I just came back from my first vacation of 2020! We were so excited to finally go somewhere, even if it was in our home province. We decided on Ucluelet on Vancouver Island due to the proximity to Tofino and the fact that it is a significant enough distance from Vancouver to make it feel more like a real trip away. We stayed at the Water's Edge Shoreside Suites in a beautiful one bedroom suite with a jacuzzi on the patio overlooking the water. We could hear seals in the evening and saw sailboats go by. It really felt like we were in nature, but in a much more luxurious than camping way ;)
Day 1: We arrived at our accommodation around 6pm and did a bit of exploring on site to try to find the seals. We were not fruitful and decided to lift our spirts with dinner. We went to the Raven Lady Oyster Fort because it had 228 reviews on google with an average of 4.5 stars. We were greeted by large line and almost 30 minute wait for our food, but it was definitely worth the wait! We had the cod burger with fries and buttermilk fried oysters. The oysters were massive and very juicy and the cod burger fillet was the thickest fillet we had ever seen! The pricing is on the steep side for a food truck, but the quality was better than what you would get at most restaurants.
Day 2: The next day, we were up bright and early to check out Tofino. It's about a 30 minute drive from Ucluelet. We were very famished and stopped at the Rhino Cafe for grab and go breakfast. This place has great reviews and the bronut (donut breakfast sandwich) and breakfast burrito were both good. They had a short line even at 9:30am. There aren't that many restaurants in Tofino and most of them were closed that early in the morning. They don't have a Starbucks, McDonalds or Tim Hortons anywhere near Tofino. We weren't too sure what to expect of the town of Tofino and were a bit disappointed that it's so small. The village is on the water, but there aren't any beaches. The beaches are outside the village along the highway.
We took a stroll of the village and then made our way to Chesterman Beach to enjoy the sand. This was the only beach we visited in Tofino. It was so massive and windy! Although, it was a sunny 24 degree celsius day, the wind made it so cold that we needed sweaters and jackets to hand out there. The beach was absolutely beautiful. The sand was so fine and soft and seeing the pacific ocean in action was remarkable. There were a few surf lessons going on where we were and it was cool to watch the surfers in action. We decided against taking surf lessons this time, but might be up for it on a future visit 10 years from now.
We went back to Tofino for a nice lunch at Wolf in the Fog restaurant and took one last stroll of the village. That evening we relaxed in the hot tub, ordered pizza from Abbondanza (delicious!) and watched the hockey game. Never thought I would be watching hockey on a patio in August!
Day 3: We were up bright and early at 5:30am for our bear watching boat tour at 7am. It was such a cool experience. We were on a smaller boat with a handful of other people and a great tour guide. We caught the sunrise and because it was so early the waters were calm and pretty empty. We saw stunning uninhabited islands, tons of jelly fish, seals and a bear! It was so cool to see a bear in its natural habitat turning over rocks looking for food. After the tour we went back to Uclulet for lunch at Ukee Dogs were we had a mac and cheese hot dog and delicious fish tacos. Then we checked out the Lighthouse Loop at the Wild Pacific Trail and relaxed back at the resort until dinner. Dinner was at Pluvio Restaurant and was one of the best meals we've ever had. The service was amazing and the food was excellent.
Day 4: Time to go home! We picked up breakfast from Zoe's Bakery and Cafe and were off to Port Alberni. We had take-out lunch by the river and then made our way to Parksville and Qualicum beach to pick up some fresh seafood and enjoy the beaches before heading to the ferry.
It was a really lovely trip and we are so grateful we were able to visit Tofino and Ucluelet. Ucluelet is a much bigger town than Tofino and we definitely enjoyed staying there. Both Tofino and Ucluelet had delicious food, nice beaches and beautiful parks. We had more of a relaxing trip and didn't plan any activities prior to departing. If we were to do it again, I would definitely recommend staying somewhere were you can cook and cool your own food. Although there are great food options in this region, the food is very expensive and there were long waits everywhere. We saw and did everything we wanted and will likely come back in 10 years or so. It is a lovely place, but a bit far for a weekend getaway. If we were to go again, 5 days to a week would be most ideal to fully relax.
Both of us had never been to this side of the island before and weren't sure what to expect. We left our home just outside of Vancouver around 12pm on Friday for a ferry reservation at 1:25pm at Horseshoe Bay. There was a bit of traffic prior to Parksville and then it was smooth sailing until Port Alberni. We wanted to visit Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial park, but it was closed. Between Port Alberni and Ucluelet there is a single lane highway and there was some construction on the part closest to Ucluelet. Door to door it took us just over 6 hours. On route to Ucluelet we stopped by this beautiful riverbank with a fallen down tree and stunning rock formations hidden beneath the mountains. There were many cool beaches and parks along the route and if we were able to get on an earlier ferry we would have had more time to explore.
What you should bring
A full tank of gas, a water bottle for each person in your party (plus a few jugs of water to refill), lunch and snacks for the drive. I think it's great to have everything you need with you, so you can stop at any of the provincial parks or rest stops on route and not need to worry about picking anything up. In addition, both Tofino and Ucluelet don't have large grocery stores like Superstore, No Frills, Safeway, Save-on etc. They have a small co-op grocer which would be similar to Nesters. If you need to pick up any groceries, highly recommend doing that in Port Alberni, which is the closest city and on-route.
Clothing: Thick fleece or hoodie, rain jacket runners, bug spray, sunscreen, hat, good walking sandals.
Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen?
The Horseshoe Bay ferry and terminal are both much larger than Tsawwassen and the ferry time is 20 minutes shorter. If you live or are staying in Vancouver, East Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, North Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Moody or Maple Ridge it's easier to get to Horseshoe Bay. The Tsawwassen ferry is much smaller and takes 20 minutes longer. If you live or are staying in Richmond, South Vancouver, South Burnaby, New Westminster, Delta or Surrey, Tsawwassen is much closer. Really, whichever ferry you can get a reservation for is the one you should take :)
If you end up visiting Tofino, let me know what you think!