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tofino, british columbia – with babies, toddlers and kids

After a weekend in Tofino, British Columbia, my son gave the destination the esteemed rating of ten out of ten. Funnily enough, the only other place to have received top marks from him is Disneyland, so naturally I was relieved that he could also find a ten in a less commercial setting. Undoubtedly, it helped that we were staying at an amazing Relais & Châteaux property, on the sensational white sand Chesterman Beach, surrounded by an old growth cedar forest, on a brilliantly sunny weekend. Still, it is no coincidence that Conde Nast Traveler made special mention of Tofino when rating Vancouver Island as one of the Top Islands in the World.

Take a peek at family-friendly Tofino:

where to stay in tofino with kids:

the wickaninnish inn
500 osprey lane 
(250) 725-3100

While there are many fabulous places to stay in Tofino, for us, there was no question.  I have been dying to stay at the Wickaninnish every since I first read about their grand opening many years ago.  Although I always considered it to be a romantic getaway, I was thrilled to realize that they are a family friendly property, having recently stumbled across their kids and pets page (both of which we now have).
Upon entering our room, the kids dove into the “WickKids” basket full of goodies, including a treasure hunt, cookies, a frisbee, sand pails and more, and then set off to discover the library full of kid’s books, DVD’s and games. My husband and I were just as pleased with the complimentary babysitting offered by the hotel when you book into their award winning restaurant The Pointe. Another huge draw for hotels guests and locals alike are the special treatments available at the property’s Ancient Cedars Spa.  Still…despite all these things to amuse us, almost nothing could tear us away from the stunning Chesterman beach right outside our room, with it’s 3 kilometers of silver sand and tidal pools teeming with life. Not even nightfall as it turned out, since the hotel will keep the party going by building you a little beach bonfire.
Another huge highlight for us was the Saturday morning guided nature walk. My kids ask a lot of questions, and sometimes when I don’t know the answer, and no other adults are around……I make stuff up.  The presence of an expert is always appreciated.

nightly rate: starting at $300 (winter) or $500 (summer) 
hotel class: 5 star
rooms: a variety of room configurations in two separate buildings 
reviews: 93% of family reviewers rate as very good or excellent on tripadvisor
note:  There are two separate building, each offering distinctly different views (calming beach view vs. rugged coastal view)  Check out the photos on their website to see which you would prefer.

activities for  toddlers and kids in tofino:

sandy beaches and tidal pools
There are many great beaches to explore in Tofino, but two favorites for kids are Chesterman and Mackenzie for their endless sand and super-sized tidal pools . Mackenzie is a little more sheltered for little ones wishing to do a little wading, although remember that the water is quite cold  (temperature peaks at about 17°C or 63°F). Optionally warm up later by a bonfire.  Since Tofino receives a lot of rain each year, fire bans on the beach are rare.

surfing
surf sister surf school 
625 campbell street 
250-725-4456
1-877-724-7873

Children as young as six can learn to surf with Surf Sister. While my children did not try it this time, I did, and can say that their instruction is absolutely fantastic.  I was up on my first wave within 10 minutes of getting in the water (after some land instruction).  The next 2 hours were filled will hoots, hollering, and lots of high fiving .  Guys confident and cool enough to sport Surf Sister’s signature pink rash guard are also welcome to join in classes.

reviews: 88% recommend on tripadvisor
rates: group lessons start at $79 for 3 hours including board and wetsuit rental

playgrounds and skate parks
In the town of Tofino, there is a wonderful little playground for toddlers and older children alike. Picnic tables and washrooms are available. It is also adjacent to the Tofino Tuff City skate park.
Another great playground is located within the Crystal Cove Beach Resort near MacKenzie Beach 

the saturday market 
campbell street – btwn 2nd and 3rd (map)
when: may-sept 10am – 2pm
Experience something truly local by visiting the Tofino Public Market (their motto is ”Make it, bake it, grow it and gather it”).  It is fun for the whole family with it’s festive atmosphere, great food, and unique local products. Kids especially love the yummy cupcakes fromTofino Cake Studio.  It is also conveniently located beside the children’s playground and skate park.

bike riding and bike rentals
Many hotels in Tofino have bikes for use. If, however, you are in need of a baby seat, trail-a-bike, or bike trailer, check out the following bike rental shops in Tofino.  You may even want to call to reserve ahead of time since these units can be very popular. Try The Beach House or Tons of Fun Bicycles Tofino (TOF).

sea kayaking
tofino sea kayaking company 
320 main street (map)
250-725-4222
Tofino Sea Kayaking Company offers family tours for children six and older. Double kayaks are used to pair a parent with a child to check out all the fun creatures that inhabit the harbour and the tidal rocks .
reviews: 100% recommend on tripadvisor
rates: $110 per parent-child combo ($60 per additional parent) – 2.5hrs

skim board / boogie board rentals
There quite a number of places in Tofino that rent boards as well as child and youth wetsuits including live to surf, pacific surf school, and surf junction.

the kwistis visitor’s centre 
wick road 
hours: see chart
Formally known as the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre, this facility gives visitor’s the opportunity to learn more about Pacific Rim National Park and it’s history, including a large emphasis on the region’s First Nations history. Inside, exhibits range from a full sized canoe, to murals depicting flora and fauna found throughout the region and as well, a scale model of the entire park which outlines hikes, points of interest and other unique features of the area.

ucluelet aquarium 
180 main street (map)
(250) 726-2782
2012 marked the opening of a beautiful aquarium in nearby Ucluelet, where visitors can expect an up close and personal encounter with a diversity of local marine life. Almost all of the specimens in the exhibits are collected from the nearby Pacific Ocean, specifically from Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sound, and are seasonally released back into the ocean.
reviews: 90% recommend on tripadvisor
rates: adult $12.50, child $6.25, student/senior $9 under 4 years free
hours: open daily 10am-5pm, july and august 10am-6pm

and yet more activities….
Tofino has so many activities available that it is impossible to mention them all here.   For a complete rundown, including bear and whale watching tour information (more appropriate for children 6 and above), please see the activities page of the Tourism Tofino website.

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