How To Get To Tofino From Vancouver & Without A Car

Looking for how to get to Tofino from Vancouver?

Tofino is almost always on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit while on Vancouver Island. And, of course, it should be; visiting Tofino is an excellent choice, with many beaches to surf in, seclusion, and a small but growing community.

I had the pleasure of travelling to Tofino with my boyfriend for our anniversary (we’re from Vancouver). So, I know how to get there and can help you with the journey.

While there are a few ways to get to Tofino from Vancouver even without a car, our journey took about a little more than half a day by ferry, driving, and pit stops. While the most common route is by ferry and driving, there are some other routes you can also take.

How To Get To Tofino From Vancouver

Some of these routes will be busy depending on the time of year because of the high tourist season, and accommodation prices change depending on the time of year.

The Spirit of Vancouver Island BC Ferries vessel is out on a sailing to it's destination. The white boat with blue detailing and  many windows hold many passengers and cars on board.

Ferry And Driving

There are no direct ferries to Tofino from Vancouver, so you’ll have to take BC Ferries from either Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal to Nanaimo (Departure Bay) or Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal to Victoria (Swartz Bay).

However, the Horseshoe Bay route is the most common route to Tofino, and getting to Horseshoe Bay is pretty easy.

Option 1: Horseshoe Bay To Nanaimo

If you’re travelling by car from Downtown Vancouver, you’ll want to take the BC-1A Northbound and follow the signs to get onto the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) until you see the signs for the ferry terminal (keep right).

Here are the full details of the Google Maps route for getting to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal from (Hornby Street) in Downtown Vancouver.

If you’re travelling around Vancouver without a car and plan to get to Tofino without a car, you can use public transportation It’s also easy to get to the terminal.

You’ll want to get to Granville Street in Downtown Vancouver. From there, on the cross-section of Granville Street and West Georgia, there’s a bus stop (beside the yellow building) for the 257 bus that will say Horseshoe Bay Express. It should take approximately 40 minutes to get there without traffic.

The ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay will take you to Nanaimo (Departure Bay). It’s 1 hour and 40 minutes non-stop, and it’s a beautiful ride. You can see the Sunshine Coast and part of the Gulf Islands in the distance.

From Nanaimo to Tofino, the car ride is approximately 2 hours and 51 minutes.

Vew on the Ferry of the mainland of Vancouver mountains with a bit of snow at the peaks, and a small island.

Option 2: Tsawwassen To Victoria

The other option is to take the longer way from Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal to Victoria Swartz Bay. While the ferry ride is 1 hour and 35 minutes, this will become a Vancouver Island road trip because it will take most of your day to get to Tofino from Victoria: 4 hours and 21 minutes.

Option 3: Tsawwassen To Nanaimo

While it’s not the ideal route, and not many people use this route to get to Nanaimo, it’s another option you can take. However, it’s a non-stop 2-hour ferry ride.

  • Be sure to pack a jacket or a hoodie. Once the ferry starts travelling, it will be windy on the decks.
  • I also recommend booking the earliest ferry possible to ensure the best start to your travel day.
Me (The Travelling City Girl) looking out at the view of the other small islands and mountain on the ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal to Nanamio Departure Bay. This is the easiest route for how to get to Tofino From Vancouver.

Shuttle

Taking the shuttle is another option if you plan to travel on foot and without a vehicle. The Vancouver Island Connector shuttle operates on the island from Victoria to Tofino and locations in between. 

However, the company runs from the end of March to October (months may change), and there are certain scheduled days when the shuttles take you to Tofino and when they bring you back.

If you’re heading to Tofino, the buses only leave on Thursdays and Saturdays (Northbound). If you’re coming back (Southbound), they only leave on Fridays and Sundays. So keep that in mind when you’re planning your trip.

If you travel from Victoria to Tofino, the total shuttle ride will be 6 hours and 35 minutes long. I know it’s a long ride, but it’s the cheapest option for getting to Tofino. But, while the next option is the quickest, it’s the most expensive.

Seaplane

The seaplane ride from Vancouver to Tofino takes 50 minutes. Again, it’s the most expensive way to get to Tofino, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy ride, this is your best option.

However, Harbour Air only runs the seaplanes between May and September, and flight schedule days during certain weeks may not be available.

View of a Harbour Air seaplane that took off in Coal Harbour in Downtown Vancouver. You can also see part of Stanely Park and the North Shore Mountain.

