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Things to do in Tofino and Ucluelet British Columbia
Welcome to the wild west coast!
British Columbia boasts some of the wildest land in Canada. Western Vancouver Island - with its old-growth forest, endless beaches and crashing waves - is truly a nature-lover's paradise. This part of the world has something for everyone - whether you're the type of person who wants to step off the edge of a cliff into thin air, or you prefer relaxing with a long soak in natural hot springs.
Here are eight must-do outdoor activities in the Tofino and Ucluelet area, based on my personal experiences during two trips over the past five years.
If you want to experience the adventures before you go, then be sure to check out the embedded videos from people who've been there and done that.
Hiking the Wild Pacific Trail
There are hiking trails everywhere in this part of the country, many of them wide and well-maintained. The best of them wind through lush damp forest and follow the wild, rocky coast. The Wild Pacific Trail in the Ucluelet area offers nearly nine kilometres of easy to moderate hiking. When we stayed in Ucluelet, we hiked about five kilometres every morning, which was a nice 45 minute walk.
Imagine the exhileration of stepping off a cliff and soaring over a canyon river far below. West Coast Wild runs a zipline tour in Ha'uukmin Tribal Park, about 40 minutes from Ucluelet and 55 minutes from Tofino. There are six ziplines, some long and some shorter, connected by rough trails through an old-growth forest. The canyon and the river are only visible from within the forest, so ziplining provides you with an opportunity to see something that you will never see otherwise. This trip was a bit pricy, but worth every penny. I would go again in a (very fast and adrenaline-fueled) heartbeat!
Breathtaking views of the Pacific Rim National Park (video by Parks Canada)
Beach rambling in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
The beaches in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near Ucluelet and Tofino seem vast and unending. They are just as wild as the rest of this area, spread with driftwood and sea plants. You can walk along Long Beach for hours, stopping to gather small smooth pieces of wood, listen to the crashing of the waves, or dip your feet in the icy cold water.
Surfing on Vancouver Island is not for the faint of heart! The water is cold and wild. If you want to learn to surf, there are lots of surf schools in Ucluelet and Tofino offering lessons and daytrips for surfers all ages and skill levels. Or if you'd rather just watch, head to Chesterman Beach just South of Tofino.
* I didn't actually surf while in Tofino. Watching was enough for me!
See for yourself: wildlife viewing with The Whale Centre (video by oceansidecom)
This is one of the best places in Canada to see whales and black bears. There are many tour companies offering the chance to watch both of these majestic animals in their natural environments. The tour companies are very respectful of the wildlife. A whale tour heads out to open water, while a bear tour hugs the coast. Some companies offer both in the same tour. I went on two different tours on two different trips - whale watching and bear watching - with the same company: The Whale Centre. Both were amazing experiences - although I did get seasick on the whale-watching tour. Note to self: take anti-nauseants before setting foot on a boat.
Visit Hot Springs Cove (video by canadiantourism)
Hot Springs Cove
Wander along a wooden boardwalk and then take a soak in the natural hot springs at Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Marine Park, North of Tofino. The only way to get there is by boat or by plane. Most of the whale watching tour companies offer combined tours, dropping you off at the hot springs and picking you up a few hours later. It's worth trying to find a tour that leaves earlier, since the hot springs can get a bit crowded. We took a tour with The Whale Centre - 6.5 beautiful hours of whale-watching and soaking in hot springs.
While it might not look like much from outside, the small Ucluelet Aquarium is not to be missed! This aquarium focuses on conservation and education. It's the only aquarium in the world that catches local sealife every spring and releases it back into the wild in the fall. You'll have the chance to touch starfish - some hard and bumpy, some soft and gelatinous - and see some of the weird and wonderful ocean animals native to this area.
Sea kayaking is this area can be whatever you want it to be: a few hours of calm, quiet paddling in sheltered bays, or multi-day trips through wild, untouched lands. Even if you stay close to Tofino or Ucluelet, you will very likely see eagles, harbour seals, sea lions and countless shorebirds. There are many tour companies based in both Tofino and Ucluelet that can help organize your kayak trip. Our first time in Tofino, we took a half-day tour of the Ucluelet harbour with Majestic Ocean Kayaking, and it was - without a doubt - the highlight of our trip.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos were taken by me or by family members.