The Best Stops To See Driving From Nanaimo To Tofino

Last Updated on September 4, 2022

If you’re looking for an amazing road trip to take in British Columbia, consider driving from Nanaimo to Tofino. This route will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery in British Columbia. There are plenty of great stops along the way, so make sure to plan your journey carefully.

In this blog post, we’ll tell you about the best places to see on your drive from Nanaimo to Tofino.

Nanaimo To Tofino Drive

Coombs Old Country Market

Coombs Old Country Market is a must-stop on any drive from Nanaimo to Tofino. This iconic and family-owned market is famous for its goats on the roof. One of the most popular things to do at the market is to admire the goats as they graze on the rooftop. The market sells a variety of local goods, including produce, honey, baked goods, and ice cream. They also have a restaurant on-site serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Market is open every day, including holidays, from March through December and is a great place for family fun and character. It’s the perfect place to stock up on snacks for your journey ahead.

Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park is one of the most popular parks on Vancouver Island. The park is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, lush forest, and warm waters. There are plenty of activities to enjoy at the park, including swimming, hiking, picnicking, and beachcombing.

Rathtrevor Beach is famous for the ocean receding almost a kilometer at low tide, which exposes a wide variety of tide pools. The best time to explore the tide pools is during a minus tide when the water recedes even further.

Cathedral Grove

One of the best places you’ll want to stop is Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, a 301-hectare Provincial Park. This incredible forest is home to some of the tallest trees in British Columbia. The giant Douglas firs and Western red cedars are simply awe-inspiring, with some as old as 800 years and 9 meters in circumference. You can take a short hike through the forest or just enjoy the peace and quiet of this magical place.

There are two paths, one on each side of Highway 4 in central Vancouver Island. Both progress through the shadows of ancient Douglas fir trees, and magnificent columns that have remained untouched by the modern world.

These trees were massive. It really helped us put into perspective how small we are and how powerful Mother Nature is. To be able to stand beside one of these Ancient Giants of our forestlands is truly a surreal experience that takes your breath away; inspiring with both beauty and simplicity.

Little Qualicum Falls

Next up is Little Qualicum Falls. This beautiful waterfall is located in a Provincial Park of the same name. There are several hiking trails that wind through the park, so you can explore the area at your own pace. Be sure to bring your camera, as this is one spot you’ll definitely want to capture on film.

From the viewing platforms at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, you can see both the lower and upper falls. There are three ways to view the falls: from the upper bridge, lower bridge, and a few strategically placed lookouts along the trail.

There are over 6 kilometers of walking trails in the 440-hectare Little Qualicum Falls Park. The majority of the pathways begin from a day-use area in the park.

Read Next: Best Tofino Hiking Trails  

nanaimo to tofino drive

Sproat Lake

Sproat Lake is a popular vacation destination on Vancouver Island, with over 200 miles of forested lakeshore and fresh water so clean and clear you can see thirty feet down.

The majority of the coast is unoccupied, and it is lined by beaches and Douglas fir forest. Vacation houses and holiday cabins dot the shoreline, yet most of the foreshore is uninhabited.

Sproat Lake is exceptional for its warm water and is popular among kayakers, fishermen, swimmers, water skiers, and windsurfers. This family camping destination is popular with boaters and anglers in the summer.

Sproat Lake is a great place to take a break from driving and just enjoy the scenery. There are plenty of picnic areas and beaches where you can relax and take in the view. If you’re feeling adventurous,  go for a swim or paddle!

Englishman River Falls

Englishman River Falls is a stunning waterfall and is located just outside of Parksville. It’s the perfect short walk to take a break from driving and stretch your legs. There is a bridge with a great view that allows you to get up close and personal with the falls.

Located along the beautiful Englishman River, this Provincial Park has an amazing waterfall that flows down into a deep canyon.

Set among a lush old-growth and second-growth forest of Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock, and maple on south-central Vancouver Island, this lovely destination is a great spot from which to explore and appreciate the incredible diversity of south-central Vancouver Island.

