24-Hours in Tofino, Canada a Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Dairy-Free Guide
Every year I love to escape the hot NYC summer and go somewhere I’ve never been before. The parameters for the trip this year included nature, beautiful, and temperate weather. As I began to research locations I realized that temperate weather would be tough to find in August, when most of the world is hot, hot hot! I was feeling pretty discouraged until I had a lightbulb moment: Canada! It offered all the elements I wanted, and is clean, safe, and easy to get to. I finally settled on flying into Vancouver from NYC, spending a few days in the city, then heading out onto a side trip to beautiful Tofino, British Columbia.
Tofino is located on Vancouver Island (which is confusingly different than Vancouver city). According to Wikipedia it “attracts surfers, nature lovers, bird watchers, campers, whale watchers, fishermen, or anyone looking to be close to nature.” Sounds like us! During our time in Tofino we rented a cabin which enabled us to cook most of our meals, however we did venture out and discovered quite a few gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free options.
It’s quite a long journey from Vancouver to Tofino, door-to-door it took us about five hours, but it’s totally worth it! We split the drive into a few different parts (Drive>Ferry>Drive>Breakfast>Drive>Hike>Drive>Coffee>Drive>Lunch>Drive>Arrive). One of our first stops once we arrived onto Vancouver Island was The Old Country Market located in Coombs. The market was opened in 1950 by Norwegian transplants who were inspired to build a structure with a sod roof which is common in Norway. Fast-forward to 2017, and the market has expanded to a full-sized store with a coffee bar, restaurant, taco truck, bakery, and most importantly: goats on the roof! It’s pretty surreal to see three goats roaming around on top of a building, I got a kick out of it!
The market has a ton of amazing imported and local products, including these gluten-free corn tortillas which are made fresh daily. We arrived early in the morning and all the tortillas from the day before were marked down from $5 to .99 cents! Score.
I was very impressed by the variety of colorful meringue cookies, which happen to be my favorite naturally gluten-free treat. The Billygruff “Bombs” named after the goats on the roof were A+!
We stopped into the restaurant for breakfast, and I was very impressed with their ability and flexibility to make my meal gluten-free. I swapped the english muffin in the Eggs Benedict for tomatoes and requested the hollandaise sauce on the side. The hash browns were also incredible, with herbs baked into the potatoes.
We loaded up on fresh fruit from the stand located next door to the market. Let’s just say I may have eaten my weight in peaches on this trip!
Next stop: Cathedral Grove which is located about ten minutes beyond the market. Cathedral Grove is a rate remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem, with trees that are about 800 years old and measure 250ft in height and 29ft in circumference. Nothing to do with food, but worth the detour!
After a two and a half hour drive we were excited to see this vintage VW van welcoming us to Tofino! Our first stop was the local grocery store Tofino Co-Op to stock up on essentials for our cabin. When shopping for a vacation, we typically select proteins (chicken, fish, turkey, steak) for each night of our trip and then grab a variety of veggies and sides which can be easily paired with all the main proteins. In order to keep costs down, we also stopped off at a Walmart in Nanaimo near the ferry dock to purchase non-perishable items such as gluten-free pasta, quinoa, tortilla chips, and cereal. While I typically avoid Walmart, the prices and selection for our allergy-free items were much better there than at the Tofino Co-Op, which makes me feel like I should highly recommend making this stop.
The next morning we started off our day with gluten-free rainbow sprinkle doughnuts from Rhino Coffee House. They’re made from chickpea flour which also makes them nut-free. Double points! These doughnuts were so good I’m wishing I could teleport back and eat them now. Craving something more filling than doughnuts? They also serve breakfast, lunch, and pizza.
Wifi was also scarce (AKA non-existent) in our cabin, which gave us another reason for a daily stop when my husband needed to check-in on some work during our trip. No complaints here!
After breakfast we headed to the Wild Pacific Trail in nearby Ucluelet for a gorgeous 2-hour walk/hike. So mystical and dramatic!
After our hike we headed to The Blue Room Bistro in Ucluelet where they cooked up the most delicious nut-free fish and chips. I ordered a side salad as I knew we’d be heading to my favorite new place…Tacofino!
I’d heard rave reviews about Tacofino, and let me tell you..it lives up to the hype!
Located in the back of a shopping plaza, the line for the Tacofino truck was already at least 15 people long by 12pm, make sure to get there early!
At first I was a bit skeptical of the menu which seemed pretty gluten heavy, but my server offered me a few easy swaps on the Tuna Taco to make it gluten-free! They removed the soy sauce and seaweed salad which both contain wheat and changed from a flour tortilla to corn tortilla to make it 100% gluten-free. Yum!
If you’re craving an afternoon coffee pick-me-up, head to Tofino Coffee for delicious drinks made from their small-batch roasted beans. I loved the coffee so much that I brought home a bag of beans which has been a treat every morning and also helps to cure the post-vacation blues!
After tacos make sure to stop by Chocolate Tofino for their homemade chocolate and gelato. I was pleased to see that they had one dairy-free coconut chocolate flavor which I had to sample. The verdict? 10/10! Also, how cute is the chocolate bear made from different types of chocolate?
Tofino is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. I loved that I was able to experience nature while also indulging in gluten-free doughnuts, tacos, and ice cream! If you have dietary restrictions rest assured that Tofino has many options for you!