To know Tofino is to love it--at least that's what most visitors to the Vancouver Island seaside town tend to say. A draw for surfers, storm chasers, honeymooners, boaters, outdoor adventurers, gourmands, and families alike, there is plenty to see and do in Tofino.
When you've got a kids along for the ride, the options might shift a bit, though. While you might be fine with a good book and a long day soaking up the sun on the shore, or a crack-of-dawn kayak ride, travellers with shorter legs and attention spans might need something else. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy Tofino with kids.
You can go high-end luxury, or you can go shore-side motel, but perfectly in-between is the fully renovated Tofino Resort & Marina. The emphasis there is on making your trip the best it could possibly be, and the hospitality covers the whole property, from the comfy rooms focused on the simple necessities to the helpful staff with beach towels at the ready, to the on-site amenities.
The latter--the resort's amenities--are a big draw. There's a casual pub-style restaurant (with a kids menu) and the refined but still chill 1909 Kitchen (that serves breakfast, including offering a kids' breakfast menu) if you're looking for something exciting in the food department. Another amenity is the Adventure Centre, which is where you can charter a fishing boat, head off on a bear- or whale-spotting tour, or even just get a rod to try your hand at catching fish at the dock.
Located on the inlet side, the property's water-facing decks will get you nice sunset views, and it's also a stop on the summertime free shuttle line, and a short walk into the town. Plus it's where Harbour Air lands their Vancouver to Tofino flight.
When I travel with my son, I have to make sure I always know where the nearest playground is. Luckily, in the heart of Tofino's town area is Village Green. The park has playground equipment, including a fun zip line, lots of green space, public restrooms, and a skate park. In the summer its home to the Tofino Market, and kids can enjoy music, do arts and crafts, enjoy some snacks from the food vendors, or be a shopping buddy. The Market runs every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm from the May Long weekend to Thanksgiving. You're also steps from tons of shops, galleries, and public art in town here, so you can easily make the most of your time.
Tofino is a beach town, so you'd be remiss to not spend some time dipping at least your toes in the chilly Pacific. There's a beach for any mood, from catching the best waves to kid-comfy wading (and even some spectacular sunset watching). Chesterman Beach is one of the favourites in Tofino, for good reason. Play in tidepools, fly a kite, get your toes wet in the cold water, build sandcastles, or take a surf lesson.
One of the coolest places to explore in Tofino is the Tofino Botanical Gardens. This spot is so much fun thanks to its network of wooded paths with colourful surprises at every turn, and nooks and crannies infused with plenty of art, particularly sculptures by BC artists. One branch takes you on a wooded boardwalk path that ends up at a tiny opening to the mud flats--it’s absolutely breathtaking. There's even a section of the gardens where adults are forbidden (wink, wink) and everything is at kid-height, and leads to a cool tree fort kids can climb up into. It's pretty much peak childhood awesomeness here.
Even if you ferried over and have the family car, Tofino is immensely walk-able for the most part. Hop on your own two feet to get yourself into town to find treats, meals, and places to explore--like the park, galleries, and watching the float planes land on the inlet waters. During the summer months there's a free shuttle bus that runs back and forth around Tofino, with pick up and drop off points handy to key locations like Chesterman Beach, the village, and other attractions. You can rent bicycles at several places in Tofino, too. The Tofino Multi-Use Path (MUP) is a great way to get around, as are several trails in the area.
All aboard for a very cool Pacific Northwest adventure. Depart from the Adventure Centre at the Tofino Resort & Marina for a bear spotting tour. Your guide will take you on a memorable cruise on the calm inlet waters in search of wildlife. Spot bears heading down to the shore in search of food, and eagles atop high perches. Just remember to shhhhh when your boat gets close to not scare the bears away!
Duck into the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum to find out about the rich history of the region and its original people. Located right in the heart of town, it's a small space packed with photos, artifacts, and information. Admission is by donation, and someone is on hand to help answer your questions.
Because it's a resort town, Tofino's many restaurants and cafes are wise to the fact that kids are in town and hungry, too. You can go right for the obvious and seek out fish and chips or pizza, which are plentiful, but even the most sophisticated spots in town can create dishes for younger appetites and palates. Here are a few spots where kids can eat really well in Tofino, while the adults can enjoy their food and drink, too.
- Tofino Licks - There are scoop shops all over town who'll fill your cone with Island Farms ice cream, but this soft serve shop makes a wicked good chocolate vanilla swirl kids will gobble up, as well as fun sundaes pairing their ice cream or frozen yogurt with local restaurants' signature treats. #110-605 Gibson Street
- Rhino Coffee House - Who doesn't love donuts? While the grown ups get their coffee, kids can sugar up with Rhino's housemade Boston Cream, and anyone will love their "Bro-nut" breakfast sandwich on a donut. Plus all day breakfast featuring fun sandwiches and wraps. 430 Campbell Street
- The Hatch/1909 Kitchen - The casual pub restaurant at the Tofino Resort & Marina welcomes kids with a menu of approachable classics, and parents can enjoy craft cocktails and brews. Bonus: 1909 Kitchen, also on site, has a great menu of kids' breakfast dishes. 634 Campbell Street
- Sea Monster Noodles - You'll find bowls of kid-friendly noodles, like the PB Noodles with your choice of rice or wheat noodles and a coconut peanut sauce, at this popular, casual daytime spot. 421 Main Street
- Shelter - A longstanding local favourite, Shelter has a great kids menu, as well as numerous options for everyone at the table, including beautiful fresh seafood and approachable fare. 601 Campbell Street
- SoBo - One of the most thoughtful kids menus in Tofino includes things like salmon tacos (without spice), and plenty of things with spice for the grown-ups. 311 Neill Street
- Summit Bread Company - Kids will go nuts with one look at the loaded display case at this newer bakeshop, thanks to fruit filled danishes, gorgeous croissants, pecan sticky buns, and savoury breakfast breads, too. 681 Industrial Way
- Wolf in the Fog - It might be one of Tofino's most well-known high-end spots, but they can easily serve up kid-sized eats, like a classic cheeseburger with fries (or a salad, if you've got a veggie fan). 150 Fourth Street
- A food lover's guide to Tofino
- Here’s what it looks like to land in Vancouver inside a seaplane (VIDEO)