Photo by Mike Fisher
The small fishing town of Ucluelet, located just outside Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island’s wild, west coast, is a haven for adventure seekers. Wildlife watchers, stand-up paddleboarders, surfers, kayakers, hikers and even foodies have plenty to explore.
Here are five reasons to visit.
Bear-watching tours are popular in Ucluelet—tour by land or sea to catch a glimpse of a black bear in the wild. You can also see eagles soaring to their nests as you kayak in the harbour or catch deer ambling near shore while strolling along a fishing dock. For whale-watching, you can’t beat a tour in a nimble zodiac boat. During a three-hour foray with Subtidal Adventures you’ll get close enough to humpbacks and killer whales for great photos.
Start the morning in the downtown village square at Zoë’s Bakery and Café. Grab the Savory Egg Thingie—an egg baked on sourdough bread stuffing—and a mocha. For lunch, hit the Ravenlady Oyster Forte food truck. The Po’ Boy, a crispy baguette stuffed with panko-fried oysters, is a local favourite on Ravenlady’s varied menu, though you can’t go wrong with an order of fresh Naked Oysters. For dinner, Hank’s Untraditional BBQ is a meaty treat (try the pork belly), with all of the curing done in-house.
Hikers are rewarded with spectacular ocean views and an abundance of wildlife on the trails around Ucluelet. Check into the Wya Point Resort, which is nestled in the rainforest with cozy one- and two-bedroom lodges (and yurts) and has memorable hiking just steps away. A sure bet is the 3.4-kilometre Willowbrae Trail to Halfmoon Bay Trail, which winds through old-growth cedar hemlock forest and ends at a beautiful, secluded beach as a pay-off. Otherwise, the nearby Wild Pacific Trail is an incredible series of loops with mind-blowing ocean views.
With its close proximity to the Broken Group Islands—a hub of majestic lagoons, wildlife and white sandy beaches—Ucluelet has some of the best sea kayaking on the West Coast. A three-hour tour with Majestic Ocean Kayaking will take you through the Ucluelet harbour to explore beautiful inlets. You may even catch site of a sea lion sunning itself. Guides give a crash course in marine life along the way.
Stand-up Paddleboarding and Surfing
Catch a wave near Incinerator Rock at nearby Long Beach, where the waves are longer and gentler than some harrier shores. Try stand-up paddleboarding on Ucluth Beach, right in front of Wya Point Resort, with Wya Point Surf Shop, which offers lessons and rentals. Bonus: Once you’re done, it takes less than a minute to get into the lodge where the fireplace is warm and the coffee is piping hot.
An Insider’s Guide to Vancouver Island
If you could shape a piece of clay into your ideal destination, it might look a lot like Vancouver Island: sandy beaches that feel subtropical; valleys where flowers bloom and spring seems eternal; widely acclaimed artists, musicians and festivals that could fill weeks with mind-expanding experiences; and farm-fresh produce, artisan cheeses, local wines and handcrafted spirits in overwhelming abundance.