Escape to Tofino in winter when the raw beauty of the coast becomes even more dramatic with moody skies, crashing waves and misty landscapes. Located on the west coast of BC, it's one of the best destinations for a nature escape in Canada.
Winter is personally our favourite time to visit - it's cheaper, quieter and cozier. We list 21 things to do in Tofino in winter, from gorgeous beach walks and tucked-away cafes to the best restaurants and hideaways for storm watching.
What to do in Tofino in Winter
What are winters like in Tofino BC
During winter in Tofino expect more rainy days, more rainfall and fewer sunlight hours. This also means exciting storm watching, bigger waves, cheaper prices and fewer crowds. From Decemeber - March, highs reach about 8 °C and lows around 3 °C.
Is Tofino worth visiting in winter?
We've travelled to Tofino in both summer and winter, and have welcomed sunny gorgeous days in winter, and endured extremely rainy days in summer. You just never know with the weather on the wild west coast. We love travelling to Tofino in winter because it's a lot cheaper, less crowded with tourists, and the coast feels even wilder when it storms.
When you wear proper attire like a raincoat and rain boots, being outside becomes a lot of fun. We also love the coziness of bundling up in our hotel room or cabin by the fireplace.
✔️ Top Tip: Many businesses in Tofino go on a "winter break", so make sure the restaurants and shops you wish to visit are open when booking your stay!
Is it safe to drive to Tofino in Winter?
To get to Tofino you will need to drive over Sutton Pass on HWY 4. It's a gorgeous drive especially when it's raining, since tons of waterfalls gush from the sides of mountains and rivers vigorously flow beside you.
Since it can get snowy, wet and slippery, snow tires are required to drive HWY 4 from October 1 - March 31.
✔️ Top Tip: Have your Google Maps loaded in advance because there is no service for a while over the pass.🚗 Compare car rental rates
21 Things to do in Tofino in winter
1. Rent a sauna right on the beach and plunge into the cool ocean
Want to know the easiest way to get into the brisk ocean water during wintertime? A sauna experience right on the beach! Tuff City Saunas offers two barrel saunas on Cox Bay Beach and one cabin sauna on Mackenzie Beach that you can privately rent out for 2 hours.
Breathe in the scent of cedar, soak in the sauna's warmth, and when the heat becomes too intense, dash out the door and plunge into the refreshing ocean water.
Since there are only three saunas, make your reservation far in advance. The price is $199 CAD for 2 hours and you can fit up to 6 people in the sauna.
Cox Bay Beach vs Mackenzie Beach saunas
Mackenzie Beach Sauna advantages
- Since there is only one sauna at that location it's more private
- Mackenzie Beach is quieter than Cox Bay Beach
- We prefer classic cabin saunas more than barrel saunas
Cox Bay Beach Sauna advantages
- Cox Bay Beach is more beautiful than Mackenzie Beach in our opinion.
- You can get a salty snack afterward, like fish tacos, at the Surfside Grill shack located just behind the saunas.
2. Pick up a hot coffee from Off-Grid Camper Cafe and walk along Cox Bay Beach
Getting coffee from the quirky Off-Grid Camper Cafe is the quintessential Tofino experience. The Vanguard campervan has been transformed into the ultimate coffee bar. Grab your drink of choice and walk north along Cox Bay Beach to see surfers ride the rough winter waves.
✔️ Top Tip: start your walk at Pacific Sands Hotel and walk south along the beach to the cafe. Walk back the same way you came, so you can see views of the beach from both directions. We think the most beautiful views of Cox Bay Beach are when you walk from the south to north.
3. Enjoy brunch in The Great Room overlooking Cox Bay Beach
After your walk along Cox Bay Beach, stop in for brunch in The Great Room at the Long Beach Lodge Resort. With stunning views overlooking Cox Bay Beach from your table, we think it's one of the best kept-secrets for brunch.
You don't need to be a hotel guest to dine at the restaurant. It's also cheaper than eating brunch at The Pointe, a popular oceanfront restaurant in the Wickaninnish Inn.
Breakfast is served from 8AM - 1PM, so there's no need to rush. We didn't make a reservation and were seated right away.
4. Storm watch from your room
One of the best reasons to visit Tofino in winter is to storm watch. Picture yourself in the comfort of your hotel room, enjoying the warmth of a fireplace while watching the waves powerfully crash upon the shore. Many oceanside resorts also provide rain ponchos and rubber boots, inviting you to leisurely explore the stormy beach and take in the dramatic views.