From The Airport

If you’re travelling to Tofino without a car, you can also fly from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to Tofino (YAZ). It’s a 46-minute flight, but it’s also an expensive way to get there.

Stops Along The Way

There are some stops along the way from Nanaimo to Tofino, or you can also check them out on the way back.

Coombs

The small town of Coombs, with no more than 1,680 people, is home to a popular tourist stop, the Old Country Market, also known as Goats on Roof. Yes, there are goats that hang out on the grassy roof of the market during the warmer months.

Unfortunately, we missed the goats by one month. We visited in April and heard they would be on the roof in May.

Four white goats sitting on a triangle grassy roof. Three of them have horns and the fourth one looks like it's sleeping.

Moving on to inside the market, it’s your typical market, but it was a bigger space than we initially thought. The grocery side has all the deli meats and fish, produce, cheese, and everything you need for groceries.

Then, there was the bakery with pastries and bread. Then you go around the corner from the deli, and there’s a huge section where you can buy nick-nacks, toys, trinkets, souvenirs, clothing, and more. It’s pretty much a one-stop shop.

You can also check out the surrounding area outside. There’s a creamery and bistro shop, a small donut shop, a fine-dining Italian restaurant, and other stores. 

Also, don’t forget to go to Statue Square, which is on the other side of the church.

Sproat Lake

Sproat Lake is one of the freshest and clearest lakes on Vancouver Island. The water is so clear that you can see 30 feet down! With a 25-kilometre lake and 90.8 kilometres of shoreline, Sporat Lake is one of the favourite lakes for people to vacation in the Alberni region.

Sproat Lake is one of the clearest lakes in British Columbia. You can see 30 feet down. The open lake has mountain ranges in the distance and there's trees and forest surrounding part of the lake. And there's a structure in the distance on the right.

Port Alberni

Port Alberni is the halfway point between Nanaimo and Tofino and the last place to fill up gas. We only stayed for a short time to get gas because it started to rain lightly, so we didn’t explore much, and we were also on a time crunch for daylight.

However, if you have time to kill in Port Alberni, there are some notable locations to check out. One is Hole in The Wall, a small but one of the more popular waterfalls on Vancouver Island. A short hike will take you to a small waterfall flowing through a hole in a rock that was once used for a pipe.

A large rock face with a hole carved out in one section. There's a small waterfall flowing through the hole into the shallow pool of water.

Port Alberni has many hiking trails, including the Alberni Valley Lookout and the Maplehurst Trail, a loop trail through a forest full of maple and alder groves.

WestCoast WILD Ziplining

In Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park, you can find the West Coast WILD Ziplining, where you can zipline, kayak, take float plane tours, and stand-up paddleboard.

Where To Stay In Tofino

Here are a few options for where to stay in Tofino.

Long Beach Lodge Resort offers 41 rooms with ocean views or 20 cottages tucked away in the forest. The Great Room Restaurant provides full-service dining for all meals, fresh local ingredients, and locally caught seafood. Other amenities on-site include laundry facilities, a BBQ shelter, and more.

If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, Middle Beach Lodge sits on an outcropping at the edge of Middle Beach and has two lodges, 20 rustic cabins, and 6 additional tree houses. Enjoy meals at The Lodge at The Beach and The Headlands. 

The Maq Hotel is a boutique hotel in the heart of Tofino’s village. Although the hotel is over 70 years old, the newly renovated building has an on-site restaurant, cafe, pub, and cold beer and wine store.

How To Get To Tofino From Vancouver — FAQs

These are frequently asked questions on how to get to Tofino from Vancouver.

What Airport Do You Fly Into For Tofino?

The airport you fly into is the Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ).

Can You Get To Tofino Without A Car?

Yes, you can get to Tofino without a car. As mentioned above, you can take a shuttle or seaplane.

How Long Is The Ferry From Vancouver To Tofino?

There are no direct ferries from Vancouver to Tofino. And you’ll have to drive afterwards.

However, the ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal to Nanaimo at Departure Bay is 1 hour and 40 minutes. From Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal to Victoria at Swartz Bay is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Is Tofino Worth A Visit?

Yes, Tofino is worth visiting. It’s not only one of the only places to surf in Canada, but there are also places to see, explore, and enjoy the locally caught and fresh food.

Conclusion

As you can see, getting to Tofino from Vancouver is relatively easy. Whether you want to take the common ferry route and drive, seaplane, or shuttle, the journey to Tofino will be beautiful no matter which mode of transportation you decide to choose.

Have a good day 🙂