HOW TO GET TO TOFINO FROM VANCOUVER

by | Vancouver, Vancouver Island

Tofino is one of the many gems of Vancouver Island and is the perfect long weekend getaway from Vancouver. With its beautiful scenery, laid back surf culture, boutique shops and amazing food, Tofino is a place you will easily fall in love with. As you plan your trip you may be wondering how to get to Tofino from Vancouver and what are all your options for getting from Vancouver to Tofino? 

This guide will help walk you through the three main options for making the trip to this quaint little surf town that people love so much. We will cover each option in more detail but your choices for getting to Tofino are: 

  1. Fly 
  2. Drive 
  3. Bus  

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How Far is Tofino from Vancouver? 

Flying to Tofino from Vancouver is a straight shot of 202 kilometres and takes around 45 minutes flying time. The drive from Vancouver to Tofino is 283 kilometres and includes a ferry trip across the Strait of Georgia. A direct trip will take around 5.5 hours but is likely to take slightly longer as you factor in some rest stops along the way. The road to Tofino is beautiful and you will probably want to stop along the way at least a couple of times. 

BC Ferry to Tofino with a humpback whale
Whale spotted on BC Ferries route between Campbell River and Quadra Island

Flights From Vancouver to Tofino – 45 Minutes 

There are several commercial flights to Tofino that depart daily and you have a couple of options on how to get there. You can fly directly from Vancouver Airport (YVR) to Tofino/Long Beach Airport (YAZ) which is the closest airport to Tofino. These flights are with Pacific Coastal Airlines. The airport is 16 kilometres from the town of Tofino so if you choose this option you will need to make plans on the other side to reach your final destination.  

This may involve renting a car, taking a taxi, being picked up by your accommodation, or taking the bus. The bus only runs once a day from the airport to the town centre so be sure to check the Tofino bus schedule before you go. 

The second option is to take a seaplane from Vancouver to Tofino. There are several reasons why this is an awesome choice. Firstly, the float planes to Tofino leave from Vancouver harbour which is right downtown. You will get an incredible view of Vancouver and the surrounding mountains as you leave the city. 

Secondly, the float planes land in Tofino harbour and drop you off at Tofino Resort + Marina. This is right on the edge of town and if your accommodation is located right in Tofino, it will only be just a few minutes’ walk away.  As you fly into the inner harbour, you’ll also get sensational views of Tofino, Clayoquot Sound and Lonecone Mountain. In fact, the entire journey here is jaw dropping. 

Flying from Vancouver to Tofino is definitely the way to go if you have the money and want the quickest and most scenic trip.

You can look up the schedules and book your flight with Harbour Air from Vancouver to Tofino here

A seaplane from Vancouver to Tofino

Drive to Tofino from Vancouver – 5.5 Hours  

Taking a road trip to Tofino is the most popular option and the best choice for most people making this journey. The Vancouver to Tofino drive is beautiful and you get the added bonus of taking the scenic ferry across to Vancouver Island as well. There is no direct ferry to Tofino as it is on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Instead, you can take a ferry to Nanaimo.  

From Vancouver there are two different ferry routes to reach Nanaimo, both operated by BC Ferries. You can travel from:  

  1. Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay; or  
  1. Tsawwassen to Duke Point.  

Which option you take really depends where in Vancouver you are departing from, but for a lot of people the quickest option is to go from Horseshoe Bay (if you have time checkout the Horseshoe Bay lookout) to Departure Bay as this gives you a slightly shorter drive (15 min) once you arrive on Vancouver Island. The ferry journey to Vancouver Island is amazing and it is not uncommon to see whales along the way.

You can check out the BC Ferries schedule to help plan your trip. 

The Ferry to Tofino at sunset

The Nanaimo to Tofino drive is quite easy and you will follow highways almost the entire way. The first part of the drive isn’t anything special, but once you turn off the Trans-Canada Highway at the Qualicum Beach turnoff, the views get better and better. 

The highway to Tofino will take you past lakes, rivers, mountains and through some incredible forests. If you have time, we recommend stopping to walk through the giant trees at Cathedral Grove or checking out the Hole in the Wall in Port Alberni

Once you have passed through Port Alberni you come to the best part of the drive and you can start to keep your eyes peeled for black bears which are not uncommon to see along this route. We’ve driven this route countless times and seen black bears many times along the road. It makes your Vancouver to Tofino road trip extra special. 

There are some other cool spots along the way and we recommend taking the time to make this journey if you can. The overall travel time is 5.5 hours but with stops it is more likely to take you closer to 6+ hours. 

If you are driving here from November through to April, you will need to check the road conditions to Tofino ahead of time. Sutton Pass, part of the highway between Port Alberni and Tofino, can quite often get snow. You can check out road conditions and view the webcam for Sutton Pass here

If you are looking for an extended road trip adventure with suggestions on sites and stops, check out our 7 Day Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary for a complete guide!

Lonecone Mountain in Tofino

Bus from Vancouver to Tofino – 5.5 Hours 

Unfortunately, there is no public transport all the way to Tofino. If you are looking for a Vancouver to Tofino bus service you will have to book through a private operator, Vancouver Island Connector & Tofino Bus.  

They operate different schedules depending on the time of year and sometimes you will need to first take public transport to Nanaimo and then catch the bus from there, rather than in Vancouver. You can see all of their schedules here

If you do need to take public transport to reach Nanaimo, you can take either the 250 or the 257 bus from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal and you can walk on the ferry as a foot passenger and then walk off the other side to catch the bus to Tofino. The bus is the least convenient option but it is still doable and useful if you are wondering how to get to Tofino without a car. 

Surfers in Tofino at Sunset

Where to Stay in Tofino

Budget: Bella Pacifica Campground – Staying in Tofino on a budget can prove to be quite difficult, especially in summer. A fantastic option is camping by the beach in Bella Pacifica Campground. We have camped here with friends before and loved waking up to the sound of the ocean and having breakfast on the beach.

Value: Tofino Resort + Marina – One of the most amazing views in any hotel anywhere. We have stayed here a couple of times and enjoyed the views of the surrounding mountains, waterways and islands from the balcony. It is located right on the edge of town making it easy walking distance to some of the great restaurants.

Luxury: Long Beach Lodge – Our top pick for Tofino. The lodge is situated right on the beach at Cox Bay offering incredible views of the surfers as the waves roll in. The lounge here is one of our favourite places to enjoy happy hour and catch the sunset. If you are looking for the ultimate accommodation in Tofino then this is it.

Summary 

Those are all of your options on how to get from Vancouver to Tofino. Whichever choice you take is really dependant on your budget and convenience. If you fly to Tofino from Vancouver you’ll get some of the best aerial views in the world as you pass over the beautiful islands and mountains of the West Coast. The drive is also amazing so don’t fret if you can’t fly as you will still enjoy an epic road trip plus you may just see a black bear on your way to the magical town of Tofino. 

Check out our full guide on the best things to do in Tofino!


Planning a trip to Vancouver Island? Check out some of our other guides here:

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Wild About BC About Us

Hi, we’re Luke and Roxy, a couple of adventurers that are head over heels in love with British Columbia, Canada.

We share our activities and outdoor adventures with the hope of inspiring others to get out and enjoy beautiful BC!

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