Vancouver Island Stories and Tips

Tripping to Tofino and Ucluelet

Cathedral Grove Photo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Tofino is a small, scattered community on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is accessible by Highway 4 from the east island through Port Alberni. People travel the twisting, and very scenic, road to visit a town that is legendary for its outdoor activities: surfing, whale and bear watching, and kayaking. It is also at the northern end of the Pacific Rim National Park, the home of beautiful Long Beach.

Having set out for Tofino, be sure to stop at MacMillan Provincial Park, also known as Cathedral Grove. A few short walking trails loop through old stands of Douglas fir; I’m tempted to talk about the majesty of the trees and the power of nature, but it really is something you should see for yourself. It is rain forest and these trees have grown as a consequence…it’s quite extraordinary. In fact the entire stretch of highway to Port Alberni is surrounded by natural beauty as it winds through dark forests and passes calm lakes.

In tiny Tofino, there are a number of surf schools as well as several places offering hot springs and whale watching tours. Personally, the only time I ever had a chance to "hang ten," I was standing on a curb waiting to cross, so I prefer to head for the galleries. There are several that feature clearly superior work by island artists, both native and non-native. On Campbell Street (don’t worry, you won’t need a map in Tofino.), you’ll find the Eagle Aerie Gallery, disguised as a clan house, with the work of Tsimshian artist Roy Henry Vickers. Definite native themes run through his prints and reproductions. There is also the Reflecting Spirit Gallery across the street which represents a number of island artists and has work in all price ranges…some of it very nice.

On Fourth Street there is The Shorewind Gallery. It features oils and sculptures by several artists and I thought that some of the work displayed there was just a step-above. I was inclined to go for my wallet, but I thought that it might destroy my beer budget, and let’s face it, some things are sacred. On Main Street, the Himwitsa Gallery is the place for aboriginal art with an excellent variety of masks and other objects. You’ll need deep pockets; even a small mask can be quite expensive.

Enough of things artistic? Go back to Campbell Street to Storm, The Tofino Surf Shop. My daughter, who should know better, dropped $30 on a t-shirt with their logo. I suspect that you’ll exercise better judgement and rent a surf board and head for the beach. Cowabunga!

In Ucluelet, you’ll find a lesser display in a lesser town, but you might be drawn to the Canadian Princess for dinner, a drink or lunch, or perhaps to stay overnight. She is actually part of a resort that is renowned for its fishing…out of sight, off her port side is a dock filled with small, modern fishing boats for sport fishermen. She was once the William J. Stewart, a hydrographic survey ship (1932-1975). I thought it was worth stopping long enough to have a drink in the attractive bar. You can learn more at Princess.

For transportation to the area there is Tofino Bus--(866) 986-3466 or Tofino Bus--with service from Victoria, Vancouver, and Nanaimo. To learn more about Tofino, try Tofino.

Been to this destination?

Share Your Story or Tip