4 Day Nanaimo to Tofino Road Trip for Relaxation & Adventure

4 Day Nanaimo to Tofino Road Trip for Relaxation & Adventure

This 4 Day Vancouver Island itinerary is for you if you're departing from Nanaimo or catching the Horseshoe Bay ferry from Vancouver to start your adventure to Tofino.

Our Nanaimo to Tofino road trip offers a blend of relaxation and adventure. Your first three days will be spent exploring the best of Tofino's wild nature, culture and culinary scene.

On your fourth day, we offer two fun options to further immerse you in the West Coast way of life.

Outline: Nanaimo to Tofino Road Trip

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Driving distance from Nanaimo to Tofino

Beautiful Vancouver Island

The driving distance from Nanaimo to Tofino is just under 3 hours. After passing through the city of Alberni, the drive becomes gorgeous, winding past rushing creeks, lakes and over a mountain pass.

If it's raining, you're actually in luck, since you'll see many waterfalls cascading off the mountainsides.

⚠️ Note: From October 1 to March 31, winter tires are required for your drive on HWY 4, since winter conditions and snow can make it slippery over Sutton Pass.

🚗 If you need to rent a car: compare car rental rates with Rentalcars.com

Nanaimo to Tofino Road Trip Map

4 Day Nanaimo to Tofino Road Trip Itinerary

Days 1-3: Tofino

Room service at The Wickaninnish in Tofino

Set off on your journey to Canada's surfing capital and immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of the West Coast. Tofino's natural beauty is breathtaking with its towering old-growth trees, untamed beaches and dramatic rocky outcrops.

Despite its remote location, Tofino offers a perfect blend of tranquility and luxury with its oceanfront boutique hotels and burgeoning culinary scene.

Where to stay in Tofino

Our stay in Michel's Cabin

We recommend choosing a stay with easy access to Chesterman Beach or Cox Bay Beach - these are two of Tofino's best beaches for scenic walks, surfing and watching the sunset.

In Tofino, most places have a strict check-in time of 4pm. If you plan to arrive early, staying in a hotel may be beneficial over a BnB since you can easily drop your bags off at the front desk and start exploring.

Our top accommodation picks in Tofino

Best hotel on Chesterman Beach: Wickaninnish Inn

This boutique hotel overlooking Chesterman Beach is part of the luxury Relais & Chateau brand. Pamper yourself at its oceanside spa or treat yourself to a romantic dinner at The Pointe, where you can enjoy 270° sunset views over Chesterman Beach.

Best hotel on Cox Bay Beach: Pacific Sands Beach Resort

Positioned on Cox Bay Beach, this resort offers wild ocean views between two rugged cliffs. Cox Bay Beach has larger waves than Chesterman Beach, making it a fun spot to watch surfers ride the waves. It's also a great choice for storm watching in winter when some of the biggest waves sweep the bay.

Best B&B with a hot tub overlooking Chesterman Beach: Michel's Cabin

Located just steps away from Chesterman Beach, this super rustic BnB was one of the first homes built on the beach. Soak in the hot tub at any time of year and take in the magical sunset over the ocean. We love that it's just a short beachside walk to The Pointe restaurant.

Chesterman Beach is also one of two beaches you're permitted to have a beach fire on.

🛏️ Browse more hotels and BnBs in Tofino.

What to Do in Tofino

See our comprehensive 3 Day Tofino itinerary, including the best places to eat, unique activities and stunning sights you don't want to miss.

Here are the highlights:

Day 1: Check into your coastal retreat, eat one of the best fish tacos in the world, stroll down Chesterman Beach and dine with 270° ocean views. 🌮 🏄 🌅

Day 2: Take a morning beach walk and eat brunch overlooking Cox Bay Beach, rent a private sauna on the beach, dine at one of Tofino's best restaurants and have a beach fire under the stars. 🍳 🔥 🌌

Day 3: Enjoy breakfast overlooking the harbour, spend time in nature with an adventurous or relaxing activity, explore Tofino village, eat the freshest seafood and discover Tofino's cocktail scene. 🌊 🌲 🦀

Read our full 3 Day Tofino itinerary here.

