How to Get From Vancouver to Tofino (All Ways)

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Here Are All the Ways to Get From Vancouver to Tofino, BC!

If you are in Vancouver and haven’t made it to Vancouver Island yet – but want to go straight to Tofino – you have a few options!

Some transportation options are short, some are longer – but all of them would make for a lovely journey.

During our time on the West Coast, we ended up going to Tofino after renting a car in Victoria. We were supposed to take the seaplane back to Vancouver – but bad weather had us take the ferry from Nanaimo instead.

You might be like us and want to plan ahead for your trip. Good idea! Our detailed guide covers how to get to Tofino from Vancouver in a few different ways.

Vancouver to Tofino Transport Options

  • By Car: As fast as 5.5/6 hours via BC Ferry through Nanaimo
  • By Bus: As fast as 9 hours via Public Transit, Ferry, and the Tofino Bus
  • By Plane: As fast as 1 hour via seaplane from Vancouver Harbour to Tofino Harbour

Vancouver to Tofino by Car

It is very possible – and popular – to drive from Vancouver to Tofino. Of course, this journey would include taking the ferry to Vancouver Island, so you’d have to take your car on a ferry.

Believe us when we say that the Vancouver to Tofino drive is a very scenic one – full of city, sea, trees, and much more!

cars lined up at ticket gates for bc ferry.
If you’re driving, you’ll have to arrive early to get in line for the ferry.

The shortest distance from Vancouver to Tofino by car would be around 284 kilometres (including the ferry crossing). This route would look like this:

  • From Vancouver, drive northwest to the Horseshoe Bay Terminal
  • Take the ferry to Nanaimo (Departure Bay Terminal)
  • Drive from Nanaimo to Tofino via Port Alberni

That said, there are other car/ferry combinations from Vancouver which can also work. We outline them all below in detail.

We rented our car in Victoria, but you can also rent a car in Vancouver.

To take any ferry from Vancouver, there are two main ferry terminals on the mainland that you’d use: Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay.

These terminals provide you with three ferry options to get to Vancouver Island (either to Nanaimo or Victoria) to then continue your drive to Tofino. There is no direct Vancouver to Tofino ferry.

We have taken ferries from both of these locations to and from Vancouver Island so we can speak to both. Here’s a full breakdown of the ferry routes from Vancouver to Vancouver Island to compare:

Vancouver to Vancouver Island Ferry Table

Ferry RouteVancouver Ferry TerminalAddressDistance of Terminal from VancouverFinal DestinationFerry Travel Time
Tsawwassen- Swartz BayTsawwassen1 Ferry Causeway,
Delta, V4M 4G6
45 minutes (no traffic) or 36 kmVictoria (Swartz Bay)1 hour 35 minutes
Horseshoe Bay – Departure BayHorseshoe Bay6750 Keith Rd,
West Vancouver, V7W 2V1
25 minutes (much longer with traffic) or 21 kmNanaimo (Departure Bay)1 hour 40 minutes
Tsawwassen – Duke PointTsawwassen 1 Ferry Causeway,
Delta, V4M 4G6
45 minutes (no traffic) or 36 kmNanaimo (Duke Point)2 hours
Our table compares the ferries from Vancouver to Vancouver Island to get to Tofino.

After taking one of these ferries to Vancouver Island, you’d then continue driving from wherever you end up on Vancouver Island (Victoria or Nanaimo).

Here are these routes in a little more detail:

Vancouver to Tofino via Nanaimo

Any of the ferries from a Vancouver terminal (listed above) to Nanaimo (any of the ports) would be the shorter total trip in terms of driving time.

This is because, on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is roughly straight across from Vancouver, while Victoria is more south of Vancouver. If you drive from Victoria to Tofino, you have to drive through Nanaimo to get there.

This drive from Victoria to Nanaimo takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. So, if you take the ferry right from Vancouver to Nanaimo, you’d just carry on to Tofino and cut out that unnecessary drive.

You’d just hop on Highway 4 (BC-4) outside Nanaimo to drive the rest of the way there. 

ferry approaching large rusty terminal with ocean below and blue sky above.
Another ferry approaching Departure Bay Terminal in Nanaimo!

Once again, the optimal driving route through Nanaimo would look like this:

  • From Vancouver, drive northwest to the Horseshoe Bay Terminal
  • Take the ferry to Nanaimo (Departure Bay Terminal)
  • Drive from Nanaimo to Tofino via Port Alberni

The other possible route – also through Nanaimo – would look like this:

  • Drive south from Vancouver to the Tsawwassen Terminal
  • Take a ferry to a different terminal in Nanaimo (Duke Point Terminal)
  • Drive from Nanaimo through Port Alberni to Tofino

All in all, if you didn’t hit traffic, didn’t make any stops, and got the ferry lined up perfectly, the drive from Vancouver to Tofino via Nanaimo could be as short as 5.5 to 6 hours.

If you plan to take a car on the ferry, be sure to book your “Ferry ticket with car” ticket in advance and read up on the guidelines/ be there early to get in line to get on the ferry.

Vancouver to Tofino via Victoria

Of course, you could also take the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, and then drive through Nanaimo to Tofino. You’d essentially be adding 1 hour and 30 minutes of driving.

You’d do this route if you – perhaps – wanted to stop in Victoria before continuing on to Tofino, or if the ferries – for whatever reason – weren’t running to ports in Nanaimo.

This route would look like this:

  • Drive south from Vancouver to the Tsawwassen Terminal
  • Take the ferry to Victoria (Swartz Bay Terminal)
  • Once on the island, drive to Tofino via Nanaimo and Port Alberni.

Read More: We cover taking the BC Ferries again in our detailed guide on How to Get from Vancouver to Victoria (All Ways).

Vancouver to Tofino by Bus

In the right season (beginning of May to the end of September), you could also take a combination of public transit buses/private shuttle buses from Vancouver to Tofino. There are two ways to make this happen:

  • Public transit bus to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, Ferry to Departure Bay (Nanaimo), Tofino Bus from Nanaimo to Tofino.
  • BC Ferry Connector Bus to Victoria, sleep overnight in Victoria, VI Connector/Tofino Bus to Tofino

Both of these bus trips use the VI Connector and Tofino Bus once you’re on Vancouver Island – but you could get to the Island via the ferry two different ways.

Here they are in detail below:

Public Transit Bus and Tofino Bus

The first option – and the most practical one if you want to get from Vancouver to Tofino without a car – would have you leave downtown Vancouver and head to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal.

large ferry terminal with ramp and tree hillside in distance behind.
The Ferry Terminal at Horseshoe Bay – just northwest of Vancouver.

You can take public transit: bus #250 goes more frequently but has more stops. The #257 is the express bus and makes fewer stops.

We took the 257 and once we got going we were surprised at how quickly you get out of town and up the highway to the ferry terminal.

The public transit buses pull up right outside Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal. You’d then get a ticket and get on the ferry to Departure Bay (Nanaimo) as a “foot passenger” – so you’d just walk onto the ferry!

open ocean seen through port window with city and mountains in distance.
The views of Vancouver from the Nanaimo ferry were awesome!

Once on board, the ferry crossing (mentioned above) is only 1 hour and 40 minutes long. You’d walk off in Departure Bay (Nanaimo) and catch the Tofino Bus as it leaves the Departure Bay Bus Depot (right outside the Ferry Terminal).

Now, according to the Tofino Bus summer schedule, the Tofino Bus leaves Departure Bay Bus Depot in Nanaimo at 12:30 pm. This means you’d have to be on the 6:15 am or 8:25 am ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay to make the bus.

There’s one later ferry at 10:40 am, but it would be cutting it close. You can also buy a walk-up ticket for the Tofino Bus, but these are not guaranteed, so it’s recommended to buy your Tofino Bus ticket online in advance.

The Tofino Bus from Nanaimo to Tofino usually takes just under 4 hours. And all you’d have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery!

Once in Tofino, the Tofino Bus has a few drop-offs but the main one is the last one. It’s located right in downtown Tofino at the Co-op Food Store.

Navigation Address of Tofino Co-Op: 140 First St, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0

If you did this route, you’d have to line up a few tickets in advance and make sure your time and dates work – but it is possible. Always make sure to double-check the ferry and bus times, since they may have changed since publishing this article!

It would also be relatively cheap compared to flying or renting a car. But, it would take some time.

BC Ferry Connector and Tofino Bus

The other bus option is also relatively easy – but it would require an overnight stop in Victoria because of how the schedules line up. This journey would be done in two main stages.

large coach bus parked in bus terminal with cloudy sky above.
The bus from Vancouver to Victoria got right on the ferry!

You’d first take the BC Ferries Connector Bus (we took it, and loved it) from Vancouver Pacific Central Station.

Navigation Address: 1150 Station St, Vancouver, BC V6A 4C7

The coach bus gets right on the BC Ferry and then continues on to Downtown Victoria in just under 4 hours total.

You only have to book one ticket and the bus handles the rest from downtown to downtown.

white coach bus parked beside sidewalk with passengers standing beside.
Our bus dropped us off right in Downtown Victoria.

Once you arrive in Victoria, you’ll be dropped off right downtown at the “Capital City Station”. This is the same station where you’d hop on the next bus.

Navigation Address of Victoria Downtown Bus Terminal: 721 Douglas St, Victoria, BC V8W 2B4.

To then take the bus from Victoria to Tofino, you’d take the VI Connector and Tofino Bus (booked together). As mentioned above, this is a seasonal route that only runs from the start of May to the end of September.

This trip would be another 6.5 hours and it only runs once a day.

The catch with this is that even the earliest BC Ferry Connector Bus leaving Vancouver wouldn’t get you to Victoria in time to catch the daily TofinoBus departure from Victoria to Tofino (9:45 am).

So, you’d have to stay in Victoria for one night. Still, it’s an option if you don’t want to rent a car. It’s only two long bus rides and you’d spend an afternoon/night exploring Victoria.

You can read our guide on Victoria Accommodations if you need help finding a place to stay.

Once again, the Tofino Bus has a few drop-offs in Tofino but the main one is the last one. It’s located right in downtown Tofino at the Co-op Food Store.

Navigation Address of Tofino Co-Op: 140 First St, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0

Vancouver to Tofino by Plane

The fastest way to get from Vancouver to Tofino is by plane. And, this might surprise you, but there are actually a number of flights available from Vancouver to Tofino.

Given that Vancouver is a much larger centre, there are actually a few good options to fly – from three different departure points.

By Seaplane

float planes parked along docks in vancouver harbour with mountains behind.
The seaplanes parked in Vancouver Harbour – ready to go!

The easiest, albeit seasonal, option is to fly on a smaller seaplane with Harbour Air Seaplanes.

The seaplanes depart from two locations in Vancouver: right from Vancouver Harbour (close to downtown Vancouver) and from the Seaplane Terminal near YVR South Terminal in Richmond. They both land right in Tofino Harbour.

Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre

Also known simply as “Vancouver Harbour Airport”, this floating airport is located on the water to the north side of downtown Vancouver. It’s right beside the famous Olympic Cauldron and the Vancouver Convention Centre.

This Vancouver Harbour seaplane terminal makes sense if you are already in or heading to downtown Vancouver.

Flights to Tofino are more frequent from this Harbour Terminal (usually 2 per day in the summer months) from the start of May to the end of October.

Navigation Address of Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre: 1055 Canada Pl, Vancouver, BC V6C 3T4

The flight time from here is 1 hour, so it’s definitely faster than a combination of driving and ferries. You’d also see lots of scenery from the air.

Book your Seaplane from Vancouver Harbour to Tofino Harbour (subject to seasonality)

Richmond (Near YVR South Terminal)

The other location to take a seaplane from Vancouver to Tofino is the Harbour Air Seaplane Terminal located at Vancouver International Airport.

It is located near YVR’s South Terminal and operates on the Fraser River (which is separate from the main international part of the airport). You’ll need to take Harbour Air’s shuttle or call a cab to get there.

There’s also a restaurant right on the river (Flying Beaver Bar & Grill) at the terminal if you need a bite to eat before or after you fly.

Navigation Address of Vancouver Richmond Seaplane Terminal (near YVR South Terminal): 4760 Inglis Drive, Richmond BC, V7B 1W4

Flights to Tofino from this seaplane terminal start at the beginning of June and run until the end of October.

There is only one flight per day (in the late afternoon) and the flight also only takes 1 hour. You land right in Tofino Harbour so it’s convenient once you arrive.

This location in Vancouver might make more sense if you are flying in from elsewhere and landing at Vancouver International Airport. Otherwise, the Downtown seaplane Terminal makes the most sense if you are already downtown.

Tofino Harbour

Once you’re in Tofino, the seaplane terminal is located close to the town centre of Tofino at the docks in front of the Tofino Resort + Marina.

You could then go on foot to nearby accommodations or call the TikiCab or use the Whistle! App. The centre of town is very small and easy to navigate.

Navigation Address of Tofino Harbour Terminal: 634 Campbell Street, Tofino, BC, V0R 2Z0

By Regular Aircraft

The other option to fly to Tofino would have you take an actual airplane (smaller, and with wheels) from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ) with Pacific Coastal Airlines.

Navigation Address of Vancouver International Airport: 3111 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond, BC V7B 0A6

This option may make sense if you just flew in from elsewhere. Otherwise, it takes about 30 minutes to get to the airport (via taxi or Canada Line Skytrain) so keep that in mind.

However, unlike the seaplane, this wheeled plane takes you to the airport away from the centre of Tofino – so you’d have to arrange transport (TikiCab or Whistle! App) once you land or rent a car (there’s a Budget Rental Car desk onsite).

Navigation Address of Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ): 188 Airport Rd, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0

Either way, the flights are about 45 minutes, so it would only be marginally shorter than the seaplane, but significantly faster overall than driving/ferry or taking a combination of buses.

Related Articles

If you’re exploring more of Vancouver on your trip to Canada’s West Coast, here are some more detailed guides to help you plan your trip:

And there you have it – our guide to travelling from Vancouver to Tofino. It’s a route that is full of options when you’re coming from the mainland. We hope this article helps you figure out what makes the most sense for you!

As always, Happy Waddlin’,

Booking Your Trip Soon? This Is How We Do It:
  • Compare flights on Skyscanner
  • Check for Hotel Deals or Book A Hostel
  • Get A Rental Car (depending on the destination)
  • Research plug types and possibly get a travel adapter
  • Go over our packing list