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While Tofino, BC usually gets all the attention, Ucluelet is a laid-back hidden Canadian gem. A wonderful must-visit place to escape on the west coast of Vancouver Island. This breathtaking piece of British Columbia overflows with natural beauty, cultural significance, and invigorating outdoor activities. We’ve picked our favorite top 31 things to do in Ucluelet, BC to help you plan your epic vacation.
What to see, where to eat & stay, best tours, cheap and free activities, best time to go and much more.
Growing up on the island, we’ve spent plenty of time here exploring both the town and nearby Pacific Rim National Park Reserve both as kids and adults.
This magical town, known as Ukee to the locals, is perfect for curious family travelers, the adrenaline junkie, or the laid-back solo wanderer. With easy access to both the National Park, Tofino, surfing, hiking, whale watching, camping, sea kayaking and surrounding sites, it’s easy to see why it’s become more popular over the years.
So, if you’re ready to experience the magnificence of Ucluelet, join us as we take you on a journey into the 30 best things to do in Ucluelet BC, sure to leave you yearning for your very own west coast adventure.
Best Things to do in Ucluelet
Ucluelet is my preferred place to stay when we visit the west coast of Vancouver Island. It’s quieter, and lodgings tend to be a bit cheaper than close to Tofino. It’s also on our Vancouver Island Bucket List ideas.
Last time we went to Ucluelet, BC was in mid-May. We loved it as most everything was open, but there weren’t 10,000 extra people crowding the beaches or trails.
From the rugged, rocky coastline that whispers tales of ancient mariners to the dense, lush temperate rainforests that echo with the calls of crows and eagles. Delicious food from world renowned local restaurants, drinks & coffee top it off. Ucluelet will captivate your heart.
Imagine walking along beautiful beaches, taking in the crisp ocean air while the vibrant hues of the setting sun paint the sky.
Trek the epic Wild Pacific Trail, get up close with marine life during a thrilling whale watching tour, or simply bask in the sun & surf of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Just a few of the activities you can do.
This is a place where nature’s raw power meets tranquility, where adventure intertwines with relaxation, offering experiences that go beyond the traditional tourist track.
Local Tip: It can often be cool, and foggy on the west coast of Vancouver Island in Ucluelet (& Tofino), even when the rest of Vancouver Island is in a heat wave. Don’t make the mistake we did, and be sure to bring a sweater, and a rain & windproof jacket.
OCEAN ACTIVITIES IN UCLUELET
1. Whale Watching
One of the best activities in Ucluelet is whale watching, inviting visitors to witness the astounding dance of nature’s marine giants.
As you cross the waters off Canada’s Pacific Coast, seeing gray whales, humpback whales, and the occasional orca, will make your trip extra special.
There is something so magical about seeing whales, for the first or tenth time. I’ve been lucky enough to see whales from the shore only 10 feet away, from the BC Ferry and on Vancouver Island whale watching tours.
From mid – February to October the whales’ migration transforms the Ucluelet waters into a grand theater of aquatic life. But it’s not just whales that steal the show. Playful sea lions, sleek seals, and piercing-eyed eagles, and the Broken Group Islands chain add more layers to breathtaking scenery and wildlife.
Whale watching is one of the most popular things to do in the Pacific Northwest. We have a list of our favourite whale watching tours out of Victoria too.
2. Kayaking In Ucluelet’s Harbour
Embarking on this sea kayaking tour is a highlight of any visit to Ucluelet, thanks to the sheltered waters of Ucluelet Harbour.
Sweeping across the sheltered waters of Ucluelet Harbour, serves as the ideal location for an introduction to sea kayaking, offering a fun yet safe foray into this timeless maritime activity.
Perfect for first timers, or more experienced paddles, you’ll get essential safety instructions to equip all paddlers, regardless of experience. Kid friendly for ages 6+ too.
The harbor is also a window to Ucluelet’s diverse wildlife. As you paddle, you may spot black bears on the shoreline, soaring eagles overhead, and curious seals poking their heads out of the water.
Paddle to a hidden waterfall, and by many historic pre-war homes, fishing boats and along this charming fishing village.
3. Learn to Surf
Beginner? The best way to ride some waves & learn how to surf is to take private surf lessons. Relic Surf Shop is a legend in this area. With experienced and certified instructors who love to surf and teach.
4. Salmon & Halibut Fishing
Dream of world class salmon & halibut fishing? You’ve come to the right place.
Reel in a hefty salmon or a colossal halibut off Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
This adventure isn’t just a summer fling.
The fishing season here stretches from March to October, peaking in July and August when millions of chinook and coho salmon swim right past, en route to their spawning rivers.
Fishing charters are available for families to pro anglers, where everything is supplied. Cameron Ocean Adventures & Oceans West Sport Fishing are both highly reviewed options for charters.
