Tofino Beaches

  • Photo credit
    Jeremy Koreski
  • Photo credit
    Marnie Recker Photography
  • Photo credit
    Stuart May
  • Photo credit
    Melody Charlie Photography
  • Photo credit
    Marnie Recker Photography
  • Photo credit
    Landon Sveinson
  • Photo credit
    Courtesy: Outside Break

In Tofino, the beach is the thing.

It’s a place to walk, run, surf, photograph, cycle, play, explore, picnic, storm watch, meet -- or just do nothing at all.  Here’s the rundown on Tofino's top beaches:

Chesterman Beach

This 2.7 kilometre (1.7 mile) stretch of white sand paradise is the most popular beach destination for Tofino residents.  Chesterman Beach is mainly residential, dotted with lovely homes and bed and breakfasts, many constructed in a contemporary West Coast architectural style.  The Wickaninnish Inn is located on North Chesterman Beach.

Things to do on Chesterman Beach:  
  • Explore tidepools with the kids at North Chesterman Beach at low tide and you may see delightful seastars, anemones and umpteen marine lifeforms.  
  • Drop by the Carving Shed by the Wickaninnish Inn, also on North Chesterman, where friendly and especially talented wood carvers hone their art. 
  • Walk the tombolo (sandspit) to Frank Island, also to be done at low tide, for the views of the entire beach with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.    
  • Get comfy in the sand on South Chesterman Beach as you watch surf instructors teaching eager students the basics of riding their first wave.  Better yet, register with a Tofino surf school for your first lesson or bring your gear for a surf on this magnificent beach.  For more information on surfing Chesterman Beach, click here.
  • Fly a kite!
  • Chill by your beach fire, permitted only on Chesterman and MacKenzie beaches within the District of Tofino.  Be sure to pack your firewood and materials in and out and to extinguish your fire once you're done.

Long Beach

Aptly-named Long Beach is situated within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.  Along with Florencia Bay, Wickaninnish, Combers and Schooner Cove beaches, it creates the longest sand dune on Vancouver Island stretching for over 16 kilometres (9.94 miles).  Adding to the mystical quality of these beaches is a superb collection of driftwood bordering old growth forest.    The focus here is on Long Beach itself:

Things to do on Long Beach:
  • Walk and walk and walk all the way south (to the left when facing the ocean) to where rocky headlands mark the division between Long Beach and Wickaninnish Beach.
  • Walk north, past the First Nations beachfront community of Esowista, toward quiet Schooner Cove beach.
  • Go ahead, climb up the giant tidal rock, Incinerator Rock, in front of the Incinerator Rock parking lot and enjoy the view.
  • With a keen eye, and a bit of luck, you may spot some Gray or Humpback whales in the distance. 
  • Winter storm watching on Long Beach is a dramatic event as powerful tides flood the beach, changing its landscape daily.  Just be sure to check your tide guide and visit at a falling or low tide.

Cox Bay

This 1.5 kilometre ( .93 mile) expanse offers a challenging surf break, family fun and even some solitude.  Here, you'll find the long-established Pacific Sands Beach Resort, Long Beach Lodge, and Cox Bay Beach Resort.

Things to do on Cox Bay:
  • Watch for skilled surfing on one of Tofino's most consistent surf breaks.
  • See how many sand dollars you can find.  While it can be tempting to bring them home, they’re best left in their natural habitat.
  • Pack up for a day of beach fun.
  • Keep an eye out for driftwood shelters, built by industrious beach lovers.  Build your own!
  • Wait for a low tide to explore the tidal caves at the northen tip of Cox Bay (to the right when facing the ocean).  You may find barnacles, seastars, and more marine treasures.  Because there is the potential for ocean surges near the edge of these rocks, please supervise children at all times.

MacKenzie Beach

MacKenzie Beach is a calm oasis, close to town.  Well-situated tidal rocks shelter the beach, allowing only the gentlest of waves to ripple in. Although this beach is home to a few resorts and campgrounds, it retains a quiet nature.  Access just got easier, with a new wheelchair-friendly ramp and parking spaces via Hellesen Road.

Things to do on MacKenzie Beach
  • Try stand-up paddle boarding!  The calm waters of MacKenzie Beach are perfectly suited to this more laid-back cousin of surfing.
  • Walk to the southern end of the beach (to the left when facing the ocean) where you'll find a rocky intertidal zone to discover.
  • Get a skimboard and ride away!
  • Children will enjoy running in and out of the water here.  As always, even on a calm beach, please attend to them at all times.
  • Build a sandcastle, and don't be surprised if you have some young aspiring builders join in on the fun.
  • Chill by your beach fire, permitted only on Chesterman and MacKenzie beaches.  Be sure to pack your firewood and materials in and out and to extinguish your fire once you're done.

Wickaninnish Beach

Prepare to be awestruck by this vast stretch of sand, complete with hundreds of weather-bleached driftwood on the edge of golden sand dunes and the ocean's powerful waves.  Wickaninnish Beach is situated within Long Beach, in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Things to do on Wickaninnish Beach:
  • Climb up the steps/ramp to the observation deck of the Kwisitis (formerly Wickaninnish) Visitor Centre for dramatic views of the horizon.
  • Pack a beach picnic and find your spot among the driftwood.  Please note that the Kwisitis Visitor Centre no longer houses a restaurant.
  • Walk the length of this beach and have a look at the massive sand dunes above. 
  • Head right around the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, right past the totem pole.  You'll be on the 1.5 kilometre (.93 mile) South Beach Trail to lovely South Beach and its pebbles rolling in the waves.  Feel free to explore and please watch for the waves breaking over the rocks.

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