The amazing floating sauna and dock in Tofino; a review
A floating sauna in the remote Canadian wilderness? Is this one of the coolest experiences in Canada? Absolutely!
Tofino is already full of wild outdoor adventures, but this might just be the best. At this point, it’s still a well kept secret, hidden away on the remote shores of Clayoquot Sound, near Tofino.
We were recently fortunate enough to visit the Tofino Resort and Marina and book a spot on this incredible remote floating sauna and dock. It was so amazing that we felt it deserved its own blog post.
This blog post is going to cover exactly what is included in this one of a kind experience, as well as how to book it and our honest review (TL;DR it was amazing). So here goes:
What is the floating sauna and dock experience?
The Floating sauna and dock experience is a relatively new concept developed by the Tofino Resort and Marina, and I have to tell you, it is an unbelievable idea!
Here is what your day will look like:
The ride out to the floating sauna
Your day begins at the Tofino Resort + Marina where you’ll board a private charter boat with your captain, and set off along the coast.
Within a few minutes, your captain will stop the boat and drop a couple of crab pots to pick up again on the way back. Part of the experience will be a cook your own catch opportunity at the Shelter restaurant back at the Marina. More on that later.
To reach the floating sauna, you’ll have to take a boat ride to the remote Clayoquot sound along the coast. The journey takes roughly an hour, and the entire ride is absolutely stunning. You’ll pass miles of shoreline with plenty of opportunities to see foraging wildlife, like bears and wolves. We didn’t see any on our trip, but it’s a relatively common occurrence in the mornings as the sun is coming up.
On the morning of our trip, it was a relatively early start and we were lucky enough to catch the morning sun as it rose over the ocean. The morning water was like glass and so peaceful. We were the only boat for miles, and it was the perfect start to what promised to be an extremely relaxing day.
The floating sauna and dock
The actual floating sauna appears suddenly as you round a final corner, deep inside a long inlet (or Sound – a smaller body of water connected to the ocean). The floating sauna is nestled around a hidden bend, keeping it sheltered from view until the last second, and more importantly, from the elements.
The actual dock itself is a real work of art. It has a modern minimalist style with everything you might need to keep yourself occupied for the next few hours.
The platform itself is wide with a seating/firepit area on the front end, and a suspended net/canopy on the other end, complete with huge cushions for lounging.
There is also a big rack of paddleboards, which you can use to explore the lagoon, as well as a rope swing if you’re feeling brave enough to jump into the frigid salty waters.
The floating sauna
But the main feature, of course, is the actual wood burning sauna. When you arrive, it has already been set up to be warm when you walk in. There is plenty of extra firewood as well for you to keep the heat going throughout your time.
The sauna is spacious, with a huge window facing out into the sound and the mountains beyond. If being in nature is restorative, then this spa that’s immersed in nature must be one of the most restorative in the world!
You are literally completely alone, without another soul for miles, and the peace and quiet is like nothing else you will ever experience (if that’s the experience you’re after).
The dock is set up to be either fun or relaxing (or both), whichever experience you’re looking for. The floating sauna experience can accommodate groups of up to 12 people, so some groups may opt for a more lively experience.
But if solitude and relaxation is what you’re looking for, this is THE place to find it.
The floating sauna experience
When Louise and I were dropped off, it was a strange feeling to be left completely alone. The captain unloads you, hands you your packed lunch and towels, talks you through the fire and sauna, hands you a radio and then promptly disappears.
The hum of the boat quickly fades as it disappears around the bend and suddenly the quiet of nature envelops you. There is nothing to do but relax and enjoy yourself. No cell service and nothing but the company of your partner or group to keep you entertained.
We decided to do all the cold/wet activities first, because we prefer getting cold and then warming up, but there are no rules here!
Paddling the lagoon and the rope swing
We started our experience by paddling the lagoon. There was a bit of wind if you went too far out to sea, but once you came back into the secluded sheltered area by the dock, the paddling was easy.
Louise was brave enough to try the rope swing into the freezing water, but as it was only March and still quite cold outside, I was a wimp and stayed by the fire.