5. Explore Tide Pools
Tidepools are fascinating for both kids and adults alike.
If in Ucluelet, head to Terrace Beach at low tide, or Big Beach. Which has some of the most accessible tide pools on the Wild Pacific Trail. The aquarium even runs bi-weekly guided walks at Big Beach to teach you all about these cool ecosystems.
Near Tofino, prime tidal pool spots are at Mackenzie Beach, and the south section of Chesterman Beach or around Frank Island.
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN UCLUELET
6. Hike the Wild Pacific Trail
Ucluelet’s most well known hiking trail is the Wild Pacific Trail.
Running in two sections, totalling 8 km.
The most popular section is the Lighthouse Loop to Amphitrite Point Lighthouse, and our favorite hike on our last trip to Ucluelet. It’s an easy 2.6 km loop which takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how much you stop along the way.
We loved that there were benches and look out points every few hundred metres or so. A variety of scenery; coastal views, rocky shorelines, and beach access, to temperate rain forest & a bog, plus the cute active lighthouse itself.
Then there’s the Big Beach to Rocky Bluffs section (5 km one way) plus the Ancient Cedars Trail, an additional 1 km loop. We really wanted to check out the Ancient Cedars Trail, but ran out of time on this trip. However we did walk along part of this trail around the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, where we stayed.
7. Florencia Bay Beach
The closest large, sandy beach to Ucluelet is Florencia Beach, which is in the top 5 Pacific Rim beaches for size. Surrounded by cliffs, this 6 km beach was originally named Wreck Bay because of the brigantine vessel “Florencia” which capsized up the coast, and eventually sank in this bay.
In the summer months “Flo” as the locals affectionately call her, is a popular spot for swimming, surfing, kayaking, picnicking and beachcombing.
8. Hike the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail
Starting at Wickaninnish Beach, just south of the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, this easy 5km out and back hike mostly on boardwalk, is a feast for your senses.
Enjoy this interpretive trail, with views of rugged coastline, a traditional totem pole marking an old whaling village, and expansive views of the beach, ocean and forest.
Wander under the canopy of towering old growth cedar trees, along wetlands and along a dirt path that eventually leads to Florencia Bay.
9. Beachcombing at Big Beach
Big Beach is a lovely place to spend a couple hours beachcombing, having a picnic, or exploring the interpretive trail. There’s even a historic shipwreck.
At low tide you can ramble along Big Beach’s rocks, over the small creek to the resort area and back up that way. Just watch out for the surf, and don’t get too close to the edge.
We stayed at the lovely Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, and it was a quick 10 minute walk down a resort path to this beach.
10. Visit the Thornton Creek Hatchery
The Thornton Creek Hatchery is a fun place to visit with kids, especially during the fall, as they offer hatchery tours, with the salmon run.
This innovative facility is dedicated to building and sustaining salmon stocks in Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sound, striving to balance natural harmony with commercial needs. They even partner with local schools to have kids help raise the salmon fry from eggs, to be released in a local stream.
11. Bike the Multi-Use Trail: ʔapsčiik t̓ašii
There is now a paved multi-use trail most of the way between Ucluelet, Pacific Rim National Park and Tofino.
The newly created 25 km trail along the Tofino to Ucluelet corridor is called ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee and means “going in the right direction on the trail.”). It meets multi-use trails on both the Tofino & Ucluelet sides making, providing a 76 km stretch of family friendly biking opportunities.
Make a day of it and weave your way through temperate rainforests, on boardwalks over bogs and stop in at some of the most beautiful & iconic beaches in Canada.
You can rent bikes in Tofino, or in Ucluelet at Ukee Bikes.
For ebikes, Tbird Ebikes rents them out by the hour, half day or full day. It’s owned and operated by a local Ucluelet First Nation family.
12. Watch for Wildlife
While the west coast of BC is famed for its whale-watching adventures, the land-based wildlife spectacle in Ucluelet is equally mesmerizing.
With wilderness around every corner, you are sure to see some of these local inhabitants.
Spotting bears is on the top of many visitors’ bucket list. Keep an eye out for Black Bears on Barkley Sound at low tide, or around the Thornton Hatchery in fall during the salmon run.
We even saw a juvenile black bear slowly meander across the road in front of us on the highway from Port Alberni. It crawled up on the concrete border, turned around and stared at us as we slowly drove past.
Hiking the local trails, and along the coast are where you will find the greatest concentration of birds. As the Pacific Rim is along the migratory pathway for many sea birds, late April and early May are peak shorebird migration periods.
Be sure to bring your binoculars, and keep an eye out for bald eagles, Stellar Jays, Pacific Loons, Great Blue Herons, Black-bellied Plovers and pileated woodpeckers to name a few.
