Tofino is the perfect place to experience the wild and rugged Pacific Coast of Canada. Visit for the endless sand beaches, great surf, thousand year old trees, fantastic hiking trails, wildlife sightings (whales, black bears, eagles and more) and world class dining.
Things to Do in Tofino with Kids
My kids give Tofino, British Columbia a ten out of ten. In all of our travels, there have been precious few perfect tens, and it delights me that one of them happens to be from a place so close to our home of Vancouver, Canada. They love the sandy beaches, the giant tidal pools, the wind swept waves and the tranquil forests. I love all of those things too, but for me, what makes this West Coast town even more special, is the presence of some beautiful hotels and award-winning restaurants. Long days exploring the beach followed by a freshly foraged feast in front of a cozy fireplace — what could possibly be better?
For this post, I have put together a guide to all of our favourite things to do in Tofino, plus our top pick for family-friendly hotels and restaurants. Take a quick peek at this 90 second YouTube video, or just read on to learn more.
Tofino Beaches, Tidal Pools and Beachcombing
There are many great beaches to explore in Tofino, but family favourites include Chesterman, Mackenzie and Cox Bay for their miles of sand and super-sized tidal pools. Mackenzie is a little more sheltered for little ones wishing to do a little wading, although remember that the water is quite cold (temperature peaks at about 17°C or 63°F). Do like the locals and warm up by a bonfire after braving the chilly waters. Beach fires are allowed in Tofino on Chesterman and Mackenzie beaches (although there can occasionally be a ban in the peak of summer).
Playgrounds and Skate Parks
In the center of town, next to the Tofino Tuff City skate park there is a wonderful little playground for toddlers and school-aged children. There is also an excellent adventure playground located within the Crystal Cove Beach Resort near MacKenzie Beach.
The Saturday Market
From late May to early October, you can experience something truly local by visiting the Tofino Public Market (their motto is Make it, bake it, grow it and gather it.) It is fun for the whole family with its festive atmosphere, live music, great food, and unique local products.
Surfing in Tofino
With a consistent year round break, Tofino is very popular with surfers. Summer is the perfect time to learn, with warmer (but by no means warm) water and smaller waves. Local shops such as Pacific Surf Co. and Surf Sister offer private surf lessons for kids as young as six as well as family group lessons. Be aware that a wetsuit is essential in these rather frigid waters.
Tofino has a 7km long paved bike path that runs from Cox Bay into town, passing by several other beaches along the way. Technically, it is considered a multi use path (MUP) so expect to share the route with skateboarders, wee ones on tricycles, and the occasional surfer riding along with a board tucked under their arm. It’s not a race. Relax and enjoy the mostly flat ride.
While many local hotels have bikes for loan, rental bikes and add-ons (baby seats, trail-a-bikes, etc.) can be found at Tons of Fun Bicycles (TOF). You may want to call to reserve ahead of time since these units can be very popular.
Tofino Whale Watching and Bear Safaris
One of the most amazing experiences to have in Tofino is to go out on a whale watching or bear spotting safari. Adventure Tofino Wildlife Tours offers half day Zodiac tours with potential bonus sightings of sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, bald eagles and more. For a full list of tour operators please see TourismTofino.com.
The Ucluelet Aquarium
Just a 40 minute drive from Tofino is the quaint coastal town of Ucluelet. This town has a small, but very progressive aquarium where the focus is clearly on education. Species are collected, kept only for a short time, and then released back to their natural habitat by the community. Learn more in this post about Ucluelet with kids.
More Tofino Activities
Tofino has so many activities available that it is impossible to mention them all here. For a complete rundown including zip lining, sea kayaking, bird watching and more, please see the activities page of the Tourism Tofino website.
Tofino Restaurants Not to Miss
Tofino has amazing restaurants and being a resort town, most of them are family friendly. Several that should not be missed include the Wolf in the Fog (freshly foraged fare), Sobo (wood fired pizza, homemade soups, amazing desserts), and the Ice House Oyster Bar (fresh seafood and a great patio). For more casual fare, try the Wildside Grill (burgers) and the Tacofino Food Truck. For the sweet tooth, get your fix at Chocolate Tofino for, you guessed it, chocolate, as well as house made gelato.
There is no shortage of family friendly hotels in Tofino. Book early as these resorts often sell out way in advance. High season for Tofino is July-August and can get very pricey. For better rates, try May, June or September when prices are significantly lower but the weather is still nice.
The top rated family-friendly hotels in Tofino are The Crystal Cove Beach Resort, The Pacific Sands Beach Resort, The Long Beach Lodge Resort (see full review here), and for a real luxury splurge, The Wickaninnish Inn. All are on the beach and offer great facilities for families.
For longer stays, you may wish to consider a Tofino vacation rental. Sites like VRBO and Airbnb offer hundreds of properties in the area and can be a great money saving option.
Getting to Tofino, Vancouver Island
Like many incredible places, getting to Tofino takes a little time (but is well worth the wait). This coastal gem is located about half way up the west side of Vancouver Island. Fly in from the mainland via seaplane or conventional airplane. If you are coming by car from Vancouver (5 hrs) or Seattle (8 hrs), you must first take a ferry from the mainland to Vancouver Island, followed by a drive of several hours. From Victoria, you simply take a 4.5 hour drive up island.
Please see Tourism Tofino getting to Tofino page for driving instructions and for current flight options.
Note: If you are driving in, be sure to make a short stop at MacMillan Provincial Park’s Cathedral Grove where you can stretch your legs on a trail amongst towering Douglas Fir trees up to 800 years old.