Big Tree Trail on Meares Island

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Hiking in Tonquin Park

Tonquin Beach is the first of four public beaches and just a short walk through town from the post office up First Street to Arnet Street, then Arnet to the end of Tonquin Park Road.

There is a small parking area and one of the first signs you'll encounter before getting onto the boardwalk is a reminder that consuming alcohol on any public beach is illegal.

Literally 6 minutes into the woods on a winding boardwalk through the town's own nature preserve and after descending about 75 steps in all, you will be at the beach.

This is not a very large beach but it does get full sun and it looks out to Wickaninnish Island and Felice Island, offering a great view of the summer sunset.  Tonquin beach is named after the early 19th century American ship that sank somewhere in this channel after an internal explosion.

The ship has never been found but is considered the Holy Grail by most scuba salvagers in the Sound. The ship is believed to be somewhere within 1km of Tonquin beach.   Shifting sands in the powerful currents have yet to reveal its large cargo of artifacts and treasures.

In 2003, local diver and maritime historian Rod Palm found what is believed to be the anchor of The Tonquin. Read more about this discovery and hiking at Tonquin here.

Hiking Time
About 6 minutes (one way) from the parking lot

A few hundred metres, then return

From post office, travel south, pass the hospital
Turn right on Arnet Street, then left on Tonquin

Very easy, all boardwalk & one descent of 75 stairs


When the boardwalk on the Tonquin Trial gets wet, the planks can become very slippery, especially  in the early morning or during and after rain showers.  The cedar fibres of the wood are a delicacy of the resident Banana Slug who slithers across them, leaving behind a precarious trail.  Banana slugs are named, not so much for their shape but for the banana peel-like result you'll experience if you should happen to accidentally step on one! 

About Tonquin Beach

Tonquin Beach is the first of four accessible hiking beaches located within the District of Tofino, outside of the national park. The parking lot at the trailhead is less than 1 km from the Post Office, an easy and pleasant walk. To get there, head for the end of Tonquin Park Road, and from there follow a winding boardwalk through the forest for about 7 minutes. You’ll be walking through a nature preserve set aside by the District of Tofino. After descending about 75 steps, you will be at the beach.  Although it is not very large, this beach feels secluded and has the advantage of getting full sun.

When the boardwalk on the Tonquin Trail is wet – and this is true of all boardwalks – the planks can become very slippery, especially in the early morning or during and after rain showersSo watch your step carefully.

After arriving on the beach, look out to Wickaninnish Island (straight out and a bit to your left) and Felice Island (off to your right, also called Round Island). If your timing is right, you will experience the region's best view of the summer sunset.

Exploring Tonquin Beach

Kids play on the small island at Tonquin Beach in Tofino

After exploring Tonquin Beach and it’s tidal islets, look up the hill, directly behind the beach. You should be able to see a long set of stairs leading to a new trail completed in 2011. Find the trail leading to the stairs, walk up and veer to your right. You are now on the Lighthouse Trail, on your way out to the middle of a promontory separating Tonquin Beach and Middle Beach.

Tonquin Beach is named after the 19th century American trading vessel Tonquin. In 1811 the vessel sank near here in appalling circumstances. Following a trading altercation, a number of First Nations people boarded the vessel and killed most of the 35 member crew. The following day they returned to the vessel and a surviving crew member ignited the powder kegs on board, killing himself and all the local people who had come aboard. The ship sank without a trace and the wreck has not yet been discovered. It is one of the most mysterious and sought-after wrecks on the West Coast, still attracting keen divers and treasure seekers.

In September 2003 The New York Times detailed the discovery of an early19th century anchor snagged by a local crab fisherman and raised by a team of local divers. This anchor may belong to theTonquin but shifting sands have yet to reveal the wreck itself.

For more information about the wreck of the Tonquin, purchase a copy of Tonquin: The Ghostship of Clayoquot Sound, a booklet written by David W. Griffiths, a local marine archaeologist. The booklet is available at Tofino Sea Kayaking, 320 Main Street.

Tofino Sea Kayaking Company