If you’re looking for things to do on Vancouver Island, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed with choices. There are so many things you can do here. Whether you want to surf in Tofino, go whale watching in Victoria, explore waterfalls or see bears in Campbell River, the options are endless. This blog post will help guide you through some of the best things to do on Vancouver Island!
About Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is separated from mainland British Columbia by the Strait of Georgia and Queen Charlotte Sound. The island itself isn’t very large – it spans about 500 km across and 100km wide, making it one of Canada’s smallest major islands. There are two things that really stand out about the island – its rugged coastline and abundant nature.
The west coast of Vancouver Island is famous for having one of the most scenic coastal drives in Canada, while there’s also plenty to see inland with dense rainforest, towering mountains and wild rivers.
The mild coastal climate draws visitors here year-round. One of the warmest places in Canada during winter, Vancouver Island temperatures average 2 degrees Celsius (36F) and the most rainfall happens between the months of October to March.
How to Get to Vancouver Island
Many people begin exploring Vancouver Island from Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. There are several ways to get to Vancouver Island depending on where you’re coming from: air, road or ferry.
Visitors can fly into Victoria International Airport (YYJ) along with other smaller airports like Nanaimo (YCD), Comox Valley (YQQ) and Campbell River (YBL). The drive to Victoria from the Victoria airport is about 30 minutes.
BC Ferries offers service for passengers in vehicles as well as on foot. Visitors can also take a ferry from Tsawassen (south of Vancouver) or Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver to Nanaimo or Swartz Bay which have a crossing time between 1.5 to 2 hours depending on which ferry is taken. The drive to Victoria from the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay is 30 minutes.
Cities and Towns on Vancouver Island
Victoria is located on the south end of Vancouver Island. Towns on the west coast of Vancouver Island include Tofino and Port Renfrew, as well as the renowned West Coast Trail. On the eastern shore of the island, are Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Courtney, Comox and Campbell River. Northern towns include Port Hardy and Port McNeil.
Things to do on Vancouver Island: Victoria to Port Renfrew
If you start your journey in Victoria there are many things to do on Vancouver Island that are nearby. You can start with this thriving city and make your way up the west coast of the island to Port Renfrew exploring as you go.
Visit Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the Parliament Buildings
One of the highlights of a family trip to Vancouver Island is visiting Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the Parliament Buildings along its shore. The Inner Harbour is a smaller picturesque section of bustling Victoria Harbor. The banks are a safe pedestrian-only area with plenty to keep kids of all ages engaged and interested.
Stroll around the harbour to explore the recreational boats and small cruise ships that moor here. If you visit when the historic Tall Ships are in town, take a tour or enjoy them from shore. Watch the Pickle Boat Ballet (it’s one of a kind!) and the seaplanes that use the harbour as their runway.
There are often buskers and vendors, and throughout the summer, there are festivals most weekends. You can also take a ride on one of the Pickle Boats (water taxis) or book a whale watching tour.
There is no need to rent a car, everything is within easy strolling distance. The harbor is nestled in the charming and historic capital and there are plenty of restaurants, flower gardens, and sites to see bordering the Inner Harbour. Parents will find it especially romantic in the evenings, either alone or with the kids.
Overlooking the harbor are the spectacular Parliament Buildings. They are a fantastic place to visit as a family. Highly recommended free tours are offered most weekdays. Tour guides show how the building highlights local resources that were used throughout its construction.
Guides also help visitors see many examples of the unique blend of Canadian and First Nation artwork, symbols, and cultures in the building and legislative traditions. Before you visit the capitol, explore family-friendly activities from home to better understand the legislature.
Even if you are unable to tour the building, enjoy the grounds. They are beautiful and hold important memorials, statues, fountains, and a totem pole by a local Coast Salish artist. It is a great place to bring kids because there is plenty of room for running off energy between the sites.
Travel Tip: After your tour, head over to the Parliamentary Dining Room for a memorable meal.
Contributed by Erica at Trip Scholars
Go Whale Watching in Victoria
The capital city of British Columbia is one the prettiest on Vancouver Island. While visiting this compact city, a whale watching tour is a must.
