Located in the natural heart of Pacific Rim National Park, this operational west coast harbour community is nestled amidst some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, it is out of the way (nearly 2 hours west of Parksville), but well worth forging the trail, but a wise man once said Narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it. The good life is found in this west coast village fondly known by locals as “Ukee”.
Population: Approx. 2000 (greatly increased during summer months)
Location: Ucluelet can be reached via Pacific Rim Highway 4 that starts in Parksville and winds through the heart of the Vancouver Island Mountains to Port Alberni and the open ocean at Ucluelet and Tofino. The drive, if nothing else, is well worth it. Snowcapped mountain peaks, lush forests, dazzling waterfalls, rocky pinnacles, and mist covered lakes might cause the car to stop and pictures to be taken.
During the 1960-1980’s you could expect to see commercial salmon trollers dotted along the coast of Ucluelet on its many feed-rich banks, attracting large amounts of herring, needlefish, krill, squid, and pilchards. It is said that Ucluelet still brings in more salmon than any other port on the coast of Vancouver Island. Now more attention is on sport fishing and Ucluelet is one the hotspots on the coast for bringing in strong catches of salmon and halibut. For more on fishing Ucluelet (put link to fishing page)
The Wild Pacific Trail and Amphitrite Point along with the lighthouse is a popular tourist spot and gives spectacular views of both the Barkley Sound and the Pacific Ocean. The Point provides excellent opportunities for whale watching as well as the intense winter storms that eventually direct their forces on the whole area. The Wild Pacific Trail leads along the coastline from Amphitrite Point towards Ucluelet.
Staying the course with both natural and modern, the aquarium in Ucluelet uses water from its own Harbor to fill its tanks, making it eco-friendly and the habitats all the more impressive.
Don’t worry about the sea creatures, all of them that are seen on display are later released back into the wild. Ucluelet Aquarium is located at Whiskey Dock.
Thornton Creek Hatchery is best visited from late August to mid-November, when mature 2-4 year old Chinook and Coho salmon return to the hatchery. The hatchery raises chinook, coho and chum salmon. You can also see Black Bears along the shores close to the hatchery so make sure you proceed with caution here. Bear watching is popular with the tourists, so you probably won’t be alone.
Named for its 12 mile stretch of surf-swept sand, Long Beach offers outstanding beach hiking, and is open year-round. Chesterman Beach, Long Beach, Cox Beach, Florencia Bay and Wickaninnish Beach are the most popular beaches north of Ucluelet towards Tofino.
Ucluelet has 3 beaches in particular that welcome picnickers. A trail leads from Marine Drive to Big Beach where you will find picnic tables near the trailhead and then a short walk to the beach. Little Beach has a parking area off Peninsula Rd (the main drive) and is actually bigger than Big Beach. Terrace Beach is a pebble beach that can be accessed near Terrace Beach Resort.
The Kwisitis Visitor Centre: If you want to have a better understanding of the culture at Ucluelet/Tofino, Kwisitis is a must see. The centre’s purpose is to provide an understanding of the North Pacific Ocean. A collection of artifacts used by Nuu-chah-nulth Indians illustrates the history of the North Pacific coast. Formerly known as the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre, it is open during the day, from late spring to fall.
The open water of the ocean has been many things to many different peoples throughout the ages. In Ucluelet, the ocean becomes a playground for experienced kayakers looking to test themselves and their skills around both the Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands. If you are a beginner to the sport, there is something for you as well, as there are half-day trips where one can view the beauty of the Inner Harbor while at the same time having the full knowledge that you are still surrounded by nature’s forces.
The Broken Group Islands area is becoming a popular summer playground for kayakers. While the voyage to the 100+ islands is remarkable feat in its own right, the arrival upon their shores is another treasure worth opening. These secluded islands happen to serve as homes for a variety of animal life that has barely seen the touch of a human. While paddling to the islands, kayakers are often treated to another remarkable treasure: the site of whales and other marine life surfacing.
And if you are still standing, but still want another challenge? Well the Edge to Edge Marathon is hosted by Ucluelet and Tofino in June. Runners will go through the Pacific Rim National Park between Ucluelet and Tofino.
The Van Isle 360 Yacht Race is a yearly two week-long event, where sailors compete to circumnavigate around Vancouver Island. Ucluelet is designated as one of layover ports for the race, with scheduled activities for both racers and spectators. The start/finish line for this leg of the race can be seen at Amphitrite Point Lighthouse in Ucluelet.
Ucluelet is one of the oldest settlements on Vancouver Island. Its name is derived from the Nuu-chah-nulth phrase, Yu-clutl-ahts, meaning the people with a good landing place for canoes. It is believed that the Nuu-chah-nulth people have inhabited the land around the Barkley Sound for thousands of years. Because of Ucluelet’s isolated geography the Nuu-chah-nulth were able to create a unique and rich heritage, without any outside influences.
In 1787, Charles William Barkley, arrived in the sound that would one day bare his name, looking for sea otter pelts. The Village of Ucluelet was incorporated February 26, 1952, and later changed to the District of Ucluelet in 1997 as the population kept growing. The road from Port Alberni was finally opened to thoroughfare traffic in August 1959, and granting the rest of the Island and the mainland access to Ucluelet’s marvelous wonders.