difficult to get to, but well worth it. There’s an ideal spot for picnics, camping and fires, while the fall itself cascades bravely down from a height of 54m. The pool into which it falls is perfect for swimming and the trail (when you finally arrive) is just two minutes long. Surrounded by the tranquility of the west coast rainforest, you’ll feel like you’re absolutely alone in the universe. Again, just be sure you have a vehicle that is up to rough back roads, gravel and the dangerous reach of tree branches.
The Broken Group
The Broken Group Islands are located just beyond the Ucluelet harbour and are a top destination for kayakers, boaters, sailors and plenty of other water lovers. Over 100 islands and islets are in the area to explore, offering untouched beaches, caves, beautiful campgrounds and endless exploration. Booking a kayaking tour is a great way to be introduced to the beauty of the Broken Group and there’s enough territory to explore for multiple days, never mind just for a single day trip.
While the road to Bamfield can seem far, Ucluelet happens to be the port of a handy passenger ferry that makes its way from Ucluelet, to Port Alberni, to Bamfield. The town is popular with fishermen and kayakers, but also holds plenty of treasures and hikes for those who prefer to stay on dry land. Separated by an inlet, the other side of Bamfield is accessible only by water-taxi, which makes this isolated west coast town even quirkier and fun for a visit. Thanks to the Francis Barkley ferry boat, even getting there is an adventure itself!
For more about Bamfield, check out this page.
Although you’ll have driven through it on your way to the west coast, Port Alberni actually has a lot of activities to offer for those who love the outdoors. A number of hikes, such as Mount Arrowsmith, are accessed only through this town. Cathedral Grove, also known as MacMillan Provincial Park on the far side of Port Alberni, is an incredible destination well worth the stop. 800-year-old ancient growth forest resides within the park, and the trails loop you below the towering trunks and branches of incredible coastal trees. There are also neat sights like the Hole in the Wall, and when the sockeye run, Port Alberni is a fisherman’s dream. When the hot weather gets to you, Sproat Lake is nearby for a refreshing dip, and the town has a microbrewery that offers some tasty sips, too. When it comes to Port Alberni, there’s definitely more than what meets the eye, landing it on this list of day trips.
As you can see, Tofino is where the journey actually begins. There are endless things to keep you busy beyond the top things to do, and even more than what this list holds. These day trips are definitely worth exploring if you have the time, and you can even tick off a couple in a single day. Happy day-tripping!
Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk