For people who love the outdoors, the call of Tofino is strong. Blessed with an incredible location along the wild Pacific Ocean coastline on Vancouver Island, you will never forget a visit to Tofino with kids. With amazing rainforests, stunning ocean scenery and so many fun things to do in Tofino with kids, you’ll create memories which last a lifetime.
The ancient rainforests of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (just 10 minutes from Tofino) are so special and incredibly beautiful that they are reason enough to visit Tofino with your kids. But, Tofino doesn’t just offer world-class rainforests – it also offers world-class ocean scenery and all the fun activities that go along with it.
With a powerful one-two punch of rainforests and rugged coastal scenery, you can’t go wrong visiting Tofino with your family.
A family vacation to Tofino, BC is worth it for the scenery alone, but there also are so many fun things to do in Tofino with kids. Tofino is home to some excellent beaches, whale watching, bear watching, easy hiking trails and so much more.
The list of things to do with kids in Tofino, BC is nearly endless. With so many fun family activities and amazing rainforest and Pacific Ocean scenery, you will love visiting Tofino with kids! We visited Tofino with our kids (aged 5 & 8) for 5 days in the fall.
Here is what you need to know about taking a family vacation to Tofino with kids:
Tofino With Kids
- Getting into Tofino with Kids
- Where to Stay in Tofino with Family
- Best Things to do in Tofino with Kids
- 5 Day Itinerary for Tofino with Kids
- Kid-Friendly Ucluelet Restaurants
- See More British Columbia, Canada
This post contains compensated links.
Getting into Tofino with Kids
Tofino, BC is a very remote town along the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island. It takes some effort to get to Tofino, but trust us, its remote location is a big part of its charm. Tofino is close enough to drive in a day from several major cities, but far enough away that you’ll feel like your family really got away.
The closest international airports to Tofino are in Vancouver and Victoria.
To get to Tofino from the Vancouver Airport, it will take roughly 6 hours to drive to Tofino with your rental car. This journey involves a ferry to Vancouver Island.
The most convenient ferry to get to Tofino from Vancouver is the Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay journey. Alternatively, you could take the Tsawwassen to Duke Point ferry, but it’s a little bit longer.
If your family craves a little adventure, spend a couple of days in Vancouver then skip the drive altogether and take a sea float plane from Vancouver to Tofino. By flying into Tofino, you’ll enjoy the raw beauty of Vancouver Island from above, plus you’ll save around 5 hours of travel time from Vancouver! Return flights from Tofino to Vancouver are also available.
Please note that winter tires are mandatory in British Columbia between October – April.
Where to Stay in Tofino with Family
Most of the best things to do with kids in Tofino are found within the 40 km stretch between Ucluelet, BC and Tofino. The Pacific Rim Nation Park Reserve occupies the middle half of this this 40 km stretch. Within this area you’ll find a wide variety of family-friendly accommodation options in Tofino and Ucluelet, from vacation rentals, hotels and even camping in Tofino.
Vacation Rental Homes in Tofino
When we travel with our kids, we typically look at our Airbnb and VRBO options first. As a family, we enjoy having our own bedrooms, along with a full kitchen and laundry facilities. There are many great family-friendly Airbnb and VRBO vacation rentals in Tofino and Ucluelet.
There are a ton of great vacation rental options in Tofino and Ucluelet. Given there hasn’t been a lot of new condo development in the area, most of the Airbnb / VRBO options in the area are actual houses, or even better, cabin rentals.
For our family vacation to Tofino, we rented a beautiful 3-bedroom cabin halfway between Ucluelet and the Pacific Rim National Park. Our Ucluelet cabin had bunk beds for the kids, a full kitchen and laundry facilities. Given the propensity to rain in Tofino, it was really nice having a drier at our disposal to keep our travel clothes dry at all times.
Kid-Friendly Tofino Hotels
Despite its recent explosion in popularity, the major hotel chains have been slow to establish themselves in Tofino and/or Ucluelet. This is good news for travelers, as the family-friendly Tofino hotels all have a lot of character and charm.
Here are the best kid-friendly Tofino hotels to choose from:
- Pacific Sands Beach Resort: Who wouldn’t want to stay at a Tofino beach house for their family vacation? The Pacific Sands Beach Resort offers 1 and 2-bedroom beach houses for rent with many family-friendly amenities, such as complimentary use of beach toys and boogie boards.
- Duffin Cove Resort: It’s hard to imagine you can find an oceanfront cottage just a 5-minute walk from downtown Tofino, but you can at the Duffin Cove Resort!
- The Shoreline Tofino: Located on the edge of town, with an envious waterfront location overlooking the Tofino harbor, the Shoreline Tofino has a wide variety of family-friendly accommodations ranging from cabins to 3-bedroom A-frame houses.
- Long Beach Lodge Resort: A 10 minute drive from Tofino, the Long Beach Lodge Resort has an incredible oceanfront location. Families traveling to Tofino with kids will love a stay at one of their 2-bedroom cottages, which come with a private outdoor hot tub.
- Cox Bay Beach Resort: Located right next door to the Long Beach Lodge Resort, the Cox Bay Beach Resort is an excellent choice for family-friendly oceanfront Tofino accommodation. Kids will love a soak in the outdoor hot tub after a day of fun, while parents will enjoy the in-suite laundry and the yoga meditation lounge.
If you’d like to see the rest of the kid-friendly hotels in Tofino, hop on over to Booking.com to see their Top Picks for Families. When we stay at a hotel with kids, we always start with Booking.com as we love their kid-friendly hotel search results.
Best Things to do in Tofino with Kids
We were drawn to Tofino for its world-renowned rainforests and incredible Pacific Ocean setting. There are so many fun things to do in Tofino with kids which take advantage of this insanely beautiful Vancouver Island setting, including hiking, playing on beaches, whale watching, bear watching and so much more.
With so many kid-friendly activities in Tofino, you’ll be guaranteed an unforgettable family vacation!
1. Kid-Friendly Hiking in Tofino
With its amazing oceanside rainforest setting, Tofino, BC is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. If you enjoy hiking with your kids, Tofino is an excellent destination as virtually every hiking trail in Tofino is short and flat, making it so easy and fun to hike with kids of all ages. No matter your kids ages or abilities, we’re happy to report that there are an abundance of family-friendly hiking trails near Tofino for you to enjoy!
With many excellent easy hiking trails around Tofino, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and near Ucluelet, your only problem will be deciding which of the fun kid-friendly hikes around Tofino to enjoy.
Given the vast bio-diversity of the area around Tofino, your kids will have a ton of fun looking for forest critters and interesting plants. Along the way, our kids enjoyed spotting banana slugs (one of the largest species of slug in the world!), caterpillars, bald eagles and even bug eating sundew plants!
To help your family plan your time in Tofino, we’ve written a post about the 10 best easy hikes in Tofino, BC.
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking near Tofino, BC with your kids, take a moment to check out our Tips for Hiking with Kids and the Best Hiking Gear for Kids. The miles will go faster and you’ll all have more fun with these hiking songs for kids.
2. The Best Kid-Friendly Tofino Beaches
Visitors are drawn to Tofino for its unforgettable combination of lush rainforests and beautiful beaches. When you visit Tofino with your kids, be sure to include plenty of time to play at the best beaches in Tofino!
Wickaninnish Beach is a beautiful Pacific Rim National Park beach, located just down the road from the Shorepine Bog trail. The back end of Wickaninnish Beach is filled with washed up tree trunks, perfect for kids to climb on and explore.
When they are done with the adventure park created by the driftwood trees, they’ll love exploring the beach looking for treasures. We didn’t have a ton of time to spend at Wickaninnish Beach, but in our short time there, we found many washed up jellyfish, plenty of seashells and crab shells.
Make sure your kids know in advance that they can’t keep any of their beach treasures on any of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve beaches.
