Tofino Vancouver Island Overland Camping

Fall Camping in Tofino, B.C.

Since we made the move from Ontario to BC, getting lost in the great outdoors is a regular and sought out occurrence.

You just can’t help the call of the wild—and after exploring a lot of our home by foot and bike (Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton), overlanding was the next best way to get deeper into nature and feed our appetite for adventure.

Throughout the summer of 2019, we camped at places like Della Creek and Olympic National Park, and as the season came to a close and nights grew colder, we took advantage of one last fall trip in October to Vancouver Island. The weather was still balmy and warm for October, so the Thursday morning before Thanksgiving weekend, I cooked a full turkey dinner (stuffing, gravy, roasted carrots, you name it), packed it up in a cooler, and waited for Mike to return from work so we could head to the ferry and get a jump on the long weekend. By 5pm we were headed south out of Squamish en route to Nanaimo.

9am at the Piper-watering hole that is Cameron Lake

We stayed the night at a hotel in Nanaimo and awoke early the next morning to make the pretty three-hour drive to Tofino on the Pacific Rim Highway. We stopped in Port Alberni for Egg McMuffins (the last slice of civilization before the beach), and enjoyed them while admiring Cameron Lake in MacMillan Provincial Park for a Piper pit-stop.

We arrived at Bella Pacifica just after lunch and spent an hour setting up camp for a two-night stay. The campsites there are varied: some accommodate larger trailers and RVs, some a tiny for single ground tents, some are right on Mackenzie Beach, and some are tucked around trees. We nabbed site 107 which was very quiet, private and close to the bathrooms (a luxury we aren’t so used to having). With nicely spread-out grounds, it wasn’t too loud or busy considering it was a Holiday weekend, after all.

Campsite 107.

After a quick walk around to situate ourselves, we headed to the beach for an afternoon of sun and stick-throwing under the blue sky.

Long and laden with white, soft sand, MacKenzie Beach accommodates a handful of campsites and resorts—you can enjoy your stay in a cabin or vintage Airstream at Mackenzie Beach Resort, or stay with family or friends in a log cabin at Crystal Cove. The beach is dog-friendly, although pup-etiquette is required as wee ones and other dogs were plentiful, and offers countless opportunities to surf, both on Mackenzie Beach and close-by.

We weren’t surfing during our stay, but we still enjoyed hours on the beach walking, talking, listening to music and reading. Piper quite enjoyed herself, too.

This is Piper’s exhausted glory-stance after a 10-minute dig session (hence the sand pile)
Just some random dogs and my dude!

In terms of what else you can find close by, there are handfuls of authentic surf shops, art galleries, clothing stores, restaurants and food trucks. We enjoyed poking our heads around Mackenzie Beach Resort (their branding and design was on-point, and we enjoyed coffees from The General Store). We also visited Tacofino‘s original food truck location for some world-famous Mexican BBQ (we enjoyed their beef and Baja fish tacos, gringos, and milky coconut-mango smoothies).

Another place we enjoyed was The Tofitian, and we had a great experience with Tofino Bike Co: we didn’t want to have to collapse our rooftop tent or pack up to drive places, so we rented bicycles to get around during our stay (which I highly recommend). Renting bikes also made it possible to enjoy Tofino Brewing Co.’s beer flights and house-made salsa and chips and get home safe.

After two nights at Bella Pacifica, we packed up the Jeep and explored a bit of Ucluelet before exploring some forest service roads. We didn’t yet have a spot mapped out to stay for our final night—we figured we’d be able to find something up on the mountains—but after driving around for an hour or two with no luck, we headed back onto the Pacific Rim highway north towards Port Alberni.

Overlanding is amazing, but finding camp can be a challenge. Sure, you can usually park on the side of a road, but for us, the purpose of camping is to find those beautiful, unexplored areas where we can freely spread out and Piper can roam free, away from roads or other people. So when we finally spotted a little dirt road off the highway, our hopes went up a bit.

As we drove along, we held our breathe. We hadn’t found anything and the sun was beginning to set. And then we found the best spot ever: Likkle Bar! Located on a private lake and equipped with a bar and a charming wood sign nailed to a Birch tree trunk, Likkle Bar is nestled somewhere between Clayoquot Arm Provincial Park and Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park. I honestly couldn’t tell you where it is, but we felt grateful to have found it on Thanksgiving day. It was the perfect spot to enjoy our turkey dinner.

We rounded out the night with lots of stick tossing, sitting by the fire, wine-drinking and laughing the night away, as per usual. The next morning we traveled the four hours it took to get back home, enjoyed hot baths and called it a Thanksgiving for the books. We’d love to go back to the Island and explore more of the Tofino surroundings. Do you have any recommendations for places to check out!? Please let me know on my Instagram post.

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