The floating sauna
Fortunately, we were left with quite a lot of dry firewood, kindling and lighters, so getting a warm fire going in the fire pit was very easy. After Louise came out of the water, we threw on our dressing gowns and warmed up by the roaring fire.
The sauna was also extremely peaceful. All you could feel was the gentle lapping of waves under the platform, and the gentle crackle of firewood in the wood burner.
I loved every minute of it.
A great place to nap
Once we were warm enough, we moved out to the suspended nets and collapsed into a pile of pillows. I don’t think I’ve ever recommended napping as a thing to do before, but those canopies were just built for snoozing!
The weather was mild, and we were warm from the sauna, so it was the perfect place for it.
Our overall experience on the floating sauna and dock
Overall, we loved every minute of our time on the floating sauna. To do this as a couple was a really calming, peaceful and, dare I say, romantic experience that I would love to do again and again.
It’s without doubt one of the best things to do in Tofino.
Whereas most things to do here involve exercise and adventure, this is one of the few bucketlist things you can do here that doesn’t. So this is a great thing to do to break up the adventures if you’re here for a few days. There’s only so much surfing and hiking you can do before you need a break, right?
The only way I could possibly imagine our experience being better would be if by some miracle we saw some sea life floating around us, but it was honestly just as magical without. And to be honest, I’m not sure how I’d feel about seeing a killer whale appear while I was lying suspended over the water!
All in all, it was a 10/10 experience that I absolutely have to recommend to anyone and everyone that will listen.
Cook your own catch
So as I mentioned at the beginning, we dropped our crab pots and picked them up on the way home. We were hoping to pick up some crab or shrimp and with two crab pots, there was a good chance that we’d have something for dinner!
In case fishing for crab is a new experience for you, as it was for us, there are actually strict rules about the size, type and sex of crabs you can keep when fishing. They have to be male Dungeness crabs that are above a certain size (I believe it was 6″ minimum). You can also catch a maximum of 4 per day.
Our first crab pot came up and it was absolutely full of crabs. But wait, they were all either too small, female or the wrong kind of crab. Such a disappointment!
But we still had one more pot left, and when we picked it up it had 3 male Dungeness crabs that we could keep! Looked like it was going to be a feast for dinner!
We brought the fresh crabs back to shore and left them in the capable hands of the kitchen (formerly 1909 but now Shelter Restaurant).
A few hours later, we dropped in for dinner and were greeted by the most incredible platter of crabs, perfectly cooked and prepared to be eaten. It came with an amazing garlic butter, and was easily the most delicious and freshest crab I’ve ever eaten.
For me, this was right up there as one of the biggest highlights of the day. This is the perfect addition to a day that was already perfect!
Tofino Floating Sauna Frequently asked questions
So now to the planning questions!
Things to bring on the Tofino floating sauna tour?
As you now know, you will be left completely alone on the floating sauna until your boat captain comes back to pick you up. Although you do have a radio for emergencies, you really should aim to be self sufficient during your time on the dock. So here’s a list of things that you should bring with you:
- Warm layers – if you get cold, there is of course a fire and a sauna, but sometimes it’s nice to just bring warm clothes. You also want to bring a change of clothes if you plan to jump in the water. It’s rough to sit in a cold swimsuit!
- A robe if you have one – for the full spa experience. We brought ours from the hotel (most hotels have them), and they were amazing to wear in the suspended nets. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have one if you bring spare clothes.
- Sandals if you have them – Some people don’t like going in saunas in their bare feet, so if this is you, bring sandals!
- Your phone/camera for photos
- Download an offline playlist so you can connect to the speaker that’s included!
- Water (bring plenty of this if it’s hot)
- Lunch and snacks – we opted for the additional packed lunch, but if you don’t do this, it’s worth bringing food. You’ll be alone for a while! Our lunch came with a hot tomato soup in a thermos (amazing) and sandwiches.
- Bathing suit – it goes without saying that you should bring your bathing suit!
- Sunscreen / sun hat – if it’s sunny weather, it would be a good idea to bring sun protection. There isn’t much protection from the elements out there (unless you count hiding in the sauna)
- A raincoat
What is included with the floating sauna tour?
