I hadn’t been to Ucluelet in years. I had become a Tofino junkie and sadly had not considered using Ucluelet as a base for a Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim holiday. What a mistake! I re-discovered the charming town of Ukee, as it’s known by locals, this summer and was totally enamoured. It plays second fiddle to popular Tofino, 40 kilometers to the north, but offers the same, if not better, wild west coast experience, minus the crowds. Read on about some of the things I particularly enjoyed in and around Ukee.
Wild Pacific Trail
Often, spectacular scenery comes with much effort, but not on the Wild Pacific Trail. Smooth, easy trails lead to some of the most amazing ocean vistas in the world. There are several sections to explore, all of them fantastic. But for wild coastal scenery, my vote goes to the Brown’s Beach section, specifically the Artist’s Loop. The Lighthouse Loop is also great and we were thrilled to see a pod of Orcas passing by. Pick up a copy of the Ucluelet Adventure Map that shows all sections of the trail. The town has good street signage indicating trailheads.
Pacific Rim National Park beaches
Two of my favourite Pacific Rim National Park beaches—Halfmoon Bay and Florencia Beach— are near the park’s southern boundary, much closer to Ukee than Tofino. Halfmoon Bay is secluded, with a stunning double crescent beach and water that looks almost tropical. In contrast, Florencia Beach is wild and open, and marvelous for long beach walks. Both beaches are accessed at Willowbrae Rd., off Pacific Rim Highway, just a few kilometers south of the Tofino/Ucluelet junction. Pack a picnic and check out both beaches. Round trip, not including beach walk, is about 3.5km. Beware of a long stretch of steep stairs.
This is one of the smallest aquariums I’ve visited, but also the most memorable. It’s not just for little kids; our teenage son loved it and we all enjoyed the fun and informative sea star and scallop demonstration. Ucluelet aquarium is a relaxed place with lots of friendly staff who are happy to answer questions. I’m a fan of small sea creatures and was impressed with the great variety of interesting nudibranchs. The aquarium is thoughtfully organized and has a nice personalized feel. I like the fact that all the marine life is local and returned to the ocean.
Hank’s was my favourite dinner spot (and that includes my Tofino eating experiences). I loved the combination of beautifully prepared food in a casual and absolutely non-pretentious atmosphere. While I enjoyed our dinners at Norwoods and Fetch, Hank’s is much better value—taste, serving size, presentation, and service were all spot on during our visit. It may not be perfect for a quiet, romantic dinner, but for outstanding food in casual comfort, Hank’s is the place! My son gives two thumbs up to Ukee Dog, right next to Hank’s— a fun spot to grab a gourmet dog after visiting the aquarium. Fetch, at Black Rock Resort, has an unbelievable view.
Wya Point yurts
Ucluelet has a great option if you want to stay right on the beach but don’t want to pay a fortune for a beachside hotel. Wya Point Resort is a secluded place with 15 yurts (large tents with real beds, furniture, and decks) that are nestled among giant cedars, just steps from a glorious beach. What a treat; we were warm and cozy and smack in the middle of the most dramatic wild west coast scenery. The resort also offers camping and beautiful, luxury chalets.
I’ve just scratched the surface of Ucluelet and intend to return soon. If you’ve never been, or dismissed it in favour of Tofino (which by the way, I really like too), give it a try.