If you’re looking for paradise for you and your pooch, then look no further than Tofino, British Columbia.
Perched on the edge of the majestic Pacific Rim National Park, in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Tofino is a feast for the senses—the perfect place for fun, frolic and food.
Tofino offers a wide range of pet-friendly accommodations, from fully serviced RV sites to ocean front cottages, to rooms tucked away in the rainforest—there is a price point for every budget, and activities that the entire family, two- and four-legged alike, can enjoy.
To get there is a trek, but it’s worth it. Hop on the year-round, Black Ball Ferry, with daily vehicle and passenger service between Port Angeles and Victoria. Or, the Washington State Ferries offers seasonal vehicle and passenger service between Anacortes or the San Juan Islands to Sidney, BC. Or, board the BC Ferries at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and sail to Nanaimo, located on the eastside of Vancouver Island. You can also catch a BC Ferry from Horseshoe Bay Terminal, located north of Vancouver, to Nanaimo. From Nanaimo, it’s a three-hour drive to Tofino. Did we mention getting there is a trek?
Even so, Tofino sits on “the edge of the world” and is hailed as one of the most beautiful places in North America. And, with close to 100 pet friendly vacation rentals, a variety of pet and budget friendly campgrounds, RV parks, motels and inns plus luxurious beachfront resorts, Tofino is the place to be.
Whether you choose Ocean Village’s beachfront cabins, Crystal Cove’s RV camping and cabins, or the Wickaninnish Inn’s Frank Island Suite (my personal favorite), your dog is treated to everything from towels and blankets, bowls and biscuits, doggie bags, and even their very own shower stations to wash off sandy paws after a walk along one of Tofino’s magnificent beaches.
Speaking of beaches, Chesterman Beach is one of the best. This 1.7 mile stretch of white sand paradise is the most popular beach destination for Tofino residents. It’s also home to the dog-friendly Wickaninnish Inn, located on North Chesterman Beach. From Chesterman Beach, you can walk the Tombolo Sandspit to Frank Island, perfect for picture taking.
Other bucolic beaches include Long Beach, situated within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, beautiful Cox Bay, where surfers hang out, and nearby MacKenzie Beach, located close to town.
Officially, dogs must be on leash at all times within the District of Tofino and in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. However, visit any beach and you will be met with many off-leash friendly dogs, walking, playing and paddling along with their family.
During the summer months, there are a variety of special events to enjoy, from Feast Tofino and the Tofino Food and Wine Festival, to the Rip Curl Pro Tofino, the Salt Water Classic, and the Tofino SUP Challenge. There is also the Pacific Rim Summer Festival, and this year, the first annual Woof-fit Mini-Triathlon for Dogs and Their People, in support of The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund, benefitting both pets and people.
The winter months are spectacular too! Walking along one of Tofino’s beaches during storm watching season is nothing short of spectacular. The crashing of the waves is nature’s symphony. Whatever the season, Tofino should be on everyone’s list for that extra special once-in-a-lifetime experience, but one visit often becomes many, as Tofino is a gem that inspires and rejuvenates.
For me, hiking the West Coast Trail in the 80s turned into seasonal visits to the Wickaninnish, and when that wasn’t enough, we put down roots with our golden retrievers and Labrador retriever.
Tofino is truly a treasure. It’s not only a place of incredible beauty, it’s also a community that embraces the human/canine bond.
Please note when traveling to Canada with your canine, there are a few rules such as proof of rabies vaccination. Visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website for the most current information.
about the author
Brandie Ahlgren is founder and editor of CityDog Magazine. She, and her team of dog-loving editors, dig up the best places for you to sit, stay and play with your four-legged friends. Brandie, 12-year-old boxer Thya and Mexican foster failure Pancho, reside in West Seattle and can often be found hanging out at Westcrest Dog Park.