Walking on the Wild Side in Ucluelet, BC

by - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

In Ucluelet (also affectionately known as Ukee), the song of the sea is ever present and time is measured by the tides. Beachcomb, hike the Wild Pacific Trail, and enjoy fresh seafood in this friendly, coastal village.

Daybreak at Wya Point, Ucluelet

Where Karen enjoys a magical sunrise on a private, secluded beach & the kids see sea stars and sea anemones for the first time.

I wake in the gray predawn light to the sound of waves lapping the shore. The ocean's quiet voice tells me the tide is out, so I slip out of the tent, barefoot, to see what treasures have washed ashore in the night. Cool, damp sand squelches between my toes mere metres from my campsite.

Kelp and seashells mark the high tide line. Tiny crabs scuttle for the safety of rocks unaware that I only eat their larger kin (cooked and with butter no less). I discover a half-buried mussel shell, pick it up, and turn it over in my fingers, noting barnacles on the outside and mother-of-pearl sheen inside.

wya-point-ucluelet-bc
Wya Point, Ucluelet (note that the tide is high here)
The low purr of a fishing boat trolling for salmon draws my gaze back out to sea. As if on cue, an eagle dives from a towering Western hemlock. Its talons plunge into the dark waters and emerge grasping a wriggling silver fish. With powerful flaps of its wings, the eagle is out of sight as quickly as it appeared.

A pair of otters also ply the waters. They cavort in the kelp; rolling, splashing, and dipping out of sight before popping up and doing it all over again. Are they fishing, courting, or simply enjoying the sunrise like me?

Rocks that were submerged at high tide beckon. I approach with bated breath and let out a silent cheer when I see bright splashes of colour on the dark stone. The whole, long drive (and ferry ride) from Calgary, my husband and I had promised the girls they would see sea stars and sea anemones. Now we could make good on that promise!

sea-anemones-starfish
Sea anemones and sea star
Minutes later, all four of us are racing to the beach to check out the sea critters. Breakfast can wait, but the tides will not. As the girls squeal with glee, counting sea stars and stroking their bumpy backs, my husband and I agree it was worth the drive.

For more information on camping/lodging at Wya Point Resort, please see my story: Our Favorite Vancouver Island Campgrounds.

The Wild Pacific Trail 

Where we roam the rugged coastline and watch the roaring sea

Late morning finds us at The Wild Pacific Trail's Lighthouse Loop, a short drive from Ucluelet. In contrast to the rugged coastline, the trail is easy, so we can watch the waves as we walk (plus, the sun has chased the slugs away). Surf smashing against the rocks remind us to stay on the trail.

wild-pacific-trail-ucluelet-bc
Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet
Here, at the southern end of the peninsula, it is open sea in most directions, so we are treated to sweeping views of Barkley Sound and the Broken Islands Group. As we take in the turbulent seas and wave scoured rocks near Amphitrite Point Lighthouse, we wonder how it has stayed standing for over a century (built in 1906 after a shipwreck, then rebuilt in 1915).

broken-islands-ucluelet
The Broken Islands Group
amphitrite-lighthouse-ucluelet
Amphitrite Point Lighthouse, Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet
Lighthouse Loop At a Glance: 2.6 km, easy with minimal elevation gain, stroller friendly

The rest of the Wild Pacific Trail is accessed from town. Starting from Brown's Beach, we walk south through wind twisted trees to Big Beach Picnic Area. We check out the interpretive displays and Children's Interpretive Trail and notice how high the water is now that the tide has come in.

big-beach-ucluelet
Big Beach, Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet
interpretive-display-big-beach-picnic-area
Interpretive Display at Big Beach Picnic Area
Retracing our steps, we head north to the Artist Loops, gradually gaining elevation. We keep an eye out for "Painter's Perches"; platforms perfectly situated at the most scenic viewpoints. I ask my family if we should return for sunset and my oldest daughter says, "Our beach is pretty nice, Mama." It's true, and we've hiked a lot already (almost 9 km!), so we plan to have an early dinner then return to camp. 

artist-loops-wild-pacific-trail
Artist Loops, Wild Pacific Trail
Artist Loops at a Glance: 2.75 km one way, moderate with some hills and stairs, some sections stroller friendly (stroller loop) 

There are two more sections of the Wild Pacific Trail we plan to explore next time:

Ancient Cedars Loop At a Glance: 1 km loop, easy-moderate with one short, hilly section
Rocky Bluffs At a Glance: 1.5 km one way, easy-moderate with one short, hilly section

For more information on the Wild Pacific Trail, voted the number one thing to do in Ucluelet on TripAdvisor, visit www.wildpacifictrail.com.

Dining

Ukee boasts an array from dining options from casual to fine dining. Here are a few places we tried:

Gray Whale Ice Cream & Deli makes a great après-hiking snack spot with several flavors of ice cream!

Top-rated Ravenlady Oyster Forte (food truck) has fresh shucked oysters for the adventurous, and smoked/steamed/fried oysters. We recommend the Oyster Trio with a side of rosemary fries for a delectable snack. Save an oyster shell, write a message on it, and hang it in the Wanderer's Tree!

wanderers-tree-ucluelet
The Wanderer's Tree, Ucluelet
oyster-shell
Look for our shell! 
Fishfull Thinking Fish Market is your place for the freshest fish. We picked up a fresh sockeye salmon filet, mussels, smoked salmon, and candied salmon (the best thing ever) to cook a seafood feast at camp.

We will miss dining on board the 65-metre long Canadian Princess in Ucluelet Harbour. The ship that served as a Ucluelet landmark for over 30 years was dismantled in late 2016.

canadian-princess-ucluelet
The Canadian Princess is no longer at Ucluelet Harbour.

Sunset

The sunset is just as beautiful as the sunrise, but cuddlier and noisier with the whole family in tow. When we ask the kids what they liked best today, they shout "everything!" They are upside down, attempting handstands in the sand, reminding me of the otters.  We stay up until lights wink on in the yurts across the beach, then wander to our tent where we will dream salty dreams as the tides turn once more.

wya-point-ucluelet-bc
Beach playtime
wya-point-ucluelet-bc
Beach snuggles
wya-point-ucluelet-bc
Sunset at Wya Point

More Things to Do in Ukee

Based on a First Nations Longhouse, Kwisitis Visitor Centre is full of interesting displays on Kwisitis First Nations culture. The building and location are beautiful. Walk down to the beach if you have time. 15 km from Ucluelet.  

The Ucluelet Aquarium is a fun stop on a rainy day as they have touch tanks where you can touch local sea life. Allow 30-60 minutes for your visit. 180 Main Street.

Learn about the salmon life cycle, see fish spawning, and if you're lucky, see bears and birds catching fish at Thornton Fish Hatchery. 12 km from Ucluelet.

There are tons of beaches around Ucluelet! Read about some of our favorites in my story: Vancouver Island's Best Seaside Campgrounds.

Surfing, kayaking, fishing, nature and wildlife tours, and whale watching are also popular in Ukee. Research tour operators before you go for the best experience.

Stay tuned for more Vancouver Island trip inspiration!

Ucluelet's Wild Pacific Trail & Wya Point

More Vancouver Island Stories You Might Like

You May Also Like

1 comments

Join the conversation!