Ucluelet is a Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation word meaning 'safe harbour' or 'safe landing place'. Archaeological evidence indicates First Nations have lived here for at least 4,300 years.
European explorers first set foot in the Ucluelet area in 1778 when Captain James Cook arrived. Captain James Barkley followed in 1787 in search of sea otter pelts. Settlement didn't start until the late 1800s when Captain Francis, the owner of several sealing schooners, established a trading post.
The discovery of gold around 1900 at nearby Wreck Bay (also called Florencia Bay) brought more settlers to the area. But pursuing the gold commercially eventually proved impractical. Mining again figured prominently in Ucluelet's economy in the early 1960s when iron concentrates were shipped to Japan and Ucluelet became the largest shipper of iron concentrates in British Columbia.
The turn of the 20th century also brought development of a fishing industry and with it more people settled in Ucluelet. The predominant species were salmon, halibut, cod, and herring. As a result of the increasing catch, canneries, fish buying stations, reduction plants, and processing facilities were added to the area's infrastructure. Fishing really started to realize its potential after World War I. Japanese fishermen from Steveston settled in Ucluelet around 1920. The introduction of their salmon trolling method also helped the fishing industry grow.
Forestry figures prominently in much of Ucluelet's history and lifestyle, but logging really started to dominate in the 1950s. For close to 40 years forestry provided families in Ucluelet with a reliable and relatively prosperous income. Like fishing, however, forestry has its ups and downs; dependent on market conditions and dependent on environmental concerns.
The gradual establishment of road access to and from the Ucluelet area greatly influenced the community's history. During World War II a road was built connecting Ucluelet and its sea plane base with Tofino to the northwest. The road was built, principally to provide access to the military airport at the mid-way point at Long Beach. In 1959 the road to Port Alberni, 100 km (62 mi) to the east was finally opened.
Today, close to one million people visit the West Coast each year. One of the main attractions is Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park where 20 km (12 mi) of sandy beach and pounding surf await. Sport fishing, whale watching, nature cruises, hiking, kayaking, beach combing, surfing, and eco-tourism opportunities abound in Ucluelet.
Ucluelet is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island on the Pacific Ocean. It is 26 km (16 mi) south of Tofino, 100 km (62 mi) west of Port Alberni and 180 km (112 mi) northwest of Nanaimo on the east coast. From Nanaimo head north and exit west on Highway 4, Pacific Rim Highway, towards Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet.
You can also board the MV Frances Barkley in Port Alberni and sail down the Alberni Inlet to Ucluelet. The route of the MV Frances Barkley, based in Port Alberni, leads through the Broken Group Island in Barkley Sound to the fishing ports of Bamfield and Ucluelet. It operates in the summer season only, three days a week.
Starfish, clams, green surf anemones, Californian sea cucumbers, rock fish, jelly fish, even giant Pacific Octopuses (a baby one of course), are just a few examples of the fascinating marine life you could see at the Ucluelet Aquarium. The creatures on display are gathered from local waters near Ucluelet and they are released back into the wild at the end of each season. There are touch tanks and an interactive, hands on, learning environment for children and adults.
The magnificent Pacific Rim National Park is the only national park on Vancouver Island, providing protection for substantial rain forests and an amazing marine environment on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The full force of the mighty Pacific Ocean mercilessly pounds the constantly changing shores of this rugged coastline. The territory now occupied by the park has a significant history, having been inhabited by the Nuu-chah-nulth people for thousands of years. A rich natural heritage evolved as Vancouver Island became isolated from the mainland, retaining a great diversity of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish species. This unique park encompasses a total area of 49,962 hectares of land and ocean in three separate geographic units - Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail. Features of the park include long sandy beaches, an island archipelago, old-growth coastal temperate rainforest and significant Nuu-chah-nulth archaeological sites. From late June to early September the Kwisitis Visitor Centre offers many indoor and outdoor activities and educational programs for all ages.
