Chesterman Beach

When a Tofitian says they’re going to “the beach”, they mean this one.

This “w” or “m” shaped stretch of sand measures 2.7 kilometres and is lined with beautiful homes. Its north end is home to the Wickaninnish Inn.

There are parking lots at North and South Chesterman Beach, with a few spots at Middle Chesterman. Street parking is permitted on the beach side of the road where indicated with signage.

Things to do on Chesterman Beach:
  • Explore tidepools at low tide on North Chesterman Beach to find sea stars, anemones and more marine life forms.
  • Drop by the Carving Shed by the Wickaninnish Inn and watch talented wood carvers at work.
  • When the tombolo (sandspit) to Frank Island emerges at low tide, walk out for views of the entire beach with a mountain backdrop.
  • Go to South Chesterman Beach and watch surf instructors teaching new surfers the basics of riding their first wave. Better yet, register with a Tofino surf school for your first lesson or bring your gear and surf this stunning beach.
  • If the wind is blowing, fly a kite!

Cox Bay Beach

Home to most Tofino surf competitions, this crescent-shaped beach offers consistent surf, tidepool exploration at its north and south ends and even some solitude. Here, you’ll find Long Beach Lodge Resort, Cox Bay Beach Resort and Pacific Sands Beach Resort.

Parking is in two main spots: There is a public lot accessed by the entrance to Long Beach Lodge Resort. A little further south, there’s ample parking on Maltby Road.

Things to do on Cox Bay:
  • Pack up for a day of beach fun.
  • Look for some high-skill surfing. This is where you’re likely to find the pros and seasoned surfers.
  • Spot some sand dollars. While it can be tempting to bring them home, they’re best left in their natural habitat.
  • Explore driftwood shelters, built by industrious beach lovers. Maybe build your own?
  • Wait for a low tide to explore the tidal caves at the northern tip of Cox Bay (to the right when facing the ocean.) You may find barnacles, sea stars, and more marine life.

MacKenzie Beach

Sheltered from most wind by large tidal rocks, this beach is known for its calm waters with only the gentlest of waves. It’s a popular destination for families with small children, especially at its south end. There’s also an entrance ramp, facilitating beach access for everyone.

Parking can be accessed by turning from the Pacific Rim Highway onto Hellesen Road.

Things to do on MacKenzie Beach:
  • Do some stand-up paddle boarding! Rent your gear or take a lesson.  
  • Get a skimboard and ride away.
  • Play some beach games or build a sandcastle.
  • Walk to the southern end of the beach (to the left when facing the ocean), where you’ll find a rocky intertidal zone to discover.

 

Long Beach

Aptly-named Long Beach is situated within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Along with Florencia Bay, Wickaninnish, Combers and Schooner Cove beaches, it creates the longest sand dune on Vancouver Island, stretching for over 16 kilometres. In addition to a storied surf history, the massive amount of driftwood bordering old growth forest adds to the mystical vibe here.

Two main parking lots serve Long Beach. Daily National Park use fees apply and there are pay machines in each parking lot. Choose from the lot at Incinerator Rock or the larger Long Beach lot, both indicated with green roadside signs.

 

Things to do on Long Beach:
  • Walk and walk and walk all the way south (to the left when facing the ocean) to where rocky headlands mark the division between Long Beach and Wickaninnish Beach.
  • Walk north, past the Tla-o-qui-aht beachside community of Esowista, toward quiet Schooner Cove beach.
  • Climb up the giant tidal rock – Incinerator Rock – in front of the Incinerator Rock parking lot and enjoy the view.
  • Gray and Humpback whales are sometimes spotted in the distance. Keep your eyes opened!
  • Winter storm watching on Long Beach can be a dramatic event. Watch as powerful tides flood the beach, changing its landscape daily.

Wickaninnish Beach

Between the hundreds of weather-bleached driftwood on the edge of golden sand dunes and the ocean's powerful waves, this vast stretch of sand is a living postcard photo. Its westerly exposure make it a surfing destination - also bringing wind onshore. Wickaninnish Beach is situated within Long Beach, in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

There is a large parking lot here. Daily National Park use fees apply and there are pay machines in each parking lot.

Things to do on Wickaninnish Beach:
  • Climb up the steps/ramp to the observation deck of the Kwisitis (formerly Wickaninnish) Visitor Centre for dramatic views of the horizon.
  • Pack a beach picnic and find your spot among the driftwood.
  • Walk the length of this beach, which gets wilder as you walk north, and have a look at the massive sand dunes above.
  • Head right around the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, past the totem pole. You’ll be on the 1.5 kilometre South Beach Trail. South Beach is known for its large rock formations and its pebbles rolling in the foamy waves. If you’re visiting during storm watching season, be careful of powerful waves and ocean spray.