Most whale-watching expeditions last for 3 hours, and they take you to the southern coastline to watch humpback whales, orcas, blue whales, and more. Tours typically cost about $125 CAD per person, and there are multiple operators and boats that take visitors to the waters.
During a whale-watching expedition, waterproof and floatable suits are provided. Remember to dress warmly as the tours head to frigid waters looking for whales and orcas.
If you want to see humpback whales, the best time to whale watch in Victoria, BC is from April to November. And the best chances of witnessing some whales are from mid-July to October.
While whales can be seen all along Canada’s coast, it also takes you to Pacific Northwest in the USA.
Whale watching tours depart from the heart of Victoria in the Inner Harbor, and showcase the best of the city’s sights, landmarks, and waters as you cruise along!
Contributed by Mayuri from Discover Victoria BC
Explore Victoria’s Chinatown
Did you know that Canada’s oldest Chinatown is in Victoria? In fact, it’s the second oldest in North America after San Francisco. The historic area goes way back to the mid-nineteenth century when Chinese immigrants resettled there during the gold rush.
Once Chinese builders came to construct the Canadian Pacific Railway, Victoria became a major entry point for Asian immigration. By 1902, Victoria’s Chinatown had a Chinese population of over 3,000 people.
Although it had a seamy past in the late 1800s with its brothels, gambling and opium dens, today the neighbourhood has flourished into a diverse cultural community and designated Natural Historic Site.
Victoria’s Chinatown has some of the best shopping on Vancouver Island. You won’t want to miss exploring the streets packed with delicious eateries, unique boutique stores and quirky shops.
Once you enter through the paifang (traditional Chinese archway) on Fisgard Street, you will see historic buildings and vibrant colors of red and gold lining the main strip. Take the side streets between Government Street and Store Street to discover hidden gems tucked away in the small alleyways.
Start your morning with a coffee from Habit before you set out to shop. Must-visit stores are The Turntable, a hidden record shop in an alleyway where you can find rare vinyl, and Dragon Village, a Chinese specialty shop with housewares and decorations.
After you’ve built yourself up an appetite, visit Little Yunnan Restaurant, a tasty joint that specializes in cuisine from China’s Yunnan province. Another option to try a variety of food is by going on a food tour that takes you to multiple places in Chinatown. Food tours are also a great way to learn more about the history and culture of the area.
Contributed by Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes
Visit Butchart Gardens
Located 20 km from Victoria are the popular Butchart Gardens. Created over 100 years ago by Jennie Butchart in a former quarry and spread over 55 acres, the beautiful gardens and flowers make this a popular destination for visitors to Vancouver Island.
Butchart Gardens consists of a number of lovely themed gardens not the least of which is the stunning sunken garden. Before descending into the garden, take a while to admire the views of the shrubs, flowers, lawns and trees from above.
Other popular gardens include the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden and Italian and Mediterranean Gardens. Pose for a photo under the Rose Arch and take in the fragrance as you walk the pathways.
A popular event held every Saturday night at Butchart Gardens in the summer is the firework display. Tour the gardens first before taking a seat on the lawns for refreshments and live entertainment. The firework show begins after sundown (around 10 pm) so bring along a blanket or lawn chair.
During the winter months, Butchart Gardens transforms itself into an outdoor wonderland where visitors are treated to the sights and scents of festive displays.
Contributed by Tracy from Tracy’s Travels in Time
Stay in a Luxury Yurt
A super fun activity on Vancouver Island—for families or couples, visitors or residents—is visiting the Merridale Organic Farm and apple orchard in Cowichan Valley. Merridale is located in Cobble Hill, about 45 minutes from Victoria and five minutes off BC-1N. For a unique and special treat, reserve a night or two in their luxury yurt. More about that later.
For over 30 years, Merridale has been more than just a farm. They never use herbicides or pesticides so you know everything they grow, prepare, and serve is filled with natural goodness. Today at Merridale, guests can visit their tasting room, farm store, bakery, and orchard grounds. Live music at Merridale makes many Saturdays very festive events.
