© Isaac Shaw Photography
on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island
Let's start with the hard part. How the on earth do you say Ucluelet?!?
Often affectionately referred to as "Ukee" by the locals, it is actually pronounced “you-clue-let”, which is a Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) word meaning "people of the safe harbour". Ucluelet is situated on the Ucluth peninsula and has been inhabited by the Yuu-tluth-aht Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ peoples for thousands of years. With archaeological finds indicating settlements here from at least 4,300 years ago and oral histories going back even further, we are very much visitors to this place and are very grateful to the communities that share this land with us.
The town has a fishing village feel and is perched right on the edge of the rugged far West Coast of Vancouver Island. Until recently, logging and fishing were the main industries here, with eco-tourism and outdoor adventures now starting to take the lead. There are many stories about Ucluelet, like the whole community of houses that were shipped out here on a barge from what is now the location of Vancouver International Airport, but for the juiciest ones you will have to get to know the locals and maybe buy a few rounds of beer first!
We LOVE Ucluelet and hope you feel the same. If you are looking for shopping malls, casinos, movies, clubs and lots of people, then this is NOT the place for you! However, if you are more partial to a hike in the rain forest, a walk on the beach, an adventure on the ocean or an encounter with some wild life (hopefully from the safety of a boat) then this is a dream come true. We are surrounded by 150,000 acres of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the Broken Group Islands to the South and Long Beach to the North. We get A LOT of rain (roughly 3,350mm a year, mostly in the space of about 6 months) which for us pluviophiles, is heaven, but if like our cats you aren't so keen on the wet stuff, make sure to bring some very good waterproofs.
You don't happen upon Ucluelet or Tofino by accident, and the road here certainly isn't an easy journey! Originally built as a logging road and converted into something slightly bigger, it is a twisty, windy little road through old growth rain forest, over mountains, past lakes and out to the ocean. It is about a two and half hour drive from Nanaimo where the ferry terminal to Vancouver is (that ferry is just under two hours), and about a four and a half hour journey from Victoria. Luckily for us, the road is getting some much needed TLC over the next few years, however this does mean daily road closures and delays, so if you are planning to drive, please check the road closure times and plan accordingly.
An easier way to get here, and actually no less fun (more so if you suffer from carsickness or have limited time for a visit) is to fly. Flights take about 40 minutes directly from Vancouver's South Terminal to Long Beach Airport, where you can rent a car and make the easy 20 minute drive to our door. On a clear day, the flight is stunning, but can be a little bumpy.
Rather than advise you what to pack, or warn you about the bears, cougars and wolves, or connect you with a kayak guide or whale watching trip, we will direct you to the experts instead!