Tuff City: aka Tofino

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Tough City: When Did Tofino Get This Name?

by Jen Dart

Tofino is literally located at the end of the road; except by boat there's nowhere to go from here.

Tough City (Tofino) Skate Park

Tuff City Skate Park is a major attraction in Tofino

And the road to get here isn’t that inviting or easy to navigate.

This kind of isolation from the rest of the world was obviously more pronounced before Hwy. 4 existed (and boats were the main mode of transport), but it's still hard enough to get here – and even harder to stay. It definitely makes for an interesting "end of the road culture."

"Tough City" (or Tuff City) is an alternative name Tofino has enjoyed for years.

It goes back to the days when work was mainly in fishing and logging, and alludes to the roughness of those jobs and those who did them. Not to mention the bar brawls that apparently ensued.

I'm sure the volume of rain we get also contributed to this moniker, as did the once relative lack of available women. Luckily for Tofino’s guys however, this situation has completely reversed itself in the last 10 years or so and now women outnumber the guys.

Tough City Inn

The Inn at Tough City is also home to Tough City Sushi

Former Tofitian Malcolm Johnson outlined Tough City’s dating scene and its challenges for Tofino Time magazine years ago.

Local writer Adrienne Mason wrote about Tuff City’s nickname and its potential origins on her Heart of Tofino blog.

The "toughness" of Tofino is also well-covered territory in everyday conversation around town as well as locals discuss travel plans in the winter and being overworked in the summer.

Now that Tofino is mainly a tourism town, there are other elements that make it tough – including seasonal employment, transient workers, and lean rainy winters.

Then there's the "Tofino Shuffle," the incredibly annoying practice of having to move house when it comes time for summer if the place you're in becomes a vacation rental for the season. Or perhaps you're living somewhere the owner infuriatingly only comes back to during the summer to enjoy the good weather months.

Anyone looking for reasonable accommodation in the scarce rental market would definitely call it tough. And if you're looking to get into the housing market, you might think of it as even tougher.

I wouldn't blame you for wondering what keeps us here in "Tough City."  Is it that one glorious sunny day that sneaks in the middle of two weeks of rain? Or maybe it's the ability to surfwhenever you want and the incredible surroundings that people come from all over the world to see. The wildlife, the open water, the rainforest and beaches are all not-too-hard-to-take contributing factors.

Tuff Beans sign in Tofino

Tuff Beans Coffee Shop has a good time with Tofino's nick name

Being isolated also has the advantage of keeping out the strip malls, big box stores and traffic. Not having to stop for stoplights doesn't hurt either.

What it comes down to is the good outweighs the bad and this place will ruin you for less beautiful ones.

Whatever your reason for staying or visiting, "Tough City" is definitely a world unto its own, here at the end of the road.


About the author
Originally from Barrie, Ontario, Jen is a long-time Tofino resident, although not quite long enough to be considered a full-fledged local. Jen has been writing professionally for the past seven years. In that time, she's worked for the Tofino-Ucluelet Westerly News as both a part-time and full-time reporter and photographer. Jen has been published in a variety of publications, including SBC Surf Magazine, the Native Journal of Canada, the Victoria Times Colonist and the Vancouver Sun.

Ocean Village Resort
Westcoast Aquatic Safaris
Road sign to Tough City