Underage visitors and non-alcohol drinkers will love Merridale’s fresh-pressed apple juice. While parents enjoy sampling ciders and cocktails, children (and non-drinkers) can enjoy flights of Merridale’s craft sodas.
The Merridale eatery features a farm-to-fork menu including pizza, salads, burgers, savoury pies, and plenty of fresh apple baked goods. The complete line of Merridale ciders, spirits, and craft cocktails are available to accompany your delicious food. The Merridale farm store includes fresh bread, pies, preserves, syrups, and more.
The Merridale yurts are also one of the most fascinating, interesting, and amazing places to stay on Vancouver Island. Two luxury yurts on the property are designed for two adults with the option of a foam mattress for one or two children (extra charge). Each yurt has a super comfortable queen bed, luxury bath (one has a clawfoot tub, the other a shower), gas fireplace, and patio area—which is particularly nice for stargazing in the middle of the night.
If you have not tried glamping or just crave a memorable or romantic getaway, an overnight stay in a Merridale luxury yurt is a perfect opportunity to do so.
Contributed by Charles from McCool Travel
Explore Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew
Botanical Beach is one of the most unique beaches on Vancouver Island. It has an impressive amount of sandstone tide pools that appear at low tide at this Juan de Fuca Provincial Park beach in Port Renfrew.
Since the tide pools are the main attraction here, the beach is best explored at low tide. Make sure tide charts are double checked before venturing out to avoid disappointment.
Allow for a couple of hours at the beach itself to explore. There are hundreds of types of intertidal life to discover. What is most fascinating is the shift in conditions the creatures must be able to withstand, as the temperatures change when the tides go out, predators change (land animals), and salinity changes. Always make sure that the tide pools are only observed; never touch!
The rugged coastline is extremely beautiful, even on the most overcast of days. It is the spectacular and raw Pacific Northwest at its most impressive.
To get to Botanical Beach, it is a short but dreamy hike through a Pacific Northwest forest. The easy walk with no steep inclines will have you believing at several points that you have stepped into a movie scene from Avatar. The hike is 3.5km or around 1.2km from the parking lot to the beach. Since the trail is part of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, it is also well maintained. The trail is perfect to bring the kids along without too much fuss.
It is possible to see bears in the area, so always arrive bear prepared. There are also occasional sightings of whales swimming by.
Contributed by Debbie Fettback from World Adventurists
Catch Some Waves at Sombrio Beach
One of the many beautiful beaches on the west coast of Vancouver Island is Sombrio Beach. You’ll find this beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park and it is a 1-hour 45-minute drive from downtown Victoria. From the parking lot, it is a 500-metre walk along a gravel trail through the trees to reach this remote beach.
The biggest attraction to Sombrio beach is the hidden waterfall that is tucked away on the east side of the beach. If you walk 15-minutes from the end of the trail, you will see a creek flowing out of the forest and onto the beach.
Follow this creek for a couple of minutes into the forest, and you will stumble upon a moss-covered canyon with a spectacular waterfall at the end of it. You can walk all the way up to the waterfall and even stand underneath the cold water that cascades over the rocks above.
Sombrio is renowned for surfing, so if you fancy trying to catch some waves in the Pacific Ocean, this is a great place to come. There is a wide range of waves available, making it ideal for beginners all the way to advanced surfers.
Sombrio is also very popular as you are allowed to camp right on the beach, meaning you can easily spend the whole weekend here. There are no designated spots and you just need a backcountry permit to camp and then you can pick your perfect spot anywhere along this amazing stretch of coastline.
If all of these activities sound a bit tiring, then you can simply relax in the sun, enjoy the scenery and watch the world go by. With hidden waterfalls, surfing and camping, this is definitely one of the coolest beaches on Vancouver Island.
Contributed by Luke from Wild About BC
Things to do on Vancouver Island: Eastern Shore
Visit Little Qualicum Falls
Nestled in the forest and bordered by steep mountains lies the family-favourite Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. The park was established in 1940 to protect the old-growth Douglas Fir forest and today a visit here continues to be one of the best things to do on Vancouver Island.
