Vancouver to Tofino | Top Pacific Rim Highway 4 Stops
Are you on your way to Tofino or Ucluelet? If you are taking the ferry and the Pacific Rim Highway (aka Highway 4) from Vancouver to Tofino, you’ll want to plan some sightseeing stops along the way. The road trip journey between Vancouver and Tofino is an important part of the adventure. You’d be doing your trip a disservice by not selecting a few amazing stops across Vancouver Island. We have created the ultimate guide to sightseeing on your ferry and Pacific Rim Highway journey to the Pacific Rim!
Top Vancouver to Tofino, Pacific Rim Highway 4 Stops
Little Qualicum Beach
Port Alberni Harbour
WestCoast WILD Zipline
1. Horseshoe Bay | Community in the Cove
On your journey to Tofino from Vancouver, the best spot to start is the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. While here enjoy the beautiful scenery and vibrancy of this community in the cove. Horseshoe Bay is home to a collection of quaint cafes, restaurants, and eclectic shopping. Better yet you might spot some friendly seals in the ocean!
After exiting the ferry at Departure Bay Nanaimo, spend a little extra time exploring the city. Within the Old City Quarter of Downtown Nanaimo, you’ll be surprised to find charming boutique shopping and restaurants. Nanaimo has also developed a great name for itself as a craft beer hot spot; home to five fantastic breweries.
Heading north you’ll pass the community of Nanoose Bay. It’s well worth the stop! While visiting Nanoose, venture to Moorecroft or Beachcomber Regional Parks, and enjoy the incredible beaches. Depending on the tide you’ll find tidal pools full of aquatic life. The eastern coast of Vancouver Island is truly a beautiful fusion of human and natural life.
Within the town of Parksville is Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. Rathtrevor is home to sandy beaches, old-growth trees, and the majestic Pacific Ocean. The water in the summer stays warm making for a perfect swimming stop. Once done swimming continue to head across the island to the Pacific Rim region.
Coombs is weird in a good way, and that’s how we like it! This small town is a must-stop on your Highway 4 journey. The community of Coombs is home to the famous Goats on the Roof and Old Country Market. Trust me, make this stop, go shopping, look at a goat, and grab an ice cream. It’s quirkiness is a symbol of the overall culture of Vancouver Island.
Little Qualicum is a British Columbia Provincial Park. The falls run through the rocky region deep within the evergreen forest off Highway 4. White-capped raids roar through the canyon spaces between rock and tree on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Qualicum Falls are a mighty force that are astounding to view and is only a short trip detour.
Unmissable on your cross-island drive you will find Cameron Lake. The lake runs directly next to Pacific Rim Highway and is the regular stop of travelers heading to Port Alberni, Tofino ,and Ucluelet. Cameron Lake is idyllic for a lunchtime picnic or swim. Even if you don’t want to make the stop you’ll get scenic views from Highway 4.
Cathedral Grove is located within MacMillan Provincial Park. The grove is full of towering Douglas Firs, Western Hemlocks, and Red Cedar, some as old as 800 years. Within the park is a nature trail the navigates between the old growth. The 80-meter canopy provides filtered sunlight that glows to the forest floor.
In the near center of Vancouver Island is the town of Port Alberni. Take the time to stop at the Harbour Quay in the heart of downtown Port Alberni. Colourful shops, galleries, cafes, and places to eat fill the region and have amazing inlet views. In addition, do some of your grocery and shopping here; Tofino and Ucluelet lack big-box retailers and grocers.
A favourite local location for fishing, boating, swimming, and windsurfing; Sproat Lake is a great rest stop destination on your Vancouver to Tofino adventure. The lake forms a unique X shape. Trails circle the island, although, to do this trail you’d want to dedicate most of a day to complete it.
Ziplining! One of my favourite adrenaline filled activities is to go ziplining and WestCoast WILD doesn’t disappoint. If you are brave enough you’ll zip over rapids and be enjoying the beauty of Clayquot Plateau Provincial Park. WestCoast WILD has a eco-educational focus that will educate you on the local environment and traditional land and peoples.
Vancouver Islands largest lake is your next destination. Kennedy Lake is a fantastic enroute day trip for water sports and exploration. Either on your trip to Tofino or as a day trip adventure, Kennedy Lake is a must. It offers a unique change in geography from the beaches that the area is famous for.
Ucluelet is the neighboring town of Tofino and is truly a gem. The community shares the beauty of Tofino but with far less of the hustle. It’s a laid-back town full of great people, exploration, and adventure. If you can’t stop at Ukee on your drive, make sure to visit during your stay in the region. The Ucluelet brewery is a must- visit!
Florencia Bay or “Flo” by the locals is one of the quieter beaches which makes it something special. Located closer to Ucluelet than Tofino makes it a much less touristy and a better representation of the local spirit and culture. Surfers, paddle boarders, kayakers, and every manner of outdoor fun is enjoyed here.
Before completing your trip why not do a short hike through the rainforest!? This trail follows a wood boardwalk through a moss covered woodland. It’s only a short 2 km loop. This trail is something truly unique for the area. It offers a glipse into the humbling biodiversity of Vancouver Islands Pacific Rim.
Among the collection of amazing Pacific Rim beaches, Long Beach stands out. Long Beach has some of the best surfing and sand in the region. Unmissable when driving the final leg of your journey, the beach and horizon are visible from Highway 4. Anytime is a great time to visit this spot but sunrise and sunset are particularly special.