Yes you’ll have to bring a few basic amenities, but almost everything else you’ll need is already there. This includes:
- a packed lunch – if you decide to add this optional extra
- enough firewood for the sauna and firepit
- a radio to get in touch in case of emergencies
- Fire starting equipment – lighters and kindling
- bluetooth speaker
- A freshwater (cold) shower to rinse off the sea water)
- Rope swing
- Hammocks/nets with pillows
The tour also includes the cook your own catch aspect, and your captain will drop crab pots on the way out. There are no guarantees you’ll catch anything, but if you do, you can keep it and have it cooked up by the hotel!
Where is the floating sauna?
The floating sauna is located in Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO protected biosphere. The sauna is actually located on the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, and the lease was carefully negotiated with the local indigenous community.
The boat ride is about an hour from Tofino in a remote inlet in Clayoquot Sound
How do you get to the Floating Sauna?
To reach the floating sauna, you’ll hop into a luxury speedboat that will whiz you at high speeds for about an hour (each way). Depending on the weather conditions, you may find the ride choppy or wet, so make sure you bring wet weather clothing and sea sickness medicine if you’re susceptible to it.
We visited on a beautiful sunny day, on perfectly still water, so getting wet or sick wasn’t really a concern. However, Tofino is notoriously wet, so getting soaked is always a very real risk.
The boat they use has 4 seats inside, but it can carry up to 12 passengers (hence the group size limit). If it’s wet and your group is less than 4, you will all be able to stay dry. If you’re a group of 12 and it’s wet, some people are going to get wet.
How much does the floating sauna cost?
The floating sauna starts at $1000 CAD for four people, and price increases as more people are added to the group. Packed lunches are an additional cost. Book here.
Where should you stay when visiting the floating sauna in Tofino?
The floating sauna and dock is part of and offered by the Tofino Resort + Marina, so it really makes sense to stay here if you’re going to do this amazing experience. The hotel often offers wellness packages that include the floating sauna and discounted room rates.
We stayed here during our visit, and the hotel has everything you could possibly need to enjoy your time in Tofino; restaurants, bike rentals, amazing experiences and great rooms with ocean views.
The hotel is also just a short walk into Tofino, so once you arrive, there’s really no need to drive. The float planes from Harbour Air land right at their door, so it’s really a one stop shop for all your activities. I highly recommend staying there.
How long is the floating sauna tour?
The entire tour takes up to 5 hours, including the 1 hour each way boat ride. All in all, you’ll get around 3 hours at the floating sauna, which is more than enough to enjoy it fully!
Other things to do in Tofino
If you’re seriously thinking about planning a trip to Tofino, then you’re probably want to find a few more things to do with your time. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve written a massive list of over 30 amazing things to do in Tofino. Check it out!
How to get to Tofino
Tofino is located on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, so it’s fairly remote and tricky to get to.
Take a seaplane with Harbour Air
The simplest way, by far, is to take a seaplane with Harbour Air from Vancouver. This is a super short flight that takes you right from the harbour in Vancouver, straight into the heart of Tofino. It’s far quicker than driving, and is one of the most stunning flights in the world.
When we flew in, we flew over snow capped peaks and the views were out of this world. Once you factor in gas, time, ferry costs and rental car prices, it’s probably just as cheap to fly. Once you arrive in Tofino, you honestly can get away without a car as well.
Most things are reachable by foot or bike, and any excursions generally have pickups as well.
Driving to Tofino
The other alternative to reach Tofino is to drive yourself. If you’re visiting from the Canadian mainland, you’ll have to take a ferry across to Vancouver Island (generally Nanaimo is the most direct), and then drive from there.
It’s one of the most beautiful drives in the world, but from Vancouver to Tofino, the journey will take about 5.5 hours. So the route you choose will depend on how much time you have!
Hopefully after reading this you’re as excited to try this as we were. The floating sauna is one of the most amazing and unique experiences we’ve ever been fortunate to try. It was even named as one of the world’s greatest places of 2022 by Time Magazine, so trust us when we say it’s epic. Hopefully you get a chance to go!