The Getaway: Tofino


With top–notch eateries, magical wildlife tours and epic beaches, British Columbia’s “Wilder West” is an ideal spot for spending the weekend outdoors.

You can’t help but feel like you have reached world’s end when driving to Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Part of that charm is knowing there’s no other landmass until Japan. Beneath a cozy canopy of old–growth cedar and spruce trees of UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, you could easily spend a week getting comfy with a good book – but it’s also a draw for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Here’s where to turn for your next quick trip.

March 13, 2024
An entree in a glass cocktail dish from Jeju Restaurant in Tofino
Jeju Restaurant     Photo: Leila Kwok
A spread of main courses from Jeju Restaurant in Tofino
Jeju Restaurant

Jeju Restaurant  

Shortly after opening its doors in December 2021, Jeju made its way onto the 2022 Canada’s Best New Restaurants longlist — for good reason. Almost two years in, the cozy 24–seat Korean hot spot is one of the finest in the country. Like many seasonally inspired eateries out west, Jeju pays tribute to Pacific ingredients from the land and sea, and with owners Dylan and Sung at the helm, there’s genuine heart in every bite. Try the ultra–fresh scallop with yuzu vinaigrette, pickled radish and marinated kelp; Wagyu tartare with tingly gochujang glaze and sourdough; and an order of mandu (Korean dumplings). For something more substantial, dig into the soon–to–be legendary Galbi barbecue feast with charred 35–day–aged short ribs. Bonus: Their covered, heated patio is dog–friendly.

Harbour seals laying on rocks by the water's edge in Tofino
Ahous Adventures   Photo: Marcie Callewaert

Ahous Adventures  

Although Ahous Adventures launched only in May of 2023, the crew has over 100 years of marine and tourism–related experience. Guided by knowledgeable members of Ahousaht First Nation, this is a unique way to capture the spirit of Ahousaht territory. Whether you’re observing majestic black bears in their natural habitat or skipping through Pacific Ocean waters on a 12–passenger Zodiac boat in search of transient orcas and grey and humpback whales, each eco–tour includes plenty of cultural context, tidbits of history and traditional language. As you zip around the ocean during a three–hour whale–watching expedition, keep an eye out for harbour seals camouflaged on the rocks, sea otters bobbing with the rhythm of the ocean and perhaps even an eagle or two.

Picnic Charcuterie 

For housemade meaty goodness seasoned with a fat pinch of island charm, Picnic Charcuterie is where locals go. The ever–changing meat case might include sea salami with kelp and chili, grass–fed beef and bison bresaola, or wild mushroom and Manchego salami. With a solid selection of artisan cheeses, ample condiments for dipping (like fig preserve) and crusty freshly baked baguettes, Picnic Charcuterie lets you build your own platter or leave the decision–making to them. (Standard platters range from $45 for 2–3 people to $200 to feed 10–12; vegan and vegetarian platters are available on request.) From there, head to one of the many sandy beaches in the area — Tonquin, Cox Bay, Mackenzie or Chesterman — for a bite with a dreamy ocean view.

A cocktail on a dark green napkin at the On the Rocks Bar at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino
The interior of On the Rocks Bar at the Wickaninnish Inn during the day
On the Rocks Bar (Photos: George Kyler Vos; Jeremy Koreski)

On the Rocks Bar at The Wickaninnish Inn

After a stroll on Tofino’s iconic Chesterman Beach, head to the stunning On the Rocks Bar at The Wickaninnish Inn for a tipple (or three). With an impressive wine cellar, local rotating brews on tap and delicious West Coast–inspired cocktails, this spot is perfect for warming up after storm watching or surfing.

Cathedral Grove

On the drive back, make a pit stop at Cathedral Grove in MacMilllan Park. Located just off Highway 4, close to Port Alberni, the 1.6–kilometre loop is home to some of the tallest old–growth Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island. (Many of which are up to 800 years old.) When fuzzy moss and speckled lichen decorate the trail, it’s the perfect place for a breathing break.

The lounge with cozy fireplace at Hotel Zed in Tofino
Hotel Zed
A mini disco room at Hotel Zed in Tofino
Hotel Zed

Hotel Zed Tofino 

Walking into Hotel Zed Tofino is like suddenly transporting onto the set of Netflix’s Stranger Things. From the 1970s–inspired decor, a free arcade (Ms. Pac–Man and Donkey Kong Jr. included), a mini disco room bedazzled in sequins, and a bike–through lobby, this Tofino location boasts next–level quirks. Not only is the property a 10–minute walk to Chesterman Beach and right next to a bike path, but the wickedly spacious two–bedroom Family Suite comfortably sleeps up to seven — and is fully equipped with a charming kitchen and Smeg appliances. After a day of exploring, wind down in the Jacuzzi and barrel sauna while soaking in nature.