Volunteering at Tofino Botanical Gardens

Volunteers have played an important role in the development of many of the Garden’s features.  We have collaborated with students, interns, artists, travelers and local residents. We subsidize accommodations and facilities for individuals and groups who bring interest, enthusiasm and energy to a project.

We have drawn up this information page for you to determine if we (you and the Tofino Botanical Gardens) are a good fit! Please read this over and then contact us. If you are a horticulture student interested in a work practicum or internship, please contact us to discuss!

What are the Tofino Botanical Gardens?

Tofino Botanical Gardens was established by George Patterson in 1997 to provide visitors to the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with an introduction to the natural and cultural histories of the area. Our twelve acres of gardens, exhibits, forest boardwalk, and shoreline have been designed to encourage people to explore the relationship between culture and nature. Features include a kitchen garden; café; natural pond; children’s garden; the Bernardo O’Higgins Garden; a comparative botany garden featuring plants from the temperate rainforests of Chile; and a tropical garden. In 2003, the Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation was established to ensure that the Gardens will continue to be developed as a permanent not-for-profit institution serving both local communities and visitors to the Pacific Rim.

What experience do I need to volunteer there?

Experience in horticulture, landscaping, and/or carpentry is preferred but not always necessary. Essential experience and qualities include an interest in horticulture and/or public gardens, the ability to work independently, to relate with the public, and to live with other volunteers and maintain clean living quarters. We try very hard to match tasks with your abilities and interests, though some tasks are unavoidable (such as weeding!). You must be neat, clean and presentable to the public at all times.

Where will I sleep and eat?

Most volunteers live in a volunteer cabin in the Gardens or in The Ecolodge dorm rooms. Volunteers may buy their own food and cook and clean for themselves or some food may be provided. Living situations will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What will I do and how long are the work days?

For volunteers, the general work schedule is three full days per week, but this can change depending on what is going on in the Gardens at the time. Interns work a full week. During the spring, garden tasks include preparing and seeding beds, weeding, trail maintenance, and clearing for new garden areas. Summer tasks focus on weeding and watering, trail and bed maintenance, and interacting with the public. Fall tasks include mulching and preparing beds for winter, and the inevitable weeding. Carpentry projects occur year round. Volunteering at Tofino Botanical Gardens does include hard physical labour. If you are not prepared for this then this opportunity is not for you.

How long can I stay? Can I get a job while I am in Tofino?

We ask a minimum two week commitment, but volunteers can stay longer depending on the season, the schedule and their capabilities. We host horticulture interns for the full duration of their practicum.

We only accept volunteers who are genuinely interested in gardening and horticulture and are willing to make a volunteer commitment to the Gardens! We cannot accommodate people who are looking for jobs or a place to live in Tofino. However, volunteers can work while they volunteer as long as their commitment to the Gardens comes first.

What can I do during my off hours?

There are a lot of things to do here! We are a thirty minute walk from downtown Tofino, where you can find coffee bars, galleries, restaurants, stores, internet, and a public library. Tofino has weekly Monday night movies and regular music concerts and dances of all genres.  Companies in town offer whale watching, kayaking and other outdoor adventures in Clayoquot Sound.  We are a fifteen minute walk from the beach, where you can walk, swim, surf, boogie board, or have a sunset picnic. If you have a bicycle, we encourage you to bring it.  The Raincoast Education Society has their office on site at The Ecolodge and they offer nature walks, slideshows, and interpretive events. They have a fantastic library of natural history guides and information.

Can I bring my dog? My kids? Can I smoke?

Sorry, we are not prepared to accommodate dogs or children, and we do not allow any smoking on the property.

We hope this answers some of the question you might have about volunteering here. If you think this sounds like the place for you, then please contact us.