Here’s Our Experience Travelling from Victoria to Tofino!
So, you’re in Victoria (or planning to be) and thinking about heading to Tofino? You’re definitely not alone!
The route to Tofino from Victoria is a well-defined one – and there are a few transportation options that may work for you.
During our time on Vancouver Island, we ended up renting a car and driving to Tofino from Victoria.
It’s the most popular way to get there – and we can see why! There’s so much natural beauty – and fun stops – to make along the way.
The distance from Victoria to Tofino is about 315 kilometres (just shy of 200 miles) so it doesn’t even take that long. With a few scenic stops along the way, the time flies by.
That said, you might want to know all the options available. Our guide covers the few ways to get from Victoria to Tofino (with emphasis on our road trip experience).
Victoria to Tofino Transport Options
- By Car: 4 hours 30 minutes driving (no stops) from Downtown Victoria
- By Bus: 6.5 hours with VI Connector & Tofino Bus (summer seasonal)
- By Plane: Not practical, but possible. See below.
Victoria to Tofino by Car
By far the most popular way to get to Tofino from Victoria is by car. The Victoria to Tofino drive takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes in good road/weather conditions and with basically no stops.
We rented a car in Victoria for our time on Vancouver Island (would do that again).
This is a well-travelled route. It’s the way we got to and from Tofino, so we can speak to it the best!
The route is Highway 1 (part of the Trans Canada Highway) north to Nanaimo, BC-19 through the Nanaimo area, and then pick up BC Highway 4 around Coombs. You then take BC-4 the entire way there – through larger centres like Port Alberni.
Overall, the drive is beautiful. There are plenty of places to stop and stretch your legs, go for a hike, or get food, and/or fuel up. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of our drive with all the stops we made!
Rental Car Pick-up
Starting out, we reserved a rental car from the Budget Office, which was located right in downtown in Victoria.
Address of Downtown Budget Rental Car: 724 Douglas St, Victoria, BC V8W 3M6
Once we got everything in order, we picked up the car which was parked around the corner in an underground parking garage (the one that belongs to the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel).
After a quick check of the car, we were off – and already on the highway we needed to take (Highway 1). Honestly, it couldn’t have been smoother.
Scenic Roadside Lookouts
Heading west then north out of Victoria, we quickly realized how scenic this drive would be.
Luckily, there are plenty of scenic stops where you can easily and safely pull off the highway to take in the views.
As you head north along the Saanich Inlet, there are two stops we made: the Malahat Summit Viewpoint and the Split Rock Lookout. These stops are within the first 30-40 minutes of the drive from downtown Victoria.
These viewpoints had some signboards where you could learn more about the area. The first stop also had washrooms – we can’t remember if the second one did.
Overall, we’d say stop to get a safe chance to take some photos and just enjoy the natural beauty of the Island.
Close by, the Malahat SkyWalk is a popular attraction you can visit. For a fee, you can get even higher views of the surrounding area. We didn’t visit on this trip, but we plan to make it a stop the next time we are on Vancouver Island!
Cowichan Valley Wine Region
Back in the car, you head north-ish towards Nanaimo through smaller towns like Duncan and Ladysmith.
Due to the climate of the region, there are several wineries just south of (but also north of) Duncan.
Blue Grouse Estate Winery is a popular one, and you’ll see the signs as you drive for many more. Again, we weren’t in a rush but wanted to make good time. So, we didn’t make a stop to pick up some wine.
About 1 hour and 30 minutes into the drive you’ll reach Nanaimo. You don’t actually need to stop in Nanaimo but you can if you won’t get a chance later.
We didn’t stop here on the way (we stopped in Port Alberni instead), but we did stay in Nanaimo when we left the island days later. (This made it easy to catch the ferry or flight back to Vancouver).
Goats on Roof – Old Country Market
Once you get close to Nanaimo, you’ll see signs for Alberni Hwy/4A. This will take you through the small town of Coombs to one of the most famous stops on this route: Goats on Roof – Old Country Market.
What began as a small stand has turned into a popular stop for those travelling through this area of the Island.
Known for its famous country market store, there are also other tourist and boutique shops, restaurants, fresh produce & baked goods, ice cream and a famous donut shop (Billy G’s Doughnut Shop) onsite.
Of course, the stop is famous because many of the shops have natural grass roofs – and there are actual goats that live/have access to these roofs. You may – quite literally – see goats on the roof – hence the name!
There’s plenty of parking in the back lots so get yourself parked and take some time to explore. We bought some donuts and also fresh fruit (at Our Root Cellar) for our time in Tofino.
We also spent time hanging with the goats. It was pretty busy for May… we can’t even imagine what it would be like in the summer months!
Back in the car, you hop on Highway 4A and that’s the road you take the rest of the way.
Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park
The next major stop you could make would be at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park. This is located before Port Alberni around Cameron Lake.
Here, you can walk through towering giant Douglas Fir trees – many are massive and hundreds of years old.
The parking area is right along the Highway, so be careful when approaching. There are people crossing the road and cars flying through the area.
Once parked, you’ll find walking trails on both sides of the highway, lots of information to read, and a few washrooms, too. We did a short loop to check out the rainforest and it was definitely worth it.
