“Deep inlets with timeless views, on the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. Sandy beaches that seem to go on forever while waves crash into rocky headlands. Surfers sitting up on their boards, waiting for the swell. A celebrated food culture that reaches beyond the size of our village. Then, there are the distinctly West Coast restaurants, cabins and galleries dotting our salt-bathed streets. It’s out there, and it’s a place you’ll never forget. When you come here, expect Tofino – because there’s nothing like it.” That’s what the official Tofino tourism site promises the visitors.
We sure set off with high expectations!
Canada’s Surf Capital:
35km of beaches and an impressive swell year-round make Tofino the perfect spot for surfing. View these beach cams to get a live impression and check the swell on magicseaweed.com! Especially Chesterman Beach and its sheltered inlet were perfect for our beginner levels. The Outside Magazine even states that this beach has some “of the best beginner breaks in North America”. However, it wouldn’t be Canada if riding some waves here was not an adventure in itself: Tofino-surfing means COLD-water-surfing: the water temperature is usually around 7°C which means that you should wear a full-body wetsuit – in winter with additional gloves, boots and a hood. Yes, you might get frustrated about squeezing yourself into one of these things and then realizing 15min later that you are wearing it the wrong way around (Gesa, will you ever remember that the zipper goes to the back…!?) but hypothermia is a real threat. So you better start loving your fat penguin outfit! In addition, you should be aware that all beaches are unsupervised, there is no lifeguard on duty. Make sure to look out for each other and please be aware of strong rip currents which can pull the best swimmers right out in the sea. A few people have already died this year!
Despite these possible hazards, Tofino’s beaches remain a great spot for professionals and beginners alike. If you don’t have any experience we can recommend surfsisters, a surf school founded and run by women who gave our friend Dani a very professional beginner’s course. Sebastian and me hired gear from the Long Beach Surf Shop across the road and were really happy with the service there, too.
But there’s more than surfing! In Tofino, you can wax a surfboard AND get muddy hiking boots on the same day. There are some fantastic hikes close-by! Either you go beachwalking, or you tackle one of the numerous trails in the area about which you can find more information here.
We did three different ones which we can all recommend:
- Wild Pacific Trail: This one is a fairly easy walk. It’s suitable for all ages and fitness levels which would usually have us consider it to be rather boring. However, it’s still worth walking because the rugged coastal views are pretty impressive and it’s a perfect short walk for those tired travel-legs after your arrival!
- Canso Plane Crash Hike: A more exciting hike! Because yes, indeed, you can find the remendants of a bomber wreck in Tofino! During World War 2, the town was a military basis and in 1945, a Canadian machine crashed due to mechanical flaws. Surprisingly, the whole crew survived and was able to find their way out of the thick underbrush. The trail to the wreck is quite a muddy adventure: We did read before that it’s recommend to wear gumboots but didn’t really bother. Now, we can support this opinon as the trail often leads not only through huge puddles but real, knee-deep bog! Often, there’s not even a trail visible but the general direction is clearly and thoroughly marked with bright plastic stripes tied to branches and trees. And once you’re there, it’s so worth the wet boots:
- Halfmoon Bay: That’s our personal tip for THE perfect beach sunset… Responsible (!) beachfires are allowed on a majority of the beaches year-round because Tofino & Ucluelet lie in the fog zone of BC’s coast and are therefore less prone to devastating forestfires. Remember to bring a torch with you to make sure you find your way back to the parking lot and don’t leave any empty beercans on the beach!
The Bottom Line
Is Tofino just another overhyped place or worth the visit?
It’s worth it. It might not be a “secret location” anymore and it’s NOT the only place on Vanisland where you’ll find sandy beaches, yet, it remains a pretty unique place in Canada. I mean, how many people can claim that they’ve spotted a black bear from their surfboard?