Good Eats on the Road to Tofino

View from Alberni Hwy during the drive to Tofino. Photo by Ellie Shortt

Tofino is an international destination, with visitors from far and wide drawn to great surf conditions and stunning scenery. But getting there from British Columbia’s capitol city is no easy ride. In fact, it’s a long and windy drive that takes approximately five hours to complete. Good thing that half of the joy of a journey is all the sights, sounds and tastes you experience along the way. Here on Vancouver Island we are definitely not lacking gorgeous roadside views, nor fantastic spots to eat.


The seasonal nature of Tofino and other communities along the way means it can be harder to find decent grub between early November and March. Since you’ll have plenty of other things to worry about between empty gas tanks and “are-we-there-yets,” we’ve compiled a list of some favourite stops during your journey and at your final destination, both during the high and low seasons.


Dinghy Dock Pub, Protection Island:


Novel, fun and loved by the locals, The Dinghy Dock is said to be Canada’s only floating pub. It’s located on Protection Island, accessible by a ferry that leaves at 10 minutes past the hour from the Commercial Boat Basin in Nanaimo. But ye be warned, this pirate-y pit stop is a somewhat time consuming detour that is only an option if you find yourself in Nanaimo between early March and late October.


Dinghy Dock Pub. #8 Pirates Lane Protection Island.  (250) 753-2373


The Nest Bistro, Nanaimo:


If you are in Nanaimo during the off-season, try The Nest Bistro, which offers impressive dishes with small-town charm. Cosy, friendly and reasonably priced, this tucked away spot is a great lunch stop detour as you head up-island.


The Nest Bistro. 486 Franklyn Street. Nanaimo.  (250) 591-2721


War Wonton from Saigon Gardens

Saigon Garden, Parksville:


Rainy weather and dark skies will often accompany you as you make your way to Tofino, but it’s nothing that hot soup can’t fix. At Parksville’s Saigon Garden, you’ll find a wide selection of warming meals including Pho, Sweet and Sour Soup, and a hearty War Wonton Soup, completed by assorted vegetables, prawns and generously stuffed wontons in a fragrant broth.


Saigon Garden. 118 Craig Street. Parksville. (250) 248-5667


Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, Parksville:


If you’re looking for a snack or provisions for Tofino, it’s well worth making a stop at Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. Here you’ll find an assortment of farm-fresh cheeses favourited by home cooks and professional chefs alike. If you fancy a wine pairing with your cheese, you’re in luck because Little Qualicum Cheeseworks has joined forces with MooBerry Winery ( ) to create a wide variety of high-quality fruit wines to pair with your artisan handcrafted cheeses.


Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. 403 Lowry’s Road, Parksville. (250) 954-3931 


Onion rings from Coombs Emporium

Coombs Country Market, Coombs:


Bar far one of the most talked about attractions on Vancouver Island is the Coombs Country Market. It could be the adorable goats that hang out on the market’s rooftop, or it could simply be the wide variety of handcrafted trinkets and delicious fresh food and produce offered by locals at this venue. Unfortunately, this popular stop on the road to Tofino is closed during the winter season and only reopens late February for those seeking photo-ops and good eats. If you do head up to Tofino during the off-season and would like to see Coombs, there is an art gallery and gift shop open next door to the market. The Coombs Emporium offers those indulgent road-trip choices of jumbo hotdogs, burgers, fries and onion rings, as well as the Hammond Bay Fudge Company for those with a sweet tooth.


Coombs Country Market, 2326 Alberni Highway, Coombs. (250) 248-6272



Manilla clams with bacon, caramelized shallots, plum tomatoes, basil and chive in a white wine stock, topped with crispy polenta from Shelter Restaurant

Shelter Restaurant, Tofino:


Once in Tofino you will be welcomed by roaring waves and fantastic spots to eat. One restaurant loved by both locals and tourists is Shelter. Seasonal gourmet dishes plus an impressive wine and cocktail selection impress. Bonus points are achieved by this refined and friendly spot being open year-round, which isn’t the case for many other beloved eateries in town.


Shelter Restaurant. 601 Campbell Street, Tofino.  (250) 725-3353 


SoBo Restaurant, Tofino:


One of the most popular dining destinations in Tofino is unfortunately only available from late February onwards. However, if you do find yourself in the area during this time, SoBo (short for “sophisticated bohemian”) is a must. Stop here during lunch or dinner for a wide selection of organic, free-range, and local foods that are presented in very innovative, impressive and healthy ways. Oh and did I mention they make a mean margarita? For foodies, it’s definitely worth scheduling your Tofino trip around SoBo’s open season.


SoBo Restaurant. 311 Neill Street, Tofino. (250) 725 2341,


Gin and basil Caesar from Long Beach Lodge Resort

Long Beach Lodge Resort, Tofino:


Cosy, pet friendly, and a great place to stay if you’re a fan of board games by the fire, Long Beach Lodge’s oceanfront dining area is a mix of comfortable leather couches, intimate tables and warming fireplaces. The food and beverage menus offer a selection of casual and creative fare such as their Gin and Basil Caesar or their lodge-smoked free-range turkey sandwich served on lblr rye with avocado, cranberry and red onion relish and Swiss cheese.


Long Beach Lodge Resort. 1441 Pacific Rim Highway, Tofino. (250) 725-2442


The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino:


The Wickaninnish Inn is home to one of the most celebrated restaurants in the province. Exquisitely executed farm-fresh, local and organic food, complemented by an award-winning wine cellar, has made the oceanfront Relais & Chateaux dining room a popular destination.

The Wickaninnish Inn. 500 Osprey Lane Tofino. (250) 725-3100 














Written By:

We get many people writing guest articles for us, as well as past contributors. This is the Guest ...

Comments are closed.