Visitors can enjoy a modest 1.2 mile (2km) loop trail tracing a series of small beautiful waterfalls, including Little Qualicum Falls, and impressive cascades as they tumble through the idyllic scenery. Even the tiniest legs will have no trouble getting to the main waterfall as it resides nearly beside the parking lot. There are a total of 3.7 miles (6km) of hiking trails for those that wish to hike more too.
While you cannot go swimming in the falls, water-lovers have the option to canoe or swim at nearby Cameron Lake, which is also located within the provincial park. Cameron Lake is also one of the only lakes in British Columbia known for brown trout, making it popular for fishing.
In addition to the incredible nature, visitors are provided camping and picnicking facilities. Combine all of this with its proximity to Nanaimo and Hwy 4, and you get the perfect place for anything from a quick pop-in to a weekend family outing.
It is worth noting that camping is not available in the winter, although the park remains open for day use. Additionally, during peak season you will usually require a reservation for campsites.
If you find yourself traveling the Port Alberni Highway, be sure to include a stop at Little Qualicum Falls on your Vancouver Island itinerary.
Contributed by Sophie and Adam of We Dream of Travel.
Go Paddle Boarding at Cameron Lake
Visiting Cameron Lake is one of the best things to do on Vancouver Island. Its waters are crystal clear and perfect for swimming, paddle boarding and fishing: a full quota of family fun. Named in the 1860’s after David Cameron, the first Chief Justice of Vancouver Island, the lake extends for 6km and is surrounded by dark green densely forested hills.
Cameron Lake is a picture-postcard place to spend a relaxing day by Canada’s Caribbean-hued waters. The gently shelving shoreline makes splashing in the shallows a safe activity for younger children. To maximize the lake’s fun potential, it is a good idea to bring water toys such as rubber rings or boats.
Paddleboards appear to “hover” above the transparent depths, casting shadows on the lake bed below. Enormous inflatable foodstuffs are currently in vogue in the shops of nearby Parksville. Who doesn’t enjoy floating on a human-sized pizza or cupcake?
Tip: The lake can be stony underfoot so water shoes are advisable.
Children will love exploring the woods behind the lake and will encounter huge, twisted tree roots, which are great for climbing.
Adults and children alike will be excited to learn that the lake has its own mini-version of the Loch Ness Monster, “Cammie”, which reputedly lurks within its depths. Researchers have confirmed the existence of a 20-30 lb beast but lost their camera during the investigation, so its appearance remains a mystery. Visitors should not forget their own camera, just in case!
Cameron lake is an ideal spot for a picnic, either on the lakeshore beach or at one of the tables set amongst the trees. There are two picnic grounds, accessible just off the Port Alberni Highway, with parking, benches and toilets, at Beaufort or Cameron Lake Picnic Grounds.
The Cameron Lake Ground is the best for swimming and is only 22km west of Parksville, 26 km east of Port Alberni, and 27 north of Mount Arrowsmith, making it perfectly placed for a day trip. Why not explore more of the area by visiting these Top 10 great things to do in Parksville?
Contributed by Helen from Holidays From Hels.
Houseboating on Lake Cowichan
One of the more unexpected, fun and adventurous family activities that you can do on Vancouver Island is rent a houseboat on Cowichan Lake. Cowichan Lake is a 30-minute drive from the Nanaimo ferry terminal or a 1 ½ hour drive from Swartz Bay – the Victoria ferry terminal.
It is a stunningly beautiful lake about 30 km (19 mi) in length, running mostly from west to east, and about 4 km (2.5 mi) wide at its widest point. It is surrounded by mountains, trees and secluded beaches. The water is calm and warm, perfect for swimming or water sports.
In essence, a houseboat is a house that floats on water. They come in various sizes (some are over 2000 sq feet with 5 bedrooms over three floors), with various amenities (hot tubs, air conditioning, flat-screen TVs and water slides), and from budget to luxury.
They do not go very fast – around 6 knots or 7 miles an hour – but the idea is to slow travel, savouring the beauty of the natural surroundings. You float throughout the day and then, you beach the houseboat on land for the night.
