Ucluelet is a small town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It has less surf vibe than neighbouring Tofino (and no big surf beaches in town) but is a pretty spot in its own right and is close enough to Long Beach and Tofino's beaches to serve as an alternate base to explore the West Coast.
Historically, Ucluelet has been a service center for the fishing industry. With the emergence of Tofino as a tourist destination and the increasing popularity of activities like storm watching and surfing, tourism has become more important.
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See the Ucluelet 7 day forecast at Environment Canada
The west coast of Vancouver Island is wet and temperate, and Ucluelet is no exception. In terms of temperature, winters are mild (by Canadian standards) and summers are cool. Average daytime highs are 8°C in Jan and 19°C in July/Aug. The mild winters come at a price though — it's wet wet wet — but the Pacific storms make for some great storm watching. Summers are relatively drier (there is still 80-90 mm of rain on average in July and August) but fog will sometimes drift in in the morning and not lift until late in the day. All told, Ucluelet is a beautiful spot but not an ideal destination if you're looking for a sunny warm vacation. Be prepared for rain at any time of the year and it's probably best to always pack at least one warm item of clothing, even in summer, in case the fog rolls in.
Ucluelet is located 8 km south of the junction where Highway 4 meets the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway. It is 40 km south of Tofino (30-45 minute drive) and about 180 km west of Nanaimo (a 2.5 - 3 hour drive). Highway 4, best driven during the day, is twisty and narrow (particularly west of Port Alberni) with few passing lanes, but offers great views of lakes and mountains on the west coast. From Nanaimo, follow Highway 19 north to Parksville-Qualicum Beach and take the Highway 4 turnoff west to Port Alberni (exits 51 or 60). Travel time from Vancouver is about 5.5 hours (including ferry to Nanaimo); from Victoria, travel time is about 4.5 hours.
Tofino Bus provides daily bus service to Tofino (northbound) and Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Vancouver and Victoria (southbound). Departures are three times per day mid-May to mid-Oct and once or twice daily from mid-Oct to mid-May. Pick-up and drop-off happens at 1 Murray's Groceries, 1738 Peninsula Rd. The one-way fare to Tofino is around $17, Nanaimo $46, Victoria $65 and Vancouver $67.
2 Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ), also known as Long Beach Airport (CYAZ), is located 25 kilometers northwest of Ucluelet, on the Pacific Rim Highway (Hwy 4). Daily flights to Vancouver (YVR) on Orca Airways are $175-$217 one-way. There are also three flights per week in summer to Victoria for $225-$267 one-way. There is a Budget Car Rental kiosk in the airport; alternatively, you can use Ucluelet Taxi (+1 250-726-4415) to pick you up at the airport and get you into town. The approximate cost is $50.
Private pilots will find three 5,000-foot paved runways and fuel available. However, beware the weather: low overcast is common, and fog can appear suddenly on summer days.
In the summer you can catch the M.V. Frances Barkley from Port Alberni to Ucluelet, 4.5 hours, $30 one-way.
Most of the town and surrounding area can be seen by walking and hiking.
1 Amphitrite Lighthouse, end of Coast Guard Rd (head south out of town on Peninsula Rd and turn right onto Coast Guard Rd). First built in 1906, the squat red and white lighthouse has become a Ucluelet landmark. The lighthouse isn't open to visitors but you can walk up to it and take in the view. Climbing on the rocks is not advised though as the waves can be rough and sweep people off.
2 Big Beach, foot of Matterson Dr at Marine. Sandy beach with picnic area. Popular for beachcombing and viewing the sunset. There are tidal pools that can be explored at low tide.
3 Terrace Beach, 1000 block of Peninsula Drive (parking lot and access via the interpretive trail from He-Tin-Kis park). A pretty sandy beach whose calm shores were used by the First Nations as a canoe beach. There's an interpretive trail that connects the beach to the Wild Pacific Trail and has information on the beach's history and local plants.
4 Ucluelet Aquarium, 180 Main St (at the bottom of Main St on the waterfront promenade), ☎ . 10AM-5PM. Small aquarium showcasing local marine life (exhibits vary) including starfish, anemones, octopus, rockfish and local crabs and prawns. There are also touch tanks and a gift shop. $7 (child) / $14 (adult).
Pacific Rim Whale Festival. Two week festival in mid-March celebrating the annual migration of the grey whales — it's estimated that some 20,000 whales pass by each year as part of the migration from Mexico to Alaska. There are a variety of educational, culinary and cultural events for people of all ages. Events are held in various spots in Ucluelet, Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park.
1 Wild Pacific Trail - Lighthouse Loop, trailhead and main parking lot on Coast Guard Rd. 2.5 km loop that generally follows the rocky headlands along the coast with some spectacular views of the Broken Islands, Terrace Bay/Beach and Amphrite Lighthouse. The trail is a little up and down but not steep (no stairs) and is well maintained. The numerous viewpoints on the trail can be good places to spot sea lions, orcas and whales, particularly during the spring migration. There are also parking lots with access to the trail at Amphitrite Lighthouse and He-Tin-Kis Park.
2 The Blue Room, 1627 Peninsula Rd, ☎ . 7AM-4PM daily. Breakfast and lunch place with fairly simple traditional food (e.g., eggs, pancakes, hash browns, burgers, sandwiches, vegetarian) done well with good-sized portions. Inside seating is small and the restaurant is popular so waiting for a seat is common. The patio outside is a good size and has some views of the harbour. Breakfast is available all day.
1 Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, 596 Marine Dr., ☎ , toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Upscale studio and one bedroom suites built on a headland overlooking the ocean. Rooms include floor to ceiling windows (ocean or forest view), king size beds, gas fireplace, kitchen/kitchenette, heated bathroom floors, soaker tubs and rainshower heads. There's also a fitness center, and an outdoor pool and hot tub. Some one bedroom suites include a washer/dryer. Rates vary throughout year and depend on view and room. Approximately $289 and up in summer and $159 and up in winter.
3 Thornton Motel, 1861 Peninsula Rd, ☎ . Motel with standard rooms (two queen or double beds), as well as some two bedroom suites. Some of the standard rooms have a kitchenette; kitchens are standard in the two bedroom suites. There is free Wifi and complementary coffee and tea. Reviewers indicate the rooms are clean but somewhat sparsely furnished. $144-193 (July/Aug), $94-154 at other times.
5 West Coast Motel, 279 Hemlock St (800 metres past WELCOME sign, corner of Hemlock & Lyche), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Motel close to Ucluelet harbour. Amenities include fitness center, indoor pool, free Wifi, and outdoor cook shack with BBQ. $70-125, depending on time of year (summer is more expensive).