After 3 days in Tofino, a semi-successful whale watching tour, plenty of good food and lots of biking on beaches, we ventured to Ucluelet for some variety. Ucluelet is a smaller town than Tofino yet similarly it consists of half-moon beaches and hiking trails that weave in and out of the Northern rainforest that swallows the coast line.
If you’re new to hiking or simply prefer to get more ocean views from the depths of a rain forest then Ucluelet is a delightful day trip for any age or no matter your hiking experience.
The Wild Pacific Trail offers a few different paths to match your enthusiasm level and time limit. We ventured into the woods with camera in hand looking for peak-a-boo views of the Pacific in between breaks of forest from the cliffs.
If you’re looking for an extreme hiking adventure you can try the 75 km West Coast Trail, located in the Pacific Rim National Reserve, which requires pre-conditioning, planning and gear. The terrain is tough and filled with challenges, both manmade and natural, along the way. The trail opens from May 1st to September 30th and you have to register in order to reserve space. For more information of the Wild Pacific Trail click here.
Aside from hiking there is the family favourite, The Ucluelet Aquarium located downtown. Frankly, my family and I are all adults of 27+ and we were able to let our inner children emerge with all the interactive tanks.
What makes the aquarium unique is that none of the animals are actually captive. Instead, the aquarium draws in ocean water from the inlet at the beginning of their season. Whatever comes in willingly through the pipes and waterfall is put in spacious tanks for education of the patrons. Starfish, octopus, local fish and unfortunately plenty of plastic and garbage are drawn in. At the end of each season the specimens are released and the inlet is a little bit cleaner as a result.
Shopping isn’t something you might think would be a fun excursion in Tofino and Ucluelet but I had a hard time not finding little treasures to bring home. One of the most popular things you’ll see ladies take home are items from the Tofino Towel Company. These famous round blankets and towels grace many beaches in British Columbia.
However, we discovered a family company, Rubio, located in both Ucluelet and Tofino. The owners of the Ucluelet location are the parents of the founder/designer. They gleefully shared their story of joining his successful business in Canada and their move to Vancouver Island from Poland. Their enthusiasm for Ucluelet was infections as they insisted their adopted town is better than Tofino for its quietude, serene surroundings and the people from all over the world who call it home.
What drew us all into Rubio was the extraordinary glass work that reminded me of Venice. The couple, who’s name I cannot recall, told us that their son made his name designing the unique little oil lamps which now grace all the resorts and restaurants in the area. Along with glass, he also designs silver pendants – my choice of souvenir – and rings with jade, amber and silver.
My mom, sister and I walked away with matching silver pendants that the designer made for those looking to take away a piece of Tofino with them.
If you find yourself in Ucluelet during July, try to time it for Ukee days which is a 3 day celebration of west coast life and includes iconic coastal food, beer gardens and Logger Sports Canadian Championships. Another popular time to visit both Tofino and Ucluelet is during the Winter for storm watching and March for the Pacific Rim Whale Festival.
Ucluelet is often overlooked but there’s no reason it should be. Quaint shops, village and spectacular hiking trails for any age or fitness level make it a heaven for families and adventure seekers. But Tofino, Ucluelet and Vancouver Island in general is mean for outdoor enthusiasts who love to play or watch those on the water.