You can attach all sorts of toys to your houseboat. Most people add a jet ski or a paddle board. Some might even tow a speedboat for water skiing or tubing, or exploring. For any aged family, house boating would be an amazing vacation. Young children love to swim in the lake or warm up in the hot tub, and then once beached on land, play in the sand, and venture into the woods and explore.
For families with teens, swimming and hanging out in the hot tub are equally appealing. However, jet skiing, paddle boarding and water skiing add even more excitement.
Pro Tip: Although it might make more sense from a distance perspective to take the ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo to reach Lake Cowichan, it may not be if you are traveling on a weekend or a holiday. There are ferries every hour to and from the Victoria ferry terminal from Vancouver versus every two hours to and from Nanaimo.
Contributed by Nicole from Go Far Grow Close
Explore Waterfalls in Comox
One of the things Vancouver Island is known for is its waterfalls! Around the island, you can find plenty of waterfalls, with some of the most stunning located in and near the Comox Valley. The best part is that most of the waterfalls are pretty easy to get to with a short walk – perfect for the whole family.
One of the largest and most impressive waterfalls is Elk Falls. This towering 25-meter-tall waterfall is located in Elk Falls Provincial Park, just 2 kilometers from downtown Campbell River just on the outskirts of the Comox Valley. Here you can wander the various trails to different viewing platforms and even cross a huge suspension bridge. The trails are flat and well-marked, easy enough for all fitness levels.
Another popular spot is Nymph Falls Nature Park, where you can see a couple of different waterfalls only a 15-minute drive from Courtenay. The many trails here and swimming spots make it one of the best things to do in Courtenay and both tourists and locals frequent the park to hike and explore. Be sure to check out Barber’s Hole as well as the waterfall in which the park is named after, Nymph Falls. If you visit in October or November, you might even see spawning salmon jumping up the falls – how cool!
By Bailey from Destinationless Travel
Wine Tasting on Vancouver Island
There are about 30 wineries on Vancouver Island, most of which are run by family grape growers and winemakers.
Viticulture on Vancouver Island began as early as the 1920s with the production of fruit wine from local berries. The Growers’ Wine Company produced the first wines. It began to grow grape varieties that could cope with the unique coastal environment.
Today, the island’s climate is favorable for growing vines, and wine from the island’s lush green valleys is becoming increasingly popular. Therefore, a wine tasting tour is one of the best things to do when visiting Vancouver Island. A visit to a winery will introduce you to new flavors and allow you to meet friendly, passionate people who will explain how they make wine.
Boutique-sized wineries are family-friendly and provide the perfect atmosphere for wine tasting and relaxing. Also, many wineries have restaurants and cafés that proudly serve delicious and healthy local food. Plus, the wineries are picturesquely located and offer great views of the island’s landscape.
The best vineyards are in Cowichan Valley, Saanich Peninsula, and Nanaimo. It is possible to visit the vineyards on your own. But to enjoy wine tasting in several places, it is worth considering an organized tour.
Cowichan Wineries produce lovely red, white, fruit, dessert, and sparkling wines. Averill Creek Vineyard and Blue Grouse Estate Winery are perfect for a stop.
Comox Valley wineries are also worth a visit. 40 Knots Estate Winery is one of the closest wineries in the world to the ocean. But one of the best and most famous is Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery, owned by legendary film director James Cameron.
The Central Island wineries around Nanaimo and the Alberni Valley are home to some of the oldest vines on the island. The South Island wineries are beautiful due to the rural landscape of the Saanich Peninsula. One of the best places to visit, especially for travelling with kids, is The Roost Farm Centre & Highland House Farm Winery. In addition to excellent wine tastings, this place offers farm tours, a bakery-café, bistro lunch, and the “dungeon” of the winery.
Contributed by Agnes from The Van Escape
Bear Viewing from Campbell River
Vancouver Island is full of adventures, but if you are a wildlife enthusiast (or photographer), one especially stands out from the pack. From the quaint city of Campbell River, hop on a boat tour to view Grizzly bears in the breathtaking Bute Inlet. You will jump on a speed boat and weave through some of the best sailing terrains in the Pacific Northwest. These islands and fjords are considered some of the most beautiful anywhere in the world.
