British Columbia's Wild Pacific Rim
Tofino To Bamfield
The best of B.C. is evident all along its wild Pacific Rim. The area is vast, ranging past rugged mountains, isolated inlets, and long sandy beaches.
If you travel the route by car, you must first cross Vancouver Island to the town of Port Alberni, at the head of Alberni inlet. Port Alberni was once only a mill town, but has since become the focal point of the rim, the self-proclaimed "Salmon Capital Of The World". While in Port Alberni, you will want to visit the Rollin Art Center for its displays of regional arts and for its well-tended gardens. In Alberni, you can take a tour of a modern operating pulp mill, enjoy a ride on the steam train to visit the McLean Mill and the local winery, or watch the salmon head up the rapids on Stamp River.
Sprout lake, just a short ride out of town offers swimming, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, and waterskiing. At any time of year you can fish in the many lakes and rivers that dot the area. Port Alberni is the ideal place to sample fresh-caught seafood, either in its restaurants or at the public market. The Salmon Festival is an event that attracts visitors from around the world wide in attempts to catch the largest salmon and win the $10,000 prize.
From Port Alberni, you can travel by car, along Franklin River Road to Bamfield, which is at one end of the west coast trail. Thousands of hikers attempt this trail every year, with varying success. Bamfield is also ithe jumping off point for some of the best fishing grounds in the area. The inshore waters of Barkley Sound are rich with salmon, halibut, and cod. You can launch your own boat from here or take one of the many tours that leave from this coastal point throughout the year. You can tour for a few hours or a few days. All equipment is available for rent, or bring your own.
Kayakers leave from Bamfield for the Broken Group Islands, considered one of the world's best kayaking destinations in the world. Some islands offer camping facilities, around which wildlife abounds. The area also offers good opportunities for sailing, diving, and hiking.
Bamfield is not just for sportsmen. It also has an interesting Marine Sciences Center, a historic lighthouse, and some of the best restaurants on the coast. During the warm months, there is a variety of accommodation available to suit everyone, but in the winter it is best to call in advance as some facilities may be closed.
Although all these towns are accessible by sea and by air, if you are traveling by road, you must return to Port Alberni and then drive Pacific Rim Highway 4 to Ucluelet. Ucluelet is home to the Wild Pacific Trail, one of the gems of the Pacific Rim. The park accesses many quiet coves and sandy coastal beaches ideal for swimming and exploring. Much smaller than its better known neighbor, Tofino, Ucluelet has more moderate prices for the same services as are available in the larger town. It offers modern restaurants, specializing in, of course, seafood, as well as spas and resorts. Artists congregate here and offer their works for surprisingly good prices.
A trading post established in 1860, first established Ucluelet. Along the waterfront you will still find many homes over one hundred year of age. Take a tour, or watch bears from the safety of your own kayak or canoe. Visit the Ucleulet Aquarium and stay for "Ukee Days", an exhibition of logging sports and skill. Buy your seafood directly off boats in the waterfront.
Driving north towards Tofino, the extended sandy stretches of Long Beach are on your left. The beach is actually several beaches, dotted occasionally by small pockets of civilization. The area is however, mainly undeveloped, desolate,and peaceful. It is one of Canada's most popular tourist destinations, ideal for visitors of all ages who like to wade, swim, beach comb, or surf in its clear blue waters. Part of the beach lie within the Pacific Rim National Park where there may be charges for parking and park entry.Camping is only allowed in designated areas. Off the beach there are frequent Gray Whale sightings. Accessible from the beach area are many biking and hiking trails.
Long Beach is magnificent in the winter when heavy storms pound the Pacific and giant waves crash along the shore.
Tofino, home of the award-winning Wikaninnish Inn, is undoubtedly the most popular tourist destination on all B.C.s Pacific Rim. It has international quality resorts, restaurants, and entertainment. There are elegant galleries and gift shops as well as attractions for the whole family.
Make sure you pay a visit to the Native Art Gallery, the Rainforest Interpretive Center, the whale Museum and the Botanical Gardens.
Tofino is a town of festivals, the Wine and Food Festival in June, the Pacific Rim Festival in July, the Lantern Festival in August, and the week-end long, Oyster Festival. These and other events address the interests of the local community as well as those of visiting tourists. The area around Tofino is some of the best hiking area on the island and passes though areas of some of the oldest and largest, giant western red cedars known, fed by the rich soil and damp climate.
In the town, you can arrange tours for sea kayaking, bird watching, whale-watching, grizzly watching, as well as fishing, diving canoeing, and biking, all suitably graded to adapt to your schedule, pocket book, age, and ability. Accommodations in Tofino are excellent, but may be more expensive than in other areas.
After a busy day of activity, it is pleasant to relax in one of the many spas and then enjoy an evening on the town. It is easy to see how Tofino could be the highpoint of any vacation.
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