Bamfield is a small coastal town of about 180 people (2016) in Central Vancouver Island. It is divided by Bamfield Inlet.
Bamfield was populated by Huu-ay-aht of the Nuu-chah-nulth, the local indigenous people. Europeans founded a small fishing community sometime in the late 1800s. Most of the indigenous people now live in the neighbouring village of Anacla about 5 km from Bamfield.
Bamfield was named after the first government agent of the area, William Eddy Banfield. The name "Bamfield" with an "m" is said to be either due to how the local First Nations people had trouble pronouncing the letter "n" in his name, or a mistake made by the post office. In 1902, the Bamfield cable station was constructed as the western terminus of a worldwide undersea telegraph cable called by some the All Red Line as it passed only through countries and territories controlled by the British Empire, which were coloured red on the map. The cable went to Fanning Island, a tiny coral atoll in the mid-Pacific, and from there continued to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia. A second building, made of concrete, was built on the site in 1926 to replace the old wood structure. This building, designated a historic site in 1930, is now used by the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.
A Marine and Fisheries lifesaving station on the Pacific coast was established at Bamfield in 1907. It was the first lifesaving station on Canada's Pacific Coast.
In 1953 the cable was extended up the Alberni Inlet to Port Alberni and the local station was closed in 1959. In 1972, the site was converted into a marine biology research station, the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. It became the largest employer in the community.
Commercial fishing was based in Bamfield up to the mid-1980s. Bamfield is now home to several sport fishing lodges, which pursue primarily salmon and halibut. Bamfield is also the northern terminus of the West Coast Trail, a hiking trail built in 1907 along the west coast of Vancouver Island to help survivors of the area's many shipwrecks find their way back to civilization. The trail runs 77 km (48 mi) along extremely rugged terrain.
Today Bamfield is primarily a tourist destination, either for the West Coast Trail, ocean kayaking or sport fishing. The research activities at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre attracts hundreds of researchers every year. The Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre also offers credited university courses through its five associated universities. An out reach program, which provides multi-day immersion field trips for school, college and adult learners, also bring thousands of visitors to the community every year.
- West Coast Trail Express, toll-free: . Offers daily services May 1 to September 30 to Bamfield and Pachena Bay from Victoria, with stops between Port Renfrew and the Juan de Fuca trail head.
Bamfield is only road accessible via logging roads (smooth to rough gravel). You are likely to encounter logging trucks, which have the right of way. Pull over and let them pass or risk getting honked! Check your spare tire, and make sure you have a full tank of gas. There is a gas station in Bamfield.
From Port Alberni
There is a signposted route from Port Alberni. The road is usually well maintained, and is approximately 70 km, taking 1.5 - 2 hr.
A signposted, but less well maintained route from Lake Cowichan (on Hwy 18) is around 120 km, and takes 3-4 hours.
To cross between East and West Bamfield, get a water taxi. Call for one on the two way radios stationed on or near most major public docks. Remember to turn the radio off after use!
- Bamfield Pachena Taxi - Contact Susan at +1 250-728-3363. (June 2018)
- 1 Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, 100 Pachena Rd, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. BMSC offers tours to the general public in July and August. Discover the natural history of Barkley Sound. Experience the unique history BMSC shares with the village of Bamfield. Learn about the coastal science research taking place at BMSC. Scheduled tours are offered Wednesdays, Fridays, & Saturdays from 1PM– 2PM and begin from the traffic circle outside the Main Building. First tour is July 4th. A suggested donation of $5 per adult or $10 per family.
- Brady's Beach. A great strip of sand and rock pools that are full of life at low tide.
- The Market and Cafe (Tides & Trails), 242 Frigate Road, ☏ . Open year-round and sells a variety of groceries from staples such as milk and bread, to fresh deli items, slushies, and soft-serve ice cream. There is also a wide assortment of giftwear. The Café is open seasonally from March to October and is casual dining.
Eat and drink
- The Boardwalk Bistro, ☏ .
- The Pub - Bamfield, 226 Frigate Road, ☏ .
- Bamfield Motel, 226 Frigate Road, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. From $135.
- Kingfisher Lodge and Marina, 211 Nuthatch Road, ☏ . From $165.
- Pachena Bay Campground (5 km south of Bamfield), ☏ , ✉ Info@PachenaBayCampground.ca. Full-service camping sites for RVs, campers, and tents. All of their sites offer campers the option of power & water hookups. Washroom facilities, hot showers, flush toilets, fully wheelchair-accessible. Apr May June Sep 10-Oct 30: RV $36-55, tent $36-40; Jul Aug Sep 1-9: RV $40-60, tent $40-50.