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Explore Tofino and Ucluelet

Tofino and Ucluelet are each located on peninsulas along the West Coast of Vancouver Island, in a region called the Clayoquot Sound, on the traditional territories of the Nuu-chah-nulth-aht (people along the mountains), comprising 14 First Nations

The surf towns are 40 kilometers apart, about a 40 minute drive through the Pacific Rim National Park, home to the world renowned Long Beach, also known as the surf capital of Canada. 

Situated among breathtaking ancient rainforest, sand beaches, and coastal ecosystems, it is no surprise that Tofino and Ucluelet attract visitors from around the world. 

Peak season for tourism is generally June through September. October to April are considered the off-season time to visit, with tourism gradually increasing through the Spring months leading up to June. 

The weather in this region is cool year round due to the winds coming off the ocean and a fair amount of precipitation, with June to August seeing the most sunshine. 

I made the trip to Ucluelet with my parents and their pup, Lola, from Sunday, May 8, to Wednesday, May 11. We got lucky and experienced a pocket of clear-sky days at a refreshing 13°C. 

This was my third time visiting Tofino and Ucluelet since moving to the island in January of 2017, and my first time making the trip with my parents, who moved here from Winnipeg in August of 2020. It was incredibly special to soak up the beauty of the Clayoquot Sound together–only four hours away from our homes in Victoria, which was once only a dream for both of us. 

There are so many ways to plan your Tofino/Ucluelet experience. This blog post will highlight what we did, with a nod to the other activities that may be of interest to you. 

Getting there 

Depending on traffic, the drive from Victoria to Tofino/Ucluelet is between four to five hours. 

You will take the Trans-Canada Highway up to Nanaimo, get on to Highway 19 to continue up towards Coombs, and then take Highway 4 to cross over to the West Coast of Vancouver Island. 

Your first stop upon arriving in the area should be the Visitor Centre at the junction of Highway 4 and the Tofino Ucluelet Highway, where you can pick up park maps and tourist information, as well as buy a daily or seasonal park pass. 

Highway 4 is the only way in and out of the region, so it is wise to check for scheduled traffic interruptions ahead of your trip so you can plan your travel time accordingly. 

Furthermore, you will want to budget time to visit some of the incredible spots along the way! Little Qualicum Falls, MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove), “Hole In The Wall” (Port Alberni), Goats on Roof Old Country Market, and Sproat Lake are just some of the locations you will pass that are worth a trip on their own. 

Where to stay 

Set up your tent at an oceanside campground, cozy up in a cabin, or settle into a resort and spa–there are plenty of options for whatever you’re looking for. 

My first time visiting Tofino was an April camping trip. We stayed at Bella Pacifica Campground, located on MacKenzie Beach. It was absolutely beautiful, but let me say–you can never go wrong with an extra tarp and a few extra layers of clothing! 

The second time was a February trip at Pacific Sands Beach Resort, an icon on the island, which has gorgeous spaces available for up to eight people, and dreamy hot tub suites for those looking for a more luxurious stay. 

On this recent trip with my parents, we stayed at Waters Edge Shoreside Suites, which was, in my opinion, the perfect middle. These condo-style suites are on a peaceful harbour, with full kitchens and an outdoor soaker tub. 

Wherever you stay in Tofino or Ucluelet, you will want to book ahead as accommodations fill up fast: 

What to do 

If it isn’t clear by now, the beaches, temperate rainforest trails, and breathtaking coastal views are the main attraction to this region. 

Once you’re here, the trip can be as relaxing or adventure-filled as you choose. 

Outdoor adventure 

Surfing is a bucket list item for many, and there are surf shops that offer rentals for beginner-sized boards and wetsuits, as well as lessons. 

The beaches in this region do not have coast guard supervision, so take care to check the surf conditions and plan ahead to ensure your friends and family enjoy the water safely. 

The ocean temperature here is generally between 7°C to 15°C, so a wetsuit is highly recommended for those spending lengths of time in the water, even on warm days. 

During our May trip, the water was around 10°C, which was a great temperature for barefoot beach walks while bundled up. 

There are a number of awe-inspiring hiking trails varying in distance and intensity, including some wheelchair and stroller accessible pathways. 

Cycling is another popular way to experience this region, as well as other activities out on the water such as kayaking and paddleboarding, golf, fishing, ziplining, and chartered wildlife tours. 