The next major stop for us was Port Alberni. This slightly larger town is kind of the “halfway” point between Victoria and Tofino.
We stopped in Port Alberni to get groceries (because groceries can be more expensive in Tofino) and to get gas. Right off the highway, we found a NoFrills (3455 Johnston Rd, Port Alberni, BC V9Y 8K1) which worked perfectly for us.
This grocery store also has a gas station right in front so we’d recommend that as a stop for sure.
The downtown core (which you essentially drive right through) has a number of breweries, cafes, restaurants, and bakeries. So, being 2.5 hours from Victoria, you could definitely make Port Alberni your lunch stop/longer stop.
Taylor River Rest Area
The next stop we made was at a small rest area along the Taylor River. It’s just off the main highway and has a nice big pull-around for cars, RVs, buses, and more.
There are a few picnic tables for a lunch break as well as some outdoor toilets. Other than those, it’s pretty remote… but it’s a beautiful location.
Even though it was raining when we stopped, it was nice to get out for a short stretch of the legs. The trees and surrounding mountains are stunning from the paved area.
Kennedy Lake Road Work
The final “stop” we had was due to the Kennedy Lake Road Work. This road construction area – near Kennedy Lake – is something that may affect you if you are driving.
Essentially, they are improving the road in a 1.5-kilometre stretch of rocky cliffs near the lake. This meant that there were closures and/or a rotating schedule of single-lane traffic during the day.
In May of 2022, we arrived at a line of cars and campers and turned off the car. We then waited about 35 minutes before seeing cars coming at us from the other direction… and then it was our turn to make the trip through the construction area.
You can check on the Kennedy Lake Road Work Updates here.
Now, in the spring of 2023, the project is almost complete and these delays are no longer happening. You may still have a slight delay of a few minutes… but not over 30-60 minutes like we had.
Just something to keep in mind since crews might still be in the area putting the finishing touches on things.
Once you’re through, you’ll drive a little further and reach a T-intersection. This is “the junction”.
Left takes you to Ucluelet, right takes you through the Pacific Rim National Park and up the peninsula to Tofino! The town centre is about 30 minutes from this intersection.
Victoria to Tofino by Bus
It is possible to take a bus from Victoria to Tofino. The bus service – run by a combination of VI Connector and Tofino Bus – is a seasonal service that runs from downtown Victoria to Tofino.
Address of Victoria Downtown Bus Terminal: 721 Douglas St, Victoria, BC V8W 2B4.
We didn’t take the Tofino Bus, but we know where the downtown bus terminal is because we arrived there after taking the BC Ferries Connector from Vancouver.
It’s called “Capital City Station” and it’s right downtown behind the Empress Hotel, so it’s very central.
Once on the bus, the trip takes about 6.5 hours and makes a few stops along the way.
According to the schedule, the VI Connector Bus takes you from Victoria to Nanaimo, and then you transfer to the Tofino Bus to get to Tofino. It’s all on one reservation, so it’s easy to book.
When you arrive in Tofino, the bus makes its final stop right in the heart of town outside the Tofino Co-Op Food Store. Although you could get off sooner, e.g. near the Tourism Tofino Centre.
Address of Tofino Co-Op: 140 First St, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
If you want to take the bus from Victoria to Tofino, check the Tofino Bus website for updated ticket prices and timetables when available.
This route runs from the start of May to the end of September – and you’ll need to book online in advance to guarantee a spot!
Victoria to Tofino by Plane
Lastly, you could fly… but flying from Victoria to Tofino is not a great option.
There used to be a good option to fly to Tofino with Harbour Air Seaplanes in 2022.
However, at the time of writing (spring 2023), there is no seaplane route between Victoria Harbour Airport and Tofino (despite what this Harbour Air news release says).
Eric even called and spoke to a booking agent to confirm. This might change, so please double-check!
The other option would be to fly with Pacific Coastal on an airplane (with wheels) from Victoria International Airport (YYJ) to Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ).
However, there are a few catches here that make this route impractical:
- First, these flights are mostly seasonal – mostly available from May through to the fall.
- Second, Victoria International Airport (YYJ) is located about a 30-minutes drive north of downtown Victoria. So you’d need to get to this airport to even get on a flight.
- Third, and this is a big one, flights from YYJ go through Vancouver’s main airport (YVR) so you’d have to take two flights and may have an extended layover. Total flight time can be as long as 6 hours with the layover.
- On top of this, these flights get into Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ). This is not located close to downtown Tofino. It is basically in Pacific Rim National Park down the highway. You’d call the TikiCab or rent a car (there’s a Budget Office onsite) to get to Tofino since this airport isn’t close to the town centre of Tofino.
So, flying to Tofino makes more sense if you’re coming through/from Vancouver… but not so much for Victoria to Tofino.
If you’re exploring Victoria or Tofino, here are some more helpful guides for you to comb through to plan your trip!
- Tofino, BC: Our Detailed Visitor’s Guide
- Where to Stay in Tofino: Areas & Accommodations
- Things to Do in Victoria
- Victoria Accommodations Guide
- How to Get from Vancouver to Victoria (All Ways)
And there you have it – our guide to travelling from Victoria, BC to Tofino, BC. The journey to Tofino was a fun one – and we hope this article helps you figure out the best way to get there for you!
As always, Happy Waddlin’,