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How to have a wild weekend with your kids on Vancouver Island

Last updated 14th March 2024

Find somewhere cozy to stay in Tofino and don’t let the weather stop you getting out and about. According to Celeste Moure, that’s the perfect formula for a wild family weekend on Vancouver Island.

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Cox Bay, Tofino, Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is more than just an island escape. BC’s charming towns of Tofino and Ucluelet are where you go to forget your phone and truly disconnect, to enjoy locally grown seafood, and reconnect with nature. During a spontaneous trip to the island, our party of five adults and four kids got to relax and have fun on the beach, surf and hike, and explore the emerging food scene. Here’s what we did.

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Pacific Sands Beach Resort, Tofino

Check in to Pacific Sands Resort in Tofino

We stayed at Pacific Sands Beach Resort, which is located on a cliff overlooking Cox Bay and has large villas with full kitchens, gas fireplaces, and outdoor decks with hot tubs. The resort’s Sunset House had four bedrooms and an alcove with a sofa bed that folds out, so it had enough room for everyone in the group. In the kitchen, there was a basket of cheese, crackers, and spreads, as well as pancake mix, eggs, bread, juice, jams, and syrup. We had everything we needed for breakfast and for a wine and cheese by the fireplace after our hike.

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Wooden walkways protect the forest in Tofino

Never mind the weather, get outside

When storms come from Japan and travel across the Pacific Ocean, they reach the west coast of Vancouver Island, where they create huge waves that crash into the rocky shores and sweep over the pristine beaches. It’s an amazing show by Mother Nature. But the best way to experience a winter storm is to go outside. So we put on all our rain gear, including the yellow rain jackets that the resort provided in the Sunset House’s closet. Right outside the house, there is a nice path that goes to the beach and wooden pathways that wind through the forest without harming it.

Make the most of Tofino beaches when the shines, even a little

It wasn’t all rain and clouds. Indeed, we enjoyed a wonderful day of sun and clear skies–and we made the most of it. The kids explored the beach for shells and driftwood, one of us tried surfing, and we all had a lot of fun.

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Winter surf lessons, Tofino © Surf Sisters

What to do on your wild weekend in Vancouver Island

Don’t let the rain spoil your fun. There’s a lot to do. We joined a guided tour with a Paddle West Kayaking naturalist and kayaked along the rocky coasts of Clayoquot or Barley Sound, where there’s a lot of intertidal life. For the adventurous ones in the group, there’s Surf Sister who will teach you how to surf your first (or hundredth wave quickly. We wore our hiking shoes and explored Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail, where 5.6 miles of trails have a beautiful lighthouse, informative signs and benches in hidden viewpoints.

Later, we visited Zoe’s Bakery & Cafe in Tofino where a large menu on a chalkboard with flawless curly writing shows the soup, salads and sandwiches of the day as well as baked goods like peanut butter cups, pot-de-cremes, and cupcakes.

We brought the kids to Howler’s Family Restaurant, a cozy diner with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The main dining area has brick walls with tin panels and simple wood tables with bare Edison bulbs above them. There’s an old-fashioned, 5-pin bowling alley and an arcade with billiards and pool table in the back.

Where To Eat in Tofino and beyond

Tacofino is a food truck that has shut off its engines and found permanent home. The delicious tacos are made with locally sourced fish. For dinner, reserve a table at Wolf in the Fog, where Chef Nicholas Nutting makes a killer Moroccan spiced octopus served on chickpeas, peppers, and tomatoes.

How to plan a family trip to Vancouver Island

We took BC Ferries, which has crossings to Nanaimo from two Vancouver ferry terminals. It’s a leisurely way to get to the island and a nice break for the person behind the wheel. Alternatively, Orca Airways flies directly into Tofino from Vancouver International Airport’s South Terminal.

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