For families looking for a budget-friendly Tofino excursion or are simply low on time, Remote Passages offers a 1.5 hour round-trip Vancouver Island hiking adventure of Big Tree Trail on nearby Meares Island.
Located just a few fun Zodiac boat turns from the Remote Passages boat dock, Meares Island is uninhabited and protected by a local First Nations land conservation agency. Remote Passages (and several other local outfits, including Tofino Water Taxi) will drop passengers off at the start of a 400 meter (approximately 1/4 mile) boardwalk, which families follow self-guided as it winds deep into the temperate rain forest.
The boardwalk is old in some places (originally built in the ’80s and quite weather-beaten), new in others (you can smell the fresh cedar), so kids shouldn’t run. We saw one visitor put his foot straight through a rotted plank. We met several of the First Nations Meares Island protectors while we hiked; they were working on upgrades to the boardwalk, and were very eager to tell us about their work preserving this island. The way can be slippery at times, unstable in others, and always majestically beautiful. For young kids, it truly feels like an adventure, and older kids will enjoy the constant challenge of the walk.
As you go, you’re looking for several points of interest. Near the start of the boardwalk stands a 900-year-old red cedar, and farther along, a small creek crossing leads to a set of stairs and a small lookout over a narrow bay. Look for kayakers coming in to hike the island here. A little farther on, you arrive at the end of the trail, which features the oldest cedar: 1600 years old. It’s called the Hanging Garden, and it’s easy to see why: trees are shooting out of this tree, and dropping from nearly all branches are ferns and other beautiful hanging plants. The sunlight filters through, and it’s truly a awe-inspiring sight.
Remote Passages gives visitors 1.5 hours to tour the island, which may be a bit long, since the boardwalk really only takes 45 minutes to tour, and visitors are asked not to explore off the walk (in order to preserve vegetation). Our kids enjoyed navigating part of the boardwalk a second time while we waited, or you could find a spot in the sun (or under the canopy of trees out of the rain, as they case may be) by the docking area.
Tip: Be sure to pack all trash out, and don’t allow children to climb on the trunks of the trees; they’re working hard to protect them. Bring rain gear or light jackets, but this is a great activity for when the weather is rainy; the canopy will shield you! The boat ride to and from is only 5 minutes, but will be a thrill for young kids if they haven’t experienced the small and fast Zodiac boat yet.
Date last visited:
Distance from the interstate:
Right off Highway 4 in Tofino.
The Meares Island transfer is a quite affordable way to have a fun boat ride and great hike you can’t access otherwise. At the time of my visit, rates were $20 per person for the drop-off/pick-up for kids and adults. If you’re more ambitious, Remote Passages offers a half-day kayaking tour that includes a guided walk through Meares Island. Kids don’t have to be strong paddlers, but should be old enough to spend the whole morning or afternoon on the water.
Find Remote Passages at the bottom of Wharf Street at Meares Landing, right in the heart of Tofino.
As I disclose whenever applicable, my family and I experienced Meares Island at no charge, for the purpose of review. While I appreciate this opportunity to pass on information to my readers, it came with no expectation of a positive review.