VISIT UCLUELET, BC CANADA
12. Wander the Town
Ucluelet is a lovely small fishing village, with unique shops, locally roasted coffee and brew pubs, surf shops and restaurants. All catering to the lively tourist trade during the warmer months.
You could spend an hour or a day here, wandering the side streets, visiting the docks and sites.
Keep your eye out for murals.
Here are a few things you’ll want to check out, that I’ll give you all the tips & more info and ideas below.
- Find the Evelyn May “shipwreck”
- See jellyfish & crabs at the Ucluelet Aquarium
- Grab a coffee from the Foggy Bean
- Grab a souvenir & do some shopping
- Down a beer from the Ucluelet Brewing Co
- Eat Fried Chicken Benny from Heartwood Kitchen Food Outfitter
- Enjoy a Ukee Hot Dog
13. Stay at Black Rock Oceanfront Resort
Stay at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort for its prime oceanfront location, pool and easy access to the Wild Pacific Trail, beaches. It’s also walking distance to downtown Ucluelet.
We stayed here on our last visit, and it was quiet and comfortable, with amazing ocean views. The pool & hot tubs overlooking the rocky shore were a nice bonus. Plus the bathroom with a full tub and seperate shower was luxurious.
Enjoy a snack and a drink at the Big Beach Lounge. The patio seating has a spectacular view.
14. Ucluelet Aquarium
If you have kids, then the Ucluelet Aquarium is a must do for your Ucluelet itinerary.
This is a catch & release aquarium, located on the traditional territory of the YUUŁUʔIŁʔATḤ – UCLUELET FIRST NATION.
Their focus is on local fish and invertebrate species. What’s in the displays and touch pools really all depends on the creatures living in the local tidepools, kelp forests, and eelgrass beds at that time.
Some of the interesting sea creatures you may find are sea urchins, sea cucumbers, crabs, jellyfish, sculpins, perch, octopuses and squat lobsters.
15. Find the Evelyn May “shipwreck”
Invite your kids attention with a scavenger hunt to find the “shipwreck” of the Evelyn May. Set along the main street, it’s an eye catching display by the local shop called Wreckage.
16. Grab a Coffee to Go at the Foggy Bean
I am lost without my morning coffee.
One morning I wandered into town solo from the Black Rock Resort where I was staying to grab a take away coffee (there’s no inside seating).
The coffee was delicious, and I enjoyed listening to the locals chat about the going ons in town.
There are a few seats along a bar style driftwood table overlooking the town and harbour in the distance. Or take it with you as you wander the town.
17. Wander the Harbour
Nothing like starting the morning with a good coffee, then wandering down to the Ucluelet Harbour.
Plenty of boats, fishing boats and leisure craft to ogle.
18. Enjoy a Beer at the Ucluelet Brewing Co
Raise a glass to the spirit of the west coast at the Ucluelet Brewing Co. This isn’t just a brewery – it’s an experience, a taste of Ucluelet in every sip. Housed in a former community church.
Here, you’ll find expertly crafted brews that are as diverse and inviting as the surrounding landscape, each telling a unique story. Known for its warm, welcoming & lively atmosphere, we suggest a South Swell IPA, or Seventh Day Kolsch.
Whether you’re a craft beer connoisseur or a curious newbie, a visit to Ucluelet Brewing Co. offers a peek into the thriving local craft beer scene.
19. Breakfast at Heartwood Kitchen Food Outfitter
Ok, I am going to rave for a bit.
The fried chicken benny & fried chicken and french toast is amazing. I would drive all the way up here again just for breakfast. Those two were the recommended dishes, and they didn’t disappoint.
Heartwood Kitchen Food Outfitter has taken their specialty to an art, and the coating on the fried chicken is a slightly sweet & spicy crunchy taste of heaven.
20. Check Out Local Artists
The west coast has inspired many local artists for generations. If you’re looking for a little culture, the Reflecting Spirit Gallery, and the Cedar House Gallery are it.
For art made by local Nuu-chah-nulth & First Nations artists, the Cedar House Gallery is a must stop. You’ll find jewellry, carvings, weavings, paintings and more.
The Reflecting Spirit Gallery showcases Vancouver Island artists through their sculptures, paintings, jewellry, fibre art, print making and glass art. They also have quality souvenirs for all budgets and ages.
21. Enjoy a Ukee Hot Dog
Looking for a quick bite? Then a Ukee Dog loaded with tasty toppings is just the ticket.
Like any good small town establishment, it’s not just one thing. Ukee Dogs Taqueria boasts the best hot dogs and tacos on the west coast.
22. Ucluelet Shopping
Ucluelet has plenty of unique, artisan & locally owned stores with sustainable goods, handcrafted soaps, pottery, outdoor gear and more.
Image West Gallery is a one stop shop for local art & pottery, souvenir hoodies & t-shirts, beach gear and toys.
