Depart Vancouver and head west for the short drive to BC Ferries Horseshoe Bay terminal. If time allows, stroll the scenic village of Horseshoe Bay.
After boarding the ferry in Horseshoe Bay, enjoy the 1.5-hour trip to Nanaimo. Enjoy breakfast onboard, or head to the upper deck to take in the fresh air and scenery. Keep an eye out for whales, eagles and other wildlife – the Salish Sea is a rich marine environment.
Depart the ferry and follow the signs to drive north. After passing through Nanaimo you will quickly find yourself in the quiet district of Coombs/Errington, home of the famous Coombs Country Market, known for its resident roof-top goats.
Take an hour or two to peruse the market and adjoining stores – it’s a feast of sights, sounds and smells. Food, baked goods, candy, specialty crafts and ice cream – 55 flavours – are just some of the unique and tasty things to explore. And don’t forget to look for the goats!
A short drive west on Highway 4 will bring visitors to MacMillan Provincial Park (also known as Cathedral Grove), one of the iconic stops on the road to the west coast. The park provides awe-inspiring views of one of the most accessible stands of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island.
The meandering trails at this popular stop allows visitors an up-close look at the trees that make up BC’s iconic rainforest – massive Douglas fir and Western red cedar trees that are more than 800 years old and up to 9m/30ft in circumference.
The series of short, looped trails are easily walkable and some are wheelchair accessible. To the east of the park, Cameron Lake is a perfect spot for a picnic lunch or swim.
Looking for a unique outdoor (and underground) adventure? Take a detour to Horne Lake Caves, about 30-minutes north of Parksville. Descend underground to the unique limestone caverns; tours range from family-friendly to extreme adventure.
Port Alberni is the half-way point of the drive to Tofino and Ucluelet. It’s a perfect place to stop for a few hours, or even for the night (or two).
This sprawling oceanside town has deep roots in the forest and fishing industries and it proudly showcases this connection through sites like McLean Mill National Historic Site and the Maritime Discovery Centre. From downtown, board a 1929 ex-logging locomotive for a trip through downtown and the surrounding forest to the historic McLean Mill.
Head to the Harbour Quay, a collection of shops, galleries and restaurants. Grab a bite at Starboard Grill, a floating restaurant, then follow it up with desert at The Donut Shop, a local favourite. For a scenic and memorable day on the water, visit Lady Rose Marine Services and book a trip aboard the 1950s-era working coastal freighter MV Frances Barkley, which plies the waters between Port Alberni, Bamfield and Ucluelet.
From Port Alberni it is approximately 1.5 hour-drive to the junction of Hwy 4 and the Tofino/Ucluelet Highway.
The first section of the drive meanders along the shores of Sproat Lake. Watch for scenic pull-outs and rest areas while enjoying the scenery. As you approach Kennedy Lake, watch for West Coast Wild at Ha-uukmin Tribal Park; they offer zipline and kayak adventures through the Kennedy River canyon.
At the end of Highway 4 you will reach a T- junction; turn left for Ucluelet, right for Tofino. The visitor centre located at the junction is a great source of information on park activities, festivals and events things to do.
Welcome to the Pacific Rim! The short drive down the Ucluth peninsula takes you to the small town of Ucluelet, where outdoor adventure is the order of the day. Looking to hook the big one? Fishing charters abound. Hungry? Head to Norwoods for an unforgettable meal, or enjoy the spectacular views from Black Rock Resort. Several surf schools offer rentals and lessons, or try a guided kayak tour the harbour or the Broken Group Islands.
No trip to Ucluelet is complete without a stroll along the Wild Pacific Trail, one of the most scenic and spectacular walking trails on the entire coast. Watch the giant swells crash ashore at Amphitrite Point lighthouse – during stormy weather it is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
After viewing the ocean from the outside, head to the Ucluelet Aquarium for a look at life under the waves – in a unique and enviro-friendly twist, all the sealife on display is gathered from local waters and released at the end of each season.
From the junction at Highway 4 continue for the final 30-minute drive to Tofino. Watch for the wave-swept expanse of Long Beach – part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – to emerge from the tree-lined road; this first ‘west coast moment’ leaves an indelible mark on many.
Tofino is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, but it also features a well-established culinary scene (Wolf in the Fog was named Canada’s best new restaurant by enRoute magazine), thriving arts community and impressive First Nations culture. Try camping, hiking, kayaking, storm watching and sightseeing, or just slow down and enjoy some serious west-coast beach time.
Catch a wave – Tofino was named North America’s best surf town – at one of the many local beaches. Surfing is a year-round sport; popular spots include Chesterman Beach, Cox Bay and Long Beach. Whale watching, wildlife viewing and bear watching opportunities abound, and no trip to Tofino is complete without a trip (and dip) in scenic Hot Springs Cove.
Accommodation options in Tofino range from rustic campgrounds to beach-side cabins to luxurious oceanfront resorts.