How to: Vancouver to Tofino

Old Jan 29th, 2020, 08:33 AM
  #1  
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How to: Vancouver to Tofino

Hello - This is a riff off of my other thread, but wanted to ask. I am considering adding a few days (5-6 nights) in Tofino to my May Vancouver trip. I can fly from Vancouver to Tofino and rent a car there - at a cost of roughly $700 all in. OR I could take the ferry into Nanaimo, and drive to Tofino for about $300 all in. Car rentals are vastly cheaper from Nanaimo.

Outside of the time it would take, what would be the downside of doing the less costly version? (I don't mind driving.)

Thank you!
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Old Jan 29th, 2020, 12:12 PM
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I vote for option #2. By renting the car in Nanaimo, you won't have to pay for it to ride the ferry from Vancouver. And the drive across to Tofino is quite scenic. Near the start of your drive, don't miss stopping at the Coombs Old Country Market. They have goats living on the roof... There is a small restaurant, a larger market with interesting food choices, and a collection of other shops. Maybe pick up some picnic fare. https://oldcountrymarket.com/

Check out this link, if you need convincing the worth of the drive: https://www.globeguide.ca/nanaimo-to...and-road-trip/

Stop also Cathedral Grove to see some beautiful old-growth Douglas Fir: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacMillan_Provincial_Park
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by sludick View Post
I vote for option #2. By renting the car in Nanaimo, you won't have to pay for it to ride the ferry from Vancouver. And the drive across to Tofino is quite scenic. Near the start of your drive, don't miss stopping at the Coombs Old Country Market. They have goats living on the roof... There is a small restaurant, a larger market with interesting food choices, and a collection of other shops. Maybe pick up some picnic fare. https://oldcountrymarket.com/

Check out this link, if you need convincing the worth of the drive: https://www.globeguide.ca/nanaimo-to...and-road-trip/

Stop also Cathedral Grove to see some beautiful old-growth Douglas Fir: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacMillan_Provincial_Park
Great links! Thanks so much for the thoughts. I still have a lot of research and number crunching to do, but this is great!
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Old Jan 30th, 2020, 08:09 AM
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Don't forget to factor in ferry travel time. It is a splendid ride. https://www.bcferries.com/
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 01:14 AM
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The downside is that it'll be more time-consuming, that's all. From downtown Vancouver, it'll be a 30-40 minute express bus ride to the ferry terminal (you'll want to go to the Horseshoe Bay terminal), waiting around for the ferry to arrive (they stop selling walk-on tickets 10 minutes before departure, so I like to arrive a bit earlier than that), then waiting for all the cars and passengers to disembark off the ferry, then walking on the ferry and waiting for all the other cars and passengers to load before the ferry begins its journey, then you have the 2 hour ferry ride to Nanaimo's Departure Bay terminal (I love this ride!), then once at Departure Bay you'll have the car rental process (I think they'll pick you up at the terminal but you have to coordinate it ahead of time), and then you have the 3 hour drive over to Tofino, not counting any stops.

That drive will take you through Nanaimo suburbia, then through some countryside and into forests, along lakes, through old growth rainforest, and then up and over a mountain pass before descending into the Pacific Rim. But you'll want to make a few stops along the way, ideally, and you'll want to drive this in the daylight hours to take advantage of the scenery.

There's construction also currently happening on Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino, like... a major project taking several years. Sometimes there are delays so you'll have to check. That's another potential downside. DriveBC is the government of BC's official website for all real-time highway updates. Highway 4 is the one you'll need to check (closer to your date): https://www.drivebc.ca/mobile/pub/events/Highway4.html

I linked to a mobile view, but you can go to their full page (I like using their map view so you can zoom in along your route and see if there are any real-time issues): https://www.drivebc.ca/

Tofino's a really tiny place and the rental fleet is tiny there apparently, which is probably why they charge more I'm guessing. But given you'll spend 5-6 days there, you can totally take your time getting there. If you only had 3 days, I'd say fly. But with 5-6? Drive.

Finally, Tourism Vancouver Island have a little road-trip itinerary. It starts in Victoria as opposed to Nanaimo, but you can read from Part 2 onward to get a sense of what you'll be driving: https://vancouverisland.travel/road-...fino-ucluelet/

Last edited by BC_Robyn; Feb 2nd, 2020 at 01:33 AM.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by BC_Robyn View Post
There's construction also currently happening on Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino, like... a major project taking several years. Sometimes there are delays so you'll have to check. That's another potential downside. DriveBC is the government of BC's official website for all real-time highway updates. Highway 4 is the one you'll need to check (closer to your date): https://www.drivebc.ca/mobile/pub/events/Highway4.html

I linked to a mobile view, but you can go to their full page (I like using their map view so you can zoom in along your route and see if there are any real-time issues): https://www.drivebc.ca//
Is there ever a time when Highway 4 isn't under construction somewhere? I swear, every single time we've been on it for the past 10 or 15 years, some part of it's being worked on. Part of the rustic charm, I suppose. It really is a scenic drive, though, and I'm grateful they pay so much attention to keeping it safe and driveable.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 09:15 AM
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Haha, true! But this one's particularly significant as it's not just superficial, they're widening and regrading the highway in that part where it's super twisty and narrow, so they have entire closures at night: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/t...ay4kennedyhill
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 09:14 AM
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Hey thanks again, you very helpful people! I've also been advised that this might be an even better option, but not sure how flights will align in Vancouver: Grab a rental car at the Vancouver airport, and take the ferry that leaves south of the airport. Then I'd have the car, drive back to the airport and hopefully on to my flight home. This would likely be tricky to plan. I really just want to do what is easiest, quite frankly. Is the highway work north or south of Tofino?
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 09:37 AM
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Neither. Highway 4 runs east-west (the only road), and this is before the turn to go to Ucluelet. So, south in one sense. Tofino is at the northernmost tip of Highway 4.


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