Half Moon Bay
The most southern beach in the Pacific Rim National Park, the only way to reach the Half Moon Bay beach is via the super-fun Willowbrea Trail near Ucluelet.
Named for its shape, the beach along Half Moon Bay is small, yet beautiful measuring only a few hundred metres long. With a tall, forested hill behind the beach, and a significant amount of driftwood tree trunks, the Half Moon Bay beach feels very intimate.
As with the Half Moon Bay Beach, the southern half of the Florencia Bay beach can only be accessed via the Willowbrea Trail. The northern half is accessible via car near the Shorepine Bog hike.
The southern end of the Florencia Bay beach is a great beach for kids near Ucluelet. It’s long and beautiful, making it perfect for a nice long beach walk.
With fewer visitors to this isolated Pacific Rim beach your kids should find lots of sea shells, etc. along the way. Being a national park though, they should be sure to leave them on the beach before going home.
Please note there is a high tide risk for Florencia Bay. You may lack an escape route if you get caught mid-beach at high tide. Check the Tofino tide schedule before visiting Florencia Bay with your kids to make sure you don’t get caught at high tide!
Chesterman Beach is a very popular beach near Tofino, likely due to its proximity to town. It’s very popular with the surfing crowd and is accordingly a great place to take your kids to watch the surfers battle the humongous waves which batter the shore.
Aside from the surfers, Chesterman Beach is a fun place to people watch and watch dogs lose their mind with happiness running wild along the shoreline.
There are a few large rocks on the north end of Chesterman Beach which have some tide pools in them. Kids always love the promise of a fun discovery of a tide pool, even if they don’t actually find anything in them (which is often the case).
Likely the most popular beach near Tofino, Long Beach is one of the star attractions in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Guess how Long Beach got its name… yup, you guessed it – it’s very long! When combined with Florencia Bay, Combers, Wickaninnish and Schooner Cove beaches it stretches out to over 16 km long – the longest beach on Vancouver Island.
As with all Tofino and Ucluelet beaches, there’s tons of large driftwood for kids to explore and climb on. At low tide, Long Beach can be home to all sorts of beach treasures, from washed up jellyfish to crab shells, etc.
With open exposure to the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach can be home to some large swells, drawing in hordes of surfers. Kids love to stand along shore and watch surfers catch the waves.
Being so popular, Long Beach has a massive parking lot, complete with indoor washrooms with flush toilets, water stations for your refillable water bottles, change rooms and picnic tables. Having so many amenities makes Long Beach a very kid-friendly Tofino beach to visit.
There’s a smaller, secondary Long Beach parking lot at Incinerator Rock, just 1 km west of the main parking lot.
As with all destinations within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, a park pass is mandatory. There are plenty of park pass machines in the parking lot.
Located on the very popular Wild Pacific Trail: Lighthouse loop just south of Ucluelet, the He-Tin-Kis beach is not a great traditional sand beach, but it is an amazing beach for kids who love nature.
The He-Tin-Kis beach is a small, pebbly beach with lots of rugged rocks near the shore. This is an excellent beach for nature loving kids as there are lots of active tide pools scattered throughout. We saw lots of hermit crabs, many fish and even a beautiful anemone in the tide pools on this small, but very beautiful Ucluelet beach.
3. Tofino Whale Watching
Our family loves whales! Before we had kids, we had gone whale watching many times around the world and even swam with humpback whales in Tonga. Our family vacation to Tofino, BC was our first opportunity to share our passion for whales with our kids.
There are a significant number of whale watching tours leaving from Ucluelet and Tofino. Your options are typically choosing between a fast and wet zodiac boat (no small kids allowed) or a bigger, cruising vessel.
Our kids were too young for a zodiac boat, so we chose a whale cruising vessel with Jamie’s Whaling Station from Tofino.
The crew on our whale sightseeing boat knew exactly where to find the whales near Tofino, and within an hour of getting onboard, we were all excited to see the Grey whales. The captain was highly skilled, always positioning the boat a respectful distance from the whales, but always in a position to make it easy for us to view these majestic ocean creatures.
