There’s a fork in the road on Vancouver Island. We always turned to the right – toward Tofino. This time was different. Let’s check out Ucluelet!
Ucluelet (You-Klew-Let) is located on outer west coast of Vancouver Island and is about a 4 hour drive from the provincial capital, Victoria, BC. The name is derived from the Nootka language and means “people of the safe harbour”. The town has about 2000 permanent residents, (according to our boat captain). That number swells by several thousand in the summer. It’s a quiet little town between the ocean and the forest. The people here are very proud of their picturesque home with it’s laid-back way of life. You will find a lot of unusual sculpture on the streets as well as some very old, character buildings. The place has a funky vibe!
Historically, the peoples of Ucluelet have made a living by fishing and logging. In recent years, more and more people are in the hospitality and tourism industry. In fact, you will now find tourists in Ucluelet all year round.
There are oodles of fun things to do in Ucluelet for the “outdoorsy” types. The main attraction here is the Pacific Rim Park Natural Reserve – comprised of the Broken Island Group, Long Beach and the West Coast Trail. Activities include surfing, stand-up paddle board, fishing, whale watching, bear watching, canoeing, kayaking, camping, hiking, biking, swimming, and, of course, beach-combing. Storm-watching is the main attraction during the November to March season.
You can find all kinds of accommodation in Ucluelet. Some of our family members chose to bring their camper with a gaggle of kids. They had great fun checking out the playgrounds, beaches and marinas. We opted for The Canadian Princess Lodge and Marina which offers 46 rooms some available as suites. Nothing fancy, but nice views of the marina, clean and functional.
One surprising thing about Ucluelet was the number of very good restaurants to choose from. Along with the usual small town pizza parlour, fish & chips and coffee shops, Ucluelet has a fine dining establishment called Pluvio which rivals anything Vancouver has to offer. We had a sumptuous 5 course dinner there (read about it here). Be advised that you may need to reserve several months in advance to get a seat at this intimate restaurant.
A Dozen Things to Do in Ucluelet, BC:
Whale watching – The whale season is March through October. You will see humpback whales and greys. You may also get to see Orcas (Killer Whales) which are around all year long. There are a number of tour companies that will take you out to see the whales. One of the best is Sub Tidal Adventures
Bear watching – we went out on a boat with Sub Tidal Adventures and had the captain all to ourselves. We were thrilled to find a mother black bear with a cub as well as some other lone bears digging around the shore for clams and mussels. We also got to see a lot of sea lions and otters! This is an expedition guaranteed to be thrilling for the kids.
Hike the Wild Pacific Trail – get a photo of the Amphitrite Lighthouse – This trail has awesome vistas and lots of places to sit and soak it all up. The Artist’s Loop is a 45-60 minute section of the trail offers particularly spectacular views of the ocean from towering heights.
Zip-line over the Kennedy River – West Coast Wild will give you your pick of zip-lining, river paddling or taking a floatplane.
Savour the aroma at Zoe’s Bakery cafe – best coffee and baked goods in town. Be warned: there is often a queue that will take you 10-15 minutes to navigate and they are closed Wednesday and Thursday.
Walk the Ancient Cedar’s loop trail – there are some trees that are estimated to be 800 years old. This is an easy hike of about 1 km – not to be missed.
Grab lunch at Heartwood Kitchen – get there early. The little yellow house on the main drag does a fabulous brunch. They do not take reservations and are open from 0830 – 1 pm 7 days a week. Scrumptious!
Visit the Ucluelet Aquarium – this mini aquarium is focused on the intertidal local population of marine life. They have a “collect and release” program and are focused on education and preservation of the ecosystem. Kids will especially enjoy spending 30-40 minutes here.
Ocean Kayaking – rent a kayak and a guide for a 3 hour tour of Barkley Sound and the Broken Island Group.
Go fish! – charter a boat and a guide to check out how the salmon, cod and halibut are biting.
Check out the funky art galleries and gift shops – including Image West Gifts, Reflecting Spirit Gallery and The Cedar House Gallery
We were in Ucluelet in late August. The weather was quite cool in the evenings, pleasantly warm during the day; however, a couple of days were very foggy and it just didn’t want to clear – which can spoil your view. Apparently Ucluelet has been christened “Fogust” at this time of year. If we go again, we will book earlier in the summer.
You have lots of choice for accommodation in Ucluelet. Check out the following link for some ideas to fit every budget.
Depending on how much you’d like to see and do, you can spend 2 days or 2 weeks in Ucluelet. If you have more time and you’ve never been to Tofino, I would highly recommend the 30 minute drive to that coastal town. They have some excellent art galleries – including Roy Vikers!
Other blog posts about touring British Columbia that you may enjoy:
Pluvio – You gotta eat here! (One of Canada’s best restaurants in Ucluelet, BC)