Windswept beaches, surfing, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and pretty warm weather considering we’re still in Canada. If you’ve heard of Tofino and are intrigued by the idea of surfing on Vancouver Island, this place is for you. Read on for a starter outdoor guide to Ucluelet, BC and prepare to get your feet wet in the Canadian surf scene.
🔊 But first, how to pronounce it: you-CLUE-lit
Try if you like: Tofino, British Columbia
- Easily accessible surfing, with rentals and beaches for all levels
- Coastal temperate rainforest with stunner easy trails from town
- Close, but not too close, to restaurants and attractions in Tofino
Where: Vancouver Island, BC
- Get there via BC Ferries from Vancouver to Nanaimo
- 2 hour 45 minute drive from Nanaimo 474 km/ 295 miles
Oversize vehicles cost more on the ferry, so consider renting bulky equipment
Walk or Run the Wild Pacific Trail
This 8km / 5 mile gravel trail follows the coastline over rocky bluffs and through lush forests, but is accessible from a few parking lots just minutes outside of town. There’s not much elevation gain or loss and there are plenty of benches, so make this your trail running day or bring your watercolor kit if you want to take it slow. If you want to make it a loop, there’s a paved cycling trail you can access via the Ancient Cedars loop that brings you back to downtown Ucluelet and the other parking lots along the trail.
Want a multi-day trek? The Juan de Fuca Trail travels along the coastline and is 47 km / 29 miles. For something longer and more popular, try the West Coast Trail but be prepared to reserve your hike far in advance.
Surf the Pacific Rim
Before visiting beaches in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, make sure you have a Parks Canada pass hung from your rearview mirror. You can buy them at the visitor center just before you turn left off of Route 4. Plus, the visitor center will help clue you in to current conditions in the park. We’ve listed a couple of businesses that offer lessons and rentals below, but there may be additional options from your campground. Waves in the summer are generally better for beginners, but the shoulder seasons are a great time to have more space on the beaches. And although it’s much warmer than other parts of Canada, you’ll still need to wear a wetsuit.
Glamp on the Beach
There’s a wide range of choices, from a night on the beach in a glamping tent to remote first come, first served backcountry sites. Check the Ucluelet Tourism page for the full list of options and reservation links.
When to Visit + Weather
Most summer services are open between Victoria Day long weekend (mid/end of May) and Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend (mid-October). July is the driest month with an average temp of 14ºC / 58ºF. September has an average temp of around 13ºC / 56ºF, and can be more rainy than midsummer. But if you’re there to surf, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it in the rain. 😉
Send this outdoor guide to Ucluelet, BC to a friend so you won’t forget.
Top photo courtesy of Destination BC & Mike Seehagel