Tofino, on the western edge of British Columbia’s Victoria Island, is Canada’s most famous surf location. But it offers up much more than chilly surf, including a rich cultural history, lush forests, misty mornings by the beach, and serene evening sunsets. You can drive to Tofino after taking a ferry from Vancouver. Here’s how to enjoy a few magical days there.


We arrive on Canada’s Vancouver Island by ferry, and the drive to Tofino does not disappoint. The sun begins to dip below the tree line as we cruise along Highway 4, stopping at small roadside pull-offs to take in the ever-changing view.


We do some research and find the Crystal Cove Beach Resort, the perfect beachside campground. We arrive just after sunset and wander along the ocean’s edge, exploring the rugged shoreline.


The following day, after a breakfast of oatmeal with granola at our campground, we make our way down to the beach. An early morning cloud bank begins to give way to blue skies, and we stroll barefoot in the crisp air along the crashing waves.


Sandy beaches and a lack of such dangers as reefs or sharks make Tofino an ideal place to learn to surf. As an adult female who had never surfed, I’d felt intimidated. After some research, I’d found Surf Sister, a female-led company that teaches both men and women not just technique but also explains swells and wave formation. They make us feel more comfortable and ensure we have a blast, teaching us that the ocean brings us gifts, and we just need to work for them.


Tofino is known for marine wildlife, so we decide on sea kayaking as an early afternoon fog moves in. We pick up paddles and head into the Clayoquot Sound with a guide from Tofino Sea Kayaking who knew every bird flying overhead, fish swimming below, and mountain in the distance. In a place filled with adventure companies, we were excited to find a local company that offered not only fun but also the chance to learn more in-depth about the place we were exploring.


With 200 days of rain a year, Tofino and the surrounding landscape are covered in both edible and poisonous mushrooms. We’ve never gone mushroom picking, so when the opportunity comes up we head into the wilderness. We learn the right way to harvest them and search for chanterelles, edible fungi that are a golden yellow and look like something from another world.


Tofino has no short supply of breathtaking places to watch an ocean sunset. We head to Long Beach with a packed picnic basket and munch on cheese and fruit as the sun dips below the horizon, taking the warmth of day with it.


We decide to splurge on an oceanside hotel and find the Long Beach Lodge, which we quickly realize is the ultimate cold water surf spot. With beachside rooms, we can put on wetsuits next to a fireplace in our room and walk out our back door less than 50 feet to Cox Bay, one of Tofino’s popular surf spots. Mid-session we warm up by a fire on their porch. I realize our research paid off with great pre- and post-surf comfort, something I definitely need while learning to surf in the not-so-tropical waters of Canada.


A surfer, board under his arm, looks at the waves. They waves directly out front look a little disorganized, but there are some better rollers to surf to his left.


After surfing all morning, we eat lunch and decide to explore one of the many trails Tofino has to offer. We head to the Tonquin Trail, which meanders along the coast and through sweet smelling pine forests, taking in the island on our last day in Tofino.


Tofino has a rich cultural heritage dating back thousands of years. At the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, we explore some of the shops selling traditional artwork and sculptures. There are also culture walks with First Nationals interpretation, paddle trips in a First Nations dugout canoe, and other ways to immerse yourself in the rich history of this area.


As a fishing village, Tofino has wonderful seafood. Tucked into a beautiful marina and sitting on large stilts over the water we discovered 1909 Kitchen, a hidden gem with views of the surrounding mountains juxtaposed by the incredible calm of the water reflecting the evening light. We sipped wine and ate freshly caught seafood as we watched fisherman through porthole windows. We couldn’t imagine a better way to spend our last night in Tofino.