Where the Trans-Canada Highway ends, artistic and cultural exploration begin.
While the village of Tofino is relatively new, this region has been inhabited for thousands of years. Tofino is situated within the traditional territory (Ha-houlthee) of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, which includes 1,200 members between Esowista and Ty-Histanis by Long Beach, and Opitsaht. Located on Meares Island across from the Tofino Harbour, this community is thought to have been lived in for over 5,000 years.
The Tla-o-qui-aht are recognized as skilled fishermen, master carvers, culturally refined singers and dancers, as well as for their ecological knowledge.
They have long been the stewards of this area’s complex ecosystems and provide access to their Tribal Parks by way of beautiful trails and waterways. Life on this coast is infused by ancient teachings, especially that of Hishuk’ ish Tsawalk: from the ocean and forest to all living beings that call this place home, everything in and around Tofino is connected, and now you’re a part of it, too. We invite you to be part of the greater connection in this awe-inspiring place.
History buffs will want to visit the compact and information-packed Tofino-Clayoquot Heritage Museum for an overview of the events and people who have shaped this place. You can also pick up the “A Walk In Time” self-guided history map at our Cox Bay Visitor Centre.
These books are excellent sources of information on the cultural and natural history of Clayoquot Sound:
Living on the remote western edge of the continent that can awaken the imagination.
Living on the remote western edge of the continent that can awaken the imagination. In Tofino, artistic expression embellishes the most unexpected places. In coffee shops, at the playground and even in a shed on the beach, artists interpret their world in vastly different mediums. The Tofino Public Market, running from mid-May through September, is where you’ll meet a number of local creators. Two annual festivals focused on the arts are Carving On the Edge and the Cultural Heritage Festival. Our art galleries showcase high-quality pieces from regional artists, including First Nations carvers. Watch our events page for upcoming workshops and exhibits.
The Nuu-chah-nulth people were the original inhabitants of Clayoquot Sound, at Opitsaht on Meares Island. The first non-native settlement that became referred to as Tofino was established in 1855 on Clayoquot (or Stubbs) Island, a stone’s throw from present-day Tofino Harbour. In the 1800s, Spain sought to strengthen its claim on the west coast of North America. During the exploration of Vancouver Island by Captains Galiano and Valdez, Clayoquot Sound’s southernmost inlet was named Tofino Inlet. The name honoured Captain Vincente Tofiño de San Miguel, a Spanish navy rear-admiral who taught Galiano cartography.
Homesteads appeared over the next decades, mainly settled by people from Norway, Scotland and England. St. Columba Church, on the corner of Second and Main Streets, was funded by the Church of England, instructing that it must be built on the prettiest spot on Vancouver Island.
In 1959, Tofino expanded as a long-awaited logging road – what we now drive as Highway 4 – was built from the coast to Port Alberni. By the late 1960s, the area by Long Beach became popular for beach camping, and surfing was introduced the region around that time as well. In 1971, with the vision of Tofino’s Dr. Howard McDiarmid, Pacific Rim National Park was established. One year later, the logging road was paved.
In 2000, Clayoquot Sound was recognized as British Columbia’s first UNESCO Biosphere Region by the United Nations. It joined an international network of Biosphere Regions with protected areas and a desire to seek sustainable ways to work with natural environments.
Today, Tofino is a small community of nature lovers, independent thinkers and cultural riches, thriving at the edge of unique coastal ecosystems and welcoming visitors to share in its wonder throughout the year.