Day 4: Choose between a day of adventure or a day of relaxed exploring

For your fourth day, choose from these two options:

Option 1 is adventurous, taking you on a 4x4 journey to Virgin Falls where you can camp. This is backcountry camping - you will need to bring all camping supplies and there are also no facilities or bathrooms.

Note: if you don't want to camp - you could do a day trip to the falls and stay in Tofino or Ucluelet for the night.

Option 2 is more relaxed, taking you to Ucluelet, a funky west coast town to explore its laidback lifestyle and up-and-coming culinary scene.

Option 1: 4x4 to Virgin Falls

You can swim in the falls but it's chilly!

Today is about discovering more of Vancouver Island's natural beauty. You will need a 4x4 for this option, so if you don't plan on taking one, skip this section and go to Option 2.

Virgin Falls is a hidden gem on Vancouver Island and the best part is that you usually have the falls all to yourself! It's a blast driving in the backcountry around Tofino.

Although you need a 4x4, the roads aren't difficult to drive on. You don't actually need the 4x4 aspect of the car until the very last stretch of the drive where the road has been previously washed out. It's a lot more rugged with big rocks and potholes, but there are good lines through it.

From Tofino, it takes about 1.5 hours to get to Virgin Falls and you can camp there overnight for free.

See how to get to Virgin Falls in our post here.

Note: If for some reason you can't make it to Virgin Falls, there are some beautiful campsites along the way near the inlet and some up side roads that are very nice.

✔️ Top Tip: don't forget bug spray!

Option 2: Explore Ucluelet, a funky coastal town

Ucluelet is a funky West Coast town with a great local vibe. It's often overlooked by tourists since Tofino is nearby, but it has a charm of its own worth making a stop for.

You will find fewer tourists here, cheaper prices for hotels/BnBs, delicious places to eat and fun activities to do, like walking the Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse Loop and visiting Canada's first collect & release aquarium.

See our list of 8 fun things to do in Ucluelet.

Where to eat in Ucluelet

Pluvio Restaurant

For breakfast: Yayu Cafe

Start your day with breakfast at this completely vegan cafe. They offer plant-based dishes, coffees and unique specialty drinks with ingredients like turmeric, mushrooms, and ashwagandha.

For lunch: Jigger's Fish & Chips

We think these might be the best fish & chips on Vancouver Island. They are so fresh and the batter is perfect.

For dinner: Pluvio Restaurant

Named the 4th best new restaurant in Canada by enRoute Magazine in 2020, Pluvio showcases local ingredients in uniquely presented dishes. Its chef worked previously as the head chef at the Wickaninnish Hotel in Tofino.

This place is worth the stop in Ucluelet alone. Reserve your table.

Where to stay in Ucluelet

Photo credit: Private Hot Tub! Beachfront Cabin With Views! Morning Mist via vrbo.ca

We recommend staying at Pluvio Rooms for your one night stay. Part of the award-winning Pluvio Restaurant, it offers four charming spacious rooms with a West Coast-inspired decor. It's a great jumping-off point to explore the town.

If you can stay more than one night, check out these cabins with ocean views:

Enjoy your road trip from Nanaimo to Tofino!

Start planning your trip to Vancouver Island

  • 🌃 Book your accommodation: Booking.com and VRBO are our go-to for finding places to stay in Tofino. Sort by top reviewed.
  • 🚗 Book your car rental: compare car rental prices across different companies with Rentalcars.com.

Don't miss our other Vancouver Island travel guides:

Round out your trip by visiting Gabriola Island, a Gulf Island just a short ferry ride away from Nanaimo.

Check out our full list of the 17 best getaways near Vancouver.

Save and pin this Nanaimo to Tofino Road Trip:

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out our list of 30 fun adventure ideas for your next trip.

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