POPULATION: 1,600 (2011)
MUST DO: Visit the amazing Ucluelet Aquarium; Arrange a drop off to hike the entire Wild Pacific Trail.
‘Safe harbor’ in the language of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth people, Ucluelet sits on the inside of a finger of land jutting into the entrance of Barkley Sound, well protected from the fury of Pacific Ocean storms.
For thousands of years a safe haven for Natives who fished the ocean in canoes, European influence began with the establishment of a fur trading post in the 1800s. Logging and a sawmill came in the late 1800s, followed by commercial fishing in the 1920s. Fishing is still a huge part of the economy.
Incorporated in 1952, Ucluelet – despite years of promises – remained remote until the road to Port Alberni (at the head of the Alberni Inlet) was completed in 1959 and a logging road pushed through to the village.
The headquarters for exploration of Barkley Sound and the Broken Islands Group, Ucluelet offers salmon fishing, whale watching, kayaking and scuba diving. The area is famous for its reefs, marine life and shipwrecks, many accessible to divers. Freshwater fishing is on nearby Kennedy Lake, the largest lake on Vancouver Island and one of the best for cutthroat trout. The lake, also great for canoeing and kayaking, has campsites and a boat launch.
Ucluelet, along with nearby Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park co-hosts the annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival, a week-long event in mid-March celebrating the annual migration of grey whales. The festival includes whale watching trips, lectures, hikes and other community events.
In July, the village hosts the Pacific Rim Music Festival, “One of Canada’s finest showcases of chamber music.,” so says the Dept. of Canadian Heritage, Government of Canada. Musicians from more than a dozen countries, and teachers and students from across Canada, the U.S. and Korea have participated in the Festival’s music and multicultural concerts and summer school programs.
The main attraction for families and inquisitive visitors to Ucluelet is the Ucluelet Aquarium. Another attraction no-to-be-missed is the hike out to Amphitrite Point and the lighthouse along the Wild Pacific Trail. And leave some time to explore the sandy beaches and Hi-Tin-Kis Park.
Ucluelet accommodations range from rustic campgrounds to luxurious hotels & resorts, while its stores and shops carry all kinds of unique works by local artists and carvers.
IF YOU GO
BY ROAD: From the south, take the Inland Island Highway north from Nanaimo to the turnoff for Port Alberni (Hwy. 4), near Parksville. Continue west to the where the road splits to the south for Ucluelet. The 180-kilometer drive takes three to four hours. From Port Hardy, take the Island Highway south to where it connects to the Inland Island Highway at Mud Bay. Continue south to the Port Alberni turnoff.
BY AIR: Connections are our of Vancouver to Nanaimo or direct to the Tofino-Longbeach Airport. Floatplane service is also available.
BY SEA: In Port Alberni, you can board either the Lady Rose or the Frances Barkley, working vessels that carry passengers to Ucluelet. Kayakers can be dropped off at various points.