Travel Rx: Find Adventure on Vancouver Island's Pacific Rim

(Courtesy of Tourism Tofino/Facebook)

Travel Rx: Find Adventure on Vancouver Island's Pacific Rim


Way out on the farthest western edge of Canada, the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest meet the ocean's pounding surf at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Here you'll find some of the best in outdoor adventure that British Columbia has to offer.

The Pacific Rim's nearly 200 square miles of coastline is bookended by two small surf towns, Ucluelet (affectionately called Ukee) to the south and Tofino to the north. Ucluelet is the slightly more free-form, rustic sibling of somewhat more fashionable Tofino. Both are laid back and full of great lodging and food options but you'll find a greater variety, more of them upscale, in Tofino than in modest, locals-laden Ukee.


The Pacific Rim is about a 4.5 hour drive northwest of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.

Flights from Vancouver arrive and depart daily from the tiny Tofino Airport, and flights from Victoria and Seattle, Washington are regularly scheduled.

Glamping at the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort.(Courtesy of Clayoquot Wilderness Resort/Yelp)


There are three major options for accommodations in the Pacific Rim: camping, glamping, or hotel. There are several good campsites, most with RV hookups, in Ucluelet and Tofino, including beachfront sites at the Wya Point Resort in Ucluelet and the Bella Pacifica Resort-Campground in Tofino. For evenings under the stars that you don't have to spend sleeping on the ground, try the cozy glamper's dream, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, near Tofino. Crystal Cove Beach Resort, near MacKenzie Beach outside Tofino, has nine fully-stocked RVs complete with small wooden patios and grills.

Hotels in Ucluelet tend to be more affordable than those in Tofino, with a handful of accommodations, like the Canadian Princess Lodge and the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, located on the water's edge. In Tofino, the Pacific Sands Beach Resort is a lovely option with a surfside grill and bike rentals. The beachfront Long Beach Lodge Resort offers standard rooms, suites and cottages with unbeatable ocean views.

Kayaking in Ucluelet(Courtesy of Tourism Ucluelet/Facebook)


Summertime in the Pacific Rim is made for adventure—the weather is warm, the waves are perfect and the fog is on vacation most days. Despite the temperatures outside, however, the water here is cold. Like, really cold—around 45 to 60 degrees in summer months. Be sure to pack (or rent) a wetsuit and gloves for any surfing excursions.


You can't come to the Pacific Rim National Park without taking a hike through the sitka spruce and temperate rainforests that grow right up to the water's edge. Though it's a partially paved trail that isn't so much a hike as a stroll, the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet (2-6 mile loop, depending on your route) offers some of the area's most incredible vistas. Watch the sea long enough and you may catch sight of passing dolphins and whales. The Canso plane crash site hike (6 miles RT) is a more challenging trail—a swampy, log-hopping balancing act riddled with surprises—that ends at the site of an abandoned Royal Canadian Air Force plane that crashed after take-off in 1945.


There are dozens of rocky harbors and islands around Pacific Rim National Park that can only be explored by kayak. The Broken Group Islands near Ucluelet are one of the Pacific Rim National Park's best options and can be reached in a day trip or overnight adventure with outfitters like Majestic Ocean Kayaking. Up in Tofino, several outfitters, including Black Bear Kayak, offer half-day or full-day tours around Clayoquot Sound and to Meares Island, where the main village of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and some of the largest trees in British Columbia are located.

Surfing and SUP

There are more than 20 miles of exposed coastline and sandy beach from Ucluelet to Tofino, with a range of conditions for all skill levels. Protected by tidal rocks, MacKenzie Beach is ideal for stand-up paddle boarders and is where most tours and lessons take place thanks to its calm waters. Chesterman Beach has a moderate swell (one that Outside magazine has named one of the best beginner surf breaks in North America), but Cox Bay Beach and Long Beach are at the heart of Tofino's surf culture where seasoned surfers are more likely to find their jam.


It should come as no surprise that fish and seafood are the top features of most eateries here, though you'll find some good alternative options, including the vegetarian restaurant Bravocados, in Tofino.

Ucluelet has several cafes and coffee shops in the center of town includingZoe's Bakery and Cafe, where the countertop sweet and savory pastries are piled high, and The Blue Room where you can brunch on smoked salmon Benedicts and bloody Marys. For a scenic harborside view, grab a burger or fish and chips at The Floathouse Patio and Grill.

In Tofino, there's a mix of more sophisticated fare alongside quaint cafes mostly concentrated within the few square blocks of the town's center. You'll find a fresh take on Canadian cuisine at The Wolf in the Fog, with such dishes as Moroccan-spiced octopus and smoked steelhead trout with roe, quinoa pancakes, and creme fraiche. The old-school Ice House Oyster Bar, which has a spectacular view of Vancouver Island's distant mountains from its privileged position in Clayoquot Sound, specializes in fresh-as-can-be local seafood. At The Fish Store, choose from an array of grilled and raw oysters in house or grab some fresh fish or salmon candy to go from their in-house market.

There's not much in the way of night spots in Tofino and Ucluelet, but that doesn't mean there's no alcohol. Be sure to stop at the Tofino Brewing Company, located on an industrial road on Tofino's south side. Buy bottles or fill a growler to go, or hang out for awhile in the brand new tasting room to get a taste of their uber-local Spruce Tree Ale and Kelp Stout, made from greens foraged down the road. In Ucluelet, the Hatch Waterfront Pub has live music on the weekends and is open until 1am daily.

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