Then bring home eco-friendly toiletries from The Den, locally roasted coffee from the Foggy Bean or treat your furry friend to a treat from Ocean’s Pet Supplies.
23. Check out the Ucluelet Market
Every Sunday from 10am to 2pm the Ucluelet Market is the place to be.
Mingle with the locals, and vendors selling food, handcrafted goods, and listen to live music.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN UCLUELET & AREA
24. Take a Day trip to Tofino
No trip to the Pacific Rim is complete without at least a day trip to Tofino. Known as a surfer’s haven, it attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Even when we visited in May it was a bustling town, with tourists stopping in for coffee & homemade donuts at Rhino Coffee House, checking out the surf shops, and the many outdoor stores.
Wander closer to the shore and see stunning views of Meares Island.
For a quick bite, order take out from the Shed. We recommend their burgers and fries, Britney Spears (fried pickles) or veggie / tuna bowls then walk to the picnic at the park down the road.
They also have a patio in warmer weather right along main street. Perfect place for people watching.
25. Hike the Rainforest Trail in Pacific Rim National Park
Vancouver Island’s temperate rainforest awaits on this amazing 2 km trail (Route A), that drops and climbs above the forest floor.
You’ll follow the highway for a short while before cutting inland and leaving the noise behind. Clamber over and under giant fallen trees. Be sure to stop in at the giant cedar, more than twice the size of the others around it. Just a short trail off to the side.
Trail B is currently closed.
Local Tip: Route A – Sections of the boardwalk are elevated above the ground, with no railings, so not really suitable for young kids, unless watched very, very closely.
26. Visit the Kwisitis Visitor Centre
Kwisitis means “other end of the beach” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language. Fitting as the Kwisitis Visitor Centre sits at the south end of Wickaninnish Beach in gorgeous Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This is the primary visitor centre of the park.
Watch storms, sea lions and soaring eagles from the deck. Listen to First Nation Stories, explore a replica of a First Nations longhouse and whale hunt and learn some history of the area. .
Local Tip: The Visitor Centre is currently closed for renovation. However you can still use the outdoor Observation Deck at Wickaninnish Beach.
27. Hang Out at Wickaninnish Beach
Wickaninnish Beach is popular with local surfers due to its consistent waves.
But you don’t have to be a surfer to appreciate this sandy beach, wonderful for walking, beach combing or sand castle building.
28. Surf at Long Beach, Cox Bay or Chesterman Beach
Tofino boasts several top-notch surf schools and also provides board rentals, in case you didn’t bring your own.
The ocean water temperatures range between a cool but reasonable 7 and 15 degrees Celsius.
If you’re a beginner, Chesterman Beach is popular for newbies, looking to hone their skills. Plus it’s where a lot of the surf lessons take place.
Cox Bay Beach is recognized as the primary surfing spot around Tofino. It’s known for consistently good surf conditions with wave swells typically ranging from 2.5 to 3 meters.
Long Beach offers 16 KM of sandy beachfront and some of the best of summer surfing on the west coast of Canada.
It’s fun to watch the surfers, even if you aren’t brave enough to give it a try.
29. Ride a Bike to Frank Island on Chesterman Beach
Chesterman Beach is one of our favourite beaches in the area to walk, and spend some time relaxing. We find it to be quieter, especially at the South Chesterman Beach side.
We saw many people surfing and riding bikes on the beach on the tombolo (sandspit) to Frank Island, along this W shaped 2.7km sandy beach.
At North Chesterman Beach there are tidepools to explore at low tide, where you can look for sea stars, anemones and other marine life.
30. Pacific Rim Whale Festival
Celebrate the return of the humpback whales each year with the Pacific Rim Whale Festival, usually in March.
A week long event with fun activities for all ages throughout Tofino, Ucluelet, and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Ocean themed parade, hands on kids fun at the Maritime Kids Days, community whale watches at Jamie’s Whaling Station and so much more.
31. Ukee Days
Ukee Days is a 3 day weekend long festival in late July that celebrates the best of west coast life.
Enjoy logger sports demonstrations, live music and performances, tasty food, west coast BBQ & beer gardens.
Line up for the eclectic parade. Take part in unique contests, the likes of which you’ve never seen (gumboot toss & baby crawling anyone?).
Final Thoughts: 31 Things to Do in Ucluelet, BC
So, folks, thanks for embarking on this whirlwind journey with us, exploring the 31 Best things to do in Ucluelet BC.
From jaw-dropping whale watching to ambling down the many temperate rainforest & coastal hiking trails, and kilometre long beaches. Or sea kayaking adventures around Uclulet Harbour. You’ve experienced a taste of Ucluelet’s magnificence.
I hope this has helped you plan your next Ucluelet trip.
Well that’s all, adventurers! You’ve ridden the Ucluelet wave. Now go, seize the day, and let your Ucluelet story unfold!