Tofino is a village of about 1,800 residents on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Its beaches, rainforests, glaciers, wildlife and hot springs make it a popular tourist destination in the summer, but it’s also a great place to visit in the winter. Winter visitors to Tofino enjoy watching brutal winter storms make landfall from the safety of the beach.
Wildlife Viewing in Tofino
There are only a few months of the year when you can’t enjoy a whale-watching voyage in Tofino. The whale-watching season begins in March and ends in October when the whales return to their mating waters off the Baja Peninsula. Adults and children can enjoy whale-watching voyages from a number of tour operators in the community; most last two or three hours. Pacific gray whales are among the most commonly viewed species, but you can also see humpback whales if you are lucky, and there’s a chance of viewing California sea lions, harbour seals, Steller sea lions, bald eagles, sea otters, porpoises and orcas.
Black bears thrive in the wilderness surrounding Tofino, and the same tour operators that offer whale-watching trips also offer visitors the opportunity to observe bears from the safety of a sea-going vessel. These trips allow tourist to see the bears in their natural habitat. You can also see other wildlife, like seals, sea lions and eagles. These tours take place closer to shore than the whale-watching tours, so there’s little chance you’ll see any whales.
Surfing in Tofino
Tofino sports 35 kilometres of surfing beaches, and you can enjoy this water sport here during all seasons. Beginners and experienced surfers alike can enjoy surfing in Tofino; the community is home to numerous surf schools for those in need of lessons. Practiced surfers particularly enjoy surfing here in the winter. The water maintains a consistent year-round temperature of about 10 degrees Celsius; you’ll need a wetsuit, gloves, booties and a hood to stay warm in the water.
Wilderness Adventure in Tofino
Tofino is home to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and the area’s many hiking trails are a nature-lover’s dream. If you stay in a Tofino hotel, you’ll be in the perfect location to access the Lighthouse Trail and enjoy its spectacular ocean views. Wander along the Pacific shoreline on the Wild Pacific tour in the nearby town of Ucluelet.
Kayak out to Meares Island, where you’ll find still more hiking trails that offer gorgeous views of Clayoquot Sound. Learn about the history and ecology of Clayoquot Sound on a sea kayaking tour, play a game of paintball with the family, or take a zip-lining tour of the river canyon in Ha’uukmin Tribal Park, about an hour’s drive from Tofino.
Flightseeing, or taking scenic flights aboard small planes or a helicopter, is one way you can experience Tofino’s majestic natural beauty. A small-plane whale-watching tour is the best opportunity to see these amazing creatures, and a flight-seeing tour of Mariner Mountain glacier gives you an unbeatable glimpse of this distinctive feature of the local geography. You can even take a seaplane to one of the small islands in Clayoquot Sound, where you have the option of being dropped off to spend some time enjoying the beauty of this unique ecosystem on your own.
Winter Storm-Watching in Tofino
The winter season sees fewer visitors than the summer season, but a substantial number of people venture to Tofino during the winter months to watch winter storms make landfall. Tofino’s temperate climate means it doesn’t snow here much in the winter, but you’ll need raingear as you watch powerful waves roll in from the safety of the tree cover. This is the perfect time of the year to visit Hot Springs Cove.
Fishing in Tofino
Tofino offers both salt and freshwater-fishing opportunities. Throughout the summer and early autumn, anglers can enjoy saltwater fishing for Pacific halibut, snapper, Dungeness crab, coho or Chinook salmon and lingcod. The adventurous fisherperson can enjoy freshwater fishing in the streams and lakes of Clayoquot Sound. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and steelhead flourish in these waters.
Anglers are encouraged to keep, smoke and eat saltwater fish caught off the shores of Tofino, but freshwater fish should be released. Anglers can enjoy fishing here without a guide, and local shops provide all supplies a fresh or saltwater angler might need.
Spring, summer, autumn and winter, there’s something to enjoy in the coastal village of Tofino. Surf Tofino’s beaches, enjoy its pristine rainforests and take in some of its unparalleled natural wonders, no matter what time of year you visit.