Our top hotel picks for storm watching in Tofino
- Wickaninnish Inn ($$$$) - overlooks Chesterman Beach
- Pacific Sands Beach Resort ($$$) - overlooks Cox Bay Beach
- Long Beach Lodge Resort ($$$) - overlooks Cox Bay Beach
- Middle Beach Lodge ($$) - overlooks a private beach
5. Play board games by the fireplace back at your stay
If it's absolutely pouring outside, get your fireplace started up and play a board game while watching the weather through the window. Scrabble is our favourite game to play when we want to unplug.
6. Eat fresh crab at Schooner Restuarant
As wintertime is high season for crab fishing in Tofino, you don't want to miss out on eating fresh crab. Make a reservation at Schooner, a seafood restaurant that has been in the business for over 70 years! Schooner is where you will find the freshest of seafood.
Must try: their French onion soup is fantastic. We loved pairing it with their featured crab of the day.
Fully Loaded Experience 🥔✨: for a real treat, share the Admiral's Plate, their signature seafood platter with blackened cod, halibut, chargrilled salmon, grilled prawns, seared scallops, mussels, clams and oysters. There is also an option to add a 1/2 pound of crab.
7. Have a campfire on the beach under the moon and stars
Watch the sunset and the moon and stars come out on Chesterman Beach while you stay warm and cozy by your campfire. It's a magical setting with the crackling flames and soothing ocean waves. Both Chesterman Beach and Mackenzie Beach allow campfires from 8 AM to 10 PM if there is no fire ban.
❗New beach campfire rule: it's required that your fire be confined in a clean burning fire appliance elevated above the ground, allowing air to flow through ventilation openings. You can buy these for cheap from Amazon.
🪵 Where to buy firewood: you can purchase bundles of firewood from Bella Pacifica Campground or Gas N Go.
8. Treat yourself to the tasting menu at Jeju
Although there are many fantastic restaurants in Tofino, we think Jeju takes first prize for the best restaurant in Tofino. From the Korean dinnerware to the presentation and flavour of the dishes, our meal was phenomenal.
In 2022, Jeju was nominated as one of the best new restaurants in Canada by enRoute Magazine. We highly recommend getting the tasting menu. It's a reason alone to come back to Tofino!
Make your reservation in advance through Tock.
9. Get a cocktail flight at Tofino Distillery
Right next to Tofino Brewing Co., you'll find Tofino Distillery, a tasting room and distillery that specializes in premium organic spirits. I usually don't enjoy visiting distilleries because I'm not a fan of straight liquor, but here they offer something unique: mini-cocktail flights.
Upon receiving a menu, we selected three mini cocktails to try. I chose the "Blueberry Daydream" with their Lavender Mint Gin, "HWY 4 Fizz" with their Old Growth Cedar Gin, and "Psychedelic Lemonade" with their Psychedelic Jellyfish Absinthe.
10. Grab a hot tea from Driftwood Cafe and walk along Chesterman Beach
Put on your raincoat and boots and walk along North and South Chesterman Beach. It's one of the best free things to do in Tofino in winter. Our favourite activity we like to do is look at all the beachfront houses and choose what one we would live in. They are all very different from each other.
✔️ Top Tip: Start your walk at the Driftwood Cafe and grab a tea to keep yourself warm for your walk down the beach.
11. Book a stay with an outdoor hot tubHot tubs make the chilly outdoor weather much more enjoyable. If you're considering a B&B stay, filter for those with hot tubs! We stayed at Michel's Cabin, a BnB that is just steps away from Chesterman Beach. The cabin is super rustic and was one of the first homes built on the beach. The highlight of our stay was soaking in the outdoor hot tub and watching the sunset over Chesterman Beach. It was such an unreal experience.
12. Visit First Nations art galleries & shops
Tofino has a rich indigenous culture. Situated within the traditional territory of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, it has been home to the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples for over 5,000 years. "Nuu-chah-nulth" means "all along the mountains and sea."
Exploring Tofino, you'll come across First Nations art galleries and shops, such as House of Himwitsa, offering a diverse range of wooden carvings, wall art, moccasins, masks, and jewelry. Also, don't miss picking up the best smoked candied salmon we've ever tasted at Dockside Smoked Fish Store.
For paintings and original prints, we highly recommend visiting the Roy Henry Vickers Gallery. Roy Henry Vickers, a distinguished Canadian-First Nations artist, is renowned globally for his prints. We ended up purchasing one of his paintings.