Follow the trail beyond the Falls for a popular spot to cool down and splash around in the clear and cold water.

nanaimo to tofino drive

Kennedy Lake Provincial Park

Kennedy Lake Provincial Park is a popular day-use location for lake and beach activities. This park is made up of two locations on the south shore of Kennedy Lake, adjacent to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island’s west coast. It is the the largest body of fresh water on Vancouver Island.

This stunning park is the perfect place to take a dip, go kayaking or fishing, or even try your hand at windsurfing.

In the fall, sockeye may be seen on the beach spawning. This is when black bears are most common.

Important to note: The mountains surrounding Kennedy Lake are very steep-sided. Winds can whip up across the main part of the lake and Clayoquot Arm with little warning.

Wally Creek (ʔaʔukmun Tribal Park)

If you’re looking for a stunning place to take a dip in British Columbia, look no further than Wally Creek. The water in the creek is sometimes called “kool aid” water as the creek’s water shimmers with a crystal-clear, aquamarine color that is breathtaking to see.

There’s also a stunning mountain backdrop, plenty of boulder hopping to do, and during our last stop, we found rock pools of endless tadpoles.

Hole In The Wall – Port Alberni

Unbeknownst to many, this hiking trail on Vancouver Island provides a stunning view of what was once a waterline to Port Alberni. While the hole in the wall area itself may be small, it’s definitely worth checking out when you’re in the area — and a fabulous spot for a swim to beat the heat! If you’re looking for things to do when you’re passing through Port Alberni, this is definitely one of the top spots!

The walk to get here is relatively short and easy. It’s one of the many amazing things to do while driving to Tofino on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Ucluelet

The next stop on your journey is Ucluelet. This charming town is known for its incredible nature and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Eventually, the Pacific Rim Highway reaches a T-intersection. Turning left leads to Ucluelet and turning right will take you to Tofino.

Always take time to turn left. There are plenty of trails to hike, restaurants, and shops to explore.

In addition to the amazing things to see and do in Ucluelet, this town is also a great place to stay when driving to Tofino. There are plenty of accommodation options, from camping and RVing to hotels and vacation rentals.

Actually, when we visit Tofino, we usually stay just down the road in Ucluelet for a little more peace and quiet.

Amphitrite Lighthouse Loop

Amphitrite Lighthouse Loop on the Wild Pacific Trail is an easy, family-friendly hike with incredible views of the coastline. The loop is about four kilometers long and takes about two hours to complete. This trail is so gorgeous, whether moody or sunny. It is always a must-stop when we are in the area.

The Ucluelet Aquarium

The Ucluelet Aquarium is a must-see for any nature lover. This unique aquarium is located on the edge of a rocky cliff and features tide pools, touch tanks, and a variety of marine life.

The aquarium’s subject is the region’s invertebrates and fish that may be found in the surrounding area. The aquarium is a catch-and-release facility, so you won’t know what you’ll see each time you visit and the sea life are changed frequently.

The Ucluelet Aquarium is open daily from March to November.

Ancient Cedars Loop Trail

The Ancient Cedars Loop Trail is a short, easy hike through massive old-growth cedar trees. This trail is located just outside of the town of Ucluelet and is a great option if you’re short on time.

Less than a kilometer long, this small loop trail starts from the parking lot right off the side of the highway. The trail is perfect for beginner and seasoned hikers alike, so it can get busy. A few old-growth cedar trees line the beginning of the trail before it meets up with the Pacific Rim Trail headed south; both boast terrific views.

Tofino

Last but not least is the destination of your journey, Tofino. This is the ultimate destination for nature lovers.

Surfing, hiking, fishing, and kayaking are just a few of the activities you can enjoy here. There’s also plenty of great food to be found in Tofino, so make sure to save some room for a meal or two.

Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Tofino is the perfect place to end your road trip.

 

Check out our post about the Best Tofino Hiking Trails; you don’t want to miss some of the best Tofino scenery!

 

We hope you enjoy your Nanaimo to Tofino drive. These stops are sure to make for an unforgettable journey. Happy travels!

 

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