The best part of going on a bear viewing boat tour is that you also have a high chance of spotting whales or Orcas during your tour. The waters around this area have some of the highest concentrations of marine wildlife around, so this is really a two-in-one kind of tour.
As if the wildlife weren’t enough, the dramatic scenery of the islands you will pass and the fjords are simply breathtaking. But the biggest draw for this trip is being able to view the majestic brown bears as they fish for salmon in the rivers. The price tag on this one-of-a-kind adventure is not small, but it should be at the top of your Vancouver bucket list. If you are coming to the area by boat, be sure to add this stop to your San Juan Islands sailing itinerary.
For the best chances, be sure to go during the salmon spawning season end of August through October. There are several outfitters that offer this tour, so during peak season, be sure to search around for whoever has room or be sure to book well in advance as these tours fill up fast.
Contributed by Lina from Bucket List Places
Things to do on Vancouver Island: West Coast
Go Windsurfing on Sprout Lake
Sproat Lake is located in the Sproat Lake Provincial Park in the center of Vancouver Island. It is only a short 15-minute drive west of Port Alberni on the way to Tofino. Known as Kleecoot by local indigenous people, Sproat Lake is over 25 km long and has 91 km of coastline. Access to Sproat Lake can be found right off the Pacific Rim Highway 4. Once parked, there are several access trails that lead visitors to the lake.
Sproat Lake is popular among couples and families as it offers lots of activities along with some very relaxing spots. From swimming to fishing, a trip to Sproat Lake will keep anyone busy. Waterskiing is best in the morning as the water is the calmest at that time. During the day, small waves can occur from the wind and private boats driving around the lake to enjoy the sunshine and the clear waters.
Although Sproat Lake’s waters are usually calm, they can also offer some thrills. A breeze often occurs on Sproat Lake in the late afternoon, which makes it the best time to go windsurfing. On your way around Sproat Lake, take some time to enjoy the beach in the Sproat Lake Provincial Park. It is probably one of the best beaches in the Vancouver area!
Although Sproat Lake is mainly known for its water activities, it also hides some of the history of British Columbia. Prehistoric petroglyphs can be found on the eastern end of the park, only a few minutes from the car park and are also visible from the docks. As for staying at the lake, there are two campgrounds on-site, including Sproat Lake Provincial Park Campsite.
Contributed by Mary from Be Right Back.
Go Surfing in Tofino
If you or your kids have never tried surfing, it is absolutely one of the best things to do in Tofino! Kids as young as 6 can easily and safely surf the waves in Tofino and the smiles on their faces when they catch a wave are priceless. The ocean in Tofino is cold, so wetsuits are required, and I highly recommend the booties to go along with them for younger kids.
Surfing lessons are easy to come by in Tofino and if you are staying at Pacific Sands Resort right on Cox Bay Beach, Surf Sister is located right on site. They provide rentals and lessons and it is a great way to start off your vacation in Tofino. They also have a shop right in Tofino and will provide group and private lessons at various beaches in the area.
My kids pictured above were 8 and 6 years old. Both of them started surfing at the age of six when they felt comfortable being on the board by themselves. My husband stood in the waves with them for hours and held the board for them until they decided they were ready to try it on their own. Please keep in mind that both my husband and I are right nearby in the water with them (wearing our own wetsuits) in case they need us.
Most young kids don’t wade too far out in the water and the whitewater waves are perfect for them near the shore. Our favorite beach for kids to surf is Cox Bay. It is an ideal beach, especially if you are staying at Pacific Sands Resort. You can literally walk out the door of your oceanfront accommodation and walk right onto the beach.
Hike the West Coast Trail
The West Coast Trail, located in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, is arguably Canada’s most famous hiking route. It is a challenging 75 km multi-day beach and forest backpacking trail and although it is not really a beginners’ trail, it is an awesome activity for people with a good level of fitness from young to old.