The Thornton Creek Hatchery raises and releases thousands of salmon each year. The best time to visit the Hatchery is mid-October to November when adult spring and coho salmon return to the hatchery waters. Juveniles can be viewed March - June. Tours are available. Trout Creek Hatchery is also a good wildlife watching area, particulalry for bears.
There are over 300 species of birds that have been identified in the Pacific Rim region. Most of these birds are migrating north and south during their spring and fall journeys. Nearly 100 of these birds are known to breed in the region.
Ucluelet is becoming a world renown fishing destination and offers some of the best salt water fishing in the Pacific Northwest. The west coast of Vancouver Island is rich in fishing history and culture. Spawning baitfish in the area draw feeder Chinook into the fishing grounds as early as March. By summer's end it is not uncommon to pull in a Chinook salmon over 30 pounds or more. If the weather isn't cooperative anglers find shelter in the Broken Group Islands of Barkley Sound. These shallower waters are excellent for fishing halibut, ling cod, red snapper and several species of rockfish.
The region continues to inspire hundreds of artists along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Spend time in one of the many art galleries and shops in Ucluelet, showcasing local photography, paintings, drawings, carvings, glass art, weaving, tapestries, pottery, and jewellery. Home to the Nuu-chah-nulth people, the west coast showcases legendary First Nations carvers, weavers, and painters as they create traditional art.
Ucluelet gives easy access to the Broken Group Island Unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This gem is a cluster of over 100 islands, inlets and rocky outcrops scattered in Barkley Sound. Kayaking through these islands you will discover sandy white beaches, calm lagoons, blow holes, diverse wildlife, unique native history, and an opportunity to experience the wild west coast in sheltered waters. Closer in, there is plenty to discover in the Ucluelet Harbour by kayak. Learn about the history, culture, and industry of this working harbour. Watch harbour seals, sea lions, eagles, bears and sometimes whales too. The harbour offers calm and sheltered waters, an exciting experience for those who love exploration, and is great for kayakers of all skill levels.
Barkley Sound is one of the most diverse dive sites in Canada. It has been called "The Graveyard of the Pacific" and the area's history tells us of numerous sunken ships and vessels. The ruins of many of these ships are still there to be explored including the Vanlene, a ship carrying a load of new cars that sunk in 1972. Broken Group Islands Unit of Pacific Rim National Reserve offers a maze of islands, islets, and reefs. Home to a diverse population of fish and plants, these dive sites offer an interesting and colourful experience. Swim among salmon, brightly coloured rockfish, giant octopus, squid, wolf eels, lingcod, sea anenomes and a wide variety of invertebrates. You might even catch a glimpse of a seix gilled shark. Sites vary from relatively easy to challenging. There are dive guides available for diving from Ucluelet.
There are many opportunities to experience the breathtaking natural beauty and wildlife in the Ucluelet area. Local whale watching and wildlife tour operators are experts on the local wildlife which includes bears, sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, coastal birds and of course, whales. Not only will they guide you through the natural habitat of these majestic creatures, they will give you an interpretive tour of the regions natural and cultural history.
The Long Beach Golf Course, located in the Clayoquot Biosphere Reserve, is one of the most scenically situated golf courses in British Columbia. The course is only a few minutes away from spectacular Long Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.The 9-hole championship course is also known to be one of the most challenging courses on Vancouver Island.
During the winter months, see nature at its wildest during storm watching season. Waves reaching 3 m (10 ft) high pound the beaches, and thundering surf and ocean spray whipped into a foaming frenzy provide nature's ultimate theatrics. Watch the storms from safe, designated viewpoints outdoors or from the comfort of an ocean view inn.
The Pacific Rim National Park is the place to surf in Canada. The long, open shoreline with rolling swells makes it a perfect spot for those who love to ride the waves.The most popular beaches, and the most accessible from Ucluelet, are Wickaninnish Beach and Long Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park. Suit up and paddle out passed the break and see an off-shore view of the wild, untouched shoreline. Surfing near Ucluelet is done year round. Although the air temperature varies depending on the season, the ocean temperature stays around 50 degrees F/10 degrees C all year.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia