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 six reasons to visit.
The best time for storm watching is November through March. During the winter, the west coast gets more than a dozen storms with 70-kilometre-per-hour winds and waves reaching up to 25 feet. The Kwisitis Visitor Centre on the south end of Wickaninnish Beach has an outdoor observation deck, or watch from inside and browse exhibits that will teach you more about the region. The visitor centre’s hours change throughout the year, and during the peak of storm season it is open Friday to Sunday. You can also base your storm watching at several local resorts. Black Rock’s Oceanfront Resort has a storm watching package that includes binoculars, hot chocolate and a spa voucher.
In the spring, summer and fall there are plenty of tours that you can join to see wildlife with the help of a local expert. 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 for a gooey cinnamon bun. For lunch, hit Yayu for a plant-based meal like falafel or curry bowls. Add a warming drink like the rose quartz latte with beetroot, rose water and maple syrup. For dinner, splurge on a meal at Pluvio where the menu changes based on the ingredients supplied by local farmers, fishers and producers.
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 sight 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 rougher 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.