Culture and cozy

Take time to learn about the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, including the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet) First Nation, whose relationships with the land have continued since time immemorial. 

Appreciate the arts, culture and heritage of this region with galleries, museums and historic walking tours

Slow things down with a spa and/or sauna experience, or simply cozy up on the beach or in the comfort of your accommodations. 

If storm watching captivates you, the geographical positioning and exposed coastline of Ucluelet and Tofino create fantastic storm conditions, particularly in the Winter season from October to March. 

Food and drink 

The businesses in Tofino and Ucluelet are locally owned and operated. When you shop at the businesses in town you’re supporting the communities that make each place so special. 

Speaking from experience, Tacofino and Wildside Grill make a great stop to grab a bite and eat outside, the two food truck style restaurants are located across from one another. 

The Tofino Brewing Company is a popular spot for craft beer lovers, also offering light bar snacks and non-alcoholic beverage options. 

If you’re looking for something more formal, it is evident that a lot of care has gone into creating a dining experience that feels special at Wolf in the Fog, with a food and drink menu “inspired and influenced by the place, the people, and the produce.” 

What our trip looked like 

Wondering how much you can fit into one trip? Here’s what our relaxed trip itinerary looked like, with approximate times, to lend some inspiration and help you plan for your own adventure! 

DAY 1

  • Left Langford (8:10am)
  • Walk break at Little Qualicum Falls (10:10am)
  • Passed MacMillan Provincial Park (11:20am)
  • Passed Hole in the Wall, Coombs, Port Alberni (11:30am)
  • Passed Sproat Lake Provincial Park (11:45am) 
  • Arrived in Ucluelet (1:00pm)
  • Walk and beach time at Halfmoon Bay
  • Walk on the Wild Pacific Trail, Lighthouse Loop

DAY 2

  • Coffee at The Foggy Bean and morning walk at Brown’s Beach, Wild Pacific Trail (9:00am)
  • Beach walk and picnic at Long Beach (11:00am)
  • Snack break at Rhino Coffee and exploring shops in Tofino (2:30pm)
  • Boardwalk and beach walk on Shorepine Bog Trail and Wickaninnish Beach (6:30pm)
  • Sunset at He-Tin-Kis Park (8:30pm) 

DAY 3

  • Walk and beach time at Half Moon Bay (10:30am)
  • Walk on the Wild Pacific, Ancient Cedars Trail (2:00pm)

DAY 4 

I dropped the ball on recording times this day, but we checked out fairly early and stopped at the following places on our way back to Victoria:

  • Goats on Roof Old Country Market in Coombs for Billy G’s Doughnuts
  • Cathedral Grove, MacMillan Provincial Park 
  • Old Town Bakery in Ladysmith–had to try their cinnamon buns! 10/10 recommendation. 

Happy adventuring!

@northpacifichomes

📍Victoria to Ucluelet & Tofino 🌊(Day 1) Sunday, May 8, 2022: 8:10am 🚙 Leaving Langford 10:10am 👟 Break at Little Qualicum Falls 1:00pm ✨ Arrive in Ucluelet Exploring #Qatwatuwis #HalfMoonBay & the WildPacificTrail. Staying at #WatersEdge Shoreside Suites. Blog post coming soon to NorthPacificHomes.ca to help you plan your first or next visit! ☺️#NuuchahnulthTerritory #ExploreVancouverIsland #ExploreBC #VictoriaBC

♬ original sound – North Pacific Homes
@northpacifichomes

📍Victoria to Ucluelet & Tofino 🌊(Day 2) Monday, May 9, 2022: Morning ☕️ Coffee @foggybeancoffee 9:00am 🌿 #WildPacificTrail 11:00am 🏄‍♂️ Long Beach 2:30pm 😋 Snack break @rhinotofino6:30pm 🌳 #ShorepineBog Trail & #Wickaninnish Beach8:50pm ✨ Sunset Blog post coming soon to NorthPacificHomes.ca to help you plan your first or next visit! ☺️#NuuchahnulthTerritory #ExploreVancouverIsland #ExploreBC #VictoriaBC #ExperienceVancouverIsland #YourTofino #Ucluelet #Tofino

♬ original sound – North Pacific Homes

Thank you for being here,

Alex Hughes* and Ricki-Lee Jewell, Victoria, BC Real Estate Agents

*Personal Real Estate Corporation

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