I didn’t want to miss exploring the area while I was here, so earlier this week I drove the half-hour from Tofino to Ucleulet for the day to check out the small town, known locally as ‘Ukee’. I hadn’t explored the beaches at that point, so I took my time with the drive and made a stop on Long Beach. It’s definitely worthwhile to plan to take some extra time there on your drive or at one of the other beaches on the west side of the highway for a little stroll or a picnic breakfast. If you leave early enough you could also watch the sun rise and the early morning surfers. As you continue along the highway, a sign at the corner of Highway 4, heading back over the mountains, gives due notice that you’re headed towards a stress-free zone. The town certainly fits that bill, with the same laid-back vibe as Tofino.
I headed for the Ucluelet Aquarium as I’d heard it was quite unique, as a non-profit organization dedicated to ecologically sound practices. The really neat part? They catch and release all of the marine life in the displays. The aquarium is small, but plan to spend a bit of time here gazing into the tanks, giving starfish belly rubs in the ‘touch tanks’ and relaxing in the library area reading about the Clayoquot Sound flora, fauna, and history.
After my visit and a short wander along the harbour, I drove south towards the end of the peninsula to hike the first leg of the the Wild Pacific Trail. This world-renowned hike has three sections, of which I hiked two over the course of about 3.5 hours. The Lighthouse Loop begins at the south end of town, and takes about 45 minutes at a brisk pace, with a couple of stops. As you might guess by the name, it ambles past the Amphitrite Lighthouse, a rather unspectacular lighthouse. The real treat are the views before and after, as you peek out of the temperate coastal rainforest onto the wild coast. The trail is well-maintained and marked. The second part of the trail starts near the Black Rock Resort in town and winds along the coast, again offering stunning views, which are easily seen along the ‘artist’s loop’ which has a handful of lookout decks where you can rest and take it all in.
Though I personally wouldn’t make this a destination in itself, but definitely worth the trip from Tofino. If you’re smitten with Ucluelet, however, and want to spend a bit more time here, there are ample accommodations available in Ukee, as well as a number of restaurant and tour options.