13. Eat breakfast overlooking Tofino Harbour at Savary Island Pie Company
Enjoy breakfast with a view at the Savary Island Pie Company. Its off-the beaten bath location brings in a local crowd. Their baked specialties are delicious here, like their gooey cinnamon buns. Sit at the bar table by the window and watch the ducks bob in the harbour and small fishing boats come in and out.
14. Grab a pint at Tofino Brewing Co.
Enjoy a laid-back time in the two-story brewery known for its small-batch, handcrafted beer. If you find it hard to decide, opt for a flight. They offer intriguing varieties like their Spruce Tree Ale and Kelp Stout. And for those who aren't beer enthusiasts (like me), they also offer cider.
15. Shop the quirky boutique stores in Tofino village
Tofino might be pint-sized, but it has several cute boutiques to check out. It's a fun thing to do in Tofino when it rains. Here are our top picks:
- Merge: the pink-coloured store features an awesome selection of Canadian-made housewares and clothing.
- The Factory Goods & Gallery: a studio with a well-curated selection of handcrafted housewares, jewelry, and prints.
- Two Trees: sells products from local artisans.
- Caravan: a beach shop selling items inspired by the Pacific Northwest.
16. Warm up with a bowl of chowder from Wildside Grill
A local favourite, a warm plentiful bowl of the Wildside chowder is sure to get the winter chill out of your bones!
17. Discover Tofino's cocktail scene
For its size, Tofino has an impressive cocktail scene. If you're in the mood for hand-crafted cocktails, choose from one of these happening spots:
- Best for innovative cocktails: Wolf in the Fog
- Best for refined cocktails in an elegant space: On the Rocks Bar at The Wickaninnish
- Best for casual cocktails: The Bear Bierhaus at the MAQ Hotel.
18. Watch a movie filmed in Tofino
Did you know that Tofino is a popular filming location for Hollywood movies? In fact, the house perched on the rocks in the picture above is the remote cabin seen in the film, Come to Daddy, starring Daniel Radcliffe. It's a wild movie - we recommend it!
Have a movie night after dinner and choose one of these movies filmed in Tofino.
19. Treat yourself to dinner at The Pointe Restaurant
For a fine dining experience, The Pointe Restaurant is the spot to be. Since the sun sets early in winter, you won't have the 240° ocean views of Chesterman Beach, however the Canadian West Coast-inspired food, ambience and architecture make up for it. The restaurant is located in the Wickaninnish Inn, which is part of the distinguished Relais & Chateau luxury brand.
We've dined here multiple times and have always had a great time. It's the perfect place to celebrate an anniversary or go on a romantic date. Choose dishes from their a-la-carte menu or treat yourself to their tasting menu.
20. Book a spa treatment at Ancient Cedars Spa overlooking Chesterman Beach
Ancient Cedars Spa is the ultimate place to unwind with a relaxing massage overlooking the beach. Book a couples massage in one of their spa cabins and listen to the ocean as your spa playlist. As Ancient Cedars Spa is part of the Wickaninnish Inn, they have limited reservations for non-hotel guests.
If you can't get a reservation, also check out these highly rated spas:
- Stillwater Nature Spa - a boutique tented experience in the forest
- Sacred Stone Spa - located in town and the best price of the three
21. Pop into the Carving Shed
While ambling along Chesterman Beach, take a moment to pop into the Carving Shed, a rustic studio showcasing local artists' wooden creations. The feathers carved out of cedar by George Yearsley aka "Feather George" are incredibly delicate and a must-see. He's an old timer from the area and might have a story or two to tell.
We hope you enjoyed these 21 things to do in Tofino in winter!
Our top hotel/BnB picks in Tofino
- Best for luxury: Wickaninnish Inn - a Relais & Chateau branded hotel that has a fantastic onsite restaurant and bar.
- Best for beachfront views: Pacific Sands Beach Resort and Long Beach Lodge Resort - are located right on Cox Bay Beach.
- Best BnB with a hot tub overlooking the beach: Michel's Cabin - a rustic cabin just steps away from Chesterman Beach.
- Best BnB on the lagoon side: Cedarwood Cove Cabin - has calm ocean waters for stand-up paddle boarding and gorgeous views of the mountains.
Get started on booking your trip to Tofino
- 🌃 Accommodation: Booking.com and VRBO are our go-to for finding places to stay in Tofino. Sort by top reviewed.
- 🚗 Car rental: see Rentalcars.com to compare car rental prices across different companies.
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