If you’re looking for a dreamy little beach town to go chill-out with your family, maybe catch a few waves, hike through beautiful rainforests, and unwind, then Ucluelet may just be the place that you are looking for. Located on beautiful Vancouver Island, Ucluelet is a short drive from the bigger surf town of Tofino (also pretty, but more expensive, and busy) and when you get there you feel as though you’ve discovered a place that the other suckers have totally missed.

We’d headed to Ucluelet to visit with old friends, Faye and Ian Kennington, who had built given up their corporate lives and built a B&B from the ground up, literally, with most of the work being done by Ian. They finished the Coast and Toast Bed and Breakfast last year, and it is lovely. Faye set us up in one of the big comfy suites (all of which have their own entrance, comfy queen-size beds, flat-screen TVs, superb shower in spa-like bathroom), and immediately took us out for a hike through the rainforest at the back of their property to the ocean, all of five minutes away. 

They sure picked a pretty spot to settle. Ian surfs every day, at one of several local beaches, and their daughter goes to a great little elementary school. Ucluelet is a great place to live, sure, but it is also a lovely place to visit.

Although really you head to this part of the world for all the natural beauty and outdoor activities, downtown Ucluelet is quaint and has a few neat attractions. The Ucluelet Aquarium is small but has lots for families to see (and touch) and is run by a dedicated team who are never too busy to explain why Hagfish are widely considered to be the most disgusting creature on earth (in short, they feast on rotting whale carcasses and ooze buckets of slime when distressed).

There is a really good First Nations art gallery close by, where you could pick up something beautiful to take home, and a couple of neat places to eat too (Ukee Dogs offers interesting hotdogs, and I had the best carrot cake I’ve ever tasted at the Barkley Café). Visitors should also check out Pina, a clothing store where you can pick up cool stuff and artwork that is locally inspired and has a comic book feel (there were prints from there in all the guest suites of the B&B, and as soon as we saw them we knew we wanted some for our place).

Truth be told, we had a lot of rain when we visited (in March, this is pretty normal for the west coast from Seattle upwards, so we weren’t really expecting better), but exactly that kind of weather is what attracts a lot of people to the coast there in the off-season; they come to storm watch. Anyway, you can’t let a little torrential rain ruin your vacation, especially when you’ve only got a couple of days to explore a place, so we slipped on raincoats and boots, and kept exploring.

There are tons of trails to hike in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, which Ucluelet sits in, and the Wild Pacific Trail is spectacular. While in the forest you’re surrounded by towering Sitka spruce trees, and once you get to the water it alternates between harsh rocky coastline and beautiful white sandy beaches. Eagles soar overhead (lots and lots of them), and there are bears, and wolves that you might spot too (preferably from a distance). The beautiful Kwisitis Visitor Centre in the park is well worth a visit, as it has interpretive exhibits designed with local First Nations peoples, and well-curated exhibits of natural materials that help you to understand the cultural history of the area and its diverse eco-systems.

We lunched at Fetch, the restaurant at the rather impressive Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, which has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. I had a stacked burger that was just superb, my husband had spaghetti with clams, chili and basil that he refused to share because it was THAT good. Service was excellent, and because Ucluelet is such a small town we discovered that our waitress also worked at the post-office and a few other places too.

The day we had to leave, Faye recreated a ridiculously good breakfast we’d tried at Jam Café in Victoria before driving up to see them, a fried oatmeal square topped with lemon curd, blueberries, and whipped cream. She made the lemon curd right then and there, which is impressive but Faye has always been the most perfect Susie Homemaker type I’ve ever known (even when she was a big cheese at one of Canada’s biggest engineering companies) so I wasn’t surprised. It was delicious, and Faye said she’d be adding it to her repertoire of gourmet breakfasts that she serves guests at the Coast and Toast.

If we’d had more time, we’d have booked surf lessons (the swell was too big for beginners like us to go out on), and taken in more of the natural beauty of this little slice of paradise. We’ll be back, no doubt, and will keep spreading the word about this gorgeous little town and why everyone should include it on their must-see list. Apparently a lot of people end up at her place because they couldn’t get a reservation in nearby Tofino. However, once they get to Ucluelet, they aren’t bothered about leaving once rooms open up in Tofino, they end up loving this little town 40 minutes down the coast, and just stay where they are.