Where to eat, sleep, and play in Tofino's alter ego
Standing on one of the Wild Pacific Trail’s viewing platforms, it’s tempting to squint your eyes and try to see Japan’s coastline on the horizon. A sighting is unlikely, seeing as there are over 7,000 kilometres of Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island and Japan, but the trail does have that standing-on-the-edge-of-the-world vibe. It’s closer to home than you’d think, too, with daily flights to nearby Tofino for those in a hurry and a leisurely BC Ferries ride from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo for those with more time to spare. Oh, and once you disembark, remember not to rush the drive to your destination. You’re on island time now.
Stop in at the original Tacofino on your way to Ucluelet from Tofino's airport.
For breakfast, compete with locals in the lineup at Zoë’s Bakery and Café in Village Square. At lunchtime, hit up the Barkley Café or seek out the Raven Lady food truck for the best oysters in town. For dinner, prepare to get messy at Hank’s Untraditional BBQ. Juice from the smokey meat runs off the wooden boards it’s served on, leaving diners happy but sticky. You'll likely find Zoë behind the counter cooking up something sweet and seasonal.
Wya Point’s secluded groves of yurts on the shoreline are what glampers’ dreams are made of. The yurts’ amenities include gas barbeques, fireplaces, private beach access, and wrap-around cedar decks, while maintaining a rustic outdoors feel (think plentiful canvas and Pacific views). If you’re looking for a more solid form of comfort, book yourself in to one of the resort’s luxury timber lodges, complete with interior hand-carved totem poles. Wya also offers stand-up paddle board and surf lessons, right on your doorstep. The inside of one of Wya Point's yurts, complete with a wood-burning stove.
Ucluelet has all the typical island activities, with a slightly less-commercialized feel. The owners of Subtidal Adventures have been doing their wildlife tours for so long that they opened the Grey Whale Ice Cream and Delicatessen, meaning visitors don’t even have to leave the premises for a good feed before hitting the high seas. Majestic Ocean Kayaking will make sure you’re cozied up in the right gear before you venture out—just because it’s sunny doesn’t mean it’s warm, trust us. Ask your guide to paddle by the eerie abandoned Japanese cottages on the shoreline for spine-tingling views. If you’re looking for some night-time fun, Howler’s restaurant and bowling alley is a quirky, vintage space with good diner food, music, and five-pin bowling. Relax and enjoy everything the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
How did the Wild Pacific Trail come to be? We asked "Oyster" Jim Martin, the man who almost single-handedly built it himself I didn’t just come up with the idea for the trail and start digging. I used to fish for salmon from the rocks, which gave me a real sense of perspective on what the trail could be. Most lifetime residents hadn’t even tracked that area because it was pretty well impassable, so no one had seen views like that before. I went before the Ucluelet council and the Tofino Chamber of Commerce in 1988. At that time, the resource industry (fishing and logging) were strong, so they didn’t have an appetite to invest in tourism. But in ’95 the bottom fell out of the resource industry, so the municipality turned their attention to tourism as a source of income. I went in front of the council again and asked them to take this seriously. They set a gentleman from the Chamber of Commerce to work on my plans, but a year later nothing had happened. So I went back to the council and said: “This has to be done, one way or another.” They asked if I would accept responsibility for any problems, I did, and the first part of the trail opened in ’98. The bridges, stairs, and platforms were just a go-for-it situation. I had five bridges in place, but I needed to have them stamped by an engineer. I built everything to code, it got signed off, and away we went. The best starting point is at the parking lot on Coast Guard Road—that’s designated as the zero-kilometre part. There isn’t really one special place on the trail for me. I’m personally attached to all of it because I designed it. But there is one viewing deck overlooking spectacular wave action on the coast where I put a bench with my name on it, so I guess that’s where you’ll find me.