Trekking and camping together is an amazing family activity. This rugged trail is known for its beautiful old-growth forests, spectacular scenery, fun obstacles, breathtaking scenery and a wide variety of wildlife on the route. To complete the trail takes 5 to 6 days. It is a wild hike and you have to carry your tent, all food and gear for the week. On the West Coast Trail, you hike on miles of extensive, white sandy beaches separated by spectacular indigenous forest.
The diversity of animals in Pacific Rim National Park is a big highlight on the trail; bears, orcas, whales and dolphins are all seen regularly. It can be brutal hiking here when there is a lot of rain; with pools of mud, ladders, bridges and cable cars not making it easy, but it is a lot of fun. It is recommended that you waterproof your pack properly and wear good, worn-in hiking boots.
The trail offers beautiful beaches, waterfalls and amazing sunsets. It is a great place to meet other people with hikers often making a big bonfire on the beach at night. Book the West coast trail well in advance, since the trail is only open to a limited amount of hikers.
The trailhead can be reached by car. The West Coast Trail Express also provides a shuttle bus service in season, May 1 to September 30, with multiple pick up and drop off points on Vancouver Island.
Contributed by Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads
Go Fishing in Tofino
If there is one adventure other than surfing that is synonymous with Tofino, it would be fishing! There are a few companies in Tofino that offer specialized excursions just for families and it truly is an adventure of a lifetime. In Tofino, you can fish for salmon, halibut, lingcod, snapper, crabs and prawns.
If you are feeling truly adventurous, you can head offshore and fish for Tuna. I would recommend staying closer to shore if you are with your kids and just enjoy the day out on the water, the fun facts your captain will provide and the endless attempts at catching that big one. There is also a good chance of seeing whales, sea otters, seals, sea lions too.
Companies that offer fishing charters for families in Tofino:
- Northwest Ocean Adventures
- Cleanline Sportfishing
- Tofino Fish Guides
Stay at Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino
Book a vacation at Pacific Sands Beach Resort located on the shores of Cox Bay, where they have incredible suites with waterfront views and you can literally just walk out the front door and walk straight out onto the beach. They have an amazing Kids Club during the summer months with different activities each day and it is a really great opportunity for parents to get a few hours to enjoy their Tofino vacation at their leisure.
Each night in the summer months, you can roast S’mores around the campfire and it is a hit with kids and adults alike. And the best feature, in my opinion, is that some of their units have the most incredible patios with hot tubs facing the ocean; there is truly no better way to enjoy a Tofino vacation!
Go For a Hike in Tofino
A Tofino vacation is not complete without hiking in the wild, natural scenery. There are endless trails to hike and levels from beginner to advanced. What they all have in common are stunning surroundings and a peaceful setting. The weather changes constantly in Tofino, so it is important to come prepared for your hikes with proper shoes and a light rain jacket in case the skies open up and start raining.
One of the most beautiful hikes in Tofino is the Cox Bay Lookout. The trail begins at the end of Cox Bay and is generally quite an easy hike up to the lookout over the ocean. There are a few places where you will need to scramble over rocks and the hike tends to be very muddy throughout the year. But once you reach the summit, the views out over the ocean are spectacular.
Hiking in Tofino:
- Cox Bay Lookout
- Pettinger Trail at Pacific Sands Resort
- Hike to the Canso Plane Crash Site
- Pacific Rim National Park
- The Big Tree Trail
- Lone Cone Hike
- Walk the Wild Side Trail
- Walk along the Wild Pacific Trail
- Tonquin Trail
One of the best things about Vancouver Island is how many different activities you can do here. Whether you want to surf in Tofino, go whale watching in Victoria or explore waterfalls or see bears in Campbell River, there are so many options for anyone that wants an adventure on their vacation!
This blog post will help guide you through some of the most popular and exciting destinations on Vancouver Island. If one place has caught your eye, but we didn’t cover it here, please let us know! We’d be happy to tell you all about what makes this destination so special. What’s been your favorite activity while exploring British Columbia?
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Casandra is the founder of Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel and a mother to two adventurous, young boys. She is a family-focused, adventure travel advocate who grew up in Toronto with Danish roots. Casandra has visited over 20 countries on three continents often with her two boys in tow!