Seeing whales is a very exciting moment for everyone, especially kids. If this is your kids first time whale watching, we recommend talking to them first to let them know what to expect, so their expectations are not unrealistically high.
First, they need to know that whale watching tours in Tofino take quite a while to drive the boat to find the whales. Then, they need to know that the whales come up for air, spray water in the air, then typically submerge again. The amount of time you actually get to see a whale is not as much as they may expect.
If they have realistic expectations for their whale watching tour, they’ll be a lot more excited when they do see a whale come up for air. Whale watching in Tofino will be a memory they hold on to for a very long time.
Without question, a whale watching tour is one of the most fun things to do in Tofino with kids.
4. Ucluelet Aquarium
A modest, but thoroughly enjoyable experience, the Ucluelet Aquarium is a must-do attraction while in Ucluelet with kids.
A not-for-profit operation, the Ucluelet Aquarium exclusively features sea life from the local waters in Clayoquot and Barkley Sound. In an admirable effort to minimize the impact on the captured sea life, the aquarium’s collection is captured each spring and then released back into the wild at the end of each season. The water in each tank is freshly pumped in from the adjacent ocean to ensure the fish remain as healthy as possible.
The single room Ucluelet Aquarium features a large waist-high fish tank in the center of the room. Visitors can look through the water from above or through the occasional glass walls around the tank. Kids love looking through the glass to see the large fish, starfish, crabs, anemone etc.
In addition to the main display tank, the Ucluelet Aquarium has a wide variety of small, medium and large tanks on display around the perimeter of the room. Visitors will be amazed at the wide variety of vibrant colors of the fish and plant life which live in the waters near Ucluelet. I thought colors like this were reserved for tropical locations!
Our kids especially loved the wide variety of starfish which come in all shapes and sizes. The flowing tentacles of the anemones were a big hit as were the vibrant purple sea urchins. Trying to find the crabs (who use a wide variety of disguises) was also a fun game we played throughout the Ucluelet Aquarium.
If you take your kids whale watching in Tofino, they’ll love the display of whale bones from local humpback and grey whales. Kids will be astonished at the size of the whale vertebrae, a few ribs bones and a massive Grey whale jaw bone.
The Ucluelet Aquarium is a fun thing to do with kids in Ucluelet. Keep in mind that if you have a day with bad weather, the Ucluelet Aquarium is an indoor attraction, making it a very popular thing to do around Ucluelet with kids on a rainy day.
5. Bear Watching in Tofino
It is estimated that Vancouver Island has over 10,000 black bears! These beautiful creatures get most of their nutrition from within the forest, but the clever black bears of Vancouver Island have discovered that they can get some easy, dense calories on the beach when the tide is low.
Watching black bears from a boat is ideal as the bears do not view boats as a threat, meaning they generally do not run away and simply go on about their business. Being on a boat is also one of the safest ways to get close to a black bear.
Luckily for families visiting Tofino with kids, many tour operators offer bear watching tours scheduled around the low tide every afternoon. We booked our Tofino bear watching tour with Jamie’s Whaling Station as we had an amazing outing with them 8 years prior (and they also give a discount if you book both a whale watching tour and a bear watching tour).
The captain of our 14-seat bear watching boat headed due west from Tofino to the waters between Meares Island and a peninsula off Vancouver Island. We all kept a keen eye out for moving black spots on the nearby beaches, but to no avail. There just seemed to be no bears around on our afternoon.
To ensure we all got a good dose of Vancouver Island wildlife, our captain took us to a nearby seal colony, basking on the rocks. He also spotted a bald eagle and took us in for a closer look.
I admired our captain’s determination and patience as he kept a vigilant lookout, taking us to the other side of the peninsula. His efforts paid off, when we spotted a beautiful black bear at the edge of the water, eating barnacles off a fallen tree.
The entire boat watched in still silence as the bear gorged itself on its afternoon seafood feast. Most bears do not consider boats a threat and simply continue with their meals. Our bear fell into this category and was content to let us watch as he ate on the beach. After a nice, long meal, the bear walked across the beach and then back into the forest.
Seeing a bear in the wild from the safety of a boat is such an incredible thing to do in Tofino with kids. We highly recommend a bear watching tour in Tofino with kids!
5 Day Itinerary for Tofino with Kids
Day 1 in Tofino with Kids
We took a mid-morning ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, BC. On our drive to Ucluelet, we stopped to enjoy the must-do kid-friendly hikes at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. The short walks through ancient Western red cedar trees and 800-year old Douglas Fir trees in an experience your kids will never forget.
After excellent fish and chips in Port Alberni, we drove to our 3-bedroom Ucluelet cabin. After the kids picked out their bedrooms, we had enough time left to go out for another short, kid-friendly hike.
The Shorepine Bog trail is a very, short walk in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve along a wooden boardwalk above very soggy ground. Kids will have a ton of fun walking along the boardwalks looking for tiny carnivorous sundew plants.
After the Shorepine Bog trail, we drove a few minutes down the road to the Wickaninnish Beach. The kids loved climbing on the many washed up trees and walking up and down the beach looking for ocean treasures.
Day 2 in Tofino with Children
We began our day hiking the Willowbrea trail, which was super-close to our Ucluelet cabin rental. The Willowbrea Trail is amazing as it takes you to two separate Ucluelet beaches which are only accessible by foot. This almost guarantees you’ll have these beautiful Pacific Rim National Park beaches to yourself!
We spent the afternoon with some fun whale watching in Tofino with the kids. Our Tofino whale watching tour with Jamie’s Whaling Station was a big success, with an extended viewing of several grey whales. As a bonus, we got to see a few cute sea otters floating in the water on our way back to dock.
After whale watching in Tofino, we took the kids to visit Chesterman Beach. It’s a popular beach near Tofino, but it’s not the nicest beach in Tofino. Chesterman Beach is fun to visit with kids to watch the surfers, but there are better kid-friendly beaches near Tofino.
Day 3 in Tofino with Kids
We had 50mm of rain on our third day in Tofino with kids. The rain was hard, steady and non-stop for the entire day, so we needed to come up with some good activities for kids in Tofino on a rainy day.
We spent the rainy morning on an easy hike in Pacific Rim National Park. Which hike? The Rainforest hike of course! What a great time to enjoy this incredible hike near Tofino. The dense rainforest does an amazing job at blocking the rain (although on a very rainy day like ours, you’ll still get soaked).
After some excellent gourmet hot dogs at Ukee Dogs, we visited the nearby Ucluelet Aquarium. This indoor activity is the perfect thing to do in Ucluelet with kids on a rainy day.
Day 4 in Tofino with Children
After a very rainy day in Tofino, we were happy to wake to blue sky on our fourth day in Tofino with kids. We took advantage of this good weather by going on another easy hike near Ucluelet.
We began our Ucluelet hike at the Ancient Cedars trailhead. As you’d expect by the name, this short loop trail leads hikers through a patch of forest with some massive old growth cedar trees.
After just 300m, the Ancient Cedars trail meets up with the Wild Pacific Trail. We turned north to hike the Rocky Bluffs section of the Wild Pacific Trail, then after reaching the end, we turned south and hiked the Wild Pacific Trail all the way to Brown Beach.
The Wild Pacific Trail is one of the most scenic hikes near Tofino. The entire section of trail between the Rocky Bluffs and Brown Beach hugs the rugged coastline, offering hikers non-stop, postcard-worthy scenery of the Vancouver Island Pacific Coast.
After lunch, we headed back to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to go for a long walk along the very popular Long Beach. The tide was low, so we had a great time looking for seashells and other beach treasures with the kids as we enjoyed a long, leisurely stroll along one of Tofino’s best beaches.
Day 5 in Tofino with Kids
For the final morning of our family trip to Tofino, we walked the final leg of the Wild Pacific Trail – the Lighthouse trail. The Lighthouse Loop is a great hike for kids as it features a beach with great tidepools, old, gnarled trees great for climbing, a lighthouse and some Smurf-worthy cartoonish red mushrooms (careful though – they are dangerous!).
We spent our final afternoon in Tofino with our kids enjoying a bear watching tour. Black bears are magnificent, beautiful creatures and it was a huge treat to get to watch one from the safety of a boat. It’s a completely different experience than we have back home near Banff, Canada where we need to be very careful around bears while on foot.
Kid-Friendly Ucluelet Restaurants
We try to seek out highly rated, family friendly restaurants when we travel. Here are the kid-friendly Ucluelet restaurants we enjoyed during our family vacation.
1. Bare Bones Fish N’ Chips (Port Alberni)
Being from landlocked Banff, Canada, any time we get near the ocean we want to eat as much seafood as we can. With kids in tow, the easiest way to accomplish this is usually at a fish n’ chips restaurant.
If, like most visitors, you drive your family to Tofino, your journey will take you through Port Alberni. We passed through Port Alberni over lunchtime, so we sought out a highly rated fish n’ chips restaurant. We visited Bare Bones Fish N’ Chips and we’re glad we did.
We tried separate orders of cod and halibut fish and chips (the cod was better), while the kids had chicken fingers and yam fries, with half of our extra fish. The fish was outstanding, the tartar sauce was equally good and the chips completed the high standard. The chicken fingers were just ok, but the kids loved their share of our fish n’ chips.
2. Sake Sushi
From the moment our daughter tried sushi as a 3-year old in Kyoto, Japan, she’s been hooked. It didn’t take long for her little brother to join the sushi madness and now our kids simply can’t get enough. Now, when we travel as a family, we always try to find a good sushi place, especially when we are near the ocean.
We ate at Sake Sushi in Ucluelet on the second night of our family vacation. After a full day of kid-friendly hiking on the Willowbrea Trail and Tofino whale watching, we were famished. We devoured every sushi roll and piece of sashimi put in front of us.
3. Ukee Dogs Taqueria
All kids love hot dogs, so if you have a fussy easter on your hands, why not try the best place for hot dogs in Ucluelet? Ukee Dogs is a small restaurant, so you may have trouble getting a table, but it also does a brisk take-out business.
Our daughter loved her Mac n’ Cheese dog, while our picky son loved his normal hot dog drenched in ketchup. The adults had a pulled pork hot dog and a chili dog – both of which were excellent. A single side of French fries was big enough for the whole family to share.
Some parents may find the décor inappropriate for smaller kids – there’s a portrait of a female zombie lady in a bikini near the front door. It’s not scary, or gross, or anything – just a female zombie in a bikini. Just to be aware…
4. Jiggers Fish N’ Chips
The first time we ate at this Ucluelet fish n’ chips food truck 8 years ago, I thought it was the best fish n’ chips I’ve ever had in my life. We talk about our meal from Jiggers all the time when we eat fish n’ chips elsewhere – none of them seemed to compare.
When we finally came back to Tofino with kids, we knew we’d have to come back and have another feast at Jiggers, so on our final night in Ucluelet we stopped by for some takeout fish n’ chips.
We each ordered a 2-piece fish and chips, while our kids each got a hot dog. The portion sizes for each piece of fish was very generous as was the serving size of the French fries. The kids devoured their hot dogs (along with the extra chips our server threw in for free).
As for the fish n’ chips? It was still very good, but I can’t say it lived up to the memory of our first time at Jiggers. Perhaps it was unfair to expect it live up to the hype of an 8-year old memory, or perhaps it just wasn’t as good this time. Who’s to say?
In any case, the fish was fresh, hot and very tasty and we’d recommend Jiggers if your family is craving fish n’ chips near Tofino or Ucluelet.
We hope that your family enjoys